Communication Students Get Best of Both Worlds with WSU-Bates Agreement

TACOMA, Wash. — Students at Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow School of Communication will soon get live, on-air experience in the nation’s 12th largest media market, access to Bates Technical College facilities and faculty in Tacoma, and develop joint local television productions.

The cooperative agreement between both institutions will be signed in Tacoma on Friday, June 30, by WSU President Emeritus Sam Smith and Bates President Bill Mohler. Through the new partnership, Bates students will be able to access the expertise of Murrow School students and faculty, and have the ability to take WSU courses in Tacoma.

WSU and Bates communication students will hone their broadcasting knowledge in the studios of KBTC-TV and KBTC 91.7 FM. The station is licensed to Bates Technical College and is one of just three stations in the nation where students can get on-air experience at a fully functioning, state-of-the-art PBS television station.

The Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at WSU now provides the state’s only comprehensive communication program. Considered one of the nation’s premier communication schools, the Murrow School’s broadcasting program is ranked fourth nationally by the Radio and Television News Directors Association.

“This is a beautiful collaboration,” said Willie Kelley, Bates College audio and sound instructor. “It gives all students a chance to work together and create a total professional environment. Everybody can do what they do best, and we all can learn from each other.”

“The agreement between Bates and WSU is a significant step in the Murrow School’s efforts to develop partnerships with institutions that share our vision — of educating communications professionals who exemplify the highest ethical standards in the industry,” said Alex Tan, Murrow School director and professor.

“Murrow School faculty and students will work cooperatively with their Bates colleagues to develop responsible and informative television programming for a major metropolitan market,” Tan said. “This is a unique opportunity for both our institutions, and we look forward to the partnership.”

The Bates president agrees. “We will add depth to both programs, and students from both colleges will benefit. WSU students will bring expertise in journalism, advertising, broadcasting, public relations and communications, while Bates students bring technical skills in engineering, operations, broadcasting, audio and sound,” he said. “Then, as we add new programs in digital technology, we’ll really see training opportunities expand. It’s all very exciting.”

The programs will be housed at a newly acquired television station to be named after the Bates College president. The College’s Board of Trustees voted June 21 to rename the building at 2320 S. 19th in Tacoma — formerly owned by KSTW — the William P. Mohler Multimedia and Business Campus of Bates Technical College.

Bates will purchase the building for $5.3 million, with $3.9 million coming from a state-approved sale of bonds. The remaining $1.4 million will come from reserve college funds. The 48,000-square-foot facility sits on 9.41 acres, and includes two fully functional studios, a transmitting tower and satellite dishes. Bates is buying a turn-key facility with equipment worth $2-$4 million.

KBTC-TV broadcasts from Everett south to Vancouver. It is the third largest provider of long-distance education in the nation, and devotes 23 percent of its broadcast schedule to educational programs. Those programs support students enrolled in distance education courses at 18 western Washington colleges.

As additional funds are secured, Bates will offer new career training programs to meet accelerating demands for professionals in the digital industry, including multimedia technologies, digital broadcast and network engineering, and multimedia journalism to name only a few, Mohler said.