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“Suffolk in the City” alumni are shaping broadcast journalism around the country

The news anchor cuts to the “on the street” reporter, looking for the average person’s perspective on the issue of the day. Suddenly the audio cuts out. The interview subject walks off without warning. And a passing truck sends a massive puddle high into the air, drenching the reporter’s impeccable suit.

These are all nightmare scenarios faced – and overcome – by Suffolk University student reporters on the air during live reports for New England Cable News (NECN).

Suffolk in the City students gather for a photo at NECN in Boston
Suffolk in the City students gather for a photo at NECN in Boston

“I’ll never forget my first live shot for NECN,” says Dan Lampariello ’14, now a multimedia journalist for WGME-Portland, Maine.

“Everything was going great until my live segment. My audio went out and I could no longer hear the producer in the control room. After I wrapped up, the anchors were asking me questions, but I couldn’t hear them. Assuming I was finished, I started to walk away from the camera, but I was still live on the air! It’s funny to look back on now, but at the time I was embarrassed. That experience helped me realize that you have to roll with the punches of live TV.”

Powerful preparation

Since 2011, the University’s partnership with the NBC Universal-owned station has allowed 46 students to hone their broadcast journalism skills through the “Suffolk in the City” program. Three student reporters are chosen every six months following a rigorous audition process. Rotating weekly, the students pitch topics, film and edit news stories, and present them with live commentary every Friday from the sidewalk in front of Suffolk’s television studio during NECN Today.

“‘Suffolk in the City’ was actually the main reason I came to Suffolk,” says current student reporter Brandon Hyde. “No other school in this area does anything like this, so I thought it was impressive and wanted to try and be a part of it. Going live for a station in a top ten market while being a college student is such great experience for now and for my future.”

Hyde and the rest of this year’s “Suffolk in the City” reporters bring a wide range of experiences and interests to the role. They hail from towns a few miles outside the city, and half a world away in Kathmandu, Nepal. It’s their love of journalism and drive to make it in a competitive business that brings them to the studio nearly every day.

“I’m learning that practice makes perfect, and to trust that I know what I’m doing even though I’m nervous,” says student reporter Olivia LeDonne.

The students also are learning how a professional newsroom operates by working with NECN staff to create their weekly reports. At a student visit to the station this winter – where NECN shares studio space with reporting partners NBC Boston and Telemundo – veteran reporters and news executives took time to meet students exploring the news desks and high-tech editing suites. Chief Meteorologist Matt Noyes sat down with the students and discussed his own path in the business, cautioning that hardships will be part of paying their dues as young reporters.

Monika Raesch, chair of Suffolk’s Department of Communication & Journalism, is thankful to NECN for giving students this unique opportunity.

“Where else can you do that? There’s the on-camera experience, but then also the exposure to the business side of journalism,” she says. “It’s invaluable experience.”

Taking the next step

Hyde balances his “Suffolk in the City” reporting responsibilities with a part-time newswriting position at WHDH-Boston, just down the street from campus. When he graduates in May, he’ll continue writing for the station while looking for opportunities to move into an on-air role.

It’s a path that’s been trod successfully by “Suffolk in the City” alumni.

“I landed my first on-air job at KFOX/CBS-El Paso, Texas, with help from my writing job at WHDH and my work at Suffolk,” says Ashley Cullinane ’15, a “Suffolk in the City” alumna working as a multimedia journalist at WJAR-Providence/New Bedford. “I fostered great relationships with my WHDH-Boston colleagues. They helped me work on my reel. I was able to get that job because of my experience at Suffolk and my taste of the ‘real world’ with ‘Suffolk in the City’.”

Once graduates land that first job, their professional experience with “Suffolk in the City” will put them ahead of their peers.

“At Suffolk, I was always treated as a reporter, not a student,” says Andrew Scheinthal ’12, a reporter at WSVN-Miami. “I learned to be prepared, to be accurate, and not to expect gentle treatment because I was inexperienced. It’s better to learn those lessons in the classroom where stakes are lower than in your first job. As journalists, people trust us and we can’t break that trust, especially now.”

Where are they now?

Many alumni have moved across the country — to stations in smaller markets like Wichita, Kansas, and Louisville, Kentucky — to get their feet wet. Some have returned to New England to work for stations in Boston, Providence, and, notably, Portland, Maine.

“It’s Suffolk University North,” jokes Jerry Glendye, who manages Suffolk’s television studio and has mentored dozens of “Suffolk in the City” reporters over seven years. “Katie Sampson, Dan Lampariello, and Dan McCarthy were NECN student reporters at different times, but they all ended up together at WGME in Portland. It shows how small the broadcasting world really is, and how it helps to make connections wherever you can.”

Most “Suffolk in the City” alumni have pursued careers in broadcasting, but some have found success in other communication-forward positions — like external relations, crisis communications, and sales.

“Suffolk in the City” Alumni: 2011-2018 

Athyal, Jacob
(Boston, MA, USA)
Bard, Jessica
(Louisville, KY, USA)
Berube, Lauren
(Boston, MA, USA)
Bolster, Karina
(Richmond, VA, USA)
Chan, Tiffany
(Boston, MA, USA)
Costanza, Peter
(Boston, MA, USA)
Cullinane, Ashley
(Providence, RI, USA)
Davis Lyons, Paul
(Denver, CO, USA)
Graham, Melissa
(Quincy, MA, USA)
Hall, Casey
(Cambridge, MA, USA)
Lampariello, Dan
(Downtown, Portland, ME, USA)
Leonardo, Michelle
(New York, NY, USA)
Lynch, Erika
(Boston, MA, USA)
Mata, Elainy
(Lynn, MA, USA)
McCarthy, Dan
(Portland, ME, USA)
McMasters, Jim
(New York, NY, USA)
Murphy, Sarah
(Boston, MA, USA)
Nappi, Jessica
(New Bern, NC, USA)
Newcomb, Shawna
(Portland, ME, USA)
Perez, Daveson
(Boston, MA, USA)
Pitts, Breana
(Boston, MA, USA)
Presti, Joe
(Boston, MA, USA)
Rojo, Carla
(Lowell, MA, USA)
Ruiz, Laura
(Bogotá, Bogota, Colombia)
Sampson, Katie
(Portland, ME, USA)
Scheinthal, Andrew
(Miami, FL, USA)
Silva, Brianna
(Boston, MA, USA)
Sullivan, Siobhan
(Everett, MA, USA)
Sullivan, Tyler
(Boston, MA, USA)
Twitchell, Colleen
(Boston, MA)

Covering it all

“Suffolk in the City” alumni are covering local and national news around the country — from blizzards, car accidents, and tragedies great and small, to politics, sports, and lighter human interest pieces.

Scheinthal recently spoke about the importance, and emotional impact, of reporting on tragedies like the school shooting in Parkland, Florida and the collapse of the Florida International University commuter bridge.

Like most reporters, Scheinthal and Cullinane cover a range of topics and savor the moments when their stories impact people’s lives.

“Covering the Michelle Carter trial [a 2017 case in which a young woman was convicted of manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide via text message] was a learning experience. I was alongside national news and television networks watching history go down in the courtroom,” says Cullinane. “I’ve covered major storms as well, reported live for The Weather Channel, and tossed live to the legendary Jim Cantore. My favorite stories to tell, though, have been ones that pull at the heartstrings and help someone in the community.”

Reporting Live on Location

Ready for anything

“Given the large number of alumni from the program, it’s breathtaking to see how instrumental this experience was in opening doors for their first jobs,” says Raesch.

Less than a year after graduation, Erika Lynch ’17 is working as a video coordinator at WHDH-Boston. It’s a fast-paced job that involves working with producers, reporters, anchors, photographers, writers, and editors to bring newscasts together. Lynch started as a production assistant at the station while working on “Suffolk in the City” and credits that experience with giving her an edge.

“When I started at WHDH, I already knew many of the terms and ways that the newsroom worked,” she says. “That gave me the ability to learn and adapt quickly.”

Lynch recommends that any student interested in broadcasting audition for “Suffolk in the City,” take advantage of other resources the department and studio have to offer, and maintain connections with other students and professors in the industry.

Cullinane echoes those sentiments and shares practical tips on how to succeed after graduation:

“Be prepared to move, but don’t sell yourself short. If you’re not getting any bites, get a gig at a station in the meantime and work on your reel. Shoot and edit video in your own time and keep a YouTube page. Keep an active Twitter account. Link social media to your LinkedIn. Don’t give up. Reach out to alumni. Watch the stations you’re applying to. Get the NewsON app that lets you watch newscasts from anywhere in the country. Read newspapers, and subscribe to local business or organization newsletters. It’s difficult to find stories in small markets, so letting a future manager know you’ve got an eye for stories with examples is great.

And remember your first job isn’t forever. Time flies.”