Tiger Media aims for awareness
By ELIZABETH GOLDEN
Todd Elsen studied history. James Bell studied political science. Both have a passion for journalism.
Elsen is serving as the first executive producer of the Tiger Media Network at Fort Hays State University, while Bell, a former employee of the University Leader, is serving as news director.
After receiving his undergraduate degree and working in restaurant management, Bell decided he wanted to return to school for his graduate degree with the intention of working for the Leader.
"I interviewed for a couple jobs," Bell said. "Then they shut down the Leader. I immediately jumped on board with TMN."
TMN officially began in August 2013 as FHSU's convergent media hub, incorporating Web, video, radio and print news formats.
"I spent the last year working with them and watching the organization grow in this cool model of convergent media," Bell said. "But I'm not smashing someone's old traditional journalism systems. It's going to be a little bit of figuring it all out."
The Leader was pulled out of the journalism department in 2005, and began receiving funding through the Student Government Association.
"Without being in the department, the Leader got involved in questionable content because of very little faculty oversight," Bell said. "The funding was cut three years ago; they went online for a year and we picked back up at the beginning of this year. There was confusion in the transition. We had to teach guys from scratch how to write news."
In April, former President Edward Hammond approved the addition of FUNN.
Fund for University News Network raises tuition by $1 per credit hour for the 2015 fiscal year, and all revenue is used to support TMN.
Bell said Hammond had the goal of transforming TMN into a regional media organization.
"I think we're going to get to the goal," Bell said. "It might take a little longer, even though we want to be at the end goal now. As we build the program, it's going to snowball. More people will be interested; we will be able to recruit more people and increase our coverage."
Currently, TMN has approximately 40 student employees, along with Bell and Elsen as the only full-time employees.
"We've doubled our student staff," Bell said. "This is a much bigger organization and should be a lot less stressful."
In order to fulfill Hammond's goal, Elsen was selected as the first executive producer for TMN.
Bell is employed on a year-long contract, and plans to help the organization while pursuing his personal goal of working in political communications.
"I'm not going to limit myself and cut off opportunities," he said. "They may decide my job doesn't need to exist next year, and that's fine. I will help in whatever role they need me. I'll be here as long as they would like. Journalism is hard for me to get away from, because if you're a journalist, you just know that's what you're meant to do."
Elsen graduated from FHSU in 1993 after spending part of his undergraduate career studying history.
"I quickly found out that wasn't what I really wanted to do," he said. "So, I decided to work in radio, but as an undergraduate, I saw the struggles trying to get a radio station at FHSU. As an alum, I saw great opportunity for what they were trying to do, combining everything."
Elsen worked at various radio stations before deciding to go to graduate school and pursue teaching.
"Teaching has gotten into my blood," he said. "It's something I've always wanted to do, so I can create students that can be ready to go out into the world and show how good of an education students receive from FHSU. This is my alma mater, and this place is really important to me."
In his role, Elsen will focus on raising awareness of TMN to the student body.
"I'm focusing mainly on advertising and public relations," he said. "We need to get sales, so we can generate revenue, and we also need to get TMN known on campus. Letting students know we are here as a voice is the first step."
In the future, Elsen hopes to fulfill Hammond's goal of creating a regional news network.
"That's the long-term goal," he said. "Year one is getting us known on campus and getting people on campus involved. I'm really excited to be the first executive producer, and help guide them toward the big goal."