Avoiding the "Same Ole" High School Broadcast Show

Let's shoot my credibility right off the bat.  I can pretty much write a Hallmark movie.  I have watched a few through the years as part of my membership in the "aging demographic" many of their advertisers target, so I'm very qualified.  Here's the plot rundown, and I would prefer it star Kelly Martin or Erin Krakow if possible.  They can bring it home, big time, with warmth...

*Girl (probably a widow) gets sent by her boss from the city to a postcard-ready small town to close down a local business, or to help on the family farm after Dad has a heart attack.    

*She bumps into her former boyfriend,  probably a widower with a super cute-yet-annoying child, there is a mild disagreement, they argue, but they eventually (whew!) get on the same page.  Happy ending.  Pass the cocoa.  All of this "action" happens with the most annoying soundtrack underneath it, telling us how to feel each step of the way.

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SO, you know what else?  I can probably draw up a rundown for a lot of high school broadcasts.  I do this not to offend, but to challenge.  So here we go.

*Lead story:  Disease of the Month.  A profile of someone in the school, or connected to the school, who has a serious illness, or has been a bad accident.  These stories can be very touching.  But please consider this:  Why NOW?  Why are you covering it now?  Is there "news" to report?  It may sound heartless, but some of these segments verge on exploitation for the sake of making a show seem "serious."  What the people you profile have gone through is very, very serious.  Just think about that "Why NOW?" thing.

*The Local Organization.  You know the one.  The non-profit group of do-gooders who are helping the poor, the suffering, the disenfranchised in your town.  They are probably having a 5K and you are probably covering it.  You are probably interviewing the fundraiser...er...the Executive Director, or the media relations person, who say all the usual things about their mission and why they need support.  You might get some folks at the 5K to talk about why they run for the cause.  Hope it doesn't rain on race day.  A thought:  Don't do PR stories for local groups.  

*Sports segment:  We are WINNERS!  If you have a successful team, they are guaranteed to be on your show.  We will see them scoring points, dominating, with cheerleaders and fans chanting and cheering.  It is a story that takes place on hundreds of campuses every year.  So what is your unique angle?  What am I going to see and hear that I have not seen and heard before?  Just because you are covering a sports team does not let you off the hook--dig deeper.  Bring me something new, something I have not seen or heard before.  Note:  One of the best sports stories my students have ever produced was about a sister school in our town that was on a horrible, long losing streak.  Their players, coaches and fans were inspirational.  It made me, as a viewer, re-think what a "winner" really is.

*Funny Guys.  You know, those guys at every school who are just so clever.  The problem is, being truly funny to viewers who are not on your TV staff is a bit of a challenge.  Humor is HARD.  These segments often rely on two minutes of bad acting and set-up for a punch line that is just not worth the journey.  Or they are a pale copy of something on SNL or YouTube.  Instead of producing a humorous segment, how about finding humor in the people you cover?  Find funny characters in the real world.  Cover something quirky and offbeat that will amuse your audience.  There is certainly a place for lighter fare on a school broadcast, but nothing is worse than "funny" that isn't that funny.

*Featured Teacher.  A safe, predictable profile of a teacher with a heart of gold, probably full of boring b-roll of said teacher sitting at a desk, standing in front of class, typing on a laptop, plus supportive bites of admiration from a few "A" students.  This one fails to answer the "Why NOW?" question, and does not meet the "tell me something I don't know" test.  Extra points for showing clever posters, mottos or desk ornaments.  Instead of covering the "good teacher we all love," go further down the hall until you find a teacher often misunderstood, or ignored, because they are not as dynamic, or quick to draw attention to themselves.  Scratch beneath the surface and you may have a great story about someone not so popular, but maybe more interesting.

Okay, okay, I will stop.  You probably hate me by now, and I would not blame you.  But before you leave a comment below that puts me in my place, can I say one more thing?  

My kids have done ALL OF THESE more than once.  We are totally guilty of committing cookie-cutter journalism.  My challenge every time we pitch stories is to shoot down this stuff.  Or lead the kids to understanding they are not pitching anything new.

Oh, and on our recent show, we did a really sweet story about a person with a disease, and by golly, we covered a local non-profit.  And we had a segment that was supposed to be funny.  It happens.  Sadly, it happens all too often.

 

It's Never Too Early to Plan

So what are you doing next summer?  I'll be running two ASB Workshops for teachers, and the planning is already underway.

Dates will be announced in a couple of weeks.  Registration will open in December.  And yes, since it's an "even" year, that means the Returners Only Workshop will be back.

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Our plans include providing new challenges for those who come back for a second, third, fourth, even tenth time.  We like to add fresh, hands-on assignments, and may throw in a day trip this time.  You can also count on a lot of new sessions the AM, plus the "work stuff" in the PM.

Now a special appeal to print teachers who are hoping to add video to their programs, and punch up their websites.  The workshop for first-time attendees will give you plenty of ideas, and yes, experience, that should help you understand more about video production and broadcast journalism.  We hope to see some of you next summer here in Springfield, MO.

The ASB Workshop started in the summer of 2000 as "Camp STN."  We have never missed a year since, even when the economy tanked, and school districts reined in teacher travel.  The last couple of summers we have had tremendous response.  We hope you will start making plans to join us.  It is a chance to be a student again, among colleagues just like you.  

As always, our focus is all about telling a story.  

  

We Just Stepped Into a Whole New World

We have a podcast.  

Since school started in August, a handful of my advanced Broadcast Journalism staffers have been working on a new show named after our audio booth, "Bay 11."  Here's what we did to get it off the ground.

First, we came up with the concept that fit our class, stories and interviews by teens, for teens.  We wanted to "stay in our lane" for this effort.  I kept saying, "It's still story telling," but without pictures, it's different.  And, it's cool.

We wanted the first story to be powerful.  I think it is.  We also wanted to utilize one of the cool things about doing a podcast, which is you can talk to anyone.  Just get them to call in.  That happened thanks to Dana Powell, a former HTVer who agreed to talk to us about her career in Hollywood.  You might have seen her playing Pam on "Modern Family" now and then.  She was a great guest, and our last segment will continue to feature call-ins, hopefully with someone as lively as Dana.

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We also wanted to make a little money for our HTV Alumni Scholarship fund, so we found two sponsors.  We only asked for 50 bucks each, and they agreed.  That was a nice bonus.  And after the first story, we really needed to go to a break, so the second spot really helped us take a breath at that point in the show.

Podcasts need logos, and for that, we hit up another talented HTV alum, Chandler Reed, who is a graphic designer in New York these days.  He did a great job creating the Bay 11 logo that you see along with all the other podcast art out there.  Chandler knew all about edit bay 11, because it wasn't that long ago he was recording his own audio there as we worked on his HTV projects.

On the tech side, we had a lot of work to do.  It was not easy getting the quality audio we wanted.  In fact, there are a lot of things about this first show that bother us, but we felt it was good enough to go forward with.  We started learning Adobe Audition, and that is helping us clean up some of our audio issues, but all three segments on this first podcast were edited first in Final Cut Pro X, which actually is the video editing software we are used to.  Then we took the final audio file into Audition for some detail work.  Maybe not the best system, but we will make changes to the process in the weeks ahead, I'm sure.

Field gear we used included a Tascam audio recorder, and also a Zoom recorder.  We use them with our DSLRs as well, so the students are getting pretty used to them.  The kids used both lav and hand-held mics here and there.  Several of the main interviews, and the reporters' voice content, were recorded in Bay 11.  So was Dana Powell's phone call.  Our theme music was composed and performed by one of our staffers, Hayden Pyle.  Other music clips used on the show were free, from various websites you can find "out there" if you dig.

Our podcast host site is libysn.com.  That is where the audio track lives.  Then, once we submitted to iTunes, which is totally free, the show was ready for public consumption about 30 hours later.  We are also on Google Play, Stitcher, and Player.FM.   We made a web page for the podcast, which is htvbuzz.com/bay11.

One of the big challenges we face is "podcast style."  While we are most at home reporting stories on our flagship program, "HTV Magazine," adjusting to the more intimate, conversational podcast world will take a little time.  (Thanks to Tim Smith and Lindsey Davis for their valuable input about pod-storytelling)  

This entire journey into a new format, one that is so popular, and so fun, has been worth it.  We hope you will give Bay 11 a listen, a follow, and yes, a nice review.  We have learned that matters a lot in Podcast World.

Find "Bay 11" here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/bay-11/id1291766796

 

 

 

 

New Events Highlight 4-State Conference

The ASB 4-State Conference the first weekend of November is offering a lot of contests and two dynamic tracks of breakout sessions.  

There will be presentations throughout the event by professionals, teachers, and even students from the 4-state region, all falling under two categories:  Journalism or Production.  Expect to be challenged and inspired by both.  Students and teachers can choose which sessions to attend, and you can not go wrong with either one.  Suggestion:  Mix it up.  Visit both rooms.

On the contest side of the conference, we are excited to offer some of the standard broadcast and video production events you expect these days:  Anchoring, Broadcast News Writing, Stand-Ups, and PSA.  But there is so much more, including:

Finish the Film, a day-long event where students receive a short script with Act I and Act II, and after shooting that, they choose how to "finish the film."  

Sports Roundtable, where three students receive sports topics currently in the news, get a little time to do some fast research, then they discuss and debate those topics like they do on ESPN and other sports networks.  

Snapchat Reporter is a new event challenging students to produce ten stories about the ASB conference.  

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Radio Story is just what it suggests...a story produced for the ear, not the eyes.  Writing, and natural sound are key to this one.  Judges will be listening closely.

Those are just a few of the exciting, and different events we are sponsoring at the 4-State.  Sign up soon, get your rooms reserved at the University Plaza Hotel, and let's have a great weekend in Springfield.  

ASB and the New School Year

Schools are back in session in some parts of the country, and pretty much everyone will be back in a couple of weeks.  Here are the highlights of what we have planned:

*The ASB 4-State Conference is happening in early November.  It is for high schools in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.  You can read all about it at the 4-State link at the top of the page.  What you can't read about is this SPECIAL OFFER.  We have set aside four slots for schools outside the 4-State region, and we are ready to send invitation letters to those schools.  Teachers, if you are interested, contact us ASAP.  It is going to be a fantastic conference, and the contests are really going to be fun and educational.  Registration is underway NOW.

*The annual ASB Storytelling Award will once again have an April 15 deadline, with the winner(s) announced by May 1.  It is one of the fastest turn-arounds of any national contest anywhere, with rubrics and critiques provided for each entry.  As always, it is a FREE event.

*ASB Workshops, of course.  Next summer we will host our regular teacher workshop for first-time attendees, and we will also have our returners-only workshop here in Springfield as well.  But it will feature a few surprises, as always, including a great day trip.  Watch this site for dates and details.

And as for Part 3 of the "Video Coach" series...we have a plan.  We have a plan.

 

 

One Down, One to Go

The 2017 ASB Workshop at the "mother ship" in Springfield, MO has wrapped as 35 teachers from 17 states have all gone home, carrying with them a week of experiences and lessons in teaching broadcasting.

This was our 18th straight summer providing our special brand of professional development that combines presentations in the morning with application and field work in the PM.  We could not have been more impressed with the efforts of this year's attendees.

The good news is, we are offering another workshop in New England July 23-27.  If you need to re-charge your batteries, or get some fresh ideas for your class this fall, we hope you will check out the ASB home page where you can find information about the exciting week ahead at Quinnipiac University.  

Thanks again to a wonderful group of teachers who made our summer a whole lot brighter with their energy and great attitudes last week.  Their students are in for some fun this fall.

Our Gear No Longer Makes Us Special--So What Does?

Remember when…

The A/V Club was the domain of techy nerds in the 1950s and 60s.  They got to set up the projectors and thread actual spools of film through them so classes could watch educational movies. Some of those flicks were just awful—let’s not even talk about health class—but it was a little bit of magic in the classroom thanks to audio and video.

Present Day…

Fast forward (see what I did there) to present day, when most schools have actual broadcast or video production classes, complete with studios, cameras, laptops, software, and the ability put their work online for all to see.  Techy nerds are no longer special.  They are all around us.  Heck, they are us.

The Cool Factor has disappeared…

And that’s my point.  A/V is nothing special anymore.  The gear is everywhere.  We have HD devices with us 24/7, cell phones that get great video and decent audio.  I can shoot and even edit on my iPhone.  I don’t want to—I prefer using my phone as a phone—but you get my point.  Just being the class with all the shiny video equipment, cool as it is, may not impress teens as much as we think.  

Why your teaching really matters…

So if having all these digital devices does not make me, the high and mighty Keeper of the Cool Toys, anything special, what does?  Simple:  Story.

It makes you so valuable…

You teach story, and that is key to your students’ success as they utilize all that technology and software wizardry.  Concentrate on those storytelling skills you can infuse in your kids.  Insist on beginning-middle-end.  Make them write conversationally.  Discuss “focus” and how to narrow it.  Be the story resource, not just the Keeper of the Cool Toys.  

Those A/V clubs are a thing of the past.  But story telling will never die. 

2017 Storytelling Award Winner

"MUSIC AS MEDICINE"

Whitney High School
Students: Sarah Murphy and Savannah Hill
Advisor: Ben Barnholdt

Why it Won: Our judges were impressed with the strong writing, editing and reporting in this story from Sarah Murphy and Savannah Hill at Whitney High School in Rockin, CA.  There are wonderful small moments as b-roll and natural sound are allowed to "breathe" throughout the piece.  The creative stand-up at the piano works because both the words and music help set the stage for the sound bite that follows.  Ms. Murphy's strong voiceover, with just the right amount of inflection and professionalism, elevate this feature to award-worthy status.  Judges also appreciated the sound used at the the beginning to draw us in, and the sound pop at the end, which provided the perfect closure to a very impressive story. 

2017 Honor Roll

The following entries (in no particular order) were highly regarded by our judges from across the country, and should be congratulated on their excellence in storytelling.

Trent, Palos Verdes High School
Pride in our Differences, Moanalua High School
Casting for the Future, Moanalua High School
A Bond Beyond Basketball, Blue Valley Southwest

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Brandon Goodwin

Based in Springfield, Missouri, his video production work has taken him to four continents, a dozen countries and well over half the United States. Brandon has a decade's experience collaborating on projects of all shapes and sizes with a variety of clients, including record labels, non-profits, and advertising agencies. Recently Brandon worked as DP & Editor for the documentary, "Linotype: The Film". He has been on the ASB staff for seven years, and provides training in shooting, editing, writing, and interviewing. He is also the voice of the "Video Coach" series of training discs. He lives in Springfield with his wife Morgan and dog, Peter.