Guterman has anchored communications program for 25 years

Jeff Guterman
Jeff Guterman

By KIMBERLY WEINBERG 

Portraits editor 

 

People are watching more video than ever in more places than ever – at their desks, on the road and in every room of their homes.

With all that video watching going on, there’s also a lot of video making going on. Bad video making. Vertical videos on iPhones, “Breaking Bad” parodies and, of course, thousands upon thousands of “Harlem Shake” videos.

Today almost anyone can take video, but it takes highly developed skills to make video well, according to Jeff Guterman, associate professor of broadcast communications and director of the program since he started it 25 years ago.

“Most everyone thinks they’re an expert when it comes to television because everyone watches television,” he said. “But if you’re talking video content, broadcasters make the best.” Which is why he believes that there’s more opportunity than ever for those who know their way around a camera.

“It remains a very viable field,” he said. “Social media needs more and more moving image content.”

Guterman has been teaching students to make video since 1986 (first at the State University of New York, Cortland, then at Pitt-Bradford) long before the words “social” and “media” ever went together. Emerging technology at the time included personal computers, compact discs and the first VCRs and camcorders.

Although technology has changed immeasurably since the program’s beginning, Guterman’s philosophy has remained the same – hours upon hours of hands-on experience with every job students could ever want behind or in front of a camera.

“The key is in the repetition,” he said.

That’s probably just one reason the program has been successful in turning out students

who go into a variety of fields. They go into broadcasting, of course, but many also make a living in journalism, education, law, web design, public relations, copy writing and more.

“I put them in leadership roles right from the beginning,” Guterman said. It’s part of his intensely personalized teaching style.

Students have always called Guterman “Jeff.” He crowds as many of them as he can into his small office for meetings with a real collegial workplace feel. He gets them off campus as

much as possible, where they have to tangle with real-world problems like dealing with cameras

that freeze up in the Bradford cold and making cold calls on merchants for advertisements.

Guterman lets students discover what part of the broadcast business they love, then tracks down leads, works contacts and places them in internships where they can get more practice in the areas they’re interested in. He gives them assignments designed to test their boundaries and give them even more practice in those areas.

It is almost as if each student has an individualized major.

Jennifer Lewke ’05 is probably the highest profile on-camera reporter to come out of the Pitt-Bradford program, which tends toward the technical side. An investigative reporter for WGRB, the CBS affiliate in Albany, N.Y., she proudly announces her status as an alumna on her Twitter profile.

“Jeff saw what I wanted and did everything in his power to help me get it. My most favorite classes were hands-on in the studio,” she said, adding that much of what she learned behind the camera later helped with her understanding of workflow in a newsroom. She made it clear to Guterman early on that she wanted to be a reporter in front of the camera. “Whatever you’re interested in, they find a way to make it work for you. They tailor the curriculum for you.”

Guterman said, “We’re conscious of the fact that most of the employment in the industry happens behind the camera, but when students are interested in working in front of the camera, we work with them extensively.”

That’s just what he did with Lewke, tailoring her projects and arranging a key contact through one of his earliest alumni, Richard Jarrett ’94, who was at WSYR in Syracuse, N.Y., near where Lewke grew up.

What Guterman could not teach her, reporters she interned with did. She wrote stories and researched for reporters. During commercial breaks in the field, reporters would have her try

her hand at reporting while the cameras rolled, then review the tape with her later.

“Once I was done with school, I was ready to go,” she said. “I graduated May 1 and went to work May 2.”

While Lewke has stayed with reporting, other alumni have moved their way through a variety of technical positions, each time building on a kernel of knowledge first learned during their time in Blaisdell Hall.

After working at a smaller station, Erin Dixon Crentsil ’07 landed at KDKA, the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, a television station that grew out of the very first commercial radio station in the country.

First hired in the operations department, where she had to make sure everything went out over the air correctly, she was asked if she had experience with cameras. Of course, she said, she had done all of that in her capstone project her senior year at Pitt-Bradford.

“Jeff fueled my creativity by teaching me proper camera techniques that gave me the start to running cameras for the news broadcasts at KDKA. The hands-on experience he taught could only be given in a small-school setting,” she said.

About seven months ago, she began working on “robotics,” directing up to eight cameras and setting up shots in the studio. “I have to stay one step ahead of the director,” she said. “It’s very fast-paced.

“One of the biggest thing that I learned from Jeff ’s class was terminology. I used to give him a very hard time because he was so particular about things like numbering every page in a rundown. I didn’t think he was right. Then I got a 13-page rundown at KDKA and realized, ‘Oh, so he was right.’”

When she made the switch from operations to robotics, Guterman was one of the first people she called. “My family has no idea what I’m talking about,” she said of her excitement for her new job. “They have no idea how hard it can be getting set up for the next shot.”

Ryan Emerson ’09 knows. He is the morning show producer for JET-TV 24, the ABC affiliate in Erie, Pa. His days begin at 10:30 p.m. and end 10 hours later at the end of the morning newscast.

Throughout the night, he and a photographer edit footage and cull national news items to create the morning broadcast.

In editing, selecting and arranging stories for the newscast, Emerson said he uses skills he learned with Dr. Flora Wei, associate professor of broadcast communications, who taught communications theory, advertising, journalism and social media.

Emerson said he started as a camera operator, then added news photography and working the audio board. A year and a half ago, he became a producer.

“I required very little training because I knew a little of everything already,” he said. “When it came to running the sound board and cameras, I took to it like a fish to water.”

It’s not all work and no play. He especially likes the fun vibe of the morning show, where he gets to visit Cookie Monster and Disney on Ice characters when they’re in town for performances.

“We try to have as much fun on the morning show as possible,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome. I like everything about it. Even working third shift.”

Marina Wesner White ’08 also has a chance to incorporate lessons learned from both her professors in her field as well as her minor in public relations. After graduating, she worked for a postproduction house in Atlanta, editing promotional spots for TLC and TBS television shows such as “Toddlers and Tiaras.”

A couple of years ago, she joined Lighthouse Marketing and began working with DS services, a home and office beverage delivery service company. She is now the account manager for the Athena® water brand, a national bottled water brand that supports the breast cancer cause

through product purchases.

Wesner White works with Athena celebrity brand endorsers Amy Grant and Kellie Pickler. As part of the Athena marketing program, she produces short video stories about the Warriors,as they are called, and their experiences with breast cancer. “In almost every marketing program we develop, video is a key component and an important part of bringing a campaign to

life,” she said.

Most recently, Wesner White developed a series of videos called the “Warrior Diaries.”

She developed the concept, drafted content, attended video shoots, supervised the editing of the final pieces and managed the media buy for promotional placement.

“I enjoy the big picture and then working on a variety of projects and deliverables that fall within the same objective. Seeing how each piece comes together to support the overall campaign is very rewarding. At Pitt- Bradford, there were many, many circumstances

where I feel like I was encouraged to think outside the box and take on multiple roles.”

Roles that she is still taking on as she develops the Athena brand.

 

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