By Kayleigh Webb
It’s 3:30pm on a Wednesday afternoon, and sitting confidently in the control room of the Student Media Center behind a computer editing video is Stewart Pirani. Pirani, an Ole Miss junior pursing a degree in broadcast journalism and a minor in cinema studies, is the manager for NewsWatch, a live, student-run news program that airs on channel 99 at 5 p.m. on weekdays.
His love of television and producing started earlier. It began in high school, where Pirani took a class in television production. The class emphasized producing a live news program.
“I got there on the first day and I walked into the studio and the control room,” Pirani said. “I saw everything: the technology, the lights, the buttons, the monitors. I just knew that what I wanted to do for the rest of my life was television.”
After four years of the class, Pirani had his sights set on Ole Miss because of the broadcast journalism program.
Pirani began working in the Student Media Center at Ole Miss during his freshman year. His first projects were with Chatterbox, a comedy show that was produced in the media center studio.
“It helped me step my foot into NewsWatch,” Pirani said. “I started doing it that second semester my freshman year and I’ve not left since.”
Pirani first worked as the technical director of NewsWatch. Now as station manager, Pirani oversees five student employees who work each day, as well as about 30 students who work one day each week anchoring news and weather and sports and more.
Pirani has made quite a few changes around the NewsWatch studio. It started during his sophomore year, when he and his father built a new set for NewWatch. The set was designed by Pirani, as well as the red and blue murals that make up the backdrop to the set. A matching interview set soon followed to make the whole studio look uniform. This year, the SMC purchased equipment for NewsWatch from the Athletics Department. Over the Christmas break, Pirani helped install the new equipment and a high-definition playback system.
“Our cameras are still standard definition, but we’ll work on that,” Pirani added with a chuckle.
Balancing NewsWatch with academics was not always easy.
“It was really hard the first two years.” Pirani said.
As station manager, Pirani knew that he would have to devote more time to NewsWatch and he planned his schedule accordingly. Pirani made sure to schedule his classes in the mornings and leave his afternoons open for NewsWatch work.
One of Pirani’s professors is Deb Wenger, who teaches Journalism 480: Advanced TV Reporting.
“He is one of the strongest visual story tellers and editors that I have in the class, “ Wenger said. “He is very technically savvy. If it’s technology, Stewart is able to figure it out.”
Pirani’s achievements are not limited to the studio at NewsWatch. At the 2012 Southeastern Journalism Conference, Pirani received 2nd place in Radio News Reporting, which was a big deal for Pirani because he had little experience with radio reporting. That year, the Student Media Center won the Grand Champions title.
In the summer of 2012, Pirani was given the opportunity to intern at NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. His duties included daily work for Nightly News as well as working with producers and even anchor Brian Williams. Pirani fondly recalled running around 30 Rock with scripts and rundowns and meeting all of the people who worked there.
“It’s an experience I’ll never forget.” Pirani said. “I lived in New York for eight weeks and I still can’t believe I was there.”
Pirani was also selected this past spring to work for Cable Sports South (CSS) on signing day, the biggest football recruiting day for college athletes.
“He’s a student,” said Wenger, “but his skills are such that professional news organizations or sports organizations look at him like someone who is capable of handling a professional level of coverage.”
Wenger said that Pirani will succeed because “his passion for journalism and in particular in technology and TV production make him a rare individual.”
After graduation, Pirani plans to pursue a career as a director or producer. He would be happy in either role.
“I love producing videos that entertain people, so that’s what I want to do when I graduate.”
Kayleigh Webb is a junior English major from Purvis, Miss.