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Faculty Spotlight
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Faculty Spotlight

Michael Niederman

Fawn Ring, Lecturer

Wanting to get to know your professors (past, present or future) a little bit better? Below you will find a series of questions and answers that you may not have known about them before.  Get a little more insight on why they do what they do,  what influences them and many other tid bits.

What courses do you teach?

  • The Television Producer
  • Remote Television Production
  • Master Producing Workshop: Producing FreqOut
  • Master Producing Workshop: Out On A Limb
  • News Documentary
  • On-Camera Talent

What made you want to become a professor?

The media is such a powerful force in our society.  It delivers information crucial to maintaining our democracy, advances local and national conversations, and shapes our values, attitudes and priorities.  Media professionals like me have a responsibility to teach the next generation to understand media and use it wisely. 

I’ve wanted to teach for years -- it was the logical next step in my career.  As a producer, executive producer, writer, reporter and program host in public broadcasting, I trained dozens of college interns. I enjoyed teaching the ins and outs of our business, and watching students grow as they learned new skills and developed as human beings. Their energy was infectious, and their creativity inspiring.  It gave me special satisfaction to guide those who were eager to create media that contributes constructively to the world around them.

My goal as a new teacher is to help my students learn to create quality work that is both entertaining and enlightening, in whatever storytelling genres they choose -- documentaries that delve into the lives of fascinating people, factual programs that explore history, culture and scientific discovery, muscular journalism that keeps an eye on our democracy, comedies that capture the ironies of modern life, or dramas that illuminate what it means to be human. 


Why Columbia College Chicago? What do you think makes this college stand out from others?

Columbia College sincerely cares about the development and welfare of its students. All of my fellow faculty members in Television and Broadcast Journalism are deeply committed to helping students learn, grow and achieve, and to working together to make it possible. Also, I’ve built my career at the intersection of the media, arts and journalism, so it’s a great fit for me.


What is one piece of advice you could offer to all Columbia students?

Look in the mirror every day and be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.  Build on your strengths, and work to develop in the areas in which your weaknesses keep you from being productive or happy.  Essentially, keep it real, and strive to be an awesome person.

What has been your biggest success/accomplishment in your professional life thus far?

Two programs stand out as favorites.  The first was a national PBS special, Mozart By The Masters, featuring violinists Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman, comedian Victor Borge and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Besides being extraordinary musicians, Perlman and Zukerman shared a long and deep friendship.  This pairing, along with Borge’s unique brand of humor and the CSO’s incomparable musicianship, made for a warm, entertaining and uplifting program that raised several million dollars for public television stations nationwide. 

The other was Artbeat Chicago, a series I launched at WTTW in 1998, which aired for seven seasons.  I’m proud of the role it played in our community, illuminating the work of local artists and performers, and encouraging viewers to explore Chicago’s artistic and cultural life.  A TV critic once called it “entertaining and erudite.”  I couldn’t have been more pleased with that combination!


What is your top 3 favorite TV shows on air currently? All time?

TV is in such a great place right now! I love Top Of The Lake on Sundance, Mr. Selfridge on PBS, and I was glued to the latest season of Mad Men on AMC.  Of all time??  That’s a tough one.  Because I’m a romantic at heart and I adore historical dramas, I’d have to say A Town Like Alice on PBS in the 1980s.  It was one of the reasons I wanted to work in public television.  I also admire Frontline and its consistently strong journalism.  I watch regularly.


What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?

What free time??!  I read… anything!  I can lose myself in a book for hours and hours.  I also cook, travel, explore and sing.  I thought I was going to be a professional musician until college.  Then a great film/communications teacher hooked me on media and journalism. 


What are your plans for the summer?

I’m off to Jordan to teach a workshop for professional television producers from the Middle East and North Africa. This is my first trip to the Middle East, and first class for the Arab League Training Center.  My syllabus is ready, but I’m prepared to punt!  When I return, I’ll be working on a couple of program development projects, and revising several courses here at Columbia.  A visit with my family on the East Coast is an early August tradition.