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TV20's 10th Year Anniversary

By Jasmina Lahens

This semester, the FAMU TV20 newscast turns 10. It was in 2007 when the student-produced live newscast began airing on FAMU television.

Professor Kenneth Jones reminisced about driving a rental car to Gainesville, Florida, to visit the University of Florida in 2005 and to Tampa, Florida, to visit the University of South Florida in 2006. He was conducting research on the programs so he could pitch the idea of a live newscast to then-SJGC Dean James Hawkins. Ten years later, Jones said at least 85 percent of his students have graduated and are working in their professional careers.

Some of the first members of the newscast were surprised at how fast the time flew by.

“No, I can't at all believe that it's been 10 years,” said Sidney Wright IV, who was a producer for TV20 in 2007 and is now a producer on CNN’s “Newsroom with Fredericka Whitfield.” “That was one of the busiest, most stressful, rewarding semesters of my life. The 15 of us worked incredibly hard to put that show on. We saw each other all day, every day. We worked together. We cried together. Ultimately, I'm proud of what we were able to accomplish and that future students took what we started and built upon that.”

The first newscast consisted of about 15 to 20 students and their show was daily Monday through Friday. Today the TV20 newscast has about 20 students who are enrolled in the newscast course and about 50 volunteers who assist with production.

Wright had some advice for the news team: “My advice is to stay hungry, stay busy and stay focused. Me and so many of my classmates were hired to networks like ABC and ESPN right out of college because we had experience and drive, and recruiters were impressed by that. Every time a recruiter came, I had something to show that I had done recently. TV20 may be a college station, but it's real work that you're doing.”

Driadonna Roland, who was TV20’s inaugural weather girl who sometimes produced when she was not on air is a producer at Complex Networks.

“The absolutely amazing part is that right now in my career I am getting the chance to produce my own daily show,” Roland said, “and I am leaning upon everything I learned helping to launch ‘Live at 5.’ I didn't think I'd be a show producer when I left FAMU, but the skills I learned in J-School have propelled me to places I never thought I would go.”

John Marsh, who was a producer and an editor for TV20, is now working in production with NFL Films. He advises students to be active in student media.
“Your best resource is your work,” Marsh said. “Take advantage of everything you have there in terms of The Famuan, Journey, the radio station and TV20. Making the most of the opportunities there is going to help you in terms of your skills and also your ability to land a job.”

Jones knows first-hand how the hard work by the students can parlay into a first-rate job after graduation. His office walls are papered with framed photos of the students at work in the reporting field, on the newscast and other successes since graduating from the program.

“More than anything I am here to help students to have good careers and for them to have good lives not only for them, but for their families as well,” Jones said. “Success creates success.”