Mass media students, advisors turn bus into mobile studio

It’s hard to imagine two grown men becoming giddy at the sight of a 25-year-old short bus. Unless, however, the two men are Will Murphy, TV and video engineer, and Dr. Jonathan Pluskota, assistant professor of communications and mass media, who supervise student media outlets KNWT Channel 8 and X-106 KZLX FM at Northwest Missouri State University.

They were looking for a vehicle to haul students and broadcast equipment around campus and the community, and found their dream car in a 1987 Chevy two-ton bus.

“One day in March, over at surplus, where we frequent because we try to make the most of the University’s dollars by reusing and recycling, we drove around the edge of the building, and there sat a fairly rough-around-the-edges 1987 Bluebird Micro Bus,” Murphy said. “Jon Pluskota and I stopped the car and our mouths fell open, and we said, ‘That’s the one.’”

The bus was well-worn. Purchased by the University in 1994, it was used for shuttling students before the Department of Athletics claimed it for hauling equipment. It sat, with a patina of mismatched greens, whites and rust, waiting for new ownership at the fall surplus sale. After Murphy and Pluskota learned its mechanics were sound, they began the paperwork process to bring the bus to its new home outside the Power Plant, within view of the Channel 8 and X-106 studios in Wells Hall.

“We contacted Transportation Services who told us the transmission had recently been rebuilt and was in good shape,” Murphy said. “The tires were pretty much new. The engine was running well, and they have the maintenance records on it going all the way back to 1994. So even though it’s a 1987 bus, it’s in great condition.”

Mechanicals aside, the bus was a blank canvas for students on the staffs of Channel 8 and X-106. After a thorough cleaning that revealed a black floor they first thought was tan, students installed two heaters, replaced the passenger-side seats with a hand-built counter for broadcast equipment, installed energy-efficient LED lights that run off of the bus’s battery and tinted the windows for privacy and security reasons. They also added a PA system with a siren, because, as Murphy said, “at some point in their lives, every person should have a vehicle with a siren in it.” But the exterior, with its ’90s paint scheme, had to go.

They took the bus to Boyles Motors, which spent 50 man-hours sanding and painting the bus in “industrial public safety silver” with a black stripe running around the bottom. By arranging advertisements on air and on the side of the bus for Boyles and its paint supplier, Murphy and Pluskota whittled down the total tab to just $118.

Murphy hopes to sell more advertising space on the side of the bus to keep it financially self-sufficient. He said a few thousand dollars per year would easily cover insurance, future enhancements and gas for the bus, which gets between eight and 10 miles per gallon.

The bus completed its first assignment Nov. 3 at the Homecoming Parade. Using the bus as a mobile studio, students reported from inside and around it, providing full parade coverage through Channel 8 and X-106. In the past, setting up broadcast equipment would take two to three hours. Using the bus, it took 60-90 minutes. It was a success for Murphy, who sees huge potential for the old vehicle.

“We want to use this for Student Media Thursdays in and around the J.W. Jones Student Union, Tower Yearbook distribution, Channel 8 Flash Raves and mobile concerts anywhere on campus,” Murphy said. “This will enable students to really put out a quality product instead of just hauling stuff across campus.”

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Retrieved from: News Release | Media Center | Northwest.

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