Richmond Studio to undergo $2M renovation to create state-of-the-art broadcast facility

Richmond Studio

Students in the College of Media will have access to a state-of-the-art broadcast studio and newsroom this fall after nearly $2 million in renovations are completed at the Richmond Studio.

Since 1999, the studio—connected to Campbell Hall, the home of Illinois Public Media—has served as the site for the college’s broadcast journalism courses. Three student broadcasts are currently produced at the studio for the University of Illinois public access TV channel UI7, including UI7 Live, Illini Sports Night, and Good Morning Illini.

The renovation project, which will begin in mid-March and is expected to reach substantial completion before the Fall 2023 semester begins, is made possible thanks to a gift from Richard and Leslie Frank. In 2020, the Franks gave the College of Media $7.5 million—the largest gift in college history—to establish the Richard and Leslie Frank Center for Leadership and Innovation in Media and to renovate Richmond Studio. This project is the first major overhaul of the building since it was erected in 1996, funded by a $2 million gift from Jack C. and Marjorie Laird Richmond.

“Through their enthusiastic support and generosity, Richard and Leslie Frank are ensuring our next generation of broadcast journalists will enter the profession ready to make an impact,” said Mira Sotirovic, associate professor, Karin and Folke Dovring Scholar in Propaganda, and head of the Department of Journalism. 

The renovation project includes a fully remodeled studio with a new control room. A new equipment storage and check-out room will be built, as well as a video and audio production room where students will be able to record podcasts. 

The existing classroom and computer lab located adjacent to the studio will become a collaborative room that serves not only as a class meeting space with a lab but also a newsroom and green room. A scrolling, LED news ticker will be installed around the perimeter of the newsroom and computer lab area. (Pictured above is a rendering of the newsroom and green room.)

Most of the current equipment—including studio cameras, lights, and the control systems—will be upgraded to more modern versions that newsrooms around the country are currently using, allowing students to learn best practices. 

“My commitment to the University of Illinois, and Leslie’s career and passion for journalism, inspired us to want to give back to the journalism program by creating a new, state-of-the art broadcast facility,” Rich Frank said. “We are really impressed with the program here and the people who are dedicated to making it one of the top in the country.”

“Shaping journalists starts at the university level,” said Leslie Frank. “We feel that the University of Illinois has a fantastic journalism program and think our contribution will only enhance it, giving students more advantages and opportunities to become successful in their future journalism careers.”  

Richmond Studio broadcast
Students on the set of Richmond Studio broadcast an episode of UI7 Live. (Photo by Kenneth Erdey.)

Kenneth Erdey, instructor of journalism and technical coordinator for the Richmond Studio, says he’s excited to see the new opportunities the renovations will bring to students. 

He expects to see expanded televised programming, live reporting from various locations outside of the studio, and more breaking news coverage, which will be beneficial to students. 

“On-camera talent is going to get better because there’s going to be more opportunity for them to [be on-air],” Erdey said. “Newscasts will improve because there will be more opportunities to cover breaking news.”

Alison Davis, lecturer of journalism and Emmy-award winning documentarian, is thrilled about the revamped studio and increased access to experiential learning. 

“The renovated space will not only give students access to the latest technology but it will be a space for collaboration,” Davis said. “We hope students in all classes will use Richmond to further their creativity and journalism skills whether it is joining the UI7 Newsroom RSO, creating a podcast, anchoring a newscast, or producing their own TV show.”

Erdey, who has taught at the studio for 12 years, says his goal has always been to give students a sense of a real, working newsroom. 

“I want this building to be a working experience, but also allow students to make the mistakes they need to make before they get their job,” Erdey said. “The work students are doing here is not just college work, it’s [broadcast] television.” 

March 10 is the last day classes will be held at the studio before it’s closed for construction. However, students will continue reporting for the duration of the semester, making video stories to be uploaded to Live studio shows will be limited to one special per show. 

“The Department of Journalism is dedicated to preparing students for an industry that will continue to evolve with changes in technology,” Sotirovic added. “When Richmond Studio reopens, the new experiences it will offer will give students a distinct career advantage in today’s dynamic media environment.”

—Kelly Youngblood