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University, Two TV Stations, Stanton Foundation Partner on Video News Research Project

BOSTON—How might television news be reimagined if it were to tell stories with new forms of animation, graphics and data visualization? That’s the question a pair of television stations, the Northeastern University School of Journalism and the Stanton Foundation are setting out to answer.

Under the banner of the Video News Research Project, WLS-TV in Chicago and WCVB-TV in Boston along with the university and foundation will create year-long, paid fellowship positions at each station to explore innovative new visual storytelling techniques.

Led by Mike Beaudet, an Emmy-winning investigative reporter and Northeastern professor, as well as John Wihbey, head of the journalism graduate programs and director of the new Co-Laboratory for Data Impact, the project will draw on research previously conducted by the university about the future of local TV news.

“We will work in partnership with these new Visual Content Producers and their news teams to assess how innovative storytelling approaches might perform in the real world, based on testing and a variety of metrics,” said Beaudet, also a reporter at WCVB.

“We want to help ensure that local news attracts new audiences both on-air and online, finds innovative ways to engage the general public with hard news and ultimately maintains its vital civic and educational purpose long into the future.”

John Idler, president and GM of WLS-TV, ABC 7 Chicago, said the station is eager to work with the Visual Content Producer. “We believe the new Visual Content Producer working in tandem with the top news team in Chicago will help us continue to modernize and engage with the next generation of news viewers,” he said.

The Stanton Foundation, formed by former CBS President Dr. Frank Stanton, is supporting the academic-industry partnership with a grant of nearly $500,000, an amount in addition to the $150,000 grant it awarded Northeastern researchers to conduct a national study testing experimental videos done in partnership with six TV stations, including WLS-TV.

The study found audiences want in-depth, hard-news video storytelling delivered in a compelling manner. “Enhancing its [local television’s] ability to deliver important news is critical to increasing public understanding,” the foundation said in a statement.

The two positions are full-time, salaried roles with benefits. WLS and WCVB will make hiring decisions. They will employ the producers, who will also act as industry liaisons with the Northeastern faculty.

A job description of the positions say the Visual Content Producers will be responsible for planning, pitching and executing small and large concepts in various styles using programs like Autodesk Maya and Adobe After Effects. Skills in 2-D and 3-D animation are required as well as proficiency in the Adobe Suite and Autodesk Maya. Interested parties should send their CVs and work samples to: reinventingtvnews@gmail.com.