A news station is brewing in Flagstaff, and if the dedication and passion of its student crew is any indication, it may grow to fill the hole that Channel 2 left behind when its doors closed over a year ago.
Formerly NAU Live!, a campus news station, NAZ Today debuted in September 2008 with the intent of covering the local news of northern Arizona, not just campus news.
With two semesters of four shows a week under his belt at NAZ Today, Patrick Walker, an electronic media and film major in the School of Communication, is feeling upbeat about the show’s progress.
“We broke new ground from being just campus news to having the community begin to recognize us for local stories like our Taylor Fire coverage,” Walker said “Originally, we thought it would be just a little local news and the rest would be feed from the wire, but we have almost eliminated the feed completely.”
Recently, Walker had the opportunity to cover the First Family’s visit to the Grand Canyon and to experience firsthand what it was like to be one of the first reporters covering a national story.
Walker, accompanied by Brandon Neuman, lecturer for the School of Communication and adviser to NAZ Today, arrived at the Tusayan airport around 7 a.m. Aug. 16. At 7:30 a.m., they were loaded onto a bus and taken the short distance out to the tarmac. There they waited.
“It was unbelievable to be 150 feet from Air Force One. You see the pictures and it doesn’t do it any justice. It’s so powerful, it’s a symbol. It’s just incredible, no matter what your politics are,” Walker said.
But it was a lot of work too.
“I shot all of the video footage while Brandon shot the stills. I was editing in the Tusayan airport and uploading it to our server. We were the first ones in the country to put the shots up, besides the Republic, and we were within seconds of them,” Walker said.
Walker and Neuman stayed to get footage of the president’s plane taking off around 1 p.m., and Walker continued to edit his video footage on a laptop in the car on the ride home.
In addition to Neuman, NAZ Today students receive guidance from instructor Charlie Hicks, former Channel 2 broadcaster Jan Pitre Dixon and meteorologist Lee Born.
“Everyone who advises us here at NAU has ‘been there and done it.’” Walker noted. “We learn how it’s not all theory—it’s all relevant. There is no better environment than this to learn in.”
Walker wears many hats at NAZ Today including that of news director for
30-40 students. One of his goals is to keep raising the bar on the quality of the news at NAZ Today.
“Annually, we tour an affiliate station in Phoenix and we try to emulate how they do things and then personalize that to our capabilities. We’re also branching out—our web site is gaining momentum and there is more content. We’ve got a lot of things on our plate,” Walker said. “Now we have more community interest which has led to a bigger stress on quality and content, so the students have to step up, the standards are higher. We want to keep the quality and take it slowly as we continue to grow. “
NAZ Today airs Monday through Thursday at 6 p.m. on NPG Cable channel 4 or at 10 p.m. on Dish Network channel 9411 (Universityhouse) and NPG Cable 4. Or go to naztoday.com.