All eyes on Public Eye News: Student news broadcast seeks to expand

Graphic+courtesy+of+Joe+Sigourney

Graphic courtesy of Joe Sigourney

Rayna Sherbinow

Communication on campus can take on many forms. Students may pick up on the latest news through word of mouth or by scrolling through social media. Anyone who listens to Radio X might catch a program or some music they have never heard before. Some students turn to printed publications to stay up to date. Those who prefer to get their news through the TV can tune into Public Eye News, another student organization that has been around since 1975.

“Public Eye News is a completely student run news program that airs on the PBS station WNMU-TV 13 every weekday at 4 p.m.,” Sophomore Joe Sigourney, multimedia production major and producer for PEN, said.

PEN covers news at all levels, as well as sports and weather. As a producer, Sigourney is responsible for assigning tasks to the other students and finding stories to be covered on the program. He wasn’t always a producer. He moved up in the ranks after demonstrating his commitment to PEN. The staff is small, comprising approximately 15 students. Sigourney says PEN is looking for interested students to join the team.

“You don’t have to worry about having any experience because we will take anyone,” Sigourney said. “We’re so open to showing everyone how to do everything, whether that’s just how to operate a camera or operating our complicated graphics machine or audio board.”

Adam Diaz, a senior majoring in multimedia production, volunteers at PEN. This is Diaz’s third year working on the program in some capacity. In the past, he was on staff, but even as a volunteer he said he is happy to assist wherever he can. PEN places an emphasis on learning while having fun and the crew occasionally has dance parties before a broadcast to shake off any nervousness, Diaz said.

“I have gained so much job experience down at Public Eye News and WNMU TV-13 that I’m grateful for and ready to use when looking for my future career in broadcasting,” Diaz said.

Diaz says working at PEN has opened up opportunities for him to work on other WNMU-TV programs.

“I have worked the shows for the station and I have worked master control, also I was fortunate enough to join the Hockey broadcast crew and other sports campus throughout my time at NMU because of PEN,” Diaz said. “The staff saw me excel in the club within my first year at NMU and wanted me to help in the rest of the station, which is humbling. If I can do it anyone can do it.”

Just as the program influences the students, the students influence the program. PEN’s faculty advisor is Mike Settles, who recently returned to WNMU-TV after a long absence. Settles’ history with PEN began when he was a student at NMU. Like Sigourney and Diaz, Settles says PEN was an important part of his time at NMU. 

“Forty years ago, I got my start in broadcast communications as a student anchor on PEN,” Settles said. “Turns out the news director at WLUC-TV6 would watch PEN, looking for talent. I was made aware of that and ended up interviewing at TV6. As an NMU junior, I was hired to work 30+ hours a week as a TV6 field reporter and went full-time following graduation. My story is not unique. The experience gained through PEN opens doors for those who want to go through them.”

Until recently, the format of the program has remained largely unchanged since its inception. PEN has access to news packages from CBS and their correspondents. These packages are still part of PEN’s broadcasts, but Sigourney says the program now includes more content produced by students. 

“A couple of weeks ago I actually went out and filmed the salamanders that were migrating at Presque Isle Park and interviewed someone and we put that into the show, so that was pretty fun,” Sigourney said.

Sigourney says these changes are thanks in large part to Settles. His pushing the staff at PEN has led to change at the station.

“He’s been picky, but in a good way to where he’s pushing the show at an incredible rate,” Sigourney said. “Because like I said, it’s been unchanged for years, and then just this year we’re like, ‘Okay, let’s do something different with it.’”

Although it has been a lot of work, Settles is proud of the time the students have put into the program this semester.

“Today’s PEN participants sure are a lot more polished than I was as a student newscaster back in the day,” Settles said. “Some of them will graduate in two weeks and I can’t wait to see where they go and what they do. I know they will do Northern proud.”

PEN’s studio is located in the basement of the Learning Resources Center on campus. For more information, visit their Facebook page or their webpage on the WNMU-TV website.