Access to the area of the Reading Room and front office on the first floor of the University of Miami School of Communication (SOC) was cut off early last week as the space was cleared for an ambitious project that will be available to students as soon as fall 2016: the Koenigsberg & Nadal Interactive Media Center (IMC).
The project will transform what the school considered to be an outdated working space and computer lab into a modern, digital co-working space that will house a live broadcasting studio, computer stations, work pods and a full-service, student-run agency.
The IMC came about as an initiative to address both the needs of students and the community. In recent years, the School of Communication has made several moves to adapt to the changing tides of the business, such as departmentalizing programs, changing curriculum, investing in cutting-edge technology and recruiting experienced faculty and adjunct professors. However, the challenge of connecting students to clients who contact the SOC has been an unanswered one, one that the center will take care of.
According to Samuel Terilli, chair of the Journalism and Media Management Department, he receives e-mails and phone calls several times a week from people looking for students to work for them. Oftentimes, these phone calls and e-mails are from people looking for students to work for free.
“One of the reasons I love it, one of several, is I can say, ‘Well and have I got a wonderful opportunity for you. Contact so-and-so here and they’ll give you their rate schedule,’” Terilli said.
Students who work in the agency – from all different courses of study in the SOC – will have standardized rate sheets to give to clients, establishing a professional precedent for their work. Some students will be compensated and others will receive internship credit for working in the agency.
Although students will charge for their work, this center will not be a for-profit venture, Terilli said.
“The idea is that the center, if we’re lucky, will cover its costs and maybe benefit the students that are participating,” he said. “We’re not going into the advertising agency business and competing with agencies. Obviously no university is equipped to do that.”
The benefit for those students who work in the agency will be something both Terilli and Senior Development Director Brian Weinblatt said is crucial when entering the workforce: hands-on experience.
“In journalism, in broadcast journalism, in many fields like that, it’s not just grades; it’s what you can do, it’s your experience … Working in something like the Interactive Media Center can really make the difference between just a pretty transcript and a really powerful portfolio,” Terilli said.
One of the goals for the SOC moving forward is offering students not just active experience, but also a broad base of knowledge. Convergence journalism, the combination of multiple forms of journalism, has become a buzzword in journalistic academia because of the evolution of journalism with the Internet and technology, but Terilli said this is not a new concept.
“Yes, of course, everybody knows that video and photography and audio and writing, they’re all coming together on this wonderful new thing that we just happen to call the Internet, that’s been around for more than a couple of decades,” he said.
A more pressing kind of convergence, he said, is the merging of business interests. For example, the ties and codependency of journalism and advertising. Although in the earlier days of journalism up until recently, there was believed to be a strong “wall” between the editorial and advertisement worlds.
“Coming from that world, I can tell you that the height and width of that wall was greatly exaggerated … The health of the news operation was always dependent on the health of the advertisement operation,” Terilli said.
A space like the IMC will allow journalism students, advertising students and their peers from virtually every other field within the SOC to collaborate and come up with more creative solutions and ideas, benefitting both them and clients, according to Weinblatt.
“Anything from video production at an event to a documentary film made, a traditional ad or PR campaign, a game developed, an app developed, a website developed, anything that the students will be able to handle,” Weinblatt said of the variety of services clients will have access to.
Overseeing the work of the students will be a faculty advisor who will serve as the CEO of the agency and the quality controller. The faculty member who will fill this position has not yet been named.
The IMC will house the agency, but Weinblatt said the space will still be open to all SOC students.
According to Weinblatt, the center was the vision of SOC Dean Gregory Shepherd, and a number of donors saw the potential, as well.
“We have really been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of a number of donors to the project,” he said.
The project’s cost is in the range of $2-2.5 million, with approximately $2 million for construction of the space and half a million for an endowment to support the activities of the space, including the additional wages for the faculty advisor.
The center will be home to an open, newsroom-style studio that will connect directly to Studio B, where University of Miami Television films. It will also have several large touch screens along the edge, computers equipped with editing software, an enclosed working space and new furnishings. The center’s plan was designed by G. Alvarez Studio, an award-winning interior architecture and design firm that specializes in collaborative spaces.
The IMC was named after two lead donors, Bill Koenigsberg and Miles Nadal. Koenigsberg graduated from the UM School of Business and is the founder and CEO of Horizon Media, a New York-based independent media services company. His son graduated from the SOC a year ago.
In July 2015, Nadal stepped down and retired as C.E.O. of MDC Partners, a large conglomerate of advertising agencies, during an investigation into his expenses, although he and his spokesperson did not connect the retirement to the investigation. His daughter is a student in the SOC.
At the time, the spokesperson said Nadal “plans to focus on his family and spend time on his philanthropic endeavors and other business interests.”
Apart from Koenigsberg and Nadal, a number of parents, alumni and friends of the school made donations. Weinblatt said the school surpassed its original fundraising goal and is now pushing toward a “stretch goal.”
He specifically pointed out how several donors were either first-time donors or made more sizable gifts to the SOC than they had previously. Most of the donations were pledges to be paid off over a period of four or five years, according to Weinblatt. These donors will be honored on a “prominent” donor wall in the center.
“It’s something I hope that’s not lost on the students, too, as they graduate and go on and become successful; they know that their space and their experiences here were supported by philanthropic individuals and hopefully, when they can, they will be supportive of the school as well,” he said.
The center will open after a formal dedication ceremony on Friday, Oct. 7.