La Verne Magazine
Keeping the Local Eye on La Verne
by Nathan Silva
photography by Jason Cooper
Shining in a different spotlight from most University of La Verne seniors, Eye
on La Verne co-anchors Nathan Baca, Nya Center and Amanda Stutevoss
are all smiles just moments before airtime.
Lights are on, cameras are set up, and the Eye on La Verne news team is ready
for action. Anchor Nathan Baca breaks eye contact with the camera and looks
down to find his place in his script. The control room knows the problem immediately.
Duct tape, find more duct tape, quietly orders producer Agustin
Avalos. The hood of the teleprompter has fallen again, but fortunately this
is only a rehearsal. With fresh tape on the teleprompter, the crew of 10 University
of La Verne seniors is ready to record. This may not be what you would expect
from an award-winning newscast, but this group has the needed moxy to pull it
off. The passion for creating a product, the determination to put it all together
and the pride that makes this newscast much more than just another bump on the
road to graduation is what makes all of the effort worthwhile.
Baca and Avalos estimate they each spend about 20-25 hours a week working
on the show that yields 20 minutes of airtime on Adelphia Cables local
channel 3. The ratio of TV to work is insane; the amount of time far outweighs
the amount of product, says Baca, a television broadcast major who dreams
of going from LVTV to a large market newscast.
Baca and co-anchor Nya Center bid their viewers good eveningas
they tape at 11 a.m.; and the big-city backdrop for the small-town newscast
are the least of the noticeable contradictions around the studio. The staff
of 20-somethings hold more experience than some twice their age and are gaining
more with every bi-weekly show they put together. From reporting and producing
their own news stories out in the field, to operating cameras and audio on taping
days, this is a class like no other.
In conjunction with this experience, many members of the Eye on La Verne team
get to see the news put together on a larger scale. Avalos and Baca both have
internships at NBCs Palm Springs affiliate KMIR. Reporter Michelle Renteria
puts in time with the KTLA morning news team before coming back to La Verne
to run the teleprompter. Center spends time in KCBS newsroom in addition
to Eye on La Vernes. These internships, says Don Pollock, professor of
communications and LVTV station manager, help the students and the show immensely.
He says that the students are receiving the chance to see a professional show
being put together and are learning what that takes. The impressive thing, he
says, is that they are bringing those experiences back and making a more
The future of Eye On La Verne is one of uncertainty, as all 10 members of
the staff are graduating seniors. The past and present though, are quite the
contrary. Pollock started the show in the Spring 2002 semester with the aim
of it being a video rendition of ULVs newspaper, Campus Times. Once the
students became more comfortable and confident, they turned their attention
from campus to community. For three semesters now, Avalos, who started as the
shows director, has led the charge. Serving as both producer and director,
time and energy are both short at times for him. You have to love it to
do it. At times I get fed up, but I still love it, he says. The show may
need to re-invent itself this fall when the whole crew trades in its internships
for real jobs following graduation. Pollock says the show has started from scratch
once before, and he does not fear doing it again. Im pessimistic
that well be able to continue producing shows at such a sophisticated
level, he says. But if three students want to do it, then well
do it. The great thing about La Verne is that we are flexible. Baca encourages
students to be a part of the team and feels that the experience is invaluable.
In many respects its like a job, but I came to La Verne to learn
how to be a television reporter, he says.
The job the students do does not go unnoticed. In February 2003, the crew
was rewarded for its hard work during the fall 2002 semester. Acknowledged by
the Society of Professional Journalists as the best non-daily newscast, the
Eye on La Verne team earned first place in the Mark of Excellence competition
Region 11. Avalos says he was surprised they won and feels their shows this
semester are much better. He cannot wait to see how far they will get in national
competition. Eye on La Verne beat out powerhouse schools from several states,
including local rival the University of Southern California and Arizona State
University. Avalos explains, Were all local. We start everything
from scratch. We shoot, write and produce everything. We dont get anything
handed to us.Baca was pleased and likens the situation to David and Goliath.
With limited resources and just 10 students working on the show, he is glad
the contest was judged on product and not reputation.Its a wonderful
feeling knowing that student initiative can overpower vast resources,
Baca says. Student initiative is the fuel that keeps this fire going.
Minutes after the crew wraps the taping of the semesters second show,
Pollock informs Avalos that there is a story on-campus unfolding for next weeks
edition. Crew members rush from the studio, which doubles as a classroom on
the top floor of the Arts and Communications Building, downstairs to grab equipment,
then out to the street to meet their breaking story. On street corners near
the school, pro-life activists are holding signs for passers by, and distributing
printed information to ULV students. Eye on La Verne gets the story as if the
students had been waiting all week for it to happen. Before one edition had
aired, the show already had a start on the next one. We try to keep our
eyes and ears open. We dont have a newsroom or a police tuner, so we have
to run into our stories, asserts Avalos.
Meanwhile, with just six weeks of experience under his belt, Eye on La Verne
field reporter and cameraman Christian Lopez works on new opening graphics for
the show. Avalos says Lopezs work takes Eye on La Verne to the next level
because, image is everything; it has to be pleasing to the eye. It also
forces me to make the show better. Indeed, Lopezs work impresses
his classmates and colleagues as they gather during their Wednesday morning
meeting for the third taping. With CNN on a monitor in the control room, giving
the latest updates and analysis with the situation in Iraq, the Eye on La Verne
team reviews their stories ranging from ULV and Bonita High School sports, to
the citys first new councilman in more than a decade.
The crew knows it is not the hard news source for even the most dedicated
viewers and gladly accepts that role. Baca explains, Every city deserves
some sort of local news. Los Angeles [news] is important, but it may not be
as relevant. We report things that are relevant to La Verne. Only on a
newscast like Eye on La Verne would one find stories of a local 14-year-old
boy who publishes his own newspaper, the expansion of a retirement community
and a play that was produced and performed as a ULV theater majors senior
The show does not shy away from big news though and is not intimidated by
the shadow that Los Angeles networks cast. It does, however, stay local, responding
to the community aspect that major markets neglect. Last fall, during the Williams
fire, Eye on La Verne was on the front lines. It was a story L.A. markets
were interested in; it just happened to land on our turf, says Avalos.
Pollock feels that the 10 college students were blessed with hard news
with that story.
Eye on La Verne has stayed with the story long after the networks have forgotten
about it. Though the fire may be out, the impact on the local people still burns.
Months after the fire, the floods came. Just as newsworthy to the Eye on La
Verne team are the problems the mud is causing to the already wreaked San Dimas
Canyon. Avalos explains that the large market issues were drained from the story
when the flames were extinguished, but for residents, there was still news.
In February, Lopez, who was returning from a story highlighting a political
candidate, saw a mudslide in action trapping a car. With equipment on hand,
he started to capture the story. When his battery ran out, he called Avalos
who brought him another, all before UPN (the only local network that came to
the scene) could get on site. Sometimes we get lucky and happen to have
a camera hand, says Avalos. Weeks later, as American-Iraqi tensions boil
over in March, Eye on La Verne examines the effects the international situation
has on our community. If there is an international event going on, we
have to keep it local, says Avalos. Thats just what is done. Aspects
from rising gas prices, to protests in city council meetings are reported on,
keeping the scale small yet important to nearly 6,000 LVTV subscribers. Baca
and the rest of the team know their role and are glad to be in that position.
We find that little niche, and were happy with it, he says.
On La Vernes channel 3 one cant see the duct tape hold up the
teleprompters, or the hour spent off camera for every minute spent on. Instead,
observers see the specialized graphics, the same poise and integrity displayed
by reporters with decades in front of the camera and the spirits of students
becoming professionals. When the show airs on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m.,
the good evening the anchors wish viewers does not seem out of place.
Nor does the big city backdrop, because to its viewers, Eye on La Verne isnt
small town at allit is their town.
Relying on technical expertise and tested nerves, Eye on La Verne Producer
Agustin Avalos and Editor Ayana Moultrie are two of 10 University of La Verne
seniors who bring local news to the citys homes, Tuesday and Thursday,
on Adelphias Channel 3.