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November 2, 2005:

Princeton’s own reality TV

By Jocelyn Hanamirian ’08

Imagine the ultimate in reality TV coming to Princeton, with passing students stopping to talk into an ever-rolling camera stationed outside Frist Campus Center. Such a camera could capture and broadcast everything from the philosophical thoughts of undergraduates returning from an impassioned lecture to humorous stories of an unforgettable night on Prospect Avenue. (The camera would not be live, and its contents would be heavily edited before broadcast.) Working show title: “Yada, yada, yada.”

This is only one of 20 programming ideas for the new student television station, Tigervision. Although the station has yet to go on air and is still in the development stages, president Greg Marx ’07 envisions Tigervision as a new campus media outlet that would reinvigorate student debate, performance, and entertainment.

Last spring, Marx led an initiative for the Princeton Film Foundation to absorb the then-defunct student television station. It was a match made in heaven, as the PFF had long wanted to buy film equipment for the student filmmakers, but had little incentive to do so because there was nowhere for students to showcase their work except minor film festivals. Now the foundation, which sponsors lectures by representatives of the entertainment industry and facilitates internships with the Princeton Entertainment Group in Hollywood, will also act as a production house for Tigervision programming, providing the necessary equipment.

A core team of seven students worked with Marx throughout the summer to get the station organized and field show proposals. An email sent in June announcing the advent of Tigervision provoked 170 eager responses from students hoping to produce, anchor, write, and direct.

From this creative pool, the Tigervision concept expanded from a way to showcase student film to a full media network, broadcasting everything from news and sports to entertainment, reality, drama, cooking, and late-night programming. Shows based on campus publications such as The Daily Princetonian, the Nassau Weekly, and American Foreign Policy magazine would feature student writers on camera, rather than newscasters. That would prevent redundancy, Marx said.

“I think that as far as the news aspect, [Tigervision] has the potential for really offering something that the papers don’t provide, which is a platform for debate,” he said. “When you see the head of the Tory arguing against the editor-in-chief of a much more liberal publication, I think it would be very interesting. A lot of people here do have something to say, and there often aren’t contexts for it. It would be so much more tangible and meaningful than seeing these pundits on Crossfire and watching CNN.”

In a given week, a student watching Tigervision could hope to catch the American Foreign Policy show, featuring debate, opinion segments, and world news, Privia, a trivia show in the style of The Weakest Link, and a comedy show centered on the sprint football team.

Marx’s goal is for Tigervision to go on air this semester, but exactly when depends on funding. Last spring, PFF members worked to raise $10,000 to buy broadcast server. Ideally, Tigervision needs a total of about $100,000 to equip its studios with mobile cameras and editing equipment. Marx’s team is just beginning the second leg of fund raising by sending letters to alumni, the USG projects board, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne, and several academic departments. The PFF has already secured a studio building beyond parking lot 23 on University Place, which P-rides will add as a stop.

Tigervision would be offered through the basic cable package in dorms once it is on the air, and the station team hopes that a TV in Frist would broadcast the station alongside the news programming already offered by the campus center’s TV lounge. The station does not plan to broadcast 24/7, but would fill in segments between primetime hours with simulcast speech footage or taped Triangle and Quipfire shows.

Marx knows that starting and maintaining the station is a huge undertaking.

“It has to be good from the start and look as close to professional TV from the start, because only then will people watch it,” he said, addressing the fact that the former Tigervision went off air because viewership and station support lagged. But with strong programming and an eager group of student staffers, Tigervision could become “the media hub of campus,” Marx said.

Jocelyn Hanamirian ’08 is from Villanova, Pa.