In the midst of a more than 50-year relationship, Arizona PBS’ connection with Arizona State University has grown enough to make it one of the largest of its kind in the world, which is expected to benefit students and viewers alike.
ASU announced the station, also known as Eight, is now an official part of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Although Arizona PBS has had ties with ASU since 1961 — the current journalism school facility in downtown Phoenix even houses the station — Cronkite Dean and University Vice Provost Christopher Callahan said the move shifts Eight from an administrative association to an academic one.
The move includes the incorporation of the station’s three TV channels that have more than 1 million viewers a week and azpbs.org, as well as the products offered by Cronkite like the Cronkite News Service.
The combination creates what Callahan called “a very powerful news organization based out of a university.”
“This will be the largest media organization operating out of a university in the world,” he added.
Arizona PBS General Manager Kelly McCullough said the decision to make the move came due largely to Cronkite’s evolution in recent years, which is expected to continue with the merger. Specific details as to what that might entail haven’t reached finalization, but Callahan said he and the others involved in the shift will spend the summer coming up with a few ideas on what they can do.
One idea that has already come about is to create a five-day-a-week newscast to air on Arizona PBS. It’s an uncommon type of program for any PBS station, as Callahan said just 16 of the 170 stations have a daily public affairs program. Callahan added only one of those has the same type of daily newscast he has in mind. Other potential options include student-created documentaries and special reports, as well as incorporating aspects of Cronkite News Service into Eight’s programming.
Those ideas only encompass what Cronkite itself has to offer and don’t cover contributions made from students outside the journalism school. Film students, for example, could use the forum to create some of the aforementioned documentaries, while students from the W.P. Carey School of Business could create their own business programming as well.
“The possibilities are really endless,” Callahan said.
Any new program wouldn’t replace what Eight already offers for viewers; both Callahan and McCullough stressed viewers will continue to receive access to popular programs such as “Sesame Street,” “Nova” and “Downton Abbey.” The new programming, Callahan said, will simply provide more local content to add to the national shows.
What students from Cronkite and outside of the school receive is access to Arizona PBS and those 1 million weekly viewers in the country’s 12th-largest market. In other words, students will receive far more public exposure than they had before and they will receive that exposure in multiple mediums, which Callahan said is important given how complicated journalism has become.
There’s also a training component to this too. Callahan and McCullough described Eight as a teaching hospital, a place where students can work with professional staff and see the inner workings of a professional news station.
“Eight has always been part of a teaching hospital, but now we can grow that exponentially,” McCullough said.