‘Eyewitness News’ sets up shop at Hofstra’s Herbert School

WABC-TV's "Eyewitness News" opened its Long Island Bureau at Hofstra University's Lawrence Herbert School of Communication on May 4 in a partnership that is expected to benefit both WABC reporters and LHSC students. // Photo by Scott Brinton/Long Island Advocate

By Megan Naftali

On the count of three at 1:47 p.m. May 4, two Hofstra University students pulled down a dark cloth covering the brick wall outside the WRHU Radio station at the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, revealing a sign to mark the new partnership between LHSC and WABC-TV’s “Eyewitness News.”

The multi-award-winning newscast’s Long Island Bureau is now located at WRHU.

“For more than 50 years, ‘Eyewitness News’ has been the leader in live breaking news and weather coverage,” Chad Matthews, president of ABC-owned television stations, told the crowd gathered in LHSC’s Studio A for the 1 p.m. ceremony to open the new bureau. “When Al Primo launched the ‘Eyewitness News’ format, it was revolutionary, bringing the news to the viewers live from where it happened. This partnership allows us to evolve that right here on Long Island.” 

Chad Matthews, president of ABC-owned television stations, was among the featured speakers Wednesday to announce the partnership between the Lawrence Herbert School and WABC’s “Eyewitness News.” // Photo by Scott Brinton/Long Island Advocate

“Nassau and Suffolk counties are a huge part of our market,” Matthews continued, “and having a robust operation here in the heart of the Island is vital to our mission to inform and serve our community.”

WRHU’s Cody Hmelar interviewed the radio station’s professional in residence, Sara Hendricks, and WABC investigative reporter Kristin Thorne about the new partnership between LHSC and “Eyewitness News.”

“Eyewitness News” anchor Bill Ritter served as the ceremony’s emcee and said he believes the partnership will benefit not only students, but also WABC journalists and the Long Island community.

“We get a different sense of the community through the eyes of the students because they look at it very differently than us old folks who may pay property taxes, go to work and have to be responsible for other people,” Ritter said. “The freedom that they have when they’re in college I think will help keep our reporters plugged into what may be happening in the communities out here.”

“Eyewitness News” anchor Bill Ritter offered his often humorous take on the news while serving as emcee for the ceremony to announce the Hofstra-WABC partnership. // Photos by Scott Brinton/Long Island Advocate
Mark Lukasiewicz, the Lawrence Herbert School dean and a former ABC News executive and senior producer, was instrumental in securing the new partnership with WABC, Hofstra officials said.

The “Eyewitness News” Long Island Bureau will be located within the LHSC building near the WRHU Radio station, and “Eyewitness News” vans will have three designated parking spaces in a lot adjacent to the school, LHSC Dean Mark Lukasiewicz said.

“The truck is always out,” said Kristin Thorne, an “Eyewitness News” investigative reporter. “People know, they see us, but this, it’s a home now. We’re putting a name on it. We have the signs, people know that we’re here, and they know that Long Island is very important to us at Channel Seven, and it has been for a very long time. We’re always trying to increase our coverage, so this is a really great way for people to see that we’re making a commitment to Long Island.”

Chantee Lans is the new “Eyewitness News” Long Island Bureau reporter. “The crazy thing is I already stay out here. Now I just have a 15-minute commute,” Lans said. “That’s awesome compared to the city.”

Lans said she believes the new partnership will help advance the skills of future journalists coming out of Hofstra, as well as benefit the surrounding community.

“First and foremost, we’re at a place where students and younger people want to learn and grow,” Lans said. “I think having WABC side by side with the students will help them just from the wealth of knowledge, from the internships that will eventually come out of this, from the shadowing, speaking in the classrooms and interacting with the professors. It will help grow this campus community.”

Shirleen Allicot, who graduated from the Lawrence Herbert School in 2004, when it was known as Dempster Hall, is now an “Eyewitness News” morning and noon anchor. She returned to her alma mater Wednesday to help celebrate the new partnership between LHSC and WABC. / Photo by Scott Brinton/Long Island Advocate

With the new partnership, students will have increased opportunities to learn from and potentially work for WABC, according to Shirleen Allicot, a “Eyewitness News” morning and noon anchor who graduated from Hofstra in 2004.

“We’re hoping to nurture and find the newest talent that’s going to be coming out of Hofstra,” Allicot said. “So we really need some bright new journalists, and we’re going to be able to recruit right from here.”

Returning to her alma mater was exciting for Allicot, she said. “It’s a phenomenal feeling. It’s truly a full-circle moment. You get all the feelings when you come back to this place where you once stood and were a young, up-and-coming journalist,” she said. “The fact that I’m here at my alma mater, working for my dream station, and this collaboration is happening between the two, you can’t even describe it — it’s incredible.”

From left, Mark Lukasiewicz, dean of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication; Anthony D’Esposito, Town of Hempstead councilman; Chad Matthews, president of ABC-owned television stations; Susan Poser, Hofstra University president; and Dorothy Goosby, Town of Hempstead senior councilwoman, before the ceremony got under way. // Photo by Scott Brinton/Long Island Advocate

Among the other attendees at the ceremony were Hofstra President Susan Poser, who approved the partnership between LHSC and WABC; Dorothy Goosby, the Town of Hempstead’s senior councilwoman and a Hofstra alumna; Anthony D’Esposito, a Town of Hempstead councilman and Hofstra alumnus; Bruce Blakeman, the Nassau County executive; and Dr. Sedgwick Easley, executive assistant and publicity director for the Village of Hempstead mayor.

Current Lawrence Herbert School students turned out for the the ceremony, too. Above, from left, were Lindsey Hill, Rachel Luscher, Leah DeHaemer and Jade He. // Photos by Scott Brinton/Long Island Advocate
A crowd of Lawrence Herbert School administrators, professors and students mingled with WABC news executives and reporters before the ceremony.