“NTC is the reason I am working in television,” reads Matt Knutson’s testimonial on the newly launched KeepNTCOpen.com. “From the moment I stepped in the door I realized I was home.”
Knutson, executive producer of Windy City Live and Northern Television Center alumni, has responded to the Department of Communication’s closing of the NTC in June with an offer of support, a website and a petition.
The petition reached its original goal of 500 signatures yesterday. The goal has been raised to 1,000.
Knutson said he offered the department three modes of support, in an effort to keep the NTC open.
First, he offered to raise money to pay for building repairs. The antiquated building’s maintenance issues is one of the reasons for closing the NTC, Department Chair Mehdi Semati said. Knutson said he is waiting to hear back from the administration for a repair cost estimate.
Second, he offered to rally alumni to make a promotional video for the NTC. Declining enrollment in the broadcast journalism classes, Journalism 354, 356 and 357, was another reason for closing the NTC, Semati said.
“If you move classes into a nontraditional TV studio, you’re not gonna drive enrollment up,” Knutson said.
He said alumni are willing to put together a video showcasing their success after NTC, but only if the NTC remains open.
Third, Knutson said if the department remains committed to closing the NTC, he would act as a consultant for the new facilities. He wants students to have a productive environment, even with NTC closed.
Professionals hiring graduates look for practical experience, not class projects, he said. If NTC closes, Knutson wants to ensure NIU students can still leave the program with a polished résumé demo reel to give to employers.
The administration responded with a statement: “We are always eager to explore opportunities to work with alumni to promote and support our programs. However, the two people most knowledgeable about this, Dean Judy Ledgerwood of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Dr. Mehdi Semati, chair of the Department of Communications, are currently traveling out of the country and are unable to speak about this at this time.”
Jorge Rodas, general assignment reporter for WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and NTC alumni, said he wants to work with alumni to save NTC.
“That building is so much more valuable than they know,” he said. “That environment is exactly what NIU needs.”
Semati said closing NTC is part of matching broader trends in the journalism industry. Rodas doesn’t think changing the program where you risk eliminating it is the right adaptation.
“Journalism is changing, yes,” he said. “[But] it’s not like broadcast journalism is dying.”
Rodas credits NTC for his career success, his sense of purpose and his confidence.
Knutson said he’s concerned for the future of the program.
“It really worries me,” he said. “I’ve been so proud of that program for so many years, and wore it as a chip on my shoulder.”
The MyNIU student portal lists the location for Journalism 354 as DuSable Hall. Journalism 354 is the writing component of the broadcast news block, while Journalism 356 is the production component. The location for the 356 lecture is listed as “To Be Announced,” while the lab remains listed as the “Television Center.”