About Florida Focus

Florida Focus is a news break reported, written and produced on deadline by the School of Mass Communications’ students at the University of South Florida. Students must apply and audition to have the opportunity to work on this professional newscast that reaches viewers in Florida’s largest television market. The studio for the newscast is housed in the School of Mass Communications at USF, a modern facility located in Tampa, Florida's largest media market. Developed in 1996, Florida Focus first aired in January 1997.

In 1996, the school’s director, Dr. Edward Jay Friedlander and its original instructor, Dr. Ken Killebrew, laid the groundwork for the look, content, and placement of the newscast with the help and support of WUSF-TV/DT management. Working together, the faculty established a set of standards for both student involvement and the overall production of the broadcast. In the spring of 1997, during the first semester of Florida Focus, students produced and anchored the newscast from WUSF-TV’s small studio originally set up for sports interviews.

The first major change to Florida Focus came in the fall of 1997 when the School of Mass Communications started to produce and air the newscast from its own studio. Verizon Communication donated set materials and the set was built with professional lighting. At the same time WTVT-TV Fox 13 in Tampa agreed to make news video available to help in the visualization of the news content. The newscast launched its first airing at 5:28 PM following the BBC World News and was inserted as a local newsbreak in the international news programming.

Florida Focus continued to evolve when in the fall of 2000 Dr. Marie Curkan-Flanagan joined the School of Mass Communications faculty. Flanagan came to the department as a long-time veteran of the broadcast news industry. She moved Florida Focus away from labs and established its own dedicated newsroom. Flanagan also designed a new set, worked with the production staff to create a new on-air introduction, identified new newscast music, and extended the class to include not only news students but production students who worked towards the overall technical look of the newscast.

In 2003, Neil Vicino, another seasoned broadcast news professional joined Flanagan as a primary instructor for Florida Focus. In the spring of 2005, Florida Focus moved into its own new studio on the first floor of the CIS Building. In September 2006, Florida Focus launched a new look for its newscasts, including new theme music and graphics, as well as a new USF logo. WFTS-TV/Ch. 28/ABC Action News in Tampa joined the newscast as a new partner providing external video and graphics as well as professional opportunities for students who participate in the class.

Liisa Hyvarinen Temple took over as the lead instructor of Florida Focus in August 2008.The newscast grew and started to include live shots in January 2009. Temple also spearheaded the effort to include multimedia journalism and web producing into the daily tasks of all Florida Focus students; in addition to their previous traditional TV tasks, the students learned video encoding and uploading, writing for the web.

Since spring 2012, Cathy Gugerty has managed Florida Focus. The students produce a daily newsbreak and news packages relevant to the Tampa Bay area, and they maintain all aspects of social media in relation to Florida Focus. In spring 2013, a new format was added to the show that presents news features including health, education, environment and military briefs.

The University of South Florida is committed to academic excellence, and its standards reflect the highest professional and educational values. The School of Mass Communications’ faculty views Florida Focus as a cornerstone class which fulfills the school’s mission and introduces our students to the theories, principles and problems of mass communications while providing laboratory courses to sharpen their professional skills.


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