TV Boot Camp
Gives Students Taste of 60 Minutes Magic
The pressure was on. Youre going to be up early. Youre
going to get little sleep. Youre going to be challenged
as never before. And youre going to walk away from the next
two weeks with real-life experience in every phase of making a
network television news magazine show.
|CBS producer Warren Lustig
Nine CUNY students swallowed hard as Warren Lustig,
a Brooklyn College alumnus at the top of his profession as Senior
Editor for 60 Minutes II at CBS News, set the ground rules for
TV Boot Camp. The two-week experimental summer program
placed students from Brooklyn College, York College, and Borough
of Manhattan Community College on the streets and in the studioswriting,
taping and editing segments based on the 60 Minutes II model.
For Lustig, it was a labor of love. A natural teacher who has
spent years criss- crossing the countryin between national
and foreign assignments, giving seminars on editing and TV news
story-telling to CBS affiliatesLustig had long thought about
developing an expanded version of his seminar for CUNY students.
His idea was to have students explore issues in their own community,
write their own scripts, shoot, edit and tape portions of their
segments in the 60 Minutes II studio. Their final product would
be critiqued by Lustigs colleagues at CBS News, including
his 60 Minutes II boss, executive producer Jeff Fager.
|BMCC student Fatima Boone
Three faculty members immediately agreed to participate.
Professors Hal Himmelstein of Brooklyn College, Cynthia Karasek
of BMCC, and Glenn Lewis of York College, assisted by Michael
Smith, each nominated a team of three students and served as advisors.
Lustig organized an e-mail and cellphone network to
keep in daytime contact with the students as they worked their
assignments. At night, the teams assembled at CUNYs 57th
Street offices (by coincidence a few floors above 60 Minutes IIs
own offices) to get Lustigs reviews of their days
work, discuss questions, and meet special guests like CBS correspondent
Bob Simon, producer Tom Anderson, and cameraman Mike Hernandez.
Fatima Boone worked with Miguel Bernard and David Gallardo on
the BMCC team to produce a piece called Lost in the Shadows
on the impact of 9/11 on Chinatown. The segment noted that residents
of Chinatown, just ten blocks from Ground Zero, raised $1.4 million
to help victims, but many in the neighborhood felt overlooked
when distribution of relief funds began.
It was hard for us to get in to talk to people in Chinatown
because we were outsiders, Fatima said. Even after
Catherine Fong, a fellow student, came along as translator, they
didnt want to talk to us about the hard time they were having.
It was a culture and pride issue. We finally made contact with
community leaders and they connected us with people who would
talk to us. A lesson learned.
Fatima, who graduated in June and is creating a business with
other students from BMCCs Corporate Cable Communications
program, said TV Boot Camp had her working at professional
levels, directly with editors and senior producers, just like
everyone else at 60 Minutes II. It is exactly what you wish an
internship would be.
Miguel, who served as cameraman on the crew, said, I was
so happy to be a part of it. Mike Hernandez, the number one cameraman
in the industry, came in to talk to us. He gave us really good,
deep insights that made sense out of what I do. The best
part, he added, was having a final product and watching
Jeff Fager critique it.
The York College teamreporter Joseph Allen, video specialist
Nick Sainsurin, and producer Keyla Westproduced a segment
on the vital part the Air Train to Kennedy airport will play in
the renewal of Jamaica, Queens. Their Jamaica Takes the
Comeback Trail featured the first images of the train in
operation and interviews with business leaders eager to employ
the vision of an Air Train rail hub to convince retailers to return
Morbid obesity and its radical treatment through gastric by-pass,
or stomach stapling, was the topic of the Brooklyn College team
of Misha Louy, Dan Reicher and Renada Romain. The difficult topic
was dramatized through lively interviews with Shirley, a 392-pound
patient in North General Hospital willing to undergo the risky
surgery. Interviews with a woman with a successful outcome and
the daughter of a woman who died of apparent complications, as
well as brief shots of the actual operation, rounded out the story.
The students were so spectacular they far outperformed any
expectations anyone had, Lustig summed up afterward. The
people at CBS were impressed by their tenacity, their diligence,
and their street smarts.
The faculty were also applauding. TV Boot Camp exposed our
students to the realities of tight TV schedules and of putting
together a complex storythe kinds of challenges a student
must be able to face, said Professor Lewis. Hoping that
the Boot Camp will be run again next year, he added, The
students came back to the TV studio afterward really juiced. We
are already planning a pre-product for the spring television journalism
course, thinking about what would be an appropriate story.
Lewis also observed that the students saw TV Boot Camp as a
wonderful bonusvery draining, very demanding, but everything
about the program excited them. Doing the intro and the outro
in a CBS studio added an extra element of intensity and wonder
to it, as did occupying the same seats Mike Wallace or Charlie
Rose regularly sit in.
The three segments will be posted later this fall for viewing
as streaming video on the University web site, www.cuny.edu.