Tune in, turn on, but don’t drop out when Trojan Vision — USC’s student-operated television station — returns to the air on Monday.
“Trojan Vision is completely student run, student created,” General Manager Harrison Merkt said. “We basically have a network that we are all interested in and we hope that our interests are reflective of USC students … Trojan Vision is really a way to get their opinions out on the air, create something and influence other students and get their voices heard.”
The network is made up of several different shows — whether it’s the cooking program, Delish, or the stage show, Mind Game, some will be returning from last semester and others will be brand new.
One show that will be returning is The Morning Brew, a daily morning show that Executive Producer Vanessa Gomez said involves everything from host banter to on-campus correspondence to guest segments — basically anything one would see on The Today Show or Good Morning America.
“[Students] should tune into The Morning Brew because it’s geared toward the students and the content is more age appropriate,” Gomez said. “On the other side of things, we do talk about entertainment news for anything in the world, but we give it a college student perspective. You aren’t listening to someone in their 30s giving their opinion.”
In addition to relating more to the host because of the similarity in age, the program seeks to connect even more with their audience by introducing live tweeting throughout the show to give viewers the opportunity to interact with the host and get their opinions on the show.
“We actually have a social media person on The Morning Brew team who is basically in charge of that,” Gomez said. “We have a lot of followers on our Facebook page, and we’re going to try to get people to follow us on Twitter … I know that TV as a whole is hoping to promote more viewership with the students — really just trying to get the students more involved, word-of-mouth, social media.”
Another interesting feature of the network is a show called The Flagship, a nightly, 30-minute interview talk show with guests ranging from those with backgrounds in entertainment and music to authors and entrepreneurs. The show returns Monday with Jeffrey Hornaday, a choreographer known for working with many of Hollywood’s top-billed actors and directors.
George Wasserman, a junior majoring in communication and executive producer of CU@USC, said his goal this semester is to bring in even bigger names to get students interested in coming in and being a studio audience member. Wasserman said many of the network’s most famous guests have appeared on CU@USC, Trojan Vision’s oldest show that has been running for 16 years.
“It is the most professional college television show in the nation by far,” he said. “No one is doing what we are doing — spitting out five nights a week with professionals. We’ve had people like George Lucas, Patrick Stewart. Last semester we had Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dennis Mukwege. We’ve had Anderson Cooper, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. We bring in big names and we’re completely student-run and we have the ability to pull in people that no other college in the nation can pull.”
Merkt said that one of the reasons they are able to attract so many guests is through alumni.
“The USC network is pretty incredible,” Merkt said. “It’s really a USC family — people are always wanting to give back and support this group. For example, we had Jason Segel on as an interviewer, and the reason we got him was through one of the USC classes called the film symposium.”
Though it might be challenging to run a television network while keeping up with the responsibilities of being a college student, Trojan Vision shows no signs of slowing down.
“We’re growing as a station — we have more managers working than ever and our class continues to grow,” Merkt said. “I think right now we have the most programming on air than we ever have before. I think we have been improving and we continue to grow, and more and more people come with really great ideas.”
One of the advantages to working for Trojan Vision is that anyone of any grade level can move up in the ranks and take on a leadership role.
“Last semester, one of our brand new shows was called Countdown,” Merkt said, “Two sophomores … they have this amazing show. They created a pilot and everything. Theirs was best among the others. They did a great job on it, and now it’s coming back this semester … It doesn’t matter what year you are. They’re in charge of 50 plus students who were on their team.”
Though the constantly fluctuating staff can be challenging at times, Gomez said the changes overall proves advantageous by bringing a new energy every semester.
“It does also have its negatives, because especially as a showrunner, you want to take your show to the next level, but you have new producers coming in each semester,” Gomez said. “But in the same way, it’s a fun experience because you’re teaching a new set of producers. Another positive is that even though you get a new set of producers, your old producers from the previous semesters come back and help with the show, and help you grow it to where you want it to go.”
To promote student involvement, Merkt said they are putting on two main events: a party at Tommy’s Place with a live band to kick off the new season, and an open mic night with student performances at the station. The open mic night is tonight at 7:30 p.m. and the party at Tommy’s Place will take place Saturday at 9:30 p.m.
Gomez said students don’t have to be in a particular class or position to participate in the process, and getting involved means any number of things.
“We have encouraged every student to try and get involved, be it a producing spot or just tuning in for a half hour a day,” Gomez said. “We really do want to hear from the students … If you are not happy with what you see on Trojan Vision, then let us know, because the student opinion is what we really want. We want the shows to be interesting and if they have any suggestions, anything that they’d want to see, then give us the idea, because we really do care.”