NYIT LI News Tonight Anchor Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Courtesy of Gary Licker Ken at the old anchor desk

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In 1986 the year Ken Eckhardt began as anchor of NYIT LI News Tonight, Ronald Regan was president of the United States, Dr. Matthew Schure was the president of NYIT, the New York Mets were the World Champions and News 12 Long Island launched its first broadcast. Twenty five years later, Eckhardt is still anchoring the nightly broadcast of NYIT LI News Tonight. The set has changed, NYIT has changed, the world has changed, but he has remained a constant, coming into living rooms across Long Island influencing the lives of hundreds of student journalists.

On March 7, 1986, Ken Eckhardt became the news director and anchor of LI News Tonight located at studios in Education Hall. Earlier this month, he reached a milestone in his career by celebrating his 25th anniversary with LI News Tonight. “I thought about it a few months ago and knew it was coming up but I didn’t think it was now,” Eckhardt said. Along with anchoring the nightly broadcast, Ken is also a professor in the Communication Arts Department teaching NYIT students about television reporting based on what they are doing on assignments for LI News. When first arriving to LI News, he says it was a learning experience with some things being the same and others different but the key for him was that he understood the concept of putting together a daily news show. “In the past I was just responsible for my own work; at LI News I am responsible for all of the students work.”

Ken, a native of the southern New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia, started as a print journalist in Westport, Connecticut before moving on to radio news in Stamford and Bridgeport, Connecticut. His TV career began at TelePrompter TV6 in Danbury, Connecticut, serving as news director, reporter, and anchor. He then moved on as news director and anchor at an NBC affiliate KUMV-TV in Williston, North Dakota, and anchor/reporter at PBS television in Portland Oregon before coming to NYIT and LI News Tonight where he felt right at home. “LI News Tonight is a unique mission with producing a nightly news program while also working with college interns,” Eckhardt said.

In April of 2002, Eckhardt, student-reporter Monique Brook, and program director Gary Licker won a New York Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Programming about the Arts, for a special edition of the show called “Co-stars and Roommates,” beating out two other programs on PBS/WLIW and The Metro Channel.  The Emmy win was a first for NYITLI News Tonightand the most prestigious award it has ever won. “The look on Ken’s face at the Emmy Awards when LI News won is something I’ll never forget,” says Carol Pack, LI News Tonight’s Assignment Manager. “Winning the Emmy made it a perfect night,” says Eckhardt.

In addition, Eckhardt has also been named “Long Island Journalist of the Year” by the Press Club of Long Island in 1999. “This was a total surprise to me even when the award was presented,” says Eckhardt. “Patti Anne Browne a former student presented it and I knew when she started talking and it sounded like my life that I won.” Ken has won awards from the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting, the Associated Press, and the Press Club of Long Island. “Ken’s work ethic and his professionalism from the moment he walks in the newsroom till the moment he leaves is something I admire about him,” says Gary Licker, LI News’ Program Director.

LI News Tonight has been on the air since 1983 and according to its website, when Professor Efim Brook and Dr. Adrienne O’Brien founded NYITLI News Tonight, they had the common goal of getting students to “learn by doing.” Students were given an opportunity to get involved in reporting, shooting, editing and writing news stories ranging from breaking news to sports to entertainment. From the day he started, Eckhardt has continued the tradition of this common goal. “We try to prepare interns for the situations they’ll face in their first jobs,” says Eckhardt. “They start with the simple stories and depending on their skills, they’ll move up to the stories and meeting deadlines that they’ll be covering and facing professionally.”

Many of the LI News Tonight interns have gone onto successful careers after this internship and came out learning a lot from Ken Eckhardt. “He is an important part in what the New York media is today,” says Herb Savran, NYIT Communication Arts and LI News Tonight’s Chief Engineer. “When I watch the different news stations there are former interns on many of them and it couldn’t have been done without Ken’s dedication.””He offers a confident, studied approach with the interns imparting so much pertinent information which is beneficial to obtaining a job in this field,” says Dr. Anthony F. Piazza, the V.P. of News, “His daily participant is one reason for our many “successes” in the field of electronic journalism.” Oriana D’Agostino is one of those who have made it as a reporter in the New York media working for TV 55. “Ken taught me that a lot of thought is involved with reporting. You don’t just sit down and write. You better be on target with your research and really be paying attention out there in the field and stay positive,” says D’Agostino.

Some of NYIT’s current students also feel the same about their experiences at LI News Tonight.Robert Marzano, a senior and one of its current intern reporters credits Eckhardt and the staff for where he has gone in his young career. “He along with the rest of the LI News Tonight staff taught me a lot and I will use what they have given me throughout my journalism career,” says Marzano. Dana Arschin, who is now working as a reporter for News 12 in the Bronx spent the last year and a half as a graduate student reporter at LI News and says that Ken helped her grow to become a better journalist. “He taught me how to think critically when producing and writing news stories and to be a reliable reporter,” says Arschin. “I wouldn’t be where I am right now without him.”

Eckhardt has made an impact on what LI News Tonight is today and being part of the show’s biggest moment in its history with the Emmy award. He also mentioned his most memorable moment at LI News Tonight which came recently. “On March 7, 2011, I realized how fast 25 years can go by and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it at LI News Tonight.” As an individual, he is also known for his great personality and mentor to those around him. “He’s just really nice and friendly, whenever I see him around, he always says hello with a welcoming smile,” says Julia Choi, a junior studying Communication Arts who was an intern reporter in the Fall 2010 semester. “He’s a consummate professional as an anchor; an innovative thinker as a news director, and a caring and patient professor,” says Carol Pack. “He is very well read, knows a lot about the world and pop culture and he’s very easy to talk to,” says Gary Licker. “When I first started LI News in the Summer of 2010, I messed up on one of my first shoots, he was always encouraging and would tell you what you needed to do, make it very clear, and he would lift my spirit up,” says Robert Marzano.

As it turns out, Eckhart’s 25th year at NYIT will likely be his last, as it was recently announced that LI News Tonight will be the subject of a format change at the end of this semester. The new format will address changes in the world of journalism in the 21st century, while retaining the professionalism and preserving the legacy that Ken and the entire news team have brought to the students of NYIT over the last 25 years. The classic LI News format will still be taught, but will be just one of a number of New Journalism approaches in store. Ken has contributed his expertise to the plan for these changes and a complete description of the transformed Newsroom will be the subject of the next issue of the Slate.But for the rest of the semester, you can tune into Ken Eckhardt and the rest of the LI News Tonight team weeknights on Cablevision Channel 18 at 7PM or visitwww.linewstonight.comto view broadcasts and learn more aboutNYIT LI News Tonight.

 

 

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