Start Spreading the Word: Media Studies Students Take Over Manhattan

In a world where the internet reigns supreme and anyone with a funny cat video can go viral, it seems New York’s claim to be the center of the media universe is slipping.

Siva Vaidhyanathan says otherwise. In his January class, “New Media in New York,” University of Virginia Robertson Professor of Media Studies takes 20 students to the Big Apple to explore how the city continues to be a major player in the world of media. modern media.

“When I started planning this as a college course, I wanted to make it the question, ‘Why is New York still important in the media landscape? “, Vaidhyanathan said.

The first half of the two-week course, which began Monday, includes five days of digital learning and engagement in Charlottesville. During this time, students post reflections on course readings and videos on a shared class website.

The course material covers everything from serious musings on the rise of the Huffington Post and classic New York cinema like “On the Waterfront” to caricatures of the magazine world in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

“I want to get students thinking about the fast pace of working life, the questions of how to stay true to editorial sensibilities, and how the city’s unique identity plays into media creation,” Vaidhyanathan said.

On Sunday, the class will arrive in midtown Manhattan. Vaidhyanathan has coordinated with an extensive network of UVA New York alumni and friends to create a diverse lineup of media tours while his class is in town.

Students will have the opportunity to meet former student Katie Couric and go behind the scenes with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show”. Both remained travel staples, even as they moved between different media.

“I found it very interesting to learn about Katie Couric’s transition to Yahoo!” said Caroline Blank, a fourth-year media studies student who took the course in 2015. world. Katie knows this and has taken her career to all kinds of outlets.

Since taking the course, Blank has begun considering new media approaches as part of her future career plans. Minor in art history, she hopes to find a job integrating digital media as a teaching tool in museum education.

She is not alone in using the course as a starting point for post-graduation plans.

“Stephen Colbert has spent over an hour talking to us face to face in the past, and he even ended up hiring a number of our students as interns later on,” Vaidhyanathan said. “Being a Colbert intern means receiving a very strong invitation to an exciting career in the media.”

In addition to meeting Couric and Colbert, students also visit NBC studios and visit the offices of Slate, Huffington Post, Viacom and Bloomberg News. Prominent alumni like Edward Swindler, president of NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution and NBC Broadcast Operations, often help organize these tours and arrange high-profile guest speakers.

During their visit, Vaidhyanathan encourages students to pay attention to each organization’s communication priorities and how they adapt their strategies to match the ever-changing social media landscape.

“Each year that I’ve taken this course, Facebook has played a bigger role in how people consume information, and it’s not just because the number of users is growing,” he said. he declares. “It’s because Facebook has established itself as the most important or second most important filter of information. The other is Google. Five years ago, I would have said that Google is absolutely No. 1. I could say the opposite now.

He added that almost every organization they visit is obsessed with monitoring their Facebook stats and staying on top of the next big trend, whether it’s just a trending topic or the next platform. of social media.

“In the classroom, I saw how quickly the industry is changing and even now it’s tough,” said 2013 alumnus Asia Johnson. “UVA has really prepared me to work hard, adapt and network. I’m constantly reading and meeting people to stay on top of what’s next.

Johnson took “New Media in New York” in January of her fourth year at UVA and was determined to return to the city afterward. She eventually landed a coveted job as an NBC page and now works for Scratch, a new creative division of Viacom.

“By the end of the week, students see why New York matters in the media and why it will matter for many decades to come, despite the fact that digital technology should allow us to do the same work from Kansas City, Portland or Tokyo,” Vaidhyanathan said. . “Here, employees are always in the mix for the next big thing and employers have access to a steady stream of raw talent.”

For Vaidhyanathan, who lived in New York for eight years before joining the UVA faculty, the class is also a chance to share one of his favorite places with his students.

“I usually teach large courses with between 80 and 300 people. It’s one of my rare opportunities to meet students informally and walk around the Museum of Modern Art or grab a bagel together,” he said. “I can understand what students expect from their degrees and tell them about their hopes and dreams.”