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For nearly a quarter of a century, the New York Institute of Technology produced a nightly television newscast on its campus in Old Westbury, New York. NYIT LI News Tonight was one of the few programs in the region where college interns could cover breaking news and feature events alongside reporters and photographers from professional news stations, and have their work seen that evening on our nightly TV newscast.
During the past 25 years, our alumni have been hired as journalists in the New York metro area, in cities across the country, and at news organizations in Russia, Spain, Greece, Sweden and Israel. It all started back in 1983, when Professor Efim Brook and Dr. Adrienne O''Brien founded NYIT LI News Tonight with the common goal of getting students to "learn by doing." Students were given an opportunity to get involved in reporting, shooting, editing and writing news stories ranging from breaking news to sports to entertainment. The front man for this new show was former Channel 21 news anchor John Miller who was joined by chief correspondent Derren Weisenbach, production manager Mark Grossman, and a young video engineer by the name of Herb Savran, along with several student reporters.
Since that time, the roster of professional staff has grown to include Sharon Annunziata, Bill Badger, John Bradley, Mike Budronis, Linda Cohn, Tom Downes, Ken Eckhardt, Dave Feuerman, Robin Frank, John Gallagher, Rich Glanzer, Junior Gordon, Randy Hepp, Elizabeth Kramer, Jim Lambriola, Gary Licker, Paul McAniff, Carol Pack, Anthony Piazza, Herb Savran, Susan Schweers, Drew Scott, Mark Sills and Brian Wu. For six months before their first newscast, the crew put together practice shows to work out the bugs. "While we were doing the test shows, there was some doubt as to if we could actually pull it off.," said Grossman. "But after the first show, we knew it would last a while. When Efim Brook asked me 'How did it go?' My first response was, 'Well, the whole is a lot better than the sum of its parts.'"
At the beginning, NYIT LI News Tonight didn't have its own studio. The news was produced and edited on the second floor of Education Hall while the show was taped one floor below, in the TV production studio. "During the day they would have [TV] classes," said Grossman. "Then, we would hoist the set in and reset the lights. They had to leave tape marks on the floor to know where everything went… it was rough for a few months." Then the show finally got its own set. "At first, the set had a cut out window over the anchors shoulder, so you could see the control room in the background," Savran remembers. "They did this because newscasts at the time looked too fake. We wanted to be more realistic by showing students changing tapes and switching in control room."
Long Island cable, at that time, consisted of seven separate cable companies, and none of them had a news show. News12 did not yet exist and PBS Channel 21 had stopped producing a daily news show, so there was a period of time when NYIT LI News Tonight was the only cable TV newscast on Long Island. In fact, a study conducted by NYIT at the time, revealed Long Island didn't receive much coverage from the network affiliates and there was a tremendous need for local news coverage.
When Charles Dolan bought many of the Long Island cable stations and created Cablevision, NYIT Provost, Dr. David Salten, arranged a meeting at Telecare with Father Tom Hartman, who gave NYIT LI News Tonight a 15 minute timeslot, extending potential distribution into more than a million homes.
In April of 2002, student-reporter Monique Brook, news director/anchor Ken Eckhardt and program director Gary Licker won a New York Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Programming about the Arts, for a special edition of the show called “Co-stars and Roommates,” beating out two other programs on PBS/WLIW and The Metro Channel. The Emmy win was a first for NYIT LI News Tonight and the most prestigious award it has ever won. The last event to shape NYIT LI News Tonight was the renovation of its news studio. For three weeks, the news room had to be temporarily relocated. The new set was completed on Feb. 24, 2003 and debuted the following night. The set finally had the look of a professional 24 hour newsroom, complete with a “control room” graphic in the background (mimicking the original window cutout to allow viewers to watch students in the control room). The new set was only part of the renovation. The NYIT Computer Labs created a new computer graphic introduction for the show including new music.
NYIT LI News Tonight continued to evolve, placing more emphasis on stories involving community issues that affected its viewers, rather than relying on adage: "If it bleeds, it leads." IT diversifyed outlets for interns' work, including gsocial media, blogs and video uploads of shows and individual reporter packages to YouTube.