For Peter Lancaster, it all started at Bethel when he landed an internship with WBBJ-TV ABC 7 in Jackson, Tenn.
“While Bethel did not have a specific television production degree,” Lancaster said, “it did have mentors and advisors like Mrs. Sharon Scruton who saw my determination to apply for the TV station internship and who assisted me in going out on a limb to chase a dream.”
Now, twelve years later, Lancaster and his CBS46 Surprise Squad team are the recent winners of the 2018 Southeast Regional Emmy Award for Outstanding Human Interest – News Series.
The Emmy is an American Award that recognizes excellence in the television industry. It is the equivalent of the Academy Award for film, the Tony Award for theater and the Grammy for music.
As if winning the Emmy was not enough, Lancaster likes knowing that the Surprise Squad segments he and his team are producing and televising are a welcome addition to traditional news.
“The Surprise Squad goes around town helping make the day a little brighter for some viewers in the Atlanta area,” he said.
According to Lancaster, the “squad” has been underway for over a year now.
“We have made more than 25 surprise visits so far,” he said. “My favorite to date is the time we surprised a couple who used their wedding fund to buy clothes for a homeless man in Midtown Atlanta on the coldest night of the year. Then they decided to use more of their fund to pay for his stay in a hotel during that same cold period.
“We surprised them with a free wedding planner as well as a photographer, and a thousand dollar Visa gift card for other wedding expenses that they might have used to help the Midtown man.”
Lancaster said the Surprise Squad is a six-person team.
“We’ve gotten pretty good at working together as a team,” he said. “It’s a one take shoot, so we must be prepared and ready for anything that might happen when surprising a nominee. We really want to bring light to these deserving people.”
Lancaster, who is a senior producer and editor for the CBS46 Creative Services Department, said he owes his whole career and livelihood to Bethel.
“I learned a lot there about business and work ethic, and I owe a lot to professors and teachers like Sharon Scruton who encouraged me to go for what I wanted,” he said. “But I also owe to Bethel a real understanding about how to be a good citizen. I got a first-hand look almost every day at Bethel at stories like the ones the Surprise Squad produces. It was just part of the culture to step up and do things for others.
“It’s one of the reasons I chose it as my college in the first place,” Lancaster said. “I had always heard similar stories from my parents (David and Barbara House Lancaster) who met at Bethel and graduated from there. “
“Peter walked away from Bethel with what I hope each of our graduates leaves with,” said Bethel President Walter Butler. “He left with a degree, and he left with knowledge that could help him earn a good job. But most importantly, he walked away with a clear understanding that his contributions to society could make a lasting impression. I would like to think that this certainly contributed to this very prestigious Emmy win. I know we celebrate with Peter on this accomplishment.”