For students at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, creating new television programs isn't unusual. Creating a whole new TV network, however, has never been doneuntil now.
The networkcalled COW-TV (an acronym for Collegiate Original Works Television)broadcasts only student projects. "There was no faculty work," says Professor Michael Schoonmaker, who developed and taught the course in which the network was created.
The "COW" first came to life during a faculty meeting about thesis courses in the television-radio-film (TRF) curriculum, Schoonmaker says. "The existing thesis course generated great feature films, but there was nothing for television-style, in-the-studio, multicamera production. We wanted students to have the opportunity to do many different kinds of productionsnot just feature films, but documentaries, TV shows, and other shows that did not necessarily fit into the existing category."
In developing the TV-style thesis idea, Schoonmaker designed a course in which students would create a network rather than simply produce a class project. "I thought we should create a TV-style product but at a network level, instead of just a program," he says. "We'd have a regular schedule of shows. If our definition of a network had a wide enough range to it, we could create many different styles of programming. It would be limited only by our students' imaginations."
Using archival material along with original programs developed just for the project, COW-TV went on the air from Newhouse II last March and broadcast in three-hour segments twice a week. At the end of the semester the students put together a Best of COW-TV program to show parents, relatives, and friends. "My parents actually sat with me in the editing suite as I was getting the program ready," says Stacey Douglas '98, a TRF and political science graduate who participated in the course. "Seeing all the work it took helped them understand why I was so busy that semester. They agreed with me, though, that it was worth it."