“3, 2, 1… we’re live!” RWU students gain valuable skills from shadowing WPRI staff at the RI Gubernatorial Debate

Angeli Tillett, Britney Dixon, and Noah Ashe (left to right) get a taste of what it is like to be on stage during a broadcast as a WPRI News Reporter practices in front of the cameras.

Bright lights, focused question prep and quite literally, “lights, camera, action” were all included in the environment that RWU students got the chance to be a part of last week. 

 The Rhode Island Gubernatorial Debate was held here in the Global Heritage Hall (GHH) Atrium on Sept. 27 and it afforded journalism majors the opportunity to shadow reporters and technical staff who work for WPRI, a Rhode Island news station.

Students got to participate in multiple tasks, from sound checking at the podiums to helping the moderators practice by providing mock answers to their debate questions. All of the students had valuable opportunities to see what it was like for a tv news station to conduct an event of this capacity.

 Senior Devin Ciuci was able to take on a bit of a different role during the debate. She was able to shadow from within the control truck, alongside Kevin, the director, and the producer and sound producer. During this time, she got to observe everything in the control truck and had a behind the scenes look on everything it takes for a news station to set up a live show.

 When asked about the most valuable aspect of her shadowing experience, she mentioned the importance of multitasking and how crucial of a skill it is to have when running an event like this.

 “Every person in that truck was so focused but managed to do a million things at once, between talking to every person on the floor and managing how everything looks to the viewer, to making everything run smoothly,” Ciuci said.

 Other than the practical skills that she gained from her shadowing experience, Ciuci noted that it was nice to see different sides of the reporters and staff. She got to see them not just as professional journalists and tech experts, but as ordinary people, too.

 “It’s nice to see how hardworking they were but how down to earth they were, as well. At the end of the day, they are still humans just like us,” Ciuci said.

 Junior Angeli Tillett is a student who had the opportunity to shadow the production crew during the debate. All of the journalism students had to be at GHH two hours early, so she was there to see the newscasters go through and deliver their lines a couple times before they did it for the actual live broadcast. She noted that the most valuable concept she took away from her experience was realizing how critical timing was.

 “The WPRI crew was there setting up in GHH literally all day for a one hour broadcast,” Tillett said. “Each camera also had to be timed to be in a specific place or get a specific shot at a certain time. It was just crazy seeing all of that done.”

 Tillett’s shadowing experience also impacted her in terms of thinking about her future career path.

 “I’m a double major in political science and I love debating so I think seeing the gubernatorial debate in person was a really cool experience,” Tillett said. “I don’t think I would ever go into broadcast news, to be honest, but I think I might definitely run for office some day. Even if it’s just in local politics.”

 WPRI Target 12 Investigator Tim White and Eyewitness News Reporter Ted Nesi, both moderators of the debate, weighed in on their thoughts about the students shadowing and learning from them.

 “Tim and I are not used to having anyone in the room when we get ready, we usually debate with each other,” Nesi said. “We were pretty focused on work, but I hope the students got something out of it. I enjoyed it, I hope they did.”

 White expressed that at first he was a little apprehensive about the idea of having students shadow them during the debate process, but it turned out to be a positive experience.

 “I’ll be honest with you, I was a little nervous about it, because when we’re preparing for debates we have to be secretive. So we had to put a lot of trust in Roger Williams University students that they wouldn’t disclose, tweet or do anything while we were working on questions. But they were great and they asked awesome questions,” White said.

 Students who shadowed WPRI staff during the gubernatorial debate proved to have valuable experiences and takeaways from the night. White affirmed that the experience was positive for WPRI, as well.

 “If we do this partnership again with Roger Williams University, I wouldn’t hesitate to have students shadow us,” he said.