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Newhouse 2, Part 2
Planned $18 million renovation will bring the Newhouse School fully into the digital age
Forty years is a long time, especially when it comes to media production.
It’s been nearly that long since Newhouse 2 opened in 1974, just a few years after SU’s School of Journalism merged with the television and radio department and officially became the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
While Newhouse 1—the original Newhouse building—had been devoted mainly to print journalism, the opening of Newhouse 2 was a sign of the school’s continuing expansion into broadcast and film production. In fact, it was CBS Chairman of the Board William S. Paley who delivered the Newhouse 2 dedication speech. When it opened, the most striking feature of the new building was its studios, which dominated the ground floor. They were, at that time, considered cutting edge, an outgrowth of the “Golden Age of Television,” used as a training ground for thousands of future communications leaders.
Today, the studios continue to serve as an integral part of the school. But while the communications industry has been transformed by convergence, multimedia and rapidly changing technology, the studios have remained largely the same for the past four decades. That’s about to change.
“As a top communications school, it is our duty to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the industry,” says Newhouse Dean Lorraine Branham. “We must provide our students with the opportunity to work with the tools and in the settings that truly prepare them for what they will find when they enter the professional media world. That means we must have cutting-edge facilities and the latest technology.”
Adds Larry Kramer ’72, president and publisher of USA Today, and chair of the Newhouse Advisory Board: “There is nothing more important to the Newhouse School today than staying not only relevant, but ahead of the game during a time of massive and continuing change in virtually every industry we train our students to join. Communications schools are as deeply impacted by everything going on as the industries we represent.”
Storytelling, especially video storytelling, is at the center of the dramatic changes taking place, Kramer says. “It’s only natural that we quickly update our technical resources to teach the ability to produce quality and relevant video using the tools of the trade that matter today. You wouldn’t teach someone to drive today using a Model T.”
The current studios suffer from outdated analog technology and antiquated lighting, controls and systems. Production equipment and project workflow hinder, rather than foster, collaboration. Control rooms lack proper teaching configurations. And there’s a lack of multimedia focus.
“These issues compromise Newhouse’s ability to train students for careers in media production and related areas,” says Branham. “And they affect our ability to recruit the best students, who see superior facilities on tours of competitor schools.”
Chris Licht ’93, vice president of news programming with CBS News, says that competitive edge is crucial. “The more you can minimize on-the-job training, the more responsibility you’ll have and the quicker you can advance,” he says. “Students have to come out of Newhouse not just on the same level as the organizations they’re joining, but actually a step ahead. The organizations will catch up with their knowledge.”
In the spring of 2009, during her first year as dean, Branham convened a steering committee to create a feasibility study focusing on a complete renovation of the studios. Consulting firm National TeleConsultants (NTC) and architectural firm Gensler partnered with the committee, which comprised Newhouse faculty and staff, as well as SU design and technology experts.
In April 2010, NTC and Gensler delivered a 70-page report that lays the groundwork for the renovation, which will bring the Newhouse studios into the 21st century.
Goals for the estimated $18 million project include:
- comprehensive upgrade of studio and news production to HD digital technology—including professional grade, high-definition production control rooms with special accommodations for full class instruction, multi-camera production, 5.1 audio control and news production automation;
- advanced teaching lab spaces tailored to news and multimedia production instruction;
- news studios, including a dedicated newsroom with a permanent news set and a green screen;
- production studios, including a multi-camera production studio and a virtual set studio;
- an expanded collaboration area for all the major production functions, as well as an area for small group or production meetings;
- smaller flex studios and break-out spaces, including a large classroom/screening room, a production conference room, a studio control room and lab space;
- a revamped “cage,” where students sign out and learn to operate all types of audio and video production equipment; and
- a bureau and office space for Orange Television Network, the SU student TV station.
One of the most visually interesting features of the new studio complex will be the two-story entry lobby, located at the corner of University and Waverly avenues, which will be marked by a dramatic glass curtain wall allowing for a sweeping view from the outside. Inside the lobby, a proposed double-height wall would display a large visual art installation, which will include, among other things, work produced by Newhouse students.
The project is designed to meet LEED sustainability standards, and will feature LED studio lighting, high-energy efficiency, advanced building controls, sustainable materials and improved indoor air quality.
“Ultimately,” says Branham, “this project will enhance the quality, size, capability and connectivity of our production facilities, and go a long way toward bolstering our academic mission.”
Michael Schoonmaker, chair of the television-radio-film department, says the completed facilities will not represent simply an upgrade, but something all new. “The most exciting thing about this project is that we’re putting together something none of us has ever seen before,” he says. “When we consulted leaders in all areas of communication, they challenged us to think beyond what we know as a studio and imagine a space where all SU students could explore, experiment and invent across media and disciplines.”
Gensler, the architectural firm that worked on the feasibility study, will handle the design. Construction is slated to begin in April 2013 and last a little over a year. The new studios are expected to open in time for the fall 2014 semester.
Additional funding will come from several sources, including the S.I. Newhouse Foundation and Syracuse University, as well as industry partnerships. Additional fundraising from alumni and friends of the Newhouse School is also needed to support the project. “The greatest contribution anyone can give, whether they are an alum or someone who has hired an alum and benefited from it, is the ability to return the favor by helping us prepare the next batch of students just as well,” says Kramer.
Schoonmaker thinks connection to the industry through alumni and the school’s growing number of partnerships is crucial to the success of the project. “The studio complex must continue to support traditional media activities, but those activities no longer exist in a vacuum. As media practices converge and platforms multiply, our storytelling spaces and resources must respond in similarly inventive ways, preparing students of all media persuasions for the dynamic and uncertain terrain of today’s fascinating media landscape.”
For more information about supporting the studio project, contact Lynn Vanderhoek at (315) 443-9236 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
January-April 2012: Project kick-off, architect hired
May-December 2012: Design and review
January-March 2013: Construction company hired
April 2013-June 2014: Construction
Fall 2014: New studios open