By Meredith Guinness
Four members of the Sacred Heart community got front-row seats to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, completing coveted broadcast internships with NBC Universal in both Stamford and South Korea.
Nicole Granito and Tom Spierto, both graduate students in broadcast journalism and media production, and senior Alexandra Padalino joined the team at NBC’s Connecticut studios, while Tamaric Wilson, who received his master’s in August 2017, traveled to Pyeongchang for the February festivities.
“It was nonstop. It was crazy. But it was a lot of fun,” said Wayne, N.J., resident Padalino.
Granito has the most experience with NBC, having interned in Stamford over the past two years, including during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
A New Jersey resident, she came to SHU as a Division I hockey player. While she spent a lot of time watching Sports Center with her dad as a kid, she knew she wanted to go into broadcasting after SHU Director of Athletics Bobby Valentine invited her to join a group of students on a tour of NBC during her freshman year.
She and the other interns credit SHU’s strong program and facilities for giving them a better chance to snag internships. The School of Communication and Media Arts has a well-established relationship with NBC, ABC, ESPN, WWE and other New York- and Connecticut-based media concerns, said Professor Joe Alicastro, director of news and broadcasting.
The studios and control room at the three-year-old Frank and Marissa Martire Business & Communications Center give both undergraduates and graduates crucial hands-on experience.
“Our state-of-the-art production facilities in the Martire building are every bit as professional as what one would find upon entering any professional broadcast or production facility,” said Alicastro, who was a producer for NBC News for 30-plus years. “In fact, the integrator we worked with, Diversified Systems, is the same contractor that built the NBC Sports facilities in Stamford.”
But equipment can only teach so much. Professor Andrew Miller, director of the Sports Communication and Media graduate program, also credits the faculty, many of whom are veteran broadcasters or still work in the field.
“We have faculty that walk off the set and into the classroom,” he said.
Spierto, who will graduate from the master’s program in May, was a production runner during the Olympics, doing whatever he was asked to help streamline the operations. The month-long internship — his fifth — allowed him to shadow in the digital department and work in graphic integration, something he may pursue as a career.
Since the interns needed to watch Olympic events in real time, many worked a topsy-turvy 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. shift. But no one was complaining. “I was able to watch hockey at 4 a.m.,” Spierto said with a laugh. “I tried to make the most of my month there.”
Wilson said he was thrilled to spend his February as a production assistant inside a trailer at the snow park, helping to organize extensive snowboarding and skiing footage. “I was in the right place and the right time,” the Virginia resident said of the experience.
Working in Stamford had its perks as well: Charlie White, who won ice dancing gold in Sochi, Russia, stopped by and Spierto got to hold White’s gold medal. Many of the studio shows and commentary in between the actual sporting events in Pyeongchang were shot in Stamford, giving interns an insider’s perspective on the intensive planning that goes into Olympic coverage.
A highlight for Granito came when she created a montage of ice skating lifts in which athletes glided across the ice held upside down, which reminded her of the parallel universe in the TV hit Stranger Things. She dubbed the video “Skater Things” and NBC found it worthy enough to place on Facebook, its website and Instagram.
“That was really cool,” the digital video production assistant said.
Wilson got to ingest footage for a snowboarding documentary that aired during the closing ceremonies. He said the upbeat, friendly atmosphere in South Korea made him want to do more freelance work around the world.
Padalino, who hopes to begin SHU’s master’s program in the fall, served as a logger during the Olympics, watching various camera feeds and finding and cataloging exciting hockey goals, cool snowboarding moves and more. Having interned at NBC in the fall, she jumped at the chance to add Olympic experience to her resume.
“The timing was perfect for me,” she said.
Alicastro said he believes SHU’s reputation is building as a top-notch training ground for media arts and broadcasting. “I believe it is a combination of factors that sets the School of Communication and Media Arts apart from our competitors; our curriculum, our facilities, our faculty, our students, our location and the nurturing environment of Sacred Heart University all contribute to our success,” he said.