Media Center breaks news

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Photo by Cora Lewis.

At 3 p.m. on Monday, Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola Company, was on CNBC talking about the financial state of his company. An hour later, he was giving a speech in Luce Hall. A year and a half ago, this wouldnot have been possible.

Since January 2009, Yale professors and visiting luminaries haven’t had to trek to Boston or New York for TV and radio appearances. Instead, they need only take a short walk down College Street to the Yale Media and Broadcast Center, an institution that Yale communications officers say is saving Yale money and helping it expand its influence worldwide.

Equipped for both audio and video broadcasting, the center has professional-grade facilities that Yale faculty and administrators use to connect live to outlets such as CNN, NPR, BBC and Fox News. In a given week, the center might have as many as a dozen broadcast “hits,” said Lucas Swineford, the center’s director.

“It brings us closer to Manhattan, but also to San Francisco, Chicago, Bombay,” Chief Communications Officer Tom Mattia said. “It really brings Yale to media centers all over the world.”

Last week, University President Richard Levin did not have to leave New Haven to appear on CCTV, the official channel for the People’s Republic of China, to discuss life at an American university with two Chinese students who were choosing between Harvard University and Yale. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has given appearances for UK media from the center as well.

The center was designed in part to help Yale respond rapidly to breaking news, said Swineford.

On Tuesday, the studio spent much of the day preparing for the upcoming Nobel Prize announcements­, readying the studio in case a Yale professor wona prize and is invited to appear on talk shows within hours of the announcement. Last year, when the center was in its first months of operations, the announcement of Nobel Prize winners was broadcast from Woolsey Hall. Nowthe center is capable of covering the event from any part of Yale’s campus.

Before the center’s studios became operational, two separate teams were responsible for filming and broadcasting Yale events —one at the medical school and another on central campus. The two groups often had to rent equipment and improvise with limited resources, said Rick Leone, who led the medical school team, and they were constantly figuring out “how to do more with less.”

Mr. Leone recalls working out of a converted storage space at the medical school. He described the other team’s offices as similarly “dark and dingy.” Once, he said, he saw “a bug the size of a mouse” in a hallway.

Combining the two teams under one roof at 135 College had its challenges, Leone said, because each had developed its own way of operating, But, he said, the transition was for the most part a smooth one. He said the staff members’ variety of backgrounds – in fields like engineering, production and script-writing – and the expertise of younger staff members has been invaluable as the Center advances into new media.

“It’s interesting and important to hear people’s ideas who grew up with technology,” he said. “They think about things and approach problems in a different way.”

In the new, state-of-the-art space, the groups have been able to tackle ambitious projects rather than just responding to the news, Leone said.

In the past year, the Center developed a new freshman security video and launched a feature called “West Campus Reports,” which provides updates on the research going on there. It also increased television appearances by Yale faculty: economics professor Robert Shiller spoke about the financial crisis on CNBC, and Kelly Brownell, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, assessed the nation’s battle with childhood obesity on iTunes and various media outlets.

Since it opened, the center has been producing a series of videos called “The Macmillan Report,” in which Yale experts discuss contemporary international issues, to promote the Whitney and Betty Macmillan Center for International and Area Studies.

The staff is also working to expand and improve Yale’s online presence through Yale Open Courses, iTunes U podcasts and other forms of new media. On iTunes, Yale just passed a milestone of 10 million downloads.

Looking ahead, the center is working on developing content for mobile devices, Mattia said, such as an application for portable campus tours on the iPhone.

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