McLane Student Life Center Becomes 'Media Hub'

  • News Photo 475
    Lou Dobbs, host of CNNfn's Moneyline, broadcasts his show from the SLC during the Economic Forum.
  • News Photo 470
    A number of satellite trucks parked on Baylor's campus during the Economic Forum.
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    Photographers from news organizations as far away as Japan and China covered the Economic Forum.
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    Members of the media could plug into one of dozens of mult-boxes, which allowed them to receive clean audio and video feeds of the breakout sessions.
Aug. 14, 2002

by Lori Scott Fogleman

The panel meetings and final wrap-up session of the President's Economic Forum Aug. 13 at Baylor University were watched by millions all over the world through the efforts of more than 400 print, radio and television reporters, who filed their stories from a working newsroom set up in Baylor's 156,000-square-foot McLane Student Life Center.

The main hub of the activity was in the filing center that took over the SLC's four full-size basketball courts. The 24,000-square-foot area was equipped by Baylor's facility services with 250 tables, more than 500 phone lines and an abundance of power available for laptop computers, television cameras, monitors, editing equipment, studio lights and satellite trucks.

Erin O'Brien, a 1986 Baylor graduate with a bachelor's degree in telecommunication, was responsible for setting up the media center. O'Brien, who owns EOB Partners in Atlanta, has coordinated media for several high-profile presidential events, as well as for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"It has been great to come back to my alma mater and have everyone from the media to the White House rave about how wonderful the people are here at Baylor," she said. "It really makes you proud."

The well-known members of the White House press corps who travel regularly with the President also worked from the SLC.

Stephen Evans, the business correspondent for BBC-TV North America, found the media center organization to be "very well done."

"Everyone has been utterly congenial," said Evans of the Baylor and Texas hospitality. "There was plenty of parking, and there was loads and loads of work space."

A FRONT-ROW SEAT

With the breakout sessions closed to all media but the TV network travel pool, Waco Public Television Station KWBU-TV provided live closed-circuit feeds of all eight meetings from Baylor Law School to eight rooms in the SLC. Media could watch the sessions on flat-screen monitors in the rooms, while also recording clean audio and video feeds of the proceedings.

"Everything went perfectly, just as we planned," said Joani Livingston, KWBU-TV production supervisor and a Baylor graduate. "Our signal was crystal clear, and the sound was perfect, too."

Livingston compared Tuesday's presidential experience for the KWBU-TV crew to covering an Olympiad. At least 14 staffers worked on the live broadcast.

"There aren't many things where you have eight live shows all at once," she said. "This was our Olympics."

Matt Moore, KWBU-TV's senior producer and also a Baylor graduate, was responsible for the main camera in the corporate responsibility breakout session, which was carried live on C-SPAN.

"He did an excellent job," Livingston said. "His parents in the Dallas area called and said they even saw him in one of the cut-away shots on C-SPAN."

At least three all-news networks - CNBC, MSNBC and CNNfn - spent Monday and Tuesday broadcasting live from sets built next to the SLC's 52-foot climbing rock. The popular CNNfn show, "Moneyline with Lou Dobbs," found space for its set on the SLC's second floor, overlooking the atrium and the bustling activity below. White House correspondents such as NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, CBS's Bill Plante, ABC Radio's Ann Compton, BBC-TV's Stephen Evans and NPR's Don Gonyea all filed their stories from the SLC's newsroom.

Rosemary Townsend, director of business affairs and community partnerships in the SLC's health center, turned over her second floor conference room and office to Dobbs and his CNNfn entourage. While in her office Tuesday, a CNN producer introduced Townsend to Dobbs as "his hostess."

"He told me, 'I'm a Texan, but I've got to tell you that I'm so impressed with Baylor University," said Townsend, a regular viewer of Dobbs' program.

WHITE HOUSE OPERATIONS

The White House Press Office and media operations center were located in the conference rooms on the third floor of the SLC. From there, media received transcripts of the day's sessions, the President's remarks and briefings by Cabinet officials, while the media operations center was responsible for setting up hundreds of media interviews.

As the forum concluded, Cabinet members and participants came to the SLC for their scheduled interviews with reporters stationed at the SLC or remotely by phone or by satellite.

"When the Secretaries began arriving at the SLC, the energy level jumped," said Randy Woodruff, Baylor's director of Internet services who served as a media relations "shepherd" for Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget. "I was most impressed by the total transformation of the SLC and the apparent ease with which the media fit into the surroundings."

The media interviews took place in the SLC atrium by the climbing rock, in what the White House staffers called "spin alley." Cabinet members and participants also conducted interviews in the filing center in front of red, white and blue banners emblazoned with President's Economic Forum.

Even Dr. Kelly got into the action as he was interviewed live via satellite on Canadian Broadcasting's "News World Today" program with CBC anchor Jennifer Gates.

Dr. Sloan made the rounds in the SLC late Tuesday afternoon and talked with several reporters, including those from Newsweek, National Public Radio, Associated Press and others.

As of Aug. 14, Baylor's name was mentioned more than a thousand times in newspapers and on television and radio nationally and internationally on BBC-TV, NHK Japan and on Chinese television.

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