After moving from the newsroom to the classroom, broadcast journalist and teacher Maryann Lazarski wanted to extend the scope of her students’ learning laboratory.
Her target: the entire state of Wisconsin.
Lazarski, faculty adviser for the student chapter of SPJ at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is the founder of the Wisconsin Broadcast Association’s College Radio News Network, a first-of-its kind partnership between radio stations at Wisconsin colleges.
“You always think about, ‘How can we creatively do something without necessarily spending a lot of money?’ ” Lazarski said. “I thought, ‘Geez, there are so many great news operations in our state alone. … Why can’t we partner somehow and use this as a resource?’ ”
Lazarski pitched the idea at the annual student seminar of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association last spring. She is on the WBA’s Education Committee.
“The response was overwhelming, and they were very enthusiastic and excited,” she said.
Part of the network is already up and running. Students from the eight schools that have joined so far can upload their stories to a Web site and share their broadcasts with each other.
“It is another way to showcase their work,” Lazarski said. “It really is a way to inform the public, the wider audience out there. There’s so much that happens on campuses that unless you’re a student there, you probably don’t know.”
WBA President John Laabs said Lazarski has created a way to increase the reach of the students’ work.
“She understands how newsrooms work. She has been working with her students in newsroom-type situations,” Laabs said. “This kind of network allows for the sharing of stories that you do, and suddenly the product is multiplied.”
And it will be entirely student-run. Josh Ryf, talk director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s radio station and the leader of the news network, said Lazarski has allowed the students to take her idea and run with it.
“Working with her has been great because she has great ideas, but she also is open to new ideas. It’s the best of both worlds,” Ryf said. “This is her idea, but she’s willing to let it evolve.”
The network will also produce a half-hour show featuring the “best of” stories produced throughout the sememster by the member student journalists. There will also be some talk and features. It will be modeled in part on NPR’s Weekend America. To begin with, the show will come out once a semester. The first show is being produced by UW Madison and should be ready in late November. This show will be uploaded to the WBA College Radio News Network Web site.
“We’re hoping to start building bridges between the different student radio stations in the state,” Ryf said. “I’m continually contacting schools that aren’t on board yet.”
For Lazarski, who worked as a broadcast journalist for 20 years, this is one of several ways she is trying to prepare her students for journalism careers.
“I try to hold the students to professional standards,” Lazarski said. “That’s really gratifying, not just as a broadcast journalist but as a teacher now, seeing the passion and the fire in their bellies.”