A disgruntled ex-pro wrestler is an unfriendly sight for just about anyone. But imagine you’re a novice student television reporter, and you’re about to interview The Rock.
LSA sophomore Kaitlin Urka, the director of “Entertainment Buzz” on WOLV-TV – the University’s student-run television station – recently found herself staring down the newfound movie star.
“Apparently he was told that this was my first celebrity interview, so he ignored me and was stone-cold for the first minute – he gave me horrible one-word answers,” Urka said. “Then he burst into laughter and told me he was kidding. He ended up being one of my best interviews.”
Such big-name stars are just a part of WOLV-TV’s expansion in recent months. The channel, now in its 13th year, broadcasts in all University buildings and residence halls. The network claims 96 percent of students in the residence halls watch WOLV each week. Programming is broadcast each night on the University’s cable station (Comcast channel 22), which has potential viewership of more than 76,000 households.
While WOLV runs several sports and news programs, Urka also works exclusively in entertainment. Their flagship show, “E-Buzz,” shorthand for “Entertainment Buzz,” tapes once a week and airs Thursday through Sunday at 11:30p.m. The show features Hollywood news, movie reviews and pop-culture events, including an occasional segment of a movie roundtable featuring The Michigan Daily’s film writers.
“We do a range of celebrity interviews, from Will Smith to the cast of ‘Reno 911!’ We also focus a lot on all types of local entertainment,” Urka said.
She added that the show will next feature coverage of “Michigan Idol,” the University-sponsored competition where the victorious performer can win $500.
Pablo Schott, the host of the film segment “Box Office Buzz,” said the network’s growth has trickled down even into his own smaller chunk of airtime.
“In the beginning we only talked about the past weekend’s box office and the upcoming films for the next,” Schott said. “Now it is a broader spectrum of actors and directors. It’s more democratic, and we feel out how students feel and how movies affect college students.”
While both Schott and Urka had previous interest communications, they said they discovered their calling in television at WOLV-TV. A film professor referred Schott to the station, while a WOLV representative recruited Urka when he came to her introductory communications class to advertise.
Although they can log 20 hours a week at the station, both Urka and Schott said the WOLV’s group dynamic make the station worth the time.
“There is definitely a lot of camaraderie. It’s as if we’re a band,” Schott said. “We hang out outside of set. We are always playing off each other. Before I go on, me and (a coworker) will do a little freestyle.”
Added Urka: “It brings together so many different walks of life to produce this show. We also do social outings or watch movies together.”
The station requires no prior experience and involvement varies by student. The station hosts “WOLV Pitch Night” at the beginning of each semester where anyone can pitch new shows. These ideas are then evaluated by the Executive Board and potentially implemented.
This spirit of growth has helped WOLV achieve newfound success. At the beginning of the semester, the Open Student Television Network selected content from WOLV to stream on the Web and across campuses all over the nation.
WOLV has also produced five-episode drama series now in post-production. “Entertainment Buzz” is will also expand its music coverage.
“How I’d like to see us is as an elite group for student television, contending for programs on major networks and recognized by major media outlets,” Schott said. “We already have instant name recognition, so some real relationships with outlets could make us almost a feeder for jobs in the industry, similar to the University of Southern California.”
They aren’t kidding: In 10 years, look for Kaitlin Urka the ESPN anchor and for Pablo Schott to “be the next John Stewart in 10 to 15 years.” Big goals, but for now, both personalities will work to improve WOLV-TV and recruit new students.
“I know I wouldn’t have gotten my start had I not been given a chance,” Urka said. “I want to give other people a shot.”