Anchoring the News on the Erdman Conference Center Big Screen

Princeton University may boast a more historic founding date, but Princeton Seminary is leading its larger, Ivy League neighbor into the videoconferencing age! And the University’s students are happy to follow.

A class of undergraduates crossed Mercer Street in November to participate — with ABC’s anchor Peter Jennings on the big screen — in the first videoconference in the new Jack Cooper Conference Room in Erdman Hall as part of their course “The Public Image in Television News.”

“Wow! The experience of speaking one-on-one with Mr. Jennings, who was miles away, was a testimony to modern technology,” said class member Simone Brown.

Her professor, Melvin McCray, an ABC news editor on leave to teach journalism classes at the University, had contacted the Seminary after learning that Princeton University does not currently have a videoconferencing facility. “It was a real thrill for my students — I don’t know which they were more impressed with, the technology or talking with Peter Jennings.”

ABC Anchor Peter JenningsJennings spoke to the class of sophomores, juniors, and seniors for more than an hour about the state of journalism in America today. Via the new Tandberg system, his voice and image were transmitted via telephone lines to the six-foot rear screen projection system in Princeton, and the voices and faces of twenty-five Princeton University students were sent back to him in his New York City studio.

Jennings discussed his early days as a reporter in cold-war-era Europe in the 1960s through his work now as an editor, writer, and anchor. The students were impressed by how much the Canadian journalist knew about the American media, although in prepared questions they challenged him about the fact that all the major television news networks have white men as anchors.

Two weeks after the videoconference with Jennings, the class returned to the Seminary for an audioconference with Walter Cronkite, former CBS anchor, and a video session with Neil Shapiro, executive producer of NBC’s Dateline.

“It’s exciting that the Seminary could make this experience possible for us,” said Jessica Walker, a junior. “I only hope Princeton University will soon follow this great example.”

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