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Two years in the making, Saint Mary’s debuts SMC-TV

Katie Kohler | Friday, March 31, 2006

After two years in the development stage, SMC-TV – an independent television station operated by Saint Mary’s – went on the air Wednesday as the first student-produced television program in Saint Mary’s history.

SMC-TV will air its programming on Tuesdays at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Channel 3.

The station is based out of the Huisking Family Instructional Technology Resource Center in the basement of the library and receives a large portion of its funding from the Huisking Family Foundation.

Senior Michelle Fitzgerald, co-creator and general manager of the station, worked with 20 faculty members and students for two years to make SMC-TV a reality.

Fitzgerald said she was proud of the first broadcast and has high hopes for upcoming productions.

“Our first broadcast went very well and my staff and I were excited to see a product on the air after almost two years of hard work creating the station,” Fitzgerald said.

The broadcast was led by two anchors – senior Janet Brace and junior Erin Hanifin. The top stories included highlights from Midnight Madness, SMC Toastal and Accepted Students Weekend. The show also surveyed students’ spring break plans.

Hanifin said in addition to covering campus news, SMC-TV will also be a positive resource for prospective students.

“We are hoping this can become a tool in attracting future freshmen to our school,” Hanifin said.

SMC-TV originally was going to be broadcast in the dining hall and other campus locations. But televisions were not installed in time for the first broadcast. Fitzgerald said the televisions should be installed in the dining hall this week, a location chosen primarily because almost every student visits the facility at least once a week.

“By placing a TV in a visible area, students will see the SMC-TV broadcast – gaining the maximum number of viewers for both the station and our advertisers,” Fitzgerald said.

Campus news is not the only focus for SMC-TV. Other programs in Wednesday’s broadcast included “Art Talk,” which profiled a visiting artist on campus. Future shows will include a program called “Community Forum” and coverage of campus events such as the Theology on Fire series.

A cooking show and morning workout broadcast are also in the works.

“We recognized the size of our endeavor and knew we had to start small,” Fitzgerald said. “We will use this broadcast as a springboard to improve on the quality of SMC-TV each week.”

Keith Fowlkes, director of information technology and SMC-TV faculty advisor, was impressed with the finished product.

“The quality and content was super,” Fowlkes said. “They had some small technical difficulties, but that is expected for a first broadcast.”

Fitzgerald said many students provided positive suggestions – like airing the campus news program more than once a week.

“We [the staff] hope that interest will grow as students are able to check out the first broadcast via the homepage and tune in the following weeks,” Fitzgerald said.

The whole program will be accessible through a link on the Saint Mary’s website so students will be able to download the previous broadcast from any computer on campus.

Student-created advertisements also play an important role in the success of SMC-TV. Fowlkes said the students were entirely responsible for the ads.

“The student team did all the contacts, marketing and placement of the ads,” Fowlkes said.

Fitzgerald said scrolling billboard advertisements and birthday announcements are displayed 15 minutes before each broadcast. Both types of ads had to be purchased by businesses and students. Advertising benefactors include campus cafe Dalloway’s, the Social Work Club, First Source Bank and Saint Mary’s food supplier Sodhexo.

Michelle Fitzgerald said the goal of SMC-TV is to provide a wrap-up of the week’s news stories, adding that there will be no live coverage on events.

Fitzgerald said news updates will be broadcast on Channel 3 when SMC-TV is not on the air.

Fitzgerald said her long-term goal is for the station to continue on after she graduates this spring.

“When I return to Saint Mary’s in five years, I would like SMC-TV to be incorporated into a student’s weekly life,” she said. “Additionally, I would like to see students interested in one or two specific programs outside of the campus news, watching SMC-TV as part of their nightly television ritual.”

Fitzgerald is confident the work of the faculty, staff, and students who created the station will pay off.

“Most of all, I would like to see students credit SMC-TV with making them better informed and connected to what is happening on campus and what services are available,” she said.