Broadcast Advisers and Politics

Before you read my opinion below, one you may hate, please watch this seven-second clip.

My Take:  Broadcast Journalism teachers should not be publishing, posting, or sharing their political leanings or opinions.  If you advise a high school journalism show, you can not risk it.  We are to be objective, as are our young journalists.  If you want to campaign for this party, or that candidate, then you open yourself up to mistrust:  "Are you using your little high school show to push your agenda?"  "Are your students' stories reflecting your politics?"    

If you think this is totally unfair of me to suggest...have you been paying attention to what much of the general public thinks of the news these days?  

I know it is a challenge to keep quiet when issues hit close to your heart, but I can honestly say I never had any idea what my journalism advisers' politics were in high school or college.  Do your students really need to know yours?  It is much easier to insist your reporters provide both sides, or all sides, of a news story when they do not have to worry about your left-wing or right-wing or whatever-wing leanings. 

Just like the producer above who flinched at the anchor's comment, our student-reporters, even at our end of the journalism food chain, have a right to expect objectivity from us, because we expect it of them.

Now, fire away.  I can take it.  I think.  

Ten Things That Can Drive Broadcast Teachers Crazy

Ten Things Can That Drive Broadcast Teachers Crazy

10.  Keeping students on task consistently.  Deadlines vary.  Some kids finish work and have nothing to do, while others continue various projects, and of course some students are just not team players, so they end up working alone.  It is a balancing act, and you hope your admins understand.  SOLUTION:  In your syllabus, protect yourself.  "Each quarter, students will be assigned independent production activities."  Then find one-man-band stories for the lone wolves to cover, things like school clubs, assemblies, promos, the bake sale.  Anything, really.  Maybe an audio story, or a print piece for your website.  Be creative.  It should not be a punishment assignment...it's just a regular part of your class.   

9.  Keeping track of all the equipment.  Talk about a headache...who took what?  Students will grab things at the last minute, not tell you, and three days later, you are missing a wireless mic, a tripod, a laptop.  SOLUTION:  Have a sign-out board in plain site--and make kids sign out every item.  It makes a nice visual reminder of who has which piece.  If this does not work, you have to take away the privilege.  Your equipment is too important, and every camera not returned in a timely fashion is a piece of equipment another student is waiting on.  

8.  Those outside projects.  You know the ones...the PSA for the non-profit...the football game you were asked to shoot...the "welcome to our school" video for incoming students.  It is not that colleagues or friends have little respect for your time.  It really can be more about them trusting you and your kids to do good work (at little or no cost).  SOLUTION:  You have to learn to say NO.  Remember your syllabus--did you include the outside projects as part of your curriculum, your class expectations?  If not, say NO.  Or...say yes, but for a fee.  Use these opportunities to raise some funds for some equipment, a trip, batteries, SD cards, whatever.  But ultimately, this one is on you, teacher/adviser.  Saying NO can save you.

7.  Controversial stories.   Talk about a pain.  Your kids keep pitching stories that will make others uncomfortable, or rock a boat that might be easier to leave alone.  This one comes down to a number of things--do you have tenure?  That helps.  Teachers can get fired or reprimanded for controversial stories.  Do you control your show's content, or do the students?  If you are an "open forum for student expression," it's the kids' call (and they have to answer for it).  If not, you, as an employee of the district, can be ruled insubordinate for bucking your superiors.  Know where you stand.  SOLUTION:  Decide if you are a journalism program, or an information/entertainment program?  Make that clear to all from the outset.  If you are doing journalism, part of that job is covering news someone does not want covered.  It comes with the territory, even at the scholastic level.  If doing journalism pushes you out of your comfort zone, or you have little journalistic training yourself, there may be too many land mines in your future.  Maybe change or clarify your program's focus.  You know where your strengths are, and what you are qualified to teach.

6.  The changing technology.  It is such a challenge, just keeping up with what is happening with gear on a regular basis.  Moving to the world of DSLRs is pretty much a given for scholastic programs these days.  Everyone wants the prettier pictures, the depth of field thing...just one more piece of equipment to learn and teach.  And should you go totally with laptops, or are some iMacs still a good idea? Wireless mics?  A drone?  A GoPro?  Do we need all that?  The technology you purchase requires lots of homework on your part.  SOLUTION:  Talk to colleagues who have been at this a while.  The veteran broadcast teachers have all been burned by bad gear purchases.  They are usually very willing to advise others so they avoid the same mistakes.  One more thing--you do not need a green screen to produce a show.  You really don't.

5.  Editing software.   It used to be an ongoing debate.  Mac vs. PC.  Final Cut Pro vs. Premiere or Avid.  Even Avid vs. Premiere.  On and on it went.  Then Apple totally changed things with Final Cut Pro X, which looked nothing like the previous versions of FCP.  It was a huge letdown for Final Cut users who thought X was just iMovie on steroids.  Many bailed.  We hear a lot about school broadcast programs moving to Premiere, even if they held on to their Macs.  SOLUTION:  I asked a college broadcast teacher a couple of weeks ago about this dilemma.  Should I dump FCP X and go to Premiere?  Am I hurting my kids who might go "into the industry?"  He looked at me and said, "Do you know if something was edited on Adobe or Apple just by watching?"  No.  Of course not.  Good point.  He continued to say that he has both FCP and Premiere, and the students who come in knowing FCP have little trouble learning Premiere, and then he lets them edit on either.  Wow.  What a concept.  

4.  The show thing.  What kind of show do you do?  Is it the kind of show kids are watching?  Or are we stuck in a rut in scholastic broadcasting?  It seems like we ignore the data in front of us.  Viewers online give a clip less than 10 seconds to get their attention.  They click away fast if it is not something they care about.  How many viewers actually will sit and watch your 15 or 20 minute program unless they are a captive audience watching it in a classroom?  I wonder if you are having discussions about your programming with the kids who produce it?  It looks to me like the only place long-form shows are popular is in national contests that still have categories for longer shows.  SOLUTION:  We all need to think about this, and see if our model is just "what has always been."  Maybe it works for you, but maybe you just think it works for you.  

3.  The film thing.  If you polled your students right now, many of you would find out just how many of them prefer to do "film" stuff, and not "journalism" stuff.  Kids are into film.  They really like making short movies.  Do you embrace this?  Is it time to surrender, to set aside all that journalism you try to do, and give the creative types the freedom to follow their passion?  SOLUTION:  In high school, we have the luxury of doing both.  We can maintain a journalism class that occasionally steps into the movie-making world.  It can be a great change of pace.  It also is playing fair with the film-ish students.  They do journalism part of the time, with the understanding they can have time to create a short movie for a contest or screening down the road.  I think we can meet kids part-way on this.  Best case scenario, kids from both sides learn to appreciate the other.

2.  To enter or not to enter.  There are contests for broadcast and video production all over the place.  Teachers can submit student videos every week somewhere, it seems.  Should you?  It is always a good idea to seek outside feedback on your work.  Many of the contests provide this in the form of critiques (STN, JEA, ASB all do this with their contests).  SOLUTION:  Instead of contests driving your productions, consider making contests an afterthought.  Approach it like this:  "Hey, if we do some really good work, I will see about submitting it."  Make contest submissions the icing on the cake.  Make doing good work the constant goal in your program.  Applaud improvement and effort.  Not everyone needs a certificate.  They do need a teacher's encouragement now and then.

1.  Grading.  Yes, grading is a fact of life for all teachers.  How fun is it when so much of what your kids produce for your class has to be graded subjectively?  We battle this all the time--how to give a fair assessment of student work in video classes.  SOLUTION:  Grade the process, not the result.  You can have daily or weekly grades to reflect the progress of a production.  You can also use a checklist for the project, grading kids for meeting a number of small deadlines (shot list composed, interview conducted, clips organized, script drafted, etc.).  Then, of course, you can give some sort of grade for the final project, but maybe it should not be worth more than the process grades.  In other words, grade the journey, not the destination.  

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.