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Media and Entertainment Middle Tennessee State University Fall 2017 / Vol. 2, No.1


Dean of the College of Media and Entertainment Ken Paulson

Development Officer Abby White

University Editor Drew Ruble

Director of Creative and Visual Services


Kara Hooper

Graphic Designer Brian Evans

University Photographers Kimi Conro, Andy Heidt, J. Intintoli, Eric Sutton

Contributing Editors

Riding the Wave

University-operated WMOT, the most powerful radio signal in Tennessee, partners with industry to broadcast burgeoning Americana music

Darby Campbell, Carol Stuart

Contributing Writers Skip Anderson, Gina Fann, Sharon Fitzgerald, Rachel Helms, Gina K. Logue, Vicky Travis, Patsy Weiler

University President Sidney A. McPhee

University Provost Mark Byrnes

Vice President of Marketing and Communications Andrew Oppmann Address changes should be sent to Advancement Services, MTSU Box 109, Murfreesboro, TN 37132; Other correspondence should be sent to The College of Media and Entertainment magazine, Drew Ruble, 1301 E. Main St., Box 49, Murfreesboro, TN 37132.


Engage the World How the College of Media and Entertainment provides a world-class education with global reach


Going Mobile

A new MTSU School of Journalism project trains students to tell complex stories for a mobile and millennial media audience

0317-4191 / Middle Tennessee State University does not discriminate against students, employees, or applicants for admission or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, age, status as a protected veteran, genetic information, or any other legally protected class with respect to all employment, programs, and activities sponsored by MTSU. The Assistant to the President for Institutional Equity and Compliance has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and can be reached at Cope Administration Building 116, 1301 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, TN 37132;; or 615-898-2185 The MTSU policy on non-discrimination can be found at

1,500 copies printed at Lithographics, Nashville, Tennessee. Designed by MTSU Creative and Visual Services.


The Leading Edge Excerpts from the blog of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU

23 True Blue news any time

MTSU student photographer Kimi Conro provided the photography for much of this edition. True Blue!


Tuning In

MTSU crews help craft new Nashville Public Television series on songwriters


Media Arts

MTSU alum and Emmy winner Billy Pittard is eager to share the dynamic changes ahead for the department


Students in all of our concentrations have a role in engaging audiences worldwide

Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment

Brave New World The launch of our newly named College of Media and Entertainment two years ago came after extensive research and study. Our new motto came much more spontaneously. “Engage the World” reflected the realization that we’re no longer educating students to just write the news. Or record music. Or produce television. At a time of unprecedented demand for information and entertainment, students in all of our concentrations have a role in engaging audiences worldwide. I’ve found that my shorthand elevator speech about the college is now just a matter of holding up my smartphone. “We fill this,” I say.

a hands-on learning experience designed to teach our students how to report for millennials and on mobile devices. • We’ve also entered a partnership with the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame to produce The Songwriters, a new national television show featuring interviews with legendary songwriters. I have the privilege of hosting that show and our students handle all of the production responsibilities.

In our college, engaging the world means reaching well beyond the classroom for partnerships with professionals and maximizing our existing resources through innovative approaches. In this edition of the College of Media and Entertainment Magazine, you’ll see several recent examples: • Our NPR-affiliate radio station WMOT has undergone a transformation with a new format and thorough integration with the Nashville music industry. As you’ll read, the shift from jazz and classical music to Americana has yielded a 20-fold audience increase, major advances in development, and paid opportunities for our students. WMOT is now Nashville’s fastest-growing radio station and serves as a great resource for the college and University. • We’ve entered into a partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to create Studio M,

The next 12 months should be just as exciting as we explore new opportunities in sports journalism, virtual reality, podcasting, and a number of new and emerging areas. In the fast-changing world of contemporary media and communications, there’s no standing still.




At MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, it’s not unusual to see students walking the halls with the college’s name emblazoned on the front of bright blue T-shirts. The words on the back of that T-shirt, however, may be even more revealing.

• In February, the College of Media and Entertainment entered a partnership with the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, becoming one of only 10 educational partners in the nation. The collaboration allows students and faculty access to research and learning opportunities.

“Engage the World” is the college’s slogan, and those words are not only written on the back of T-shirts but also ingrained in the college’s mission.


“There are no boundaries to content creation, and the College Media and Entertainment is committed to giving our students hands-on professional experience in Tennessee—and well beyond,” said Ken Paulson, the college’s dean.

Students have the chance to work shoulder to shoulder with professionals in their field, gathering relatable experience in a real-world setting.

Whether an aspiring journalist reporting on the action at Bonnaroo or an audio engineering student providing sound for a live performance, the college’s nationally ranked programs offer one-of-a-kind instruction in both an academic and professional capacity. Students have the opportunity to participate in multiple, hands-on experiences that will prepare them for their careers and the world. Here are five ways MTSU College of Media and Entertainment students and faculty “Engage the World”:

PARTNERS WITH THE PROS The college works collaboratively with companies and organizations on a local and national scale, bringing diversity and exposure to students in their chosen fields of learning. • WMOT Roots Radio 89.5 kicked off the new monthly concert series Wired In, featuring prominent Americana artists, in February. Wired In, produced by station executive director Val Hoeppner, is manned by MTSU students who are paid and run the show as a professional crew.

• Media Arts Productions, MTSU’s student-run live television production team, covers multiple sporting events throughout the year. The team recently won Outstanding Live Game Production in the Collegiate Student category at the College Sports Media Awards in Atlanta for their ESPN3-aired coverage of the men’s basketball game between Middle Tennessee State University and Florida International. • Students majoring in photography, journalism, audio engineering, and video production can experience a four-day, hands-on immersion at the international Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in nearby Manchester, Tennessee. Aspiring journalists write feature news stories, photography students document day-to-day musical acts, and student production teams capture performances on the Who Stage using the college’s $1.7 million Mobile Production Lab.


• Journalism students spend a week outside of the classroom traveling across the state, writing features, and providing multimedia content for area newspapers in associate professor Leon Alligood’s The Road Trip summer class. Students manage real deadlines and provide content to professional news outlets.

CREATING CONTENT NATIONWIDE In an ever-changing landscape of new technology and career fields, one constant is the need for compelling content. MTSU students create and produce unique content daily inside and outside the classroom, often with a national reach.

professor Bob Gordon directing. The show recently received national accolades, including a Telly for an episode featuring songwriter Mac Davis and a Platinum Award for Interview Programs at the Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival.

GLOBAL STOPS FOR STUDIES Students study abroad to broaden the scope of their education. The world truly becomes a classroom when filming a documentary or touring historical landmarks in a foreign country. • The Britpop! summer course sent Recording Industry majors on a four-week musical history tour in the United Kingdom led by Paul Fischer, a professor in the Department of Recording Industry. Stops included Liverpool and the “Magical Mystery Tour,” a guided Rock ’n’ Roll Walking Tour in London; a visit to the city of Brighton; and a tour of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in Manchester, England. • MTSU award-winning student journalist Sarah Grace Taylor participated in an eight-day journalism study tour of Japan as one of nine winners of the Roy W. Howard National Collegiate Reporting Competition. Taylor said she “learned more about . . . the nature of reporting abroad than I could have even imagined.” • Students interested in documentary television traveled to Puerto Rico as part of an Advanced Production course taught by Paul Chilsen, an instructor in the Department of Media Arts. Production students had the chance to explore the culture and commerce of the island while creating a television travel show.

• The college’s 100,000-watt public radio station, WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5, broadcasts live, original programming from the Center of Innovation in Media in the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building. As the region’s only station dedicated to Americana music, it serves as a hands-on classroom for students training in journalism, broadcasting, and audio engineering. The station allows students to work alongside professionals to create content for the station, which has an international reach through the WMOT Roots Radio mobile app. • The Songwriters, a weekly TV show featuring conversations with songwriters from the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, will begin a national rollout this fall on the PBS network. The production is crewed and edited entirely by MTSU students, with Paulson hosting and assistant



CUTTING-EDGE CURRICULUM The college continually updates curriculum and offers new degrees in media and entertainment fields of study. Professors and instructors stay on the cutting edge of research and technology and share their academic pursuits with the international community. • The college co-sponsored the “Purple Reign” international academic conference on Prince at the University of Salford in the United Kingdom this summer. The event was co-created

by Mike Alleyne, a Recording professor in the Department of Recording Industry, with Paulson participating in the keynote address. • Three new stand-alone degrees are being offered in Audio Production, Video and Film Production, and Interactive Media beginning this fall. • In March, the college co-sponsored the Women’s and Gender Studies conference “Creating Global Change” at MTSU. College faculty Stacy Merida, Jennifer Woodard, Allie Sultan, and Deborah Wagnon brought their expertise to the event. The College of Media and Entertainment is always searching for new and better ways to engage students in their career paths both inside and outside the classroom. Olivia Anchondo learned that firsthand as a paid promotions intern of WMOT, working side by side with the station’s program director Jessie Scott. On top of her duties at the station, Anchondo fills integral roles at the live Wired In shows in Nashville, either working graphics or a hand-held camera during the performances. “Opportunity is my middle name since I've been here at the College of Media and Entertainment," said Anchondo, a junior focusing on Public Relations. "Whether it be employment opportunities or amazing friendships, I have been given both in abundance.”

Top Rank

As the College of Media and Entertainment continues to “Engage the World” in these five areas, the world takes notice. The college’s departments are ranked among some of the best media and music universities in the nation. A few of the college’s national rankings in 2016–17: • No. 1 in U.S. for Audio Production program for top 25 engineering schools ranked by Audio Assemble industry news website • No. 1 in Tennessee (and No. 33 in U.S.) for Animation program among top 50 public animation schools and colleges, by Animation Career Review online resource for aspiring animators and game developers • Top 25 in U.S. for third year in a row (No. 18) for Recording Industry Department in The Hollywood Reporter listing of top 25 music schools


THE LEADING EDGE Excerpts from the blog of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU. Bookmark The Leading Edge for news about college happenings and features on faculty, students, and alumni. To submit stories or ideas, email

Real-World Learning 2017 was the fourth year that MTSU deployed a team of multimedia students to cover the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, but the experience never gets old. That’s because each year of the unique partnership between Bonnaroo and MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment is a fresh opportunity for the students who gain valuable on-the-job experience in one of the world’s top live-music venues. A contingent of about 50 students, faculty, and staff worked on the 700-acre farm that serves as grounds for the four-day festival. MTSU Journalism students covered major music acts, including U2, a broadcast-style student production team captured audio and video of performances on the Who stage using MTSU’s state-of-the-art, $1.7 million Mobile Production Lab, and a student multimedia reporting team generated story, photographic, and video coverage of Bonnaroo for area media outlets, including The Tennessean and USA Today Network sites throughout Tennessee, including The Daily News Journal. For the first time in the partnership, MTSU’s public radio station, WMOT Roots Radio, was on the grounds to highlight some of the Americana acts playing at Bonnaroo. Most of the participating students were enrolled in creditbearing courses based upon their Bonnaroo experiences.

Full-Court Press Students in the College of Media and Entertainment received 37 awards, including 12 first-place honors, at the 2017 Tennessee Associated Press Broadcast and Media Editors College Contest in April. Held at the John Seigenthaler First Amendment Center in Nashville, the contest annually recognizes the best work in Tennessee college journalism. MTSU also garnered two first-place entries and three honorable mentions later that evening at the Tennessee AP professional awards. 8 | THE COLLEGE OF MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT Fall 2017

The professional contest was sponsored by MTSU’s School of Journalism. Thirty-six AP-member newspapers, television, and radio stations and 11 colleges submitted nearly 1,000 entries in the contest, which featured news and sports coverage from 2016. The awards honored exemplary journalistic work published and broadcast in 2016 in Tennessee. AP is a not-for-profit news cooperative representing about 4,000 newspapers and 5,000 broadcasters in the United States.


Music U.

Former MTSU student Hillary Scott branched out into contemporary Christian music last year and brought home two Grammy Awards in February 2017, in her inaugural venture with her group The Scott Family. Scott, also a member of country super group Lady Antebellum, won both her nominations in her new field: best contemporary Christian album for Love Remains, released in July 2016, and best contemporary Christian music performance/song for “Thy Will,” which she co-wrote, off that album. The Scott Family includes her parents—country singer Linda Davis and songwriter-musician Lang Scott—and her younger sister Rylee. Department of Recording Industry alumnus Josh Craig (’15), an Audio Production cum laude graduate, also was part of a Grammy-winning project: Hymns by the duo Joey & Rory, which won this year’s Grammy for best roots gospel album.

Scott and Craig joined another former MTSU student and two Recording Industry alumni in being nominated for their work at the 59th Grammy Awards: Chris Young, Brad King (’15), and Pete Fisher (’87). Young’s No. 1 single, “Think of You,” which he co-wrote and which features singer Casadee Pope, was a nominee in the best country duo/group performance category. King was assistant engineer on the team that recorded Poets & Saints by the group All Sons & Daughters. The album competed with Scott in the best contemporary Christian album category. Fisher, the Grand Ole Opry’s former longtime vice president and CEO who was recently named CEO of the Academy of Country Music, was an executive producer on a team that created American Saturday Night: Live from the Grand Ole Opry, a concert film released in theaters in 2015 and a nominee in the best music film category. For the fourth consecutive year, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, College of Media and Entertainment Dean Ken Paulson and Department of Recording Industry Chair Beverly Keel brought a delegation to the Grammys to underscore MTSU’s industry ties and celebrate its alumni receiving award nominations.

faculty Students, staff, and in February 2017.

um in Los Angeles

at the Grammy Muse

MTSU wrapped up its 2017 Grammy trip by announcing it had become just the 10th university in the nation to become a Grammy Museum affiliate. The partnership, arranged by assistant professor Stacy Merida, will allow MTSU to collaborate on research and use the museum as a teaching tool for students. MTSU is the only university affiliate in Tennessee.

Lift Like a Girl Allie Sultan’s Lift Like a Girl documentary short was named Best of the Film Festival at Nashville’s Artlightenment Film Festival in November. The sevenminute documentary short follows Jenny Lutkins, a 40-year-old mom in Tennessee whose journey back to health involves her participation in the sport of Olympic weightlifting. Lift premiered in January

2016 at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Since then, the film has also won the grand jury prize for Best Tennessee Documentary Short at the 2016 Nashville Film Festival, Best Documentary at the 2016 Y’allywood Film Festival in Atlanta, and the Audience Award for the Fusion International Documentary Challenge.

Allie Sultan


THE LEAD Global Reach

Recording Industry Professor Mike Alleyne, who has written extensively on popular music and acted as consultant to the estate of Marvin Gaye in the “Blurred Lines” copyright infringement case, co-created the first academic conference devoted to music legend Prince. Held in May 2017 at the University of Salford in Manchester, England, Purple Reign: An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Life and Legacy of Prince paid tribute to the star who died in April 2016. Thought to be the only conference ever dedicated solely to the Minneapolis-born funk legend, the event was hosted by Salford and its U.S. partner, MTSU. Academics from New York University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and the prestigious Smithsonian museum complex, as well as from the University of Amsterdam and Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, came to Salford to discuss the lasting impact Prince had on popular culture. Ken Paulson, dean of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, interviewed Dez Dickerson at the Purple Reign conference in May. Dickerson sang backing vocals and played guitar in Prince’s original band.

Making a Difference With help from former Nashville Scene staffer turned MTSU College of Media and Entertainment development director Abby White, the University last year established the Jim Ridley Memorial Scholarship. Ridley, the Scene’s beloved editor, who died in 2016, graduated from MTSU with a double major in Journalism and English in 1989. As White puts it, the college wants to “find people who are like Jim . . . In fact, I can’t think of anything better than sending a bunch of young Jim Ridleys out into the world.” The School of Journalism recently awarded its first $1,000 Jim Ridley Memorial Scholarship to sophomore David A. Chamberlain, a 20-year-old from Mt. Juliet who covers sports for Sidelines. Chamberlain’s winning essay was about what needs to happen for professional journalism to elevate itself above just click-bait and page views. Jim Ridley

Hall of Famers

Pixar Connection

The Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame inducted four outstanding journalists during its fifth annual induction ceremony in August. The honorees were: Leon Alligood, a former reporter for the Nashville Banner and The Tennessean and associate professor of journalism at MTSU; Tom Humphrey, retired Nashville bureau chief for the Knoxville News Sentinel and contributing editor for the Tennessee Journal; Don Whitehead, the first African-American radio news broadcaster for WLAC Radio in Nashville; and Larry Woody, a retired sports writer for The Tennessean, three-time Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year, and author of several books. The Tennessee Journalism Hall Fame is an independent partner with MTSU.

Daniel Rowland, adjunct professor in the Department of Recording Industry, serves as head of production of LANDR Mastering Studios and worked for four years on Pixar’s Piper movie, which won a 2017 Academy Award for Best Animated Short.



Operation Song

The day could’ve been another workday for seven Nashville songwriters and another co-writing assignment in an MTSU experiential learning course for seven advanced Commercial Songwriting students.

By teaming up with seven Midstate veterans, Oct. 28, 2016 instead became an opportunity for healing. The daylong Operation Song songwriting session at MTSU culminated in new friendships, seven unique songs, and a mini-concert filled with cheers, tears, and standing ovations. “This was the first time I got a chance to speak to someone who truly listened to me, not trying to ‘fix’ me or trying to

know what’s wrong,” said U.S. Marine Corps veteran Juan Davila of Antioch, a senior Computer Science major at MTSU.

Operation Song, established in 2012 by Nashville songwriters, helps retired and active-duty veterans and their families sort out their experiences and emotions by sitting down and telling their stories, which are then turned into song. The organization offers weekly programs for veterans at Murfreesboro’s Alvin C. York Medical Center and five more area sites, as well as songwriting retreats around the country.

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, which works with Operation Song, reached out to Odie Blackmon, director of MTSU’s Commercial Songwriting program in the Department of Recording Industry, about a possible event with the University. MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center invited local veterans. The MTSU Operation Song results ranged from “My Mission is You,” a vow of gratitude by retired U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Darryl Leach, an information technology specialist for the Recording Industry Department, to “Things I Can’t Take Back,” a somber remembrance of a lost U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division comrade from Capt. Shane Smith of MTSU’s Department of Military Science.

Student songwriters work with professionals in Operation Song.

Bluegrass Preservation The Center for Popular Music at MTSU completed the Marvin Hedrick Audio Collection website, a digitization and cataloging project funded by the Grammy Foundation (now part of the Grammy Museum). The collection includes historically significant recordings of bluegrass and country music made by influential documentarian Marvin Hedrick in Brown County, Indiana. The collection is searchable through its own dedicated website, and an audio sample from each tape is available for streaming for educational purposes. The entire collection’s digitized contents are available to researchers on site at the Center for Popular Music, located on the first floor in the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building.


hen MTSU’s radio station WMOT-FM first fired up its signal in April 1969, the student-centered station broadcast pop/rock music at a time when Marvin Gaye was singing about unsettling news he had heard “through the grapevine,” the Beatles were telling Jo Jo to “get back,” and the Rolling Stones were extolling the virtues of America’s “honky-tonk women.” WMOT (89.5 on the dial) eventually switched its format to jazz music, a 100,000-watt behemoth broadcasting masterworks by Miles, Ella, Duke, and Satchmo from the Tennessee-Alabama border to Bowling Green, Kentucky, and from Waverly to Monterey. Then in 2011, MTSU’s radio station again recast its emphasis to become the region’s premier classical radio station, adding timely news updates to increase its appeal to off-campus listeners. 12 | THE COLLEGE OF MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT Fall 2017

What may be WMOT’s most ambitious changeover in the station’s 48-year history, though, came in September 2016, when in a ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater in downtown Nashville, MTSU announced a partnership with Music City Roots and a retooling of the station to broadcast the burgeoning, singer/songwriter-friendly Americana format. The transition makes WMOT the region’s only station devoted to the unique amalgam of bluegrass, folk, gospel, soul, country, and blues music defined in the music industry as Americana. “Imagine, in our neck of the woods, a radio station with real people playing music they actually care about, even love,” legendary performing songwriter and producer Rodney Crowell said. “WMOT is bringing middle Tennessee real music


when we need it most,” added the artist, who received the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting in 2006. “Miracles happen.”

A Win-Win The station’s program director, Jessie Scott, is a longstanding luminary in the music industry. Scott has worked as an influential DJ for decades and founded the highly regarded Music Fog video series. Scott also has served on the board of directors for the Americana Music Association since its inception in 1999. The reformatted station features live local DJs and unique, locally programmed playlists, attributes which Scott said provide listeners with an experience that goes beyond simply

University-operated WMOT, the most powerful radio signal in Tennessee, partners with industry to broadcast burgeoning Americana music by Skip Anderson


Media and Entertainment students (l-r) Junece McTizic, Allen Avant, and Derrik Peppers on student radio at MTSU

exposing the audience to music they might otherwise have trouble finding on the radio, while “mirroring the cadence of the week” in middle Tennessee. According to Scott, the mission of the station extends beyond entertainment and academia. “Radio still has an enormous impact on the population,” Scott said. “And much of what’s out there has become stale and redundant. WMOT is a living and breathing art form.” Americana recording artist Bonnie Bishop applauded the format shift. “WMOT is about to become one of the leading tastemakers in Americana radio,” Bishop said. “Hundreds of thousands of people in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky are about to be exposed to a genre of music they may not even know exists, which could mean an increased demand for this format in other markets around the country. This is the exact kind of exposure that Americana artists desperately need. It’s very exciting!” The timing for the format change appears ideal, too. As a genre, Americana music is on the rise. To wit, the industry


bible Billboard magazine recently added an Americana section to its weekly chart listings. Sometimes called “roots music” or “no-depression music,” Americana champions songwriters and performers in the tradition of the original country music that evolved throughout the 20th century, as well as blues, bluegrass, and alt-country.

“This is the exact kind of exposure that Americana artists desperately need. It’s very exciting!” Breakout artists such as Margo Price, Parker Millsap, and Jason Isbell have a home under the Americana umbrella. Well-established recording artists whose music can be hard to find on traditional country radio stations—Lyle Lovett, Emmylou Harris, and John Hiatt, for instance—also have a home in Americana. Scott says WMOT seeks out music from talented “radio orphans” such as these.


Hardwired to Industry Ken Paulson, dean of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, which operates the station, said WMOT offers an opportunity for middle Tennesseans to tap into the works of internationally known artists based in Music City. “Among Nashville artists charting with Americana albums in recent months have been Sturgill Simpson, the Mavericks, Elizabeth Cook, Darrell Scott, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and many more,” Paulson said. “Nashville is Americana’s hometown.” Paulson emphasized that WMOT continues to be a resource for MTSU students interested in learning marketable skills, including engineering, programming, audio editing, and narration. Val Hoeppner, executive director of MTSU’s Center for Innovation in Media, said the unique partnership with Music City Roots now enables MTSU to “continue to mentor and train students at MTSU for careers in journalism, the recording industry, radio, television, and beyond.” Several students have already been hired for production posts with the station.

Listening In To help ensure WMOT is well-rooted in the on-the-rise Americana music genre, MTSU partnered with Music City Roots, the weekly radio, television, and internet broadcast that offers a Nashville-centric take on Americana music. Through this partnership, WMOT is the flagship station for Music City Roots and broadcasts the two-hour program that, according to its website, is produced in the tradition of a “historic legacy of live musical radio production in Nashville.”

The College of Media and Entertainment successfully launched Wired In, held at Aurora Nashville, a new 4K live-streaming studio in downtown Nashville. The inaugural show featured a performance from the legendary Bela Fleck. The series of shows is open to in-person attendance only to WMOT members. The goal is to build a tiered membership of WMOT supporters. Appropriately, the crew is staffed by MTSU students and directed by MTSU alumni who are volunteering their time. Nic Dugger (a graduate of MTSU’s EMC department in the early 2000s and one of the college’s Wall of Fame and Board of Trust members), whose company TNDV was recognized by the Nashville Business Journal as the 2016 small business of the year, assisted the show with help from Aurora staff who are also MTSU alumni. It’s just another example of tremendous experiential education for MTSU students and a good collaboration between MTSU alumni and students and industry. After the show, the staff at Aurora was so impressed with MTSU’s students’ work that they asked if they could hire them on a freelance basis!

“It is great to have a station like this in middle Tennessee for so many artists that would otherwise never receive airplay,” said Kelsey Waldon, listed alongside the Cadillac Three and the Black Lillies in Rolling Stone’s influential “10 Artists You Need to Know” feature in 2014. “Hearing John Prine and Guy Clark on FM radio again is a beautiful thing. I think this is valuable for Nashville.” Music City Roots executive producer John Walker, who also oversees the development of new programs, hosts WMOT’s morning drive-time program. Grand Ole Opry mainstay Keith Bilbrey brings his expertise in country music to the midday broadcast, while veteran broadcaster Whit “Witness” Hubner works early afternoons. Importantly, Scott said, all shows are able to accommodate drop-in guests, including Music City

Wired In crew front row (l-r), alumnus Nic Dugger, student crew member Joseph Wasilewski, and WMOT Program Director Jessie Scott; back row (l-r), student crew member Ivana Deveaux, alumna Shelbi Bruse, alumnus Nathan Lux, and student crew member Dallas Derr


artists as well as MTSU’s extensive roster of expert faculty such as Greg Reish, director of the Center for Popular Music at MTSU, widely recognized as one of the world’s deepest archives of recordings. Reish hosts a weekly show called Lost Sounds, diving into the CPM archives and extrapolating upon its historic context.

Remembering the Past WMOT has quickly climbed the ranks of most listened-to radio stations among the 43 operating in Nashville since the format change was made. Additionally, in just the first month following the format change, WMOT and the College of Media and Entertainment raised more money to support the station’s operations than had been raised in the entirety of the previous year. And, while WMOT has officially changed its focus, program director Scott said jazz lovers need not worry. “Not only did we not take jazz off the air, we’re broadcasting it 24/7 on our HD2 radio channel via FM signals 104.9 in Brentwood and 92.3 in Murfreesboro,” she said. WMOT also remains the flagship for Blue Raider Athletics and continues to air MTSU On the Record, a 30-minute weekly

WMOT has quickly climbed the ranks of most listened-to radio stations among the 43 operating in Nashville . . . public affairs interview program highlighting the University community, along with regular local and national news updates. Make no mistake, though: With its seamless segué from a classical rendition of Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown” to its Americana interpretation completed, a new player has definitely emerged in the Nashville radio market.


For programming information, go to or Listeners can also enjoy the living and breathing art form via webstream at, and the WMOT Roots Radio app for iPhone/Android.

Good Partners WMOT’s migration to roots music isn’t the only strong connection between the College of Media and Entertainment and the burgeoning Americana music genre. An ongoing, ambitious professional partnership between the college and the Americana Music Association, based in nearby Franklin, offers continual opportunities for MTSU music and media students to gain valuable out-of-class experience. The annual Americana Music Festival and Conference marks just one of those unique educational partnership opportunities. Under the partnership, prominent artists participate in special lectures at the University, while students get to attend, gain work experience, and obtain networking opportunities at the conference held each year in Nashville. Students and faculty from the college contributed in a number of ways to the success of the most recent annual Americana Music Festival and Conference in Nashville in 2016. As just one example, students from the MTSU Seigenthaler News


Service produced five advance features that appeared both in the digital version of Nashville’s daily, The Tennessean, as well as the MTSU student news outlet Sidelines. Two of the articles also were picked up in the print version of The Tennessean.

uningin T


MTSU crews help craft new Nashville Public Television series on songwriters by Gina E. Fann

Students set up for singer/songwriter Gretchen Peters and her husband Barry Walsh on piano, for her interview with Ken Paulson, dean of MTSU's College of Media and Entertainment.


A new project with Nashville Public Television (NPT) and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame has brought together MTSU faculty and students to create a weekly TV show that premiered in January 2017. Hosted by College of Media and Entertainment Dean Ken Paulson, the first season comprises 18 episodes of conversations with Hall of Fame members discussing their creative processes and what inspired some of their greatest songs, as well as behind-the-scenes stories and rare performances. Guests for the first season of The Songwriters include Hall of Fame members Bill Anderson, Gary Burr, Steve Cropper, Sonny Curtis, Tom Douglas, and Ray Stevens, just to name a few. The crew also was able to sit down with songwriting icon Guy Clark before his death last year. “We’re honored to partner with the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, bringing together some of the world’s greatest songwriters with a new generation of media professionals,” Paulson said. “The songwriters’ insights about their art and inspiration make for truly compelling television.”

A Real-Life Education Students in MTSU’s Department of Media Arts, who produce live and taped performance broadcasts for national entertainment, athletic, and documentary projects, handle the lion’s share of The Songwriters episodes—lighting, filming, and editing the shows, alongside Department of Recording Industry students providing their audio production expertise. Professor Bob Gordon directs the MTSU-led episodes of The Songwriters. Gordon, who teaches multi-camera TV production classes at MTSU, has coordinated the University’s live coverage of the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival since 2014 and has independently produced network entertainment specials such as The Chieftains: ‘Down The

Old Plank Road’ for PBS, Cinemax Sessions: Chet Atkins and Friends for Cinemax, Alabama: Christmas In Dixie for TNN, and several Gospel Music Association Dove Awards telecasts for GMC and the Family Channel. The show is produced by MTSU's Paulson and Mark Ford, executive director of the Hall of Fame. The Songwriter series sessions were recorded at the historic Columbia Records Studio A, known as the Quonset Hut, in Nashville, as well as in the College of Media and Entertainment’s Studio 1 in the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building on the Murfreesboro campus. All of the sessions were edited at MTSU by Media Arts students. Up to a dozen students were involved in each of the episodes. One of those students, junior Electronic Media Communication major Isaac Shaw of Lebanon, Tennessee, edited the shows with Gordon. In addition to this project and his studies on campus, Shaw runs instant replay for Media Arts’ MTSU basketball games for ESPN3 and is an editor for the MTV Live series American Supergroup. “Simply put, I was responsible for making sure all of the different video and audio elements came together to form one cohesive story, and I think we have done that,” Shaw said of The Songwriters. “This project has been a little different than other multicamera-based productions that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of. The majority of the shoots, whether doing ESPN sports or in the studio developing shows, have been strictly live. This project has been a much longer process, where the above-the-line team has been refining the story of these episodes to chronicle the history of these songwriters in a short format—giving them a voice, so to speak.”

A Lasting Legacy Pat Alger, chairman of the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame Foundation, said the shows have captured the personalities and the stories behind the music that has streamed from car radios and stereo speakers for decades. “Just as these conversations have inspired professional songwriters like me, they will have a tremendous impact on anyone interested in how great songs were written and the people who wrote them,” Alger said. “The show is as entertaining as it is informative. The intimate performances and the witty dialogue will stick with you for a long time.”

Bob Gordon


“People who aren’t songwriters will still get something out of this series, too,” Alger added. “Creative types in general will find a gold mine of nuggets of wisdom interlaced with real-life stories. One of the main themes in the show is how these songwriters stayed true to themselves and persevered through life.”



“People who aren’t songwriters will still get something out of this series.”

Paul Overstreet talking to Dean Ken Paulson

Singer/songwriter Gretchen Peters


hen MTSU Journalism major Sarah Taylor got her first assignment during an internship with the Associated Press in Washington D.C., she was excited and ready to go. Quite in contrast, she noticed another intern from a different university who seemed nervous and slow to start. Moments like that, Taylor said, have shown her the strength of MTSU’s Journalism program. “MTSU seems uniquely hands-on,” said Taylor, a junior who is editor-in-chief of MTSU’s print and digital student newspaper, Sidelines. “We’ve all had internships and held our own. The more hands-on you do, the more prepared you are in this kind of field.” Journalism students Amanda Freuler (Sidelines news editor) and Rhiannon Gilbert (Sidelines managing editor), both seniors, concur. “I brag on MTSU Journalism all the time,” said Gilbert, who noticed a similar phenomenon in students from other universities while attending a conference session on using Twitter to crowd-source for a story. “This was all new to them, and we did this in our Advanced Reporting class.” All three MTSU student journalists credit one of the program’s newest initiatives, Studio M, with fortifying their solid journalistic foundations. Studio M, launched in 2015 by MTSU’s School of Journalism, challenges students to pitch, report, write, and produce high-level journalism for mobile audiences following professional publications, including The Tennessean in Nashville.

Practicing (and Supporting) Democracy Studio M, which stands for media, mobile, millennials, and MTSU, specifically allows students to be immersed in tracking millennials and issues that affect them. The focus is on mobile storytelling and young journalists


reporting about their own generation through multiple media outlets and on multiple platforms. Issues such as employment, health care, the economy, education, student loan debt, the gender pay gap, religion, race, and diversity have already been reported, recorded, produced, and written in partnership with The Tennessean and other news organizations. Studio M was jumpstarted by a $50,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support talent and leadership and advance excellence in journalism. Other founding contributions included $25,000 from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and $10,000 from the Gannett-owned The Tennessean, a longtime partner of MTSU’s Journalism program. Students work under the direction of professional journalists and professors who continue to practice their craft in addition to teaching courses. Led by Val Hoeppner, director of MTSU’s nationally award-winning Center for Innovation in Media, the Studio M concept is part of the curriculum in Advanced Reporting and two Special Topics courses—freelance writing and Nashville-based reporting. Studio M is co-taught by Hoeppner and Whitney Matheson, MTSU’s journalist-in-residence. Hoeppner previously worked at The Indianapolis Star as multimedia director and later at the First Amendment Center in Nashville, and as a consultant, Hoeppner frequently travels nationwide to newsrooms and universities alike to train in digital and mobile storytelling. Matheson covered entertainment for 15 years for USA Today and is now among America’s most well-recognized bloggers and commentators. Ken Blake, director of the highly influential MTSU Poll, leads the data analysis efforts of Studio M. He also breaks down millennial data from the MTSU Poll for use by (continued on page 22)


A new MTS U School o f Journalism project tra ins students to tell complex stories for a mobile an d millennial m edia audien ce by Vicky Tr avis


Studio M and its media partners. Leon Alligood, a longtime statewide journalist with The Tennessean, teaches long-form writing and works with students in his immersion and interactive media courses. MT Now, an app developed by MTSU’s Center of Innovation in Media, also launched in conjunction with Studio M. The app is likewise key to innovation, given that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have become the default mobile experience for millennials, who are more accustomed to “bumping into news” on mobile devices.

Proof That It’s Working Hoeppner said the primary goal of the Studio M effort is to give students professional experience and push them to think critically and seek out data, experts, and narrative sources. “Always at its core is to be a storyteller and a truth-teller,” Hoeppner said. “They have to write well, think well, and speak well.”

A Journey Abroad MTSU student journalist Sarah Taylor was named in May 2017 a top 10 winner in college breaking news writing in the 57th annual William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards Program, in which 106 undergraduate journalism programs at universities across the nation participated. Judging the writing competitions this year were: Nicole Carroll, vice president/news and editor, the Arizona Republic/; Audrey Cooper, editor-in-chief, the San Francisco Chronicle; and David Zeeck, publisher, the News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington. Taylor also made her way to Japan this past year after being chosen as one of nine winners of the Roy W. Howard National Collegiate Reporting Competition.

That process starts with pitching three enterprise story ideas. Teachers choose one and prompt students to brainstorm sources and focus. A first draft is edited by Matheson and kicked back to the student for revision. Video or interactive pieces such as timelines are added. “Once they finish the package, it’s sent to The Tennessean ready to go,” Hoeppner said. “So far there has been lots of good usage of the stories, and they’ve pulled a few for print.” “Writing for a publication that isn’t student media really raises the bar,” Gilbert added. “It gives us a more effective byline for resumes, but also challenges us in a way we wouldn’t have been otherwise.” One of Gilbert’s stories was about professionalism and how millennials are changing the workplace. Freuler recently wrote a story about gun laws on campuses, a hot topic in higher ed circles in Tennessee, calling experts and other campus leaders to broaden her story. “My Studio M stories are some of the strongest in my portfolio,” Freuler said. “Pitching was new, and it helped with critical thinking and getting prepared for the real world.”

The Future’s So Bright “This crop of graduates, like Rhiannon and Amanda, are smart. They write well. They’re calm under pressure,” Hoeppner said. “You can give them a big project and know they’ll do it well.”


“As a whole in the Center for Innovation in Media and Studio M practice, we give them skills in digital journalism so they can go to an NPR, an AP . . .” said Hoeppner, who points out that Taylor’s work on Studio M projects helped her land the aforementioned internship in D.C., where she wrote political stories and produced multimedia packages. Hoeppner fields consistent calls from AP, state and national news organizations, NPR, and alumni looking for internship or job candidates. “There are thousands of jobs out there,” she said. “And almost all include multimedia and social media in the set of skills.” That these three go-getters are considered millennials and are focused on writing about their generation, is a bit ironic given that the word millennials often conjures a negative stereotype. “Generally—it assumes that everyone has man-buns, flannel shirts, and no work ethic,” Taylor said with a laugh. Taylor, Gilbert, and Freuler clearly shatter that stereotype. Nevertheless, they can clearly see the logic in digging into issues that affect their generation.


MTSUNEWS.COM TRUE BLUE NEWS ANY TIME Stay up to date all year round

A Musical University

Time to Innovate

Students in the Commercial Songwriting program can showcase their talents and original songs on the new Songwriters Stage in the Student Services and Admissions Center, as well as talk about their experiences at MTSU to campus tour attendees. Five students have been hired to perform 45 minutes before each tour begins. Featured here are singersongwriters Jessica Yellowitz and Cian Pedersen. The revamped tour allows prospective students “to become immersed into the environment and culture of MTSU,” recruitment official Nathan Haynes said.

MTSU’s Center for Innovation in Media welcomed a new group of high school students July 10-14 for the 2017 Innovation J-Camp, which exposes participants to a week of training on producing multimedia stories. The camp, in its third year, was led by Val Hoeppner, director of the center. The workshop guides students to become digital storytellers who can produce content for video, web, mobile, social media, and print audiences. At week’s end, each camper posts video, photo and written stories on a special website they build and manage to showcase their multimedia project.

Ken Blake, poll director

From left: Christin Baker, F. Reid Shippen, and Traci Thomas

Survey Says . . .

Wall of Fame

Not every state is fortunate to have a mirror in the form of a Universityled, independent statewide poll that can reliably inform the population. Since 1998, MTSU’s School of Journalism collects public opinion data twice a year on major issues affecting Tennessee. Recent findings include: Tennesseans support banning immigration from “terror-prone regions,” but think illegal immigrants already here should be able to stay and apply for citizenship; 51 percent favor requiring a permit to carry a handgun; and 67 percent want seatbelts on school buses.

Alumni added to the college’s Wall of Fame in 2017 included: Christin Baker (’97), winner of the Best Director prize from the 2016 Raindance Film Festival’s Web Fest Awards for tello’s original series Maybelle; F. Reid Shippen (’94), Grammy award-winning mixer, producer, and engineer with credits from artists including Ingrid Michaelson, Eric Church, Steven Tyler, and MercyMe; and Traci Thomas (’94), a publicist with Nashville’s Thirty Tigers entertainment company, who manages multi-award-winning Americana treasure Jason Isbell and is co-founder of the Americana Music Association.




MTSU alum and Emmy winner Billy Pittard (’78) is eager to share the dynamic changes taking shape for the department formerly known as Electronic Media Communication in the College of Media and Entertainment. “There are now more opportunities to become a creator and publisher of media content than at any time in history,” said Pittard, who has steered the department since 2011. Myriad details and planning culminated this summer in a new departmental name—Media Arts—one that, according to Pittard, “will better and more accurately explain who we are, is recognized and accepted in the industry, and will stand the test of time.” Programs are being updated and of the five concentrations offered— Media Management, Photography, Interactive Media, Video and Film Production, and Animation—the last three are being converted to standalone Bachelor of Science degree programs, while minors will be available in all the areas this fall. Each of the five disciplines also offers at least one professional student organization, expanding opportunities to make industry contacts.


A Proud History As the department embraces the challenges and opportunities of the next decade and beyond, we can celebrate all that was accomplished in the last 30 years.

Radio-TV/Photography program became a department with a strong broadcasting emphasis

Elliott Pood was appointed the first permanent chair

1989 College of Mass Communication moved into the $15.5 million state-of-the-art John Bragg building


Professor Marc Barr, retiring in 2017, starts MTSU’s Animation program 25 years ago—now one of the most established programs nationwide (enrollment is up 85% the last four years)


Along with a new century came a new name, Electronic Media Communication

EMC 2001 Dennis Oneal took over as chair, and during his tenure the $1.7 million HD Mobile Production Lab was acquired and EMC Productions formed


Pittard became the fifth person to lead the department

2011 The Baldwin Photographic Gallery celebrated its 50th anniversary and relocated to a spacious facility in the Bragg building


Multimedia Journalism (broadcasting) moved from EMC to the School of Journalism





Department name changed to Media Arts


“Imagination is the only limitation,” said Pittard, who returned to his hometown and alma mater from the West Coast after a successful career of nearly three decades. His accolades include five Emmy Awards, 900 professional honors, and working with more than 200 networks implementing branding strategies. In educational media, he was a vice president at, a leading provider of online learning now available to all MTSU students. “All of our MTSU programs are vibrant and have amazing faculty who are committed to helping our students discover and develop their talents.” Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment, said the department name change is being made for many of the same reasons the entire college was rebranded a few years ago. “The new Media Arts name reflects the ever-changing state of media worldwide and our college’s efforts to provide a thoroughly contemporary curriculum,” Paulson said. “We’re excited about the new directions this dynamic department will pursue.”

An Attractive Field On campus, media production classes are experiencing major traction in dual enrollment for high school students, with two offered in 2015, 10 last year, and further expansion this year. In Tennessee, interest in media arts is skyrocketing in secondary education. The creative groundswell is a driving force behind Pittard and his team of professionals and educators as they position themselves to interface with the faces of the future.

FEATURE STORY “The hot new classes that the best high schools are adding are in media arts. The Tennessee Board of Education has established standards for three years of media arts. It is a phenomenon,” Pittard said. “As a result, we are now attracting more qualified students from across the state and beyond because of our reputation. The excitement in our department is palpable.” A few of the activities generating the enthusiasm are: First Look—This annual May showcase at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre celebrates the best work of MTSU Animation, Photography, and Video and Film Production students. Industry leaders are often in the audience. The 2017 sponsor is HBO, an agreement stemming from a chance meeting at a pre-Grammys event more than a year ago between MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Kary Antholis, president of HBO Miniseries and Cinemax Programming. Media Arts—MTSU’s 40-foot, $1.7 million HD Mobile Production Lab dubbed “The Truck” is the gold standard for hands-on, student-produced live programming. From Bonnaroo to University sporting events, student work has been seen live on commercial networks such as ESPN. Interdisciplinary Opportunities—Students sync their talents working together on projects like the College of Media and Entertainment Wall of Fame interactive digital sign, cameras on drones in the Honors College, and collaborative experiences in the Center for Innovation in Media. These types of experiential opportunities for students are leading to job opportunities even before graduation. The department’s relationship with VER Nashville is but one example of a significant industry partnership Pittard and the department have hatched that is creating a talent pipeline from MTSU into the industry. MTSU for a time possessed a multimilliondollar video wall on loan from VER, a national provider of

video wall installations for the concert industry. The equipment, pictured on pages 24–25, was loaned for the express purpose of training soon-to-graduate students on the system. “Their purpose is to train a greater workforce pool for them to hire; indeed, they are hiring our alumni and students” Pittard said. In the past three years, using VER equipment, MTSU provided extensive technical support—and eye-catching entertainment for fans—at large music concerts inside Murphy Center. Dozens of students from instructor Mike Forbes’ Video Technology classes added to their professional expertise by designing, building, and performing content creation for massive LED video walls in Hale Arena for events ranging from a Homecoming 2015 concert featuring Swedish duo Icona Pop to an April 2017 concert by Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Ludacris (photo above). Positive feedback about how the department name change better reflects this type of modern activity is also being received from those working in the field. Matthew Pessoni, a 2002 graduate who studied electronic media production, co-owns Gemini Production Group Inc., an award-winning Nashville video production company. “Media Arts reflects the nature of an ever-expanding field combining technology and creativity. It definitely has a 21st-century appeal,” Pessoni said.

Brave New World Today, when elementary-age children can design PowerPoint presentations and preschoolers play with iPads, Pittard says that media arts is the “new literacy. It is an important part of how ideas are communicated to people on a small and large scale.” The tools may be a touchpad and camera rather than a chisel and oil paint, but a creative renaissance is unfolding and MTSU is ready to train the new media masters.



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Help our students engage and change the world The College of Media and Entertainment encompasses a wider range of content and communication than any other school in the world, preparing our students to inform, entertain, and innovate for decades to come. The college gives students a sound and well-rounded education, embracing the oldest values and newest technology, and giving them a running start in the media and entertainment industries. Gifts from our alumni and friends help us to provide students with the understanding, insights, and tools they need to be successful in their careers—and in life.

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The College of Media and Entertainment Fall 2017  
The College of Media and Entertainment Fall 2017  

How the College of Media and Entertainment provides a world-class education with global reach