Media Sandbox Michigan State University

Land Grab, a Detroit documentary

February 15th, 2017

Join us for a screening of the Detroit documentary Land Grab. The film’s director, Sean O’Grady, and Hantz Farm president, Mike Score, will lead a discussion around what blight means to communities, and how to better our neighborhoods through trust and cooperation.

Free admission.

Presented by The College of Communication Arts and Sciences
The School of Journalism

Sponsorship Provided By:
Knight Center for Environmental Journalism
Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences

New Learning Spaces Up Experience and Professional Skills for ComArtSci Students

February 14th, 2017

Immersive experiences within new spaces at the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences are empowering students with the acumen they’ll need to excel in competitive, tech-driven media careers.

The college’s new Spartan Newsroom and Immersive Media Studio invite students to collaborate, gain real-life experiences and build professional skills. The newsroom welcomed its first students in fall 2016 and went “live” during the General Election, while the immersive studio opened for classes in January 2017. The innovative, cross-functional spaces equip students for 21st century jobs by engaging them in the development and delivery of news, animation, game design and immersive interactive media content involving motion capture, augmented and virtual realities.

“Having the experience to work within a professional pipeline facility will make a student’s transition into a real-world situation smoother and more successful,” says Stacey Fox, professor of animation, mixed realities and immersive journalism in the MSU School of Journalism. “It also teaches students the importance of respecting a production space.”

JRN_Motioncapturre_5The expansive learning spaces sit in the middle of the first floor of the ComArtSci building. Students and faculty are free to move seamlessly from one area to the next when producing or creating content, or when working on collaborative media projects. Many high-activity areas and broadcasting studios are viewable through glass walls, giving passers-by a Today Show experience.

Fox says students often remark on how lucky they feel to have such a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility in which to produce new works. She adds that the new space and studio places ComArtSci on the forefront alongside major universities like Arizona State University, California Institute of the Arts and New York University in offering curriculum and training in global media production.

“Our space is unique in that it has the latest in motion capture and learning technologies for classroom collaboration, production and immersion,” says Fox. “Spartans and the general public are able to see the whole process in real time when they walk by and look through the floor to ceiling glass windows.”

Learning by doing, learning with others
Julie Dunmire was in the initial group of students to experience the power of the new spaces. The broadcast journalism student worked in the newsroom on Election Day 2016, and was the first person to read a live report from the news anchor desk. Dunmire currently takes a class in the newsroom and sometimes interacts with students from other ComArtSci disciplines who are learning and working within the immersive spaces.

“News is not in ‘silos’ anymore,” says Dunmire. “We have to stop thinking about ourselves as ‘photojournalists’ or ‘writers’ or ‘anchors’ because we will all have similar tasks and roles in a digital age.”

Like Dunmire, other students believe that what you learn in a traditional classroom is far different than what you can learn in an immersive or real-world environment.

Media and Information undergraduate Michael Grassi focuses on 3D animation studies and is applying his craft through the immersive studio. His big take-away, he says, is learning to operate advanced motion capture systems and apply motion capture files to 3D animation.

“The new systems we have access to are professional grade equipment, and the products professionals use to make a living,” says Grassi. “Knowing how to operate them and having access to their benefits as a college student preparing for the professional workplace gives us invaluable experience. It shortens the learning curve potential employers would face if they were to hire us.”

JRN_Motion_CaptureCreative Advertising undergraduate Michael Cagney echoes the sentiment. Cagney is continuing to learn the ins and outs of the studio’s motion capture system, and has begun to integrate motion capture skills into his other animation abilities. Those experiences, he says, have strengthened his confidence, and are shaping the direction he will take when he graduates in May.

“I’ve learned how to operate the motion capture system for myself and for others in a professional setting,” he says. “I would like to pursue a job in animation and possibly mocap.”

In addition to applying their skills in news, animation and motion capture arenas, students and faculty can design and produce virtual reality broadcasts and 360 animation renderings for immersive storytelling. The center opens up possibilities for cross-campus collaborations in almost any area, including those underway in athletics, health and medicine and theatre.

“Along with offering our courses in the space, we will also be utilizing the immersive media studio to host events such as game design jams, animation festivals and this February the Cultural Digi Summit in partnership with the Smithsonian Latino Center. We will have industry leaders in technology and culture in residence for two days utilizing the new spaces,” says Fox. “It’s a very exciting time to be at the MSU School of Journalism and ComArtSci.”

By Ann Kammerer

Award-winning MSU film student pursues passion in New York City

February 10th, 2017

Liv Larsen had an extraordinary senior year at Michigan State University — to say the least. The former journalism student, with a minor in documentary film studies, along with her crew produced a documentary called “From Flint” that won a student academy award in 2016.

In May, Larsen moved to New York City to fulfill her passion of working for a production company at 4th Row Films. As a production intern, she was assigned three documentaries to work on. She came up with different ideas for the director and tried to put her spin on the little details when she saw an opportunity. She even got to attend a few of the shoots.

“I really got to see first hand how different people interview,” Larsen said. “The director’s style was different from my style and I was able to see how to set up the whole production in the real world.”

She excels at the logistics behind the shoot, “Whether it’s applying for grants, setting up the location or making sure everyone’s on the same page; I really enjoy these aspects,” said Larsen.

Larsen claims that her favorite part of the internship was collaborating with other interns.

“The interns pretty much got free reign to give ideas,” Larsen said. “It was great to have that group and connection, in case we wanted to collaborate on future projects together.”

To her surprise, after completing her internship in New York City, Larsen found herself wanting to try her hand in independent filmmaking. After completing her award-winning documentary in Professor Bob Albers’ class, she thought she wanted to work for a large production company, shooting films, but realized that she had a desire to pursue her own personal film style.

“I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for my student film,” Larsen said. “After it won a Student Academy Award, our crew filed to work with an actual distribution company, which is amazing.”

Larsen said no member of her crew had actually been to Flint before creating this film. The main task of the film was to see how they could get involved with the community of Flint and make an impact.

“After doing basic internet research, we met with a few people, which turned into more people,” Larsen said. “The film started to unfold and the community of Flint embraced us with open arms. Our crew just took it one step at a time. The whole thing was a puzzle we put together, since we only had a semester to do it. It was so rewarding at the end.”

Currently, Larsen is still living in New York City, pursuing her dream of independent filmmaking. She’s doing freelance work, which involved working on a project for Netflix, and currently producing another independent documentary film.

Her interest in documentary filmmaking evolved over time as she added new skills and learned more about the field.

“I have always been involved in the arts as a kid,” Larsen said. “Then I came to MSU and I had my journalism major, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with just that. After joining Telecasters and SideShow, I wanted to get more involved.”

Larsen always liked documentaries because they went further into telling stories and resonated with people a little more. She enjoys how one documentary can cover so much and bring out the layers of an issue.

She said the difference between her crew’s coverage of Flint and every other major news outlet was their angle. The networks were covering the city of Flint based on the government. Larsen and her crew covered Flint based on the people.

“Everybody can relate to someone else,” Larsen said. “You can emphasize with someone and try to understand their tragedy. Everyone has a story worth telling. So to me, it’s a mission to find these stories that are untold and tell them in a way that’s never been done before.”

By Meg Dedyne

Michigan State Journalism School Creates Strategic Motion Capture Partnership with Noitom Ltd.

January 4th, 2017

We are surrounded by body language, in every moment of every day. From passing the time people watching at the airport, or observing how co-workers are reacting during a meeting, we are being perceptive – and possibly reactive – to our reading of body language.

The Michigan State School of Journalism is leading by globally pushing the boundaries of fact-based storytelling, from multimedia to the visuals of photography and video. The newest frontier of powerful journalistic storytelling is Motion Capture, helping journalists document and produce layered stories. Motion Capture reads and documents body language, pairing state-of-the-art professional technology with one of the oldest forms of communication in all species on our planet.

The addition of Motion Capture technology, and the new Immersive Media newsroom, brings MSU’s J-School to the forefront of innovating newsgathering. Noitom’s Perception Motion Capture system will be part of MSU’s program, thanks to a groundbreaking partnership reached with the China-based company in early December.

“We are extremely excited about this opportunity working with you and anticipate all of the innovative possibilities that lie ahead,” said Susy Ferrer of Noitom.

MSU’s JRN 492, Motion Capture for Storytelling, course and the Animation and Comics in Storytelling Media minor, open to all undergraduates at MSU, will use Noitom’s systems.

“Our students in MSU Journalism’s animation and motion capture courses are already utilizing the Perception Neuron technology and suits and have been excited to watch their characters come to life in real time,” said lead Motion Capture/Immersive Journalism Professor Stacey Fox. “We are excited to partner with Noitom Perception Neuron as we increase our motion capture technology offerings for students and build our animation, sports and immersive journalism programs.”

Motion capture comes in many forms. The basic principle has a subject’s movement recorded within 3-D space, such as MSU’s new Immersive Media room, using Perception Neuron’s 32 inertial sensors (called “neurons”) placed at specific joints on a body.  The information is transmitted to a computer, where the animator works to render the 3-D image into a dynamic format for different platforms of journalism.

“There are so many exciting and intriguing possibilities with this technology,” said Professor Joanne C. Gerstner, the Michigan State’s Sports Journalist in Residence. “Having the Perception Neuron as a storytelling tool allows us to teach students to be even more revelatory in their storytelling. Instead of simply describing a big sports play, we can take it to the level of showing the bio-mechanics to take the audience truly inside.”

For more information contact Professor Stacey Fox or visit


Banjo visits campus

October 14th, 2016

No – we aren’t talking about Banjo Kazooie. The character from our childhood video games was not running around campus.

Instead, a representative from the new app, called Banjo, visited ComArtSci.

Banjo is a news gathering tool that collects social media posts in real time and sorts them by location. It instantly organizes digital signals to recognize newsworthy events as they happen.


Josh Vernon, University Program Manager at Banjo, visited MSU last week to teach students how to use the tool. MSU’s School of Journalism is one of only a handful of universities to be granted access to Banjo. The students can use the tool, for free, anywhere within a four mile radius of campus.

“I know it will help me get photos from sporting events and event quotes from people there. I have already used in and plan to implement it into my reporting,” journalism sophomore and Impact Radio reporter Zane D’Souza said.

“We are trying to make ‘live,’ more ‘live,’” Vernon said to a class full of JRN 200 students. He visited multiple classes while he was in East Lansing.

What else was Veron looking to visit while in town? Crunchy’s.

“Everyone keeps telling me I need to go there and get a burger there,” he laughed with the class.

What goes together better than news gathering and burgers?

Sandbox professor documents medical students in Flint

September 1st, 2016

Geri Alumit Zeldes, an associate professor and graduate studies director in MSU’s School of Journalism, has a documentary in the works. “Flint Med,” the tentative title, is about third and fourth-year medical students in the College of Human Medicine who are participating in the Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved Program (LMU) in Flint.

Zeldes says, “The film will capture the students as they engage with the community and with residents devastated by the lead water crisis.”

The inspiration for the film, Zeldes said, came from it being a “unique opportunity to bear witness to MSU students who are on the ground and fulfilling our university’s land grant mission to serve Michigan’s vulnerable populations.”

This story hits home for Zeldes. As a Flint native, she exclaimed that Flint isn’t just a place that’s home to her family, it’s a place “rich in storytellers.”

Some of the students who will be featured in the film were discovered on a “Windshield Tour,” a bus tour of Flint narrated by a Flint local. The film crew was present, making it easier to observe and gauge interest in the opportunity. Three LMU students were chosen based on their charisma, recommendation and the interest they expressed in the film project.

The documentary will consist of sit-down interviews of LMU students, Flint residents and MSU faculty and staff. Additionally, the documentary will include footage of students in action with accompanying interviews.

Although the LMU students will be in the film, they will also be asked to keep a weekly video diary to keep track of their experiences and to learn some film production skills.

Zeldes said the biggest challenge in making the film has been distance since the travel time to Flint has to be worth it to cover the expense. To help fund the project, Zeldes said she will be “pitching units and organizations to help defray production costs.”

Zeldes hopes the documentary will reach a general audience interested in the subject of the film.

“I want to document this part of Flint’s history, and I hope the film will move its viewers,” she said.

Student shares ‘Faces of Flint’ portraits at Mid-SURE

August 17th, 2016

Over the last year, the Flint Water Crisis has gained national news attention. And while much is known about the government missteps that led to the contamination of Flint’s public water supply, how much is actually known about the families and residents of Flint whose lives have been affected by the crisis?

Journalism student Hannah Brenner used her talents as an aspiring photojournalist to capture the people of Flint’s stories in a way that the news has not.

She took portraits of people at various locations in the Flint area, including the Brennan Senior Center. Her portraits are a part of the “Faces of Flint” series by WKAR and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

“The goal was to capture these people’s’ spirits and show them as not just victims of the water crisis but individuals,” Brenner said.

Brenner recently shared her portraits at the Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences (Mid-SURE), which took place in July at Spartan Stadium. The symposium offers students from MSU and other institutions the opportunity to present their work to peers and faculty.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Brenner said. “Many people stopped and asked questions about the subjects of my photos. That was the goal for me, to not present on the water crisis but the people affected.”

Looking ahead, Brenner said she is far from finished with the people of Flint. She has plans to return to the senior center to visit with the seniors again.

“I am very taken with the seniors there and I want to expand on that part of the project,” said Brenner. “I will also be expanding my networks and trying to reach more residents to profile.”

To find out more about the “Faces of Flint” series, click here.

Internship at CONAN leads journalism junior to dream internship at Jimmy Fallon

April 7th, 2016

Emma-Jean Bedford - Production Intern at CONAN 2015 Pic 1 2 PrintCalifornia native Emma-Jean Bedford dreams of being a producer at a late night show one day. The journalism junior has already landed two production internships, one at CONAN in Los Angeles last summer, and the second working on the set of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon in New York City this summer.

Bedford got her start in broadcasting in high school. She worked her way through reporting and directing before she started producing. When she came to MSU, she decided entertainment news was a better fit for her outgoing personality.

“Entertainment news is fun and we still get a point across,” she said.

As a production intern at CONAN, Bedford helped with everything from researching guests to preparing the stage for rehearsals. She learned about all the pieces that go on behind the scenes in order to put a show together as one cohesive unit.

Her most memorable time on-the-job was the two weeks the show moved to San Diego for Comic-Con. Bedford was promoted to production assistant and got to take on more responsibility.

“We basically had to move the entire production to another city,” Bedford said. She made decisions about the layout of the studio, like choosing Conan’s dressing room and designing the route guests would take to the stage.

“I was really excited. I had the opportunity to voice my input and they listened,” she said.

Bedford said her experience at CONAN helped her get the internship with Jimmy Fallon this summer.

As a freshman at MSU, Bedford had been watching every late night video she could find on YouTube. She tracked down an intern who appeared in a video with Conan and reached out to him over email. She told him how much she wanted to work for Jimmy Fallon and asked him how he got an internship in late night television.

Through a Facebook friend, she later got in touch with an MSU alumnus who interned with Conan. The former Spartan told Bedford that Conan’s internship supervisor was also a Michigan State alumnus. Because of her work experiences, Bedford got the job.

Then, while she was working at CONAN, the intern she found through YouTube came to visit her with good news: he had just been hired as a script assistant at Jimmy Fallon.

“I just kept in touch with him and said, ‘hey, I wanted to let you know I submitted my application for Jimmy Fallon,’” Bedford said. The folks she worked with at CONAN also helped her send her resume over to Jimmy Fallon. After a few rounds of interviews, Bedford found out she got the job.

“I would not have secured these two internships if I didn’t come to Michigan State,” Bedford said. “If it wasn’t for the people here that believe in me and encourage me to do what they believe I can do, I don’t know where I would be.”

In connection with her internships, Bedford received the Adrienne M. Johns Communication Arts and Sciences Internship Award and the Bonnie Bucqueroux Memorial Fund Scholarship.

Bedford offered up some advice for her fellow ComArtSci students who are looking for work experiences: network.

“You need to make sure they know who you are,” she said. She also encouraged students to use the resources available to them, like career advising in room 181 ComArtSci.

She also said it’s important to be willing to try anything.

“Always commit and if you have a question later, figure it out,” she said.

By Kelsey Block

Storytelling Through Photography | The Lansing State Journal

March 4th, 2016

Lansing Art Gallery is pleased to present Storytelling Through Photography: The Lansing State Journal, an exhibition of award winning photography from the archives of the LSJ.

Lansing State Journal says, “For over 150 years the Lansing State Journal has been an integral part of the fabric of the Greater Lansing community. We’ve reported on the stories that matter most to our readers; telling the stories of the residents who have lived, worked and raised their families in the region. One way we can tell those stories is through the photos that our talented team of photojournalists take to commemorate important events and slices of the lives of Greater Lansing residents. These photos can often evoke powerful emotion, from intense sorrow to exuberant joy.

In each instance our photographs are recording the history of our local communities in a way that enhances our understanding of humanity. We have gone back through our more recent archives of photos from our history and have selected those that represent important moments in the journalistic history of the Lansing State Journal. Each of the photos have been recognized at the local, state or national level as award-winning examples of photo journalism and we hope that viewers will be able to appreciate the talents of our photojournalists not merely as reporters, but also as artists.”

March 4 – March 24
Reception: March 4, 6 – 8 p.m.

Learning from the Past: What Yesterday’s Media Can Tell Us About the Times

January 5th, 2016

If you want to get a real feel for what was happening during a certain period in history, how people really felt about the issues of the day, take a look at the media coverage.

For example, a recent study of how historically black newspapers covered the landmark 1967 Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage, Loving v. Virginia, found their coverage not that much different from their mainstream counterparts.

The team of researchers, including Associate Professor of Journalism Geri Alumit Zeldes, was surprised by the findings, as they hypothesized that black newspapers would be more sympathetic to the racially mixed couple who challenged the Virginia law.

Historically, Zeldes said, the African-American press is an advocate for civil rights.

“Just knowing how the ethnic press operates, we though they were going to be very one-sided in favor of the Lovings,” she said. “But they followed the same pattern as the mainstream media such as the New York Times and others.”

Zeldes said one of the lessons learned from this, something that hasn’t changed since the first newspaper was printed, is that news is a cultural mirror of what is going on in society at that point in time.

“If you take a look at the newspapers at the time they were published, they will give you hints as to what the times were like,” she said. “So, if we look at the black press at that time period, you can get a sense of what the black community was thinking because those reporters were part of that community.”

Zeldes said that by reviewing the newspapers’ stances on the issue, it gives us a clue to the political and cultural mood of the time.

“It indicates,” she said, “that some segments of society in the late 1960s were ready to lessen social and cultural marriage restrictions, but that other groups in the United States were still undecided.”

As today’s journalists report on civil rights issues – namely same-sex marriage, racial equality and economic injustice – they should keep in mind that they are historians, Zeldes said.

“Fifty years from now, media scholars will unearth news stories to deconstruct them, aiming to learn about public opinion during that time,” she said. “In that sense, journalists need to approach their stories as living documents, perhaps by providing voice to not just one side, but the multiple sides operating in these complex issues.”

Details of the research were published in the Journal of Social Issues.

The study was led by Jennifer Ware, a former MSU School of Journalism faculty member who now is an Assistant Professor of Multimedia at Wright State University. The third co-author was Jennifer Hoewe, Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Alabama.

Michigan State UniversityCollege of Communication Arts and Sciences


MSU Media Sandbox is a creative CURRICULUM and COMMUNITY in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at Michigan State University.