Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation: New Wave of Tech-Savvy Journalists

With the official opening of its Center for Media Innovation, Point Park University is prepared to take a leading role in educating a new generation of media professionals. The Center also positions Point Park as a critical resource for professional journalists and as an advocate for helping the public-at-large understand the important role a strong, independent media plays in society.

An Incubator and a Collaborative Space

“The media industry has evolved beyond individual labels such as print and television. Young journalists must be prepared for a massive multimedia effort that requires knowledge and expertise in multiple disciplines,” said Andrew Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation and an award-winning investigative journalist in his 15 years at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The Center for Media Innovation is designed as an incubator and collaborative space that brings together a cohesive, interactive strategy to education.”

The Center’s floor-to-ceiling glass walls, flat-screen televisions and a digital ticker will offer a New York City-style media hub where passersby can be entertained and informed as students learn their craft. “Point Park has spent the last decade bringing activity to its street-level spaces along Wood Street, Boulevard of the Allies and Forbes Avenue,” said Paul Hennigan, president of the University. “The Center is uniquely designed to showcase the vibrancy of the educational opportunities we offer our students while providing the public a visually engaging experience.”

The Mission and Design

The first part of the Center’s mission involves Training, in that The Center will engage current students, high school students, professionals and citizens in learning journalistic skills and values. Secondly, the Center is focused on outreach, serving as a clubhouse for journalists, with frequent events for professionals, opportunities for students and prospective students, and recognition for industry leaders. Finally, the mission of the center will include a strong online presence, including podcasts, a video library, news stories and a blog, with robust social media components.

The 4,000-square-foot center, designed by Pittsburgh-based GBBN Architects, cost $2.5 million to build and is made possible, in part, with a grant from the Allegheny Foundation. Trib Total Media is a sponsor of the Center’s news ticker. In terms of design, the 17-foot-by-15-foot pivot wall and folding glass partitions allow three rooms to become one large space; three miles of data cabling has been installed in the Center. There is a three-degree angle tilt to the glass walls in the television studio to help reflect sound and light waves, as well as four-inch acoustic foam insulating the walls in the radio studio while a one-inch foam padding system in the studio floors absorbs sound in the space and prevents exterior noise. There are Fourteen televisions of various sizes installed throughout the space.

Reaching Beyond University Walls

While the Center will be a relevant educational tool for students of all schools at Point Park, the goal is to reach beyond University walls. “This is a major investment in supporting journalism at a time when the industry needs it the most. Along with training a new generation of journalists, we will offer opportunities to professionals looking to sharpen skills and add new ones, as they work to keep up with industry changes,” Conte said. “The general public also will be welcome to attend events designed to teach them about media and the vital role it must continue to play in their daily lives.”

There are four key areas to the Center.

First are the television and radio broadcast studios. The TV studio includes a green screen, industry-specific lighting, and state-of-the-art high-definition cameras. A radio broadcast booth shares a commoncontrol room. Both broadcast areas are self-contained modules with high-visibility glass walls for a “fishbowl” studio experience.

Next is a Photo studio, which features high ceilings and light control for the best possible shooting environment. Additionally, there is a multimedia newsroom-focused on reporting and multimedia storytelling, along with graphics production, social media, and website and page layout, all of which can be conducted through multiple courses in this high-tech smart classroom. Finally, there is a transformational presentation and gallery space, which is an event space that the Center opens into which can be used Construction and Planning continued for networking and educational sessions with newsmakers and industry leaders. The same area also can be used as a photo gallery, offering another space for students to showcase their work.

Tackling Tough Issues in a New Space

After the grand opening in September, no time was wasted in securing an impressive series of events to follow. In mid-September, Associated Press photographer Richard Drew visited Point Park to discuss his “Fallen Man” images from the World Trade Center in a reflection of 9/11 coverage. Soon after, the Center presented “Press Forward: A Discussion of Race, Diversity & Inclusion in the Pittsburgh News Industry,” hosting Pulitzer-Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Keith Alexander and Wes Lowery, in a discussion of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and their police brutality series.

In October, The Center will welcome freelance writer and attorney Jamie Kalven, founder of the nonprofit Invisible Institute, to speak to journalists and students about his reporting on the shooting of Chicago’s Laquan McDonald by police in a presentation entitled “Press Forward: Holding Police Accountable.”

Kalven questioned the police version of events and sued the city of Chicago to obtain the autopsy report, which results in a story he wrote for Slate and prompted other reporters to question the shooting. In the aftermath, one police officer has been indicted on murder charges and the Chicago police chief is attempting to fire five other officers involved in the incident. The event is co-sponsored by the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation.

About the Author
Lou Corsaro is managing director of marketing and public relations for Point Park University. He joined the University in March after a nearly 20-year career as a professional journalist.