Kenn Venit proves to be a ‘Jack of All Trades’

By on October 2, 2003

Adjunct Assistant Professor Kenn Venit, has gone from fighting an 8-foot-bear and eating pet food to sharing his love for journalism with the students of Quinnipiac University.

“You have to love teaching to be an adjunct [professor],” said the veteran television news consultant, media trainer, talent coach, and focus group researcher.

Currently, Venit is teaching one section of Journalism 160, introduction to news writing, and two sections of Journalism 261, computer-assisted news technology. Both are required courses for students majoring in journalism.

Venit originally taught as an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac College from January1982 to June 1982 as an instructor in television performance. A television studio and control room were in the basement of the library.

According to Venit, “[In the past] sometimes, students were admitted who would not have been admitted had today’s admissions standards been in effect.”

He said since his hiatus from Quinnipiac, not only did it become a University, but also “a very different institution.”

“Quinnipiac students today are of a much higher caliber,” said Venit.

He believes this improvement in standards has taken place for several reasons.

“Students are choosing Quinnipiac for all the right reasons, and are much better educated based on the few hundred students that I have seen,” said Venit. “[Students] are now dedicated and conscientious about their education.”

As he travels around the country on work assignments and to professional development conventions, Venit said he is amazed at how many people now recognize the name of Quinnipiac, often because of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, as well as for the “increasingly glowing reputation that you can get the best value for your educational dollar here.”

“President Lahey, the staff, and faculty have certainly put Quinnipiac on the map, adding to the value of a Quinnipiac degree,” said Venit, who believes that many people fall in love with the charm of the institution.

“Both faculty members and students do not want to leave, which really says something about this place,” said Venit.

The adjunct professor’s “day job” involves being president of Hamden-based Kenn Venit and Associates, where he provides such services as broadcast and cable news consulting, coaching for all television news personnel, media training, focus group research, critique & analysis of newscasts and local programming, strategic promotion, professional development seminars, talent development and being an expert witness.

He has been in the consulting business since 1982. Venit’s professional career spans back to his college days at Temple University in Philadelphia, P.A.

At Temple’s WRTI-FM, he served as news director, reporter, producer, director, writer and staff announcer at various times while working towards his bachelors degree in radio, TV, film and journalism.

He also earned his Master’s degree in Communications at Temple.

After working at WFIL-AM-FM-TV6 in Philadelphia, and WTIC-AM-FM-TV3 in Hartford, he landed, at what was then, WNHC-AM-FM-TV8.

The television station became WTNH where he served as executive producer, managing editor, producer, anchor, reporter and weathercaster at various times for “Action News 8.”

In addition, Venit served as legislative correspondent, consumer reporter, feature reporter, weathercaster, program host/producer and a staff announcer, which caused him to gain a great deal of experience which he shares with his students in the classroom.

Even after he left fulltime employment at WTNH, he continued to host and moderate the station’s popular weekly quiz show, “The High School Bowl” for nine more years.

According to Venit, he is commited to teaching convergence.

By the end of his courses, his students will have a basic understanding of writing for the Internet, television, radio and print sectors of journalism.

“Some of what I do in the classroom is based on seminars and teaching techniques I have developed in the professional world,” said Venit.

He pointed to how his Journalism 261 students recently “covered” Hurricane Isabel in a simulated Raleigh, North Carolina converged computerized newsroom setting, getting information needed there by radio, television, a website and a newspaper.

His Journalism 160 students did a similar simulation of Connecticut, New York City, New Jersey and Long Island media as Hurricane Isabel approached the Tri-State Area.

Venit said that he simulates covering news events such as the State of the Union Address, Pentagon and Baghdad news briefings and various news conferences via large-screen live television and video tapes, to give his students “the most realistic feel of what reporting is really like.”

“My students see unedited footage and decide what is newsworthy,” he said.

Journalism was not Venit’s first career plan. He originally was going to be a disc jockey but believed that his job would be replaced with automated technology.

He was a reporter, city editor and then managing editor of The Temple News, as well as a newscaster of Temple’s campus station, WRTI-AM and its metro station, WRTI-FM.

During graduate school, he served as business manager of The Temple News and as editor of a chain of five weekly North Philadelphia newspapers with a combined circulation of about 100,000 readers.

Venit did all the editing, headlines and layout by hand as this was still the era period before computers.

His mentor in life was the late Temple University Professor Laurence C. Blenheim, who had been a radio personality on New York’s WHN-AM 1050 for two decades before becoming a full-time faculty member at Temple.

It was a big thrill for Venit to receive his master’s degree in the same ceremony in which Professor Blenheim received his PhD.

Venit credits Dr. Blenheim with guiding him into broadcast journalism.

He explained that as a student he began to appreciate the added communication value of using facial expressions, pictures and sound to tell the story.

Some of the more memorable stories Venit covered include the 1969 Hartford riots, where he dodged bullets, was hit with tear gas and was struck in the back of his neck with a rock.

On other occasions, he ate dog food for a story about needy senior citizens consuming pet food and dived into a 15 foot snow bank during a blizzard.

Venit has won dozens of awards throughout his career in journalism, including two for “lifetime achievement.”

He is active in the Radio-TV News Director’s Association, the Broadcast Education Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the only person ever to receive the President’s Award more than once from SPJ’s Connecticut Pro Chapter.

Venit is also notable for providing advice to his students.

“Keep your eyes wide open. Be prepared to struggle economically for at least the first few years,” he said. “You can have an effect on society, but your family and health should be your priorities, as I learned the hard way.”

Venit suffered two heart attacks in two consecutive days in San Diego nine years ago.

He now realizes that he worked too hard and made his family sacrifice more than he should have.

Since the heart attacks, he said he “sees and lives life very differently.”

Each day Venit is scheduled to be on the Quinnipiac campus, he tries to see one or more of his grandchildren before or after class.

“That’s the best ‘perk’ I have of being an adjunct here.”


About Jamie DeLoma