At the beginning of this semester, as usual, Fordham’s dozens of student clubs and organizations kicked off their programming for the year. They put up posters, tabled at the club fair and held introductory events for freshmen. But one well-known group on campus has been unusually silent—to the surprise and dismay of the students involved, Fordham’s TV station, Fordham Nightly News (or FNN), has kept its doors tightly shut.
For Fordham students who aspire to work in television news or production, FNN is a major resource. But as of this printing, all FNN programming has been suspended. The student coordinators have no access to the TV studios or the station’s email accounts, and the program did not host a club fair table to welcome freshman applicants, as it normally would.
For FNN’s student coordinator, Dan Grbic, FCRH ’16, this came as a shock. Grbic’s job is to manage FNN’s student participants, and to serve as a liaison between those students and the station’s administrators, both in the Fordham faculty, and in the Electronic Information Center (or EIC; also known as the library basement, where the studio is located). Usually, Grbic is one of the first to know about major news affecting the station. But, he said, this summer he felt decidedly out of the loop.
The trouble started with an email.
In mid-June, FNN’s production manager and Rose Hill professor Mat Schottenfeld notified Grbic that the FNN studios and associated programs were undergoing some “retooling” to better accommodate a new television broadcasting major, which begins in fall 2016. Because of this, Schottenfeld said, those at the helm of the studio were evaluating the “cancelling [sic] of all broadcasts for the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 semesters.”
A representative for the Department of Communication and Media Studies later clarified that the new major would not specifically be in television broadcasting, but in journalism.
Grbic responded to Schottenfeld’s email, saying he understood, but asked that some of the studio’s more independently-run programs be maintained. About a month later he followed up to ask for more details, and then tried to check the FNN email account — which he’d always had access to — for updates he might have missed.
He was locked out.
Confused, he emailed Schottenfeld and the EIC director, Michael Considine, asking if he should be concerned. And, he said, Considine’s response confused him even more.
Considine said that Grbic had been locked out of the accounts to “head off the possibility of misinformation about this year’s programs spreading among the participating students.” But his explanation of the program changes differed from the one Schottenfeld had given earlier in the summer.
“Due to high demand for video services and shrinking library staff we are reevaluating what we can offer in terms of student participation in the studio,” Considine wrote.
But Grbic said he doesn’t think that story adds up.
“Our program is, like, so self-sufficient,” he said. “It is completely student-run — pretty much the only thing that we need the EIC staff for is for unlocking the studio.”
Still, little more information was forthcoming for Grbic. When asked for further details, Considine confirmed that “We have postponed the start of FNN this semester until discussions about its future are concluded.”
“It is entirely possible that programming will remain unchanged,” he added. “It is safe to say that things will be managed differently in the future and what that means is presently being discussed.”
Schottenfeld did not return a request for comment.
In the meantime, as FNN remains on an “indefinite hiatus,” as Grbic now calls it, several administrators and student staff members are taking it upon themselves to get the program running again in some capacity.
Jacqueline Reich, chair and graduate director of Fordham’s Communications department, is one such professor.
“We are working with the library and the university administration toward a solution,” Reich said. “We know how important these shows are to the students who work on them.”
Still, Grbic says, the hiatus, however long it may last, has put the program at a significant disadvantage.
“Now we don’t have new freshmen in, and we’ve lost seniors—and we were pretty senior-heavy last year,” he said. “Now we’re going to be under-staffed if we do come back.”
Ann Pierret, FCRH ’14, one of Grbic’s predecessors in the Student Coordinator position, agreed that it is a bad situation. She now works as an on-air reporter and multimedia journalist in Lansing, Michigan, and says she couldn’t have gotten the job without her FNN experience.
“[Strong journalism opportunities] are one of the main reasons I chose Fordham,” she said. “That’s why I just feel awful for those students…FNN lets you get hands-on experience you need, and it’s really hard to get it otherwise.”
But the biggest problem, Grbic said, does not even directly affect him. He is more worried about the new freshmen and sophomores.
“I’m a senior—FNN has done all it can for me on my resume and for skills. But for all the freshmen and sophomores…you’re really depriving people,” Grbic said. “And especially in New York City, market number one for TV broadcasting, how dare you not have that?”
In the meantime, he and other FNN staff members are trying to come up with some plans. He has discussed making a YouTube account so reporters can show some of their work. They are thinking about creating a new website, too, or forging a stronger partnership with the communications department so they can find more administrative support. But at the end of the day, he said, nothing is certain. They are just going to have to wait and see.