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WCCO's Collin visits WHS broadcasting class

Laura Grevas/Daily Globe WCCO anchor Liz Collin, a 2000 graduate of Worthington High School, speaks to the Trojan News and Trojan Online classes about her career in broadcast journalism.

WORTHINGTON -- In high school, WCCO anchor-reporter Liz Collin logged quite a few hours in the same seats as the students she spoke with during a visit to the Trojan Online and Trojan News classes.

"I took Trojan News 300 times," joked the Worthington native turned award-winning journalist during a visit to Worthington High School Tuesday.

Collin brought along some friends from the station: reporter John Lauritsen, photographers Carly Danek and Chris Cruz and communications coordinator Kari Nolan.

"College is very important, but in TV it's really great to just get your foot in the door," Collin advised. "That's where I really got the best experience."

She began her career as a teen, running commercial breaks for a Worthington radio station before moving to Florida, where she graduated from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 2001. Following stints at KDLT in Sioux Falls, S.D., and stations in Kansas and Pennsylvania, she returned to Minnesota in 2008 after landing a job at Minneapolis-based WCCO.

Collin detailed a typical day: meeting with producers in the early afternoon and determining the newscast's top stories, going on location with photographers to conduct interviews, reviewing sound bites and translating them into a script, and working with photographers to set that script to video and audio -- all before the 10 o'clock news.

Students wanted to know about her schooling, career goals and how she handled "news fights" with station managers.

Disagreements about news content happen "all the time," the group said.

"I think if you're passionate about something and they see that, they'll let you slide a little bit," said Collin, who has certainly found her passion in reporting.

"If this is something you want to do, it's really fun. You know that you're doing the right thing when you don't feel like you're going to work," she said.

Her least favorite part?

"I've really never been into makeup and hair and I didn't really realize how important that is to people. ... I don't like the cosmetic part about my job. I really just like going out and meeting people and telling stories."

The job has a few other drawbacks, too: editing video in a time crunch or interviewing grieving folks or others who don't want to talk.

"Were used to getting yelled at, chased out of places," said Danek, the photographer.

"I was chased out with a broom one time," recalled Collin. "Stories like that are so horrible, but you have to separate yourself from it," and be respectful, she told the students.

The group stressed the importance of teamwork and communication, especially between reporters and photographers.

"When you do a story, you've got to talk to the photographer, because they're the ones that edit it," Lauritsen said. "You don't want to write them into a corner."

The reporters recalled their time as "one-man band" or "backpack journalists," when they both reported and shot video for their stories.

"I broke three cameras in the course of my year and a half (at KSFY)," Collin said with a laugh. "One time a camera fell in a pool."

The group also reflected on changes in the industry: new technology has made for faster editing of video, blogging reporters and more interaction with viewers; but has also resulted in positions being cut as people are replaced by machines.

The Trojan News class has been around since 1997, offering students a taste of the television production process.

"We try to mimic the real- life broadcast industry," said teacher Kris Besel. She said students are able to try anchoring and digital video editing and learn to operate the cameras, sound board and teleprompter.

The small class produces a weekly, half-hour newscast that is viewed within the high school and broadcast on Cable Channel 3.

The class may be taken multiple times for elective credit, and has also worked as a good collaboration with the cable station, Besel said.

"I hope that they learn they're telling a story," she added. "Some of them think you just have to get some funny video and you're done. But it's journalism. This is a story in video form."