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Gathering News and Gaining Experience

Students work on a news story on campus
Newsroom reporter Grady Trimble (left) and comm major Ryan Sullivan '17 (right) working together. (Photography by Reems Landreth '20)

Jan 24, 2017

By Jasmine Bratton '19
Student Life Reporter

At the William F. Chatlos Building on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Ryan Sullivan ’17 arrives early with a fully charged camera and a list of incoming news. He stops by the parked 10 News WTSP van, meets with his mentor and colleague, Polk County newsroom reporter Grady Trimble, and waits for the day’s lead to be picked.

This is his favorite part of his internship, the start of story, and the beginning of a drive to unknown territory.

“I can never expect what's going to happen or what I’m going to see,” Sullivan said. “I could either be interviewing a trio of brothers who confronted a conman in Ybor, or a woman in Lakeland who stole toys from children. I know my day is going to be exciting and a little unusual, and the best part is it's preparing me for my future in the field.”

Sullivan, a communication major, wanted an internship that provided experience, going beyond a desk and paperwork, and was pointed in Trimble’s direction by faculty such as Dr. Mike Trice.

“Internships are an essential part of the communication department,” Trice said. “We have them not only as a guarantee but also as a requirement because we believe students need the practice and involvement, and we provide partners like 10News to get them out in the field so they can learn and sharpen their skills.”

Editing video content.

The partnership with Tampa Bay 10News started in 2015 as a news coverage expansion to the Polk County area with both the newsroom and the local newspaper The Ledger.

The partnership grew into an opportunity for the department to give students real-world experience not all schools can guarantee, and build post-college connections with the local news scene.

“We bring the industry as close as possible to our students, bringing a payoff of increased growth,” professor and department chair Dr. Alex Ortiz said. “It’s a winning solution for everyone, but the focus is always on students, and all we can offer them.”

While simultaneously acting as a boss and a coworker to interns, Trimble, who made his air-debut at age 19, appreciates the close relationship he has with the department and the school as a whole.

“The communications department at Florida Southern is extremely accommodating, and I enjoy working with students, because it wasn't that long ago I was in their shoes,” Trimble said. “If I didn't have people who mentored me while in college, I wouldn't be where I am today.”

During the workday, the duo follow a steady lead and find reliable sources to create their story. Afterward, Sullivan helps set up cameras and sound equipment before recording interviews, b-roll, and voice-overs. Packages — completed stories — are created separately by both for different purposes; Sullivan’s for his portfolio, Trimble’s for the finished product.

“Ryan works hard and is eager to learn,” Trimble said. “It helps that Ryan has a solid understanding of the technical aspects of the job, like shooting and editing. Everything else, he can learn as we go.”

“I always have to keep learning and find ways to keep my skills up, and not rely on what I found to be the easiest.”
Ryan Sullivan

Prior to the start of the internship, Sullivan’s knowledge of video editing and production was already advanced, thanks to his classes. But his hands-on real-world experimentation in the field made him realize how much more he has yet to learn.

Sullivan explained he would go through the unfinished, raw content, piece it together, then try to wrap it up with a script. On the other hand, Trimble would start with a script, and then tie the narrative to what he needed it to be. The videos would be noticeably different in quality, even though the content was the same.

“His direction would be clearer than mine, and it was eye opening,” Sullivan said. “You always think you’re the best at editing, because you only do it one way, but never really grow from that. Seeing him edit showed me that I always have to keep learning and find ways to keep my skills up, and not rely on what I found to be the easiest. While we work together as a team, I definitely act as a student, and learn from him as a teacher.”

After the package is finished and sent in, work ends with a friendly goodbye and news items scratched off the list. Throughout the internship, Sullivan quickly grew familiar with his boss and their van, and more confident in his choice of career. His success with the internship points to the longevity of the program, as the mutually beneficial partnership will be continued with future upperclassmen.

Now prepared to travel far and use various editing styles, Sullivan is ready to find his place in the industry.

“I know I was only able to get this chance at Florida Southern, no question about it,” Sullivan said. “Where else does a professional reporter work with you out of your department building?”