Comm students tour PA Media Group studios

By Michael Lear-Olimpi

Assistant Professor of Communications, and Knightly News Co-Adviser and Editor

Communications students recently toured PA Media Group’s Penn Studios.

On the tour, director Salim Michel Makhlouf showed off and explained the outfit’s high-tech video studios and their capabilities.

One large room, the studio in which most video productions are created, looked very much the part, even though technology has shrunk the size of cameras, and added advanced display monitors and computers.

Green screen

The all-black-interior studio sports sleek sound-tight walls, floors and ceiling. It features an enormous green screen, a background that allows video effects such as displays of maps and graphics.

“As you can see, this is an infinity green screen,” Makhlouf told the Central Penn visitors who were from Professor Paul Miller’s Media Writing class. Miller and Assistant Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi, who also was in attendance, are co-advisers of The Knightly News Media Club.

“Infinity” means the screen’s a bit like an infinity exercise pool in that the screen’s edges and corners are smooth––rounded over––such as at corners where walls meet, so those features won’t show up in a video. Makhlouf told the visitors that this can now be done with apps.

“Who knows what else the future will bring?” he said of video technology.

Makhlouf shows off the green screen in one of the workspaces at Penn Studios. Photo by Michael Lear-Olimpi.

Right down the road

The studio is in the basement of the facility––which is off of Technology Way in Hampden Township, about five miles from Central Penn––where The Patriot-News is printed and PennLive is produced. Penn Studios produces news, features and special productions such as short documentaries for use on PennLive and throughout the extensive online network of Advance, which owns

Makhlouf and Penn Studios associates have been working on “Cheers PA!” a series of features on Pennsylvania breweries and wineries across the commonwealth, and interesting spots tourists and locals can explore near them.

Earlier this year, Corporate Communications major Jenelle Dulack, president of The Knightly News Media Club, completed an internship at Penn Studios, where she pitched in on the production of some of the spots.

Dulack also finished a video while at Penn Studios on local drag queen entertainer and person-about-town Betty Whitecastle. The short documentary appeared on PennLive. You can see it on Jen’s blog.

Pandemic schedule

The facilities––The Patriot and PennLive newsroom on the first floor, offices, the studios in the basement, conferences rooms, the warehouse where the printed newspaper is put together and packaged for delivery, and office space near the studios––were empty, except for the small tour group, and a Patriot reporter.

“We’re still on a pandemic schedule,” Makhlouf said, explaining that reporters, directors, reporters, ad-sales people and the rest of the PA Media Group in the Harrisburg area continue to work mainly from home.

For example, police reporter Jenna Wise was in the newsroom working on a notebook computer. Wise visited Lear-Olimpi’s newsroom at the beginning of the summer term to speak to students in his public-affairs reporting class about crime reporting.

“I’m following up on a homicide in Harrisburg last night,” Wise said.

News never stops.

Press room

Makhlouf took the small troop through the press room, where the presses stretch like a giant blue serpent through the warehouse-like enclosure. On a wall opposite the giant machine 4-foot-tall rolls of paper resting on their side waited to be loaded onto the presses to print The Patriot News for Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday distribution throughout the metropolitan area.

The rolls of newsprint weigh a ton. Makhlouf directed the students’ and professors’ attention to a section of cinder-block wall behind them that had obviously been recently repaired––the white paint brighter and slicker looking than the paint around it, and the blocks recessed a bit beyond where the outer edges of their companions stopped.

“A roll was being moved, and slipped; it hit the wall,” Makhlouf said.

No other words were needed.

Future internship opportunities

Miller and Lear-Olimpi thanked Makhlouf––who provided students with his business card––and said they hope the Communications Program can continue working with Penn Studios by having COM students complete internships there, and build video and audio skills needed to combine with writing for journalism, public relations, documentary and other communications jobs they land after graduating.

Makhlouf said to send names his way.

Comment or story idea? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.