by Megan Simpson
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio– Consider the typical American “morning routine”—wake up, brew coffee, turn on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show” or a morning program of the likes. What viewers see is the smiling, polished faces of the reporters and waving fans in the background as they relish in their five seconds of fame on television.
But what would Westminster broadcast communication alumni John Mikulas ’96 and Amy Gustavson Garland ’98 see? All the moving parts happening behind the camera not captured on screen.
Mikulas, chief videographer at WFMJ-TV in Youngstown, and Garland, coordinating producer for the morning show “WFMJ Today,” both learned the peculiarities of the newsroom during their time at Titan Radio and the College’s television station. Even 20 years after working together in the College stations, they are still applying the skills they learned and honed at Westminster.
“I really think there is no substitute for that hands-on experience,” Garland said. “I did one internship in TV news during my undergraduate and was in sports, but what really transitioned into having the skills was the hands-on experience I got at Westminster—working the radio, having shifts, learning programming and then moving on to the TV station.”
For broadcast communication majors at larger universities, it is more unlikely for students to see the inside of the radio station or newsroom before their junior or senior year. However, Westminster College’s broadcast communication program prides itself in giving its students the opportunity to jump into the studio as early as their freshman year.
Although working different jobs in separate departments at WFMJ, Garland and Mikulas still get the chance to collaborate often. Garland relies on Mikulas to configure logistics and asks for help in deciding on equipment needed to fulfill her visions. Sometimes Mikulas also works the camera for Garland’s morning show, or if she wants to go live at a location, Garland will work with Mikulas to make it happen.
The success of their jobs relies on them being able to understand all the functions within the newsroom. Both Garland and Mikulas believe Westminster primed them for becoming valuable and cooperative professionals, as they understand the needs of the people they work with in all departments.
“We had four newscasts four days a week at Westminster, and every day at 3:30 or 4, you’d head over to the station and we’d actually talk on air,” Garland said. “I knew what a producer did. I knew what went on behind the scenes. So much of it transitioned once I got into the field.”
As the manager of his department, Mikulas works with scheduling, equipment and training, and sometimes he gathers his own videos to bring back for editing. Even though he enjoys shooting video in the field and meeting people, he understands the importance of knowing others’ roles, too.
“When we work like this, I understand what Amy’s needs are, and she understands where I’m coming from,” said Mikulas, adding that Westminster’s broadcasting department better prepared its students for work in the field by introducing them to every position. “If you want to be reporter, you need to also know how to shoot, edit and produce. It just makes you better at your job.”