Tucked under a staircase at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, WUSF has created a studio for backpack journalists and a classroom for journalism students.
The result of two years of planning and negotiations, the new space will serve as the public radio station's campus news bureau, featuring soundproof walls, recording equipment and live broadcast capabilities. It also will allow WUSF, which is based in Tampa, to broaden its coverage in Pinellas County.
The station plans to increase coverage of the Midtown area by allowing WUSF reporters to work with the USFSP Neighborhood News Bureau class, which covers Midtown exclusively.
"This gives us the opportunity to really expand our reach into the community, expand our contacts," said Steve Newborn, interim news director for WUSF. "We have several reporters who work for us who live (in St. Petersburg), which would make it easier for them to work on stories in their communities without coming over the bridges during rush hour."
Already, the studio acts a training ground for aspiring broadcast and radio journalists. Deni Elliott, chair of the journalism and media studies department, sees radio broadcast as a crucial skill for student journalists.
"I think there is certainly an opportunity for WUSF staff members to work closely with students and faculty in terms of developing a program," Elliott said. "With grad students in Journalism and Media Studies, for example, these folks produce cumulative projects that are in-depth, documentary kinds of programs in some cases."
In addition to radio, she said there will be chances for students' work to appear on television and Web outlets run by WUSF Public Media.
The studio is about the size of a large walk-in closet and is on the first floor of the Peter Rudy Wallace Florida Center for Teachers, 599 Second St S. As a part of its agreement to use the space, WUSF has adopted graduate student interns to contribute to web content on Health News Florida and radio content for WUSF.
"I've been challenged in ways I've never even thought of. It's solidified my passion for being in journalism at this point," said intern May Zayan, a USF St. Petersburg graduate student. "This is sort of a different flavor … being able to quickly digest stories and skillfully compose and write on a deadline."
Zayan credits her growing multimedia skills to her work with professional journalists. She turns to adjunct professor and Health News Florida reporter Mary Shedden for suggestions on stories.
"We're really hoping to help develop their skills in health news knowledge as well as health news judgment," Shedden said.
Down the line, the journalism faculty at USFSP envisions an expanded studio space to be used by WUSF reporters, faculty and students.
"It's now a multimedia world," said Mark Walters, professor and director of journalism and design at USFSP. "Digital media has made that possible, inevitable."