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Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward NBC senior producer and Tufts graduate Marian Porges discusses her new position -- helping to mold future journalists.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [08.15.08] Far beyond the days of typesetting and stopping the presses, the field of journalism has spent the past decade on a fast track toward the digital age. Tufts graduate Marian Porges (J'82) now finds herself among those helping to clear a path for the future.

Starting this fall, Porges, longtime producer of the NBC News specials unit, will be shaping the minds of future journalists as chair of the New York Film Academy's broadcast journalism program, a new one-year intensive course formed in partnership with NBC.

"The basic goal is to teach students what they need to become a digital journalist, because the way the business is changing, it is no longer a matter of just flipping on the television and watching the news anymore," Porges says. "You can watch the news on your phone or on the Internet, and all of the networks and newspapers are now looking to train people who can do it all."

Officially taking on her role at the beginning of July, Porges says the school is preparing for the wide-range of students who are on board for this pilot program, a mix of undergraduates, journalists from other countries and those looking for a career change.

The program starts out by teaching basic journalistic instincts, or "old journalism," as Porges calls it, then diving into the more technical side.

"Students are provided with cameras and are sent out to shoot their own footage," Porges says. "They then come back make edits and are taught how to transmit their footage to a different platform, whether it is through television, a website or mobile broadcast on your phone, learning all sorts of new media concepts."

Porges adds, "We are teaching people to be digital journalists, but the key word is journalist, because that is an innate calling that people have to want to find stories and be fair, telling the story from both sides."

For Porges, being a journalist was ingrained in her from a young age. She followed in the footsteps of her father, Walter Porges, an ABC producer for nearly 40 years.

"I was brought up in this business, so I have always seen what it does," she says.

As an undergraduate at Tufts, Porges studied political science, taking ExCollege Explorations classes in journalism. After graduation, she went to work for ABC News, where she had been working during her summers. Porges worked for ABC for more than a decade before she began wanting something new.

In December 1995 she became the producer of the specials unit at NBC, which she says was in charge of coverage for both planned and unplanned events, such as plane crashes, war and presidential debates. Over the past decade, Porges has overseen the coverage of the Oklahoma bombing trial, the first and second anniversaries of Sept. 11, the 2000 Republican National Convention, and the death and funeral of Ronald Reagan, for which she won an Emmy.

"I have been able to see history the last number of years," she says. "I spent five weeks in Tallahassee in 2000 on the election we thought would never end and every day we had a court case that we thought would end it. I was there on the night when, after everything that had happened, they announced who would be the president. That's history. It's absolutely incredible."

Looking toward the future, Porges is excited to bestow upon up-and-coming journalists what knowledge she has gained over the past 25 years.

"It is a life-encompassing job, but it has been tremendous," Porges says. "This is paying it forward in my eyes. Someone was kind enough to teach me, and this is the only way our young journalists are going to learn, with us to help them along, keeping the business intact as we head toward leaving it."

 Profile by Kaitlin Melanson, Web Communications

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