Finding Their Voices

The field of communications moves quickly. Changing channels, changing formats, and changing consumer tastes are just some of the obstacles. The latest technology is apt to change by the time you finish this article.

Assistant Professor Doug Flanagan has the solution: “I just need to be everywhere all the time. I need to reach my target audience, without abandoning traditional media. I need to ask, ‘how is this going to be consumed?’”

It is a question Flanagan asks often of himself, and his students. Flanagan, who helped overhaul the College’s arsenal of television broadcast equipment, is a seasoned content producer. He has worked throughout the television industry, and instructed on its nuances.

Flanagan is found most days in the television studio, atop Van Wagenen Library. His colleague, Associate Professor and Chair of the Liberal Studies Department Dr. Doug MacLeod, is in the classroom; Dr. MacLeod  says communications courses at SUNY Cobleskill are theory-based – and very hands-on. In keeping an eye on the present, students naturally anticipate the future.

“I tell students to bear technology and aesthetics in mind with pretty much everything,” says Dr. MacLeod. “I provide perspective and context to help fill-in the narrative.” It is a narrative he says that intertwines present and future.

For Flanagan, the arrival of new broadcast equipment, highlighted by a video switcher purchased with funds raised at the 2018 Culinary Extravaganza, and new broadcast-quality cameras, gives students applied learning opportunities in broadcast communication. Students shoot, edit, produce, and broadcast their own productions. Their individuality shines through as they develop content creation skills. Flanagan uses the term “hop-scotching” to describe the motion of students as they work across broadcast techniques and technologies.

Courses in subjects like film theory, marketing, and public relations guide students down different paths. “Once they leave here, students will have had a taste of everything,” says Dr. MacLeod. “We try to open their interests individualistically to help them find their voices.”

The open-endedness and freedom are what communications professionals face in industry. “If I do my job too well,” says Dr. MacLeod, referring to a film theory course, “I will ruin movies for you. What we want students to do is see what they see, process it as they see it, and think intuitively and critically to communicate it.”

Feature photo: Funds raised at the 2018 Culinary Extravaganza allowed the College to purchase new broadcast equipment that is now installed in the campus TV studio.

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