CNN News Editor & OU Alumnus Welcomes ‘Pegasus Creative’ Behind the Scenes

Joe Sutton '09

Last semester, I made one of the best decisions of my undergraduate career: I became a part of Pegasus Creative, Oglethorpe’s student communications agency, launched in the fall by the University Communications department. Thanks to Pegasus, I’ve gained hands-on experience, internship credit, and the confidence that can only come from a supportive, skillful team. (For those students out there, with summer internship orientation around the corner, why not consider applying to Pegasus?)

One of the (numerous!) great things about Pegasus is that we are offered field studies—we’re required to complete at least one—to enhance our skills and learn about other real world communications careers. Recently, my co-workers and I ventured on one such trip: a behind-the-scenes tour of CNN, courtesy of Joe Sutton ’09 (an alumnus of Oglethorpe’s program for adult students), who generously took time out of his busy schedule to show us around his workplace. Joe has quickly climbed the so-called ladder of success, earning numerous promotions, and is now a news editor and journalist for CNN. He oversees the editorial direction and news gathering for 13 states and serves as the liaison between the Washington, D.C. bureau and CNN headquarters. He credits much of his early success to Oglethorpe.

“The least I can do is stay in contact with the institution that has made me who I am and the education that has allowed me to take on any damn thing I put my mind to,” said Joe. “Being at school late at night and taking some weekend classes helped me fully prepare to take on more complex, time-devoting career positions. I understand how to manage time effectively and juggle multiple projects simultaneously, and I love being under pressure and deadlines… What I set my eyes and mind on, I usually get! That’s the stormy petrel in me.”

“It was a great opportunity to see things up close and in person,” said Zach Kevorkian ’13, Pegasus’s graphic designer. “The exclusivity of it made us feel like we were part of the excitement. The fact that our tour was personalized by an alum made it all the better, and I was grateful for the fun afternoon with my friends at Pegasus!”

Caitlyn Mitchell '13 in CNN's Command Center.

Joe showed us numerous offices including International Headquarters, the Command Center, and his own workspace, which he called “the heart of CNN.” We were given the opportunity to sit across from an anchor as she delivered her news report (live!), and to ask questions about Joe’s daily life at CNN. Between that, watching the process of a breaking news report, and posing with the majestic Lady Rainicorn (of the Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time” series), I can’t decide what I most enjoyed!

“My favorite part of the trip was seeing the control room,” said Chandler Anderson ’13, web content developer at Pegasus. “The director analyzed the various camera shots to determine which one was the most effective, and relayed that information to his crew. It was incredible seeing all of this important behind-the-scenes work done before my eyes.”

“I was impressed at how fast it all is,” added Caitlyn Mitchell ’13, former magazine features writer for Pegasus. “You know that news is speed, and that the turnaround time has to be near instantaneous, but you don’t realize until you’re seeing it that there are stations across the United States…ready to leap at a moment’s notice. My favorite part of the trip was definitely sitting in the command chair in the “Command Center”—yes, they really called it that! I was doing my best…not [to] touch any of those incredibly tempting buttons.”

“Joe Sutton gave us a tour that was unlike any tour I’ve ever gotten,” added Rebecca Williams ’13, editor of the adult degree program’s newsletter The Nightcap and friend of Pegasus. “We were able to see important procedures—like filming the news—that we would otherwise never see. (Joe) is widely respected by everyone there. It’s undeniable that he will continue to do great and amazing things for CNN!”

This opportunity would not have been possible without Pegasus—and would not have been possible if I had not pursued an internship at Pegasus. It is not enough to be supplied with opportunities, but to take them as they come. Pegasus showed me an exciting career choice that I had not previously considered, and internships like Pegasus can make all the difference in paving the path to your future.

“Internships are essential to determining who you are as a person,” said Joe. “In media, there are plentiful internships in various departments. Be flexible, be savvy, be astute in global news, (and) be committed. Generally, I find that saying ‘yes’ is a good thing…it opens many doors of opportunities in the business.”

Attention Oglethorpe students! For me, Pegasus opened the door, and it can provide many opportunities for you as well. If I’ve persuaded you to join our team, or if another internship opportunity calls to you, contact Debbie Aiken in University Communications.  Opportunity is knocking, and you only have to answer!

Lights! Camera! Campus MovieFest!

A five minute film is not easy to create, but according to the winners of Oglethorpe’s Campus MovieFest competition, those five minutes of film are worth all of the time and energy put into making them.

“This is my life,” said Christian Hartnett ’14, director of the Best Comedy winner, The Screenplay. “Videos, editing, everything that goes into film. That is what gives me purpose… this (competition) was something I really had to do.”

Campus MovieFest is the world’s largest student film festival and a premier outlet for the next generation of filmmakers. Oglethorpe’s Offices of Campus Life and and Student Government Association were integral in bringing the competition to OU, which began on January 23 and lasted barely a week. During this time, students were supplied with tripods, camcorders, and computers that were essential in bringing their movies to life. Then, after countless hours of writing, acting, filming and editing, students submitted their five-minute movies to CMF officials.

Best Picture director Hillary Heath '13 and writer Weatherly Richardson '13.

“It was a lot of fun and I think we learned a lot from the experience,” said theatre major Hillary Heath ’13, who directed the Best Picture winner, Getting Brain. “I’ve never shot a film before, (and) it was interesting to switch from theatre to film… I hope OU keeps doing this.”

On Thursday, February 7, 16 teams had the unique opportunity to screen their films in front of their peers. The overall winners (Trinity Pond Productions for Untitled Love Story, the Best Drama winner; Team Awesomesauce for The Screenplay, winner for Best Comedy; and Doing Stuff Badly for Getting Brain, Best Picture) are moving on to the next round, Hollywood!, where they will compete with winners from other colleges and universities around the country.

Best Comedy Director Christian Hartnett '14

“All of a sudden, my movie pops up, and I jumped three feet in the air,” said Christian. “All the hard work was worth it.”

The competition has had a tremendous impact on its winners, who are grateful for the experience and for those who offered help along the way.

“(Adjunct professor) David Patterson taught me everything I know,” said Christian. “He’s a great mentor.” Weatherly Richardson ’13, the writer of Getting Brain, similarly credited adjunct faculty Jessica Handler and her screenwriting class, which introduced her to the idea of professionally pursuing film.

“(Hillary and I) started our own production company and we’ve been wanting to do these films for a while,” said Weatherly.  “I found out we’d won on Twitter, because I had to work. We kind of weren’t expecting this at all.” 

All of the competitors interviewed expressed a desire to produce more films in the future and I, for one, am excited to see them. Congratulations to our winners, and best of luck in Hollywood!

Watch all Oglethorpe students’ film entries here!

Part II: Italy was “life-changing” for Oglethorpe student

This summer’s short term, for-credit trip to Italy made an enormous impact on the students who participated. Following up on the original post by Dr. Jeffrey Collins, we now hear from three of those students, in their own words.   [Part III]  [Part IV]

When people ask me “how was Italy?” I simply respond with “amazing”. The fact is, though, it was more than that. It was life-changing. I learned so much, saw so much, and had such a fantastic time that telling it all to someone like a story is simply impossible—there’s too much to fit in.

The schedule included monuments, museums, gardens and segway tours, but the best times of the trip were unexpected. We’d be tired after a day of walking, or hungry for lunch, or too full of information to handle another bite and then suddenly, out of nowhere, there’d be magic.

From the Medici-offices-turned-art-museum Uffizi, to the towering bronze-doored Duomo, Florence is magical. Walking the cobblestone streets overlooking the Arno, where Leonardo DaVinci walked, staring through glass at Galileo’s right hand, strolling through the market where old, weathered men hand-sew buttery leather pouches like their families have done for centuries, everything about Florence is interesting, beautiful and amazing.

There are, of course, some standout moments. At Reginella’s, a family-owned restaurant Dr. Collins found that became “our favorite” the first night, my pizza was delivered in the shape of a heart! (I think red hair is a novelty in Italy, haha.) It doesn’t matter what age, what major, or what you’re expecting, seeing Michelangelo’s David in person will stop your heart. When I saw it, I understood. He’s alive in the marble, and as you walk around him his brow seems to furrow, his chest heaves, his eyes flicker. He looks so alive that I half-expected his fingers to twitch around his sling. In Art and Culture, I learned that when the David was first shown to the public, people were scared because they thought he was alive. Now that I’ve seen it in person, I finally understand. It’s the kind of lesson you can’t learn from a textbook.

I’ve never had a formal art class, but having Professor Loehle on the trip was better. He took the time to explain the beauty in art and how it relates to what I’m studying. He showed us the elegance of Caravaggio, helped me realize my love for Giambologna, and inspired me to find beauty everywhere—from the most heavily-guarded painting in the Uffizi, to the faces of the people in the Piazza Navona. He became part of the trip family, always helpful, always upbeat, always “just here to help.”

My favorite part of Florence was the church of Santa Croce. I thought, when I walked in, that it was going to be another church in the line of churches we saw, all amazing and beautiful. But it was so much more. There are marble tombs in the floors with bas reliefs of the people in them. There are winding hallways that go to rooms with floor to ceiling cabinets full of centuries-old books with illuminated lettering. I went through a little door that was slightly ajar and found a tiny room with stone water fountains in the shape of lion heads lining one wall and a door in the floor beside a porch that led into a tiny garden. I took pictures and snuck around until I realized that it was an employee-only area. Restricted sections make the best adventures, and Florence was a beautiful adventure.

But it’s Rome that has my heart. When we walked around Rome with Collins and Loehle, it was a constant surprise. Dr. Collins is a walking encyclopedia, and many times I’d look around to find people from guided tours had ditched their neon-shirted tour guide in favor of listening to him speak. He had a way of making every topic we covered interesting, funny, and memorable, even if it was something I would never have cared about before. Once, he stopped us in front of side street and said “I’ve got a surprise for you!” We walked into an unassuming church and then one by one fell silent as we looked up at the most amazing ceiling I have ever seen, with frescos that seem to jump off the ceilings at Sant’Ignazio.

At the Vatican, we were again struck mute by the towering, frescoed ceilings, the light filtering through the windows onto Michelangelo’s Pieta, and the sheer number of people, all silent, all staring upwards.

Then there were the random days. A small group of us took a side trip to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, miles and miles of tunnels where people have been buried for centuries. Being underneath Rome, walking by tombs with frescoed ceilings and still-intact ancient pots of oil is like being inside of history. There’s graffiti on the walls dating back to the 3rd century (Peter was here, 1989. Peter was here, 1771. Pietr was here 900. Petri was here 256.) The church above the catacombs has floors made of some of the oldest marble in Rome. I stepped on snail fossils bigger than my hand that date back to the Cretaceous period (65 million years ago! WHAT???)

(On our last day in Rome, Professor Loehle, Adrienne Findley, and I worked out my plan to move to Italia. I’ve already picked my apartment. By—ahem— COMPLETELY unplanned, TOTALLY accidental coincidence, it’s on the same street as the best gelato in Rome. Yes, you can visit.)

In a word, it was amazing. I used that word a lot on the trip, but astonishing, fantastic, extraordinary, unbelievable, no word can really capture the feeling of being so utterly swept off your feet by beauty, by history, by culture, by Italy. In Florence, we lived like Italians. When we returned to Rome, we walked like natives. When I go back, it will feel like I’m home. This experience was more than I could have ever hoped for, and I can’t wait to study abroad again.