"The show just laid there," said Dr. Oscar Patterson in a recent post-production review with the staff of WNCP's Action News 8. "There was nothing bad, nothing outstanding either." Dr. Patterson, who has directed the video program at UNC Pembroke for 15 years, is used to excellence from his news production classes, especially this one.
This spring the news program changed its introduction to: "Welcome to the award-winning Action News 8." The live half-hour news show, which originates from the studios in Old Main, was awarded the "Mark of Excellence" by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in a national contest. WNCP finished second in the "Best Overall Newscast" category as judged by the SPJ, the world's largest organization of journalists.
As Dr. Patterson closed his class, he reminds the Action News 8 crew, which is comprised of just three graduating seniors, that representatives from WXII-TV and WWAY-TV will be in the studio for upcoming broadcasts. "This is WXII's (a Winston-Salem network affiliate) first trip down here, so let's do well," he said. "Also, be here at 3 p.m. Friday to unload your new news set (courtesy of WTVD in Durham)." Progress for the television program at UNCP has been steady over the last 15 years, but the award is a watershed event.
Jimmy Hedrick, executive producer and director of Action News 8, said he changed his resume as a result of the award. The senior, along with freshman technical assistant Steve Carwile, traveled to Washington D.C. to accept the prestigious award at the SPJ awards banquet. "You have to work hard in this class, but it's worth it," Hedrick said. "We're slowly getting to the professional level, but considering that its student-run and that we have other classes and jobs, it is good."
Three news shows were sent in for judging, and the students are pleased with the outcome. Only Virginia Tech rated higher than UNCP's news team, Dr. Patterson said. "We held up against every school in the region," he said. "Our competition has a lot more resources, more students and graduate programs, so I was very pleased. "This group does a good job, and we have established a reputation for ourselves with this award. We've been seen and heard," Dr. Patterson said.
Both students praised the hands-on opportunities built into the program. "I was attracted to UNCP by the TV program, and I'm learning a lot," said Carwile, who is from Woodbridge, Va. "I like the fact that it is an all-student production." Hedrick said the opportunity to do live news is invaluable.
WNCP operates cable channel 8 on the local Time Warner cable system, and also appears live over the Internet via video streaming technology. The newscasts appear on a tape delayed broadcast Thursday and Friday mornings on WFPX-62, a local UHF station in Lumber Bridge.
Dr. Patterson views the award as the major achievement in over a decade of hard work. "We've come a long way since 1988," Dr. Patterson said. "I would guess we have over 1,000 programs in the vault. We'll do two more shows today." As Dr. Patterson says, WNCP is "hanging its laundry out for every one to see." And, they like what they see.