A trio of talented news hounds left Brooklyn for the bright lights of Hollywood to pick up Emmys they won for a college newscast they produced and got a golden opportunity to meet with leaders of the broadcast news industry during a whirlwind stay in Tinseltown last month.
Two Brooklyn College graduates, Michael Gomez and Anthony Tart (both members of the Class of 2013), and Brooklyn College senior Nickesha Johnson were the toast of the town at the 35th College Television Awards, presented on April 23 by the Television Academy Foundation.
They won the College Emmy for Best Newscast, beating out their peers from across the country. The award was given to them for a newscast they wrote, shot, and produced last year while they were studying at Brooklyn College’s Summer Broadcast News Institute under famed television journalist Barbara Nevins Taylor. Nevins Taylor, who has worked at Channel 2 News and Fox 5 over the years, has won 22 Emmys in her career. She is now a professor at the Department of Television and Radio at Brooklyn College and is the founder of consumermojo.com, a website focusing on consumer and financial issues.
Nevins Taylor said she encourages all of her students to apply for big awards like the Emmys because it’s important for them to see how they measure up against their peers.
Gomez, Tart, and Johnson accepted their awards at a red carpet ceremony in Los Angeles where they hobnobbed with television stars. “Getting chance to meeting with pros was great,” Johnson told the Brooklyn Eagle. “They told us what it was like to be in the industry. You have to start at the bottom, work hard, and create your own opportunities.”
Their acceptance speech was as organized as the newscast that won them the Emmy. “We had only 30 seconds to say our thank you’s onstage,” Gomez, a James Madison High School graduate, told the Eagle. “So we divided the job up. Nickesha had the job of thanking the Academy. Anthony was in charge of thanking Brooklyn College and the reporters who worked on the newscast. And I thanked our families and friends.”
The award ceremony “was exciting,” Tart said. “It was just like you see on television.”
And as if to add icing to their cake, the three winners learned during their trip to California that the same newscast they created also won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Award for the regional competition in the category of Best All-Around Television Newscast. Brooklyn College alum, Russell Midori, Class of 2013, won in the category of Best Television Feature.
Creating the newscast was hard work, but it was rewarding, according to Tart, a graduate of Edward R. Murrow High School. “We wrote stories, we shot footage, we edited it, we worked with the anchors, and we worked the teleprompter. Our goal was to make it look like a professional newscast, not a college show,” he said. To that end, the producers focused not just on the Brooklyn College community, but on the city as a whole, presenting stories on gun violence and the plight of undocumented immigrants working as day laborers, as well as soft features. They even included a sports segment.
Tart, Gomez and Johnson all said that their winning broadcast was a collaborative effort that included input from the other students in the class who reported segments and worked on the set and even from a graduate student in the Compositional Studies Program who scored original music for the project.
Nevins Taylor wasn’t just a mentor to the group. The television news veteran served as news director, constantly pushing the students to do better. “She was tough on us. But it was good because the news business is tough,” Gomez said. “If we came back with footage she didn’t think was good enough, she sent us back out to do it again.”
“She’s a relentless perfectionist. She will come down on you pretty hard when you get it wrong but when you get it right, she’s really excited. Her tactic worked in our favor,” Johnson said.
“I was a news director and I worked with them the same way news directors have worked with me over the years,” Nevins Taylor told the Eagle, adding that she sought to create a professional newsroom where no one is coddled and where the demand for excellence is met with hard work.
As broadcast journalists, “we are video storytellers,” Nevins Taylor said. “Our job is to tell a story. I wanted them to get to the heart of the matter; to tell the story clearly and concisely for the viewer.”
When asked what it takes to become a good broadcast journalist, Nevins Taylor named three elements: curiosity, focus, and hard work.
Johnson, Gomez, and Tart said they believe the Emmy has opened doors for them. Since the big win, all three have enjoyed networking opportunities and invitations to swanky parties.
Tart currently works as a freelance videographer for NY1 News. Gomez said he “has a few things cooking” in terms of his next career move. Johnson, a mother of two and a double major in broadcast journalism and psychology, said is undecided on her exact career path but is excited by the possibilities that are out there.