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The magical, mysterious, maddening world of Senior Semester

Posted May 2, 2017

At the midpoint of Senior Semester of Spring 2017, Kyle Vuille stood in the middle of the newsroom amid the cheerful chaos of constantly moving broadcast and multimedia colleagues and wondered aloud, “So this is what it is all about?”

Vuille had found the sweet spot of the semester, when his interviews, writing and photography had come together in a solid news package that would soon post to Dateline Carolina. His fellow broadcast students had also found serendipity in a daily newsroom that at times overwhelmed and confused.

“I just did a package in an hour-and-a-half that would have taken me all day to do before,” marveled Jada Williams as she prepared for the daily 4 p.m. Carolina News broadcast.

Welcome to the magical, mystical, mysterious, and maddening world of Senior Semester, the USC journalism program that is the capstone for senior broadcast and journalism majors. The Spring 2017 ended April 24 in a flurry of tossed scripts and notebooks.  

When broadcast and multimedia students enter Room 109 on the first day of Senior Semester the challenges of meeting deadline for a daily news show and ever-updating website appear insurmountable.

But after several weeks of a boot camp that arms broadcast students with a command of producing, reporting and anchoring a daily news show and prepares multimedia students to report breaking news, legislative stories and features, the students are ready to launch.

Each morning, Monday through Friday, students gather at 8:45 a.m. for a morning news budget meeting, where four instructors offer suggestions for strengthening stories or a brand of tough love that poke holes in story concepts that are likely to fall flat. By 3 p.m., the newsroom moves into high-energy mode in an effort to meet deadlines and produce tight, well-reported packages.

“I think it is a tremendous asset to the whole journalism school,” said Stan Smith, a graduating senior from Seneca. “You get so much experience from this. I learned so much more than I thought I would.”

“It was a pain, but it was worth it,” said Caitlin Mathias of Savannah. She and others would find themselves frantically printing out the daily rundown with moments to spare in hopes that all would be in place as the familiar theme for Carolina News reverberated on the big screens around the journalism building.

“I was very intimidated in the beginning but Rick (Peterson) and Harvie (Nachlinger) reassured us,” said Michelle Zhu, of the two broadcast instructors who supervise Senior Semester. (Nachlinger is retiring this year after more than a decade teaching Senior Semester.)

“It’s ok to mess up,” Zhu, of Anderson, said. “It’s one of those things where you get out of it what you put in.”

Across the newsroom, multimedia students go through multiple edits and put final touches on stories, photos and graphics, under the supervision of Carolyn Click and Scott Farrand, and then post stories to Facebook and other social media.

Micaela Wendell, a graduating senior from St. Paul, Minn., said Senior Semester “was the first semester where I really lived the college experience,” a sentiment echoed by Williams. The bonding among students extends past graduation as alumni find themselves crossing paths in newsrooms around the country.

“I’m going to miss it so much, mostly because of the people,” Williams, of Spartanburg, said. “I’m going to cry when I wake up and I’m not in the newsroom anymore.”

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