The new kid on "media row” and home of the Southeast Arrow was dedicated on Friday. The Rust Center for Media hosted an open house for the public to explore the new facility. But ahead of Friday's festivities, I took a private tour of the new media center with Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck, an associate professor from the Department of Mass Media at Southeast Missouri State University. The center has everything from photo, audio and webcast production spaces to a podcasting room and TV studio. It’s quickly becoming the new innovative face for multimedia journalism at Southeast. Our first stop was the content creation lab. It’s the heartbeat of the media center.
Buck: And this is where the SE Creative Advertising Agency, the Riverfront PR firm, and the Arrow student newspaper all operate. So this is the large flexible learning space--operating space that includes a triplex where most of the Arrow editors sit. A general seating area where students can walk in and work on whatever projects they're developing for student media. A faculty space that's off to the side so that we're here, but the emphasis is really on the students and their work. And a casual seating space just for you know separate meetings--one on one meetings. It is connected to our main conference room, which is a 20 seat area where students can meet with professionals or meet with clients. And they can also have team, large team meetings. That area is primarily used by our PR firm and advertising agency students, because they would be the ones who need those larger private spaces like that. Also, adjacent to this area is another smaller conference room, a podcast room, webcasting and photography spaces and two audio production spaces. So, we've got separate planned areas for students to do very specialized work, but most of the work I think will take place here in the content creation lab itself.
Lewis-Thompson: So, this is like the main newsroom area?
Buck: [Yes], we have two large televisions. One is for sporting events. That television is dedicated to sports. The other large television functions as a space where we can have the news on constantly, because they need to be aware of breaking news events that happen. But that place also can be used for collaboration. So for example, when the Arrow student team meets on Monday's they come in and wirelessly connect the news digest where they list all of the projects they're working. They wirelessly connect to that television and we'll have about 50 people here. Everyone can see it at the same time. And you can update constantly and seamlessly, so that we can see the screen work going on in real time. So that's a great place for the students to just collaborate and again there's a lot of flexible seating there. So we can change the size of the seating for the number of people who are involved there.
Lewis-Thompson: What have some of your students been saying about this new space? It's a serious upgrade from your previous digs for sure.
Buck: Oh wow. It is certainly an update. I think the students are really starting to settle in now. Everyone's sort of claiming their space, which is a wonderful thing. And I hope to see that continue. I didn't realize we also had somebody working on a podcast right now it looks like. I know they were in here Saturday night working on a podcast. It's one of the other things that I love. Because this is a student space, and the managers have full access to the building they come when they need to to work on the projects. But as you can see they're making it their own. This is not something that they're borrowing. This was something that was created for them, and it's really the first time we've ever had that. So, I love it. And I know my students love it, because I'm starting to see them spend increasing amounts of time here.
Lewis-Thompson: This is like a new place for them to do a lot of experimentation in the world of media--multimedia.
Buck: That's actually what we want. We don't want them to produce their grandparents or even their parents media. We want them to really be innovative and try new things and experiment. So, I don't know if you notice, but in the content creation lab the faculty space is intentionally set aside so that we don't encroach on their experimentation. When they come and ask us can they do something, we generally say "yes, try it." The only failure is that you don't try. If it doesn't work, if it doesn't produce the results that they want then we can retool it, but the best experimentation will probably drive what happens in the industry. And that's what we want to see happen.
Lewis-Thompson: Alright. Which one's next? The webcast production room or the photo production room?
Buck: Sure. Let's try webcast.
Lewis-Thompson: Alright. So we're in the webcast production room. Let's see. You've got a nice little setup here: a white board, [production] lights.
Buck: And the whiteboard as you can see is filled with a production schedule, as well as the team members, because this is something extremely new for us. The Arrow has been putting out a number of video projects this year. Not only with individual stories, but also we've got some new products. We've got a weekly update or announcement of what's coming up in our sports division. We've got a new collaboration between our TV film students and our news editorial students that's a sports reel where we actually take highlights that the TV film students produce for the OVC network, and put them on the Arrow's website. So that type of collaboration is what we want to see more and more of.
Lewis-Thompson: Now we're on the second level, and before we enter there is nice "on-air" sign above. So does that mean TV?
Buck: You are entering the world of TV. Absolutely.
Lewis-Thompson: So it's just a maze of multimedia then huh?
Buck: Absolutely. And actually we have the advertising PR and news people in the basement, because the TV film area needs it to be a little cooler. They needed a higher ceiling. They needed a cooler temperature. So we thought it would be good to divide us by floors that way. Just as a natural separation. Well this is called our gallery, and we love this space, because it serves as not only a green room for TV film students, but also a classroom and a flexible teaching space. So I actually teach here with Professor Mike Simmons. Once a week we have a class called media management. And we have about 30 students that we meet here and we talk about managerial issues. And as you can see again, flexible spacing. These are not old school desks, because we often have to work on case studies. So the students have to come together in groups of two or three. And it transforms easily from being groups of two or three to rows of desks to as you can see even a semi-circle. The couches are nice, because that is especially good for the green room. But we have students who want to sit on the couches and work on their laptops. Sort of like you would do if you were at a coffee bar. The taller desks behind the couches same thing. People can study in the way that's best for them.
Lewis-Thompson: Now the most obvious thing that we're looking at here is this huge black wall. And with the lights out it looks like you're in the abyss. What is going on here?
Buck: This is actually the TV space. It's a TV studio. And there are these columns that are natural separators for the four different studios that we have. There's one continuous room for different sets will be set up. And the students are already producing for our local media. Several different television projects. We're going to move those down here. The lighting grid is already up. And we're working on getting the new lights in. Then we'll move in the rest of the equipment. It'll take us about a year to get all of that moved in.
Lewis-Thompson: Well it looks like a pretty good start. And then I see a anchor desk.
Buck: That anchor desk will be used for a collaboration between again TV film students and Arrow students, because we produce a segment for a local news broadcast.
Lewis-Thompson: And another audio production room?
Buck: Actually this is the master control room for TV film. Interestingly, the way we designed this space to collaborate with what's going on in the basement, this is directly above our webcast room. And it will be set up so that if there's a major event--filming event going on, TV film majors can be up here as master control running what's happening down in the basement. So, we've thought about the connection between the two floors. And between again for options.
Lewis-Thompson: Alright, so where are we headed to next? So, we just left the TV portion of things.
Buck: Well the very front of the building is a shared space between us and the Southeast Missourian, Rust communications partner. And this room is going to be the Gary Rust room. So it is dedicated to the founder of the Southeast Missourian and Rust Media. And as you can see he's etched into the glass here and a little explanation of who he is. And he's really been supportive of the Rust Center for Media collaboration between the Missourian and the university. So, this room sort of is dedicated to him, but it's a beautiful room. And a good show piece for this center. When visitors come or when they pass by even, they'll be able to see the sculpture out front that sort of suggests that it's related to the idea of "media row." And then they'll be able to peer in and see students working here, or professional media people working in this space. The beautiful wood grain on the walls or and on the floor. The furniture that has not arrived yet. And this multiple screen television installation, which will be featuring media products from my students.