As a student at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, from 1999 – 2001, I became part of an actual television station, WVUA-7, through an exciting Television Production course. The class felt more like a job than a college course; there were no books, homework, or research papers required. Attendance was absolutely mandatory and all students were expected to really put themselves into their tasks. I was honored to be instructed by the late George Katz, a legend at UA and a major figure in the history of television since the 1950’s. Some students found Professor Katz a bit brusque; but I am quite over sensitive and found him to be fair and pleasant. (His obituary may have reported that he lost most of his Boston accent; however, I remember it to have been much thicker than Ted Kennedy’s speech.)
Each class, the students produced either the news or the music show. Each student got to change jobs from class to class; while Professor Katz was always the producer, students could choose to be the director, studio camera person, set and scenery designer, live editing, and on-air interviewing. I usually gravitated to the studio camera, set work, and on-air interviewing. Set work was probably the easiest task; I remember once that placing a large, potted plant was a big part of my job that day. I really enjoyed using the big studio camera. It was so easy to set up a good shot and much more fun to use than a handheld camera. The music show was probably more fun than the news; you never knew what kind of a guest was going to show up, as the students were responsible for recruiting the music talent. The talent for the news consisted of students enrolled in a TV news class at UA. Some already had a “newscaster” voice and on-camera flair; others did not.
I was also helping to do sound for the nearby Theatre Tuscaloosa’s production of “Man of La Mancha” that semester. One week, no one could find a musical guest for the next show. I asked a fellow crew member at Theatre Tuscaloosa, who I had never heard perform, to be the talent. He played “Goober Peas,” a Southern folk song, well, but he only knew the chorus. When interviewed, he answered only with “yes’ or “no.” I was teased about that show for the rest of the semester! The best musical guest was a rap band, whose name is lost to me now, but they really had everyone in the studio, rap fan or not, totally engrossed.
I’d like to report that I was one of the more capable students and went on to a fabulous career in television. However, I am inclined to be truthful. I showed up at every class and tried my best, but Professor Katz awarded me with a B at the end of the semester. I later graduated from UA Huntsville with a BA in English and a minor in Communications, but I will always be glad that I got to be part of the glorious process of television. Dr. Katz helped create a relaxed atmosphere and encouraged every student to do his or her best. He never minded chatting with me and made me feel capable. I feel fortunate to have met him and to have been a part of UA.