TV Boot Camp Gives Students Taste of “60 Minutes” Magic

The pressure was on. “You’re going to be up early. You’re going to get little sleep. You’re going to be challenged as never before. And you’re going to walk away from the next two weeks with real-life experience in every phase of making a network television news magazine show.”

Warren Lustig
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 studios—writing, 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 country—in between national and foreign assignments, giving seminars on editing and TV news story-telling to CBS affiliates—Lustig 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 Lustig’s colleagues at CBS News, including his 60 Minutes II boss, executive producer Jeff Fager.

Fatima Boone
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 CUNY’s 57th Street offices (by coincidence a few floors above 60 Minutes II’s own offices) to get Lustig’s reviews of their day’s 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 didn’t 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 BMCC’s 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 team—reporter Joseph Allen, video specialist Nick Sainsurin, and producer Keyla West—produced 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 to Jamaica.

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 story—the 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 bonus—very 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.

 

Contents October 2002

From High School Dropout to Surgeon General – Thanks to BCC

Extending the Lifespan of Learning

The Bronx: A Thriving River Runs Through It

Chancellor's Message: Celebrating CUNY Poets

Two Bills for CUNY Signed by Governor

Colleges Set Out Welcome Mats For First “CUNY Week” Outreach

New Technology: Two Conferences

Celebrating the Pleasures of Literature

The Public and Private Lives of Eleanor Roosevelt

Capturing the Life of a Complex General

TV Boot Camp Gives Students Taste of “60 Minutes” Magic

Big Cats' Novels Change America

Imagining Hopper

New Stars in Faculty Firmament

John Jay Law Enforcement News Honored for Articles on 9/11

Preserving the History of the Puerto Rican Diaspora

Vigils, Bells, Art, Eloquence—and Silence: Campuses Observe September 11

Three WTC Workers from City Tech Receive Scholarships

Future Holds New Home, New Master’s for CUNY’s School of Architecture

N.J. State Human Resources Executive Comes to CUNY

Hostos Goes Electronic on the Grand Concourse

New Shuttle Service Eases Lehman Commute

Leap in Fall Enrollment

CUNY Board Adopts State Early Retirement Plan