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


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


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.

Summer Workshop Filling Up

We had one of our best summers ever in 2016, with two lively teacher workshops here in Springfield, MO.  The "Queen City of the Ozarks" has been the home of this week-long teacher training event since the summer of 2000.


This year, we host just one of our workshops, for first-time attendees only.  We host the workshop for returning teachers in even years only, which means it will be back in 2018, along with the yearly boot camp for the new attendees.  As I type this, registrations are going very well, so well that we may max out this July's edition very soon.

If you want to receive professional development grounded in the reality of your broadcast/video classroom, with plenty of great material, but also plenty of get-up-and-shoot-and-edit-and-stop-talking-it-to-death fun, the ASB Workshop is just the professional development you need.

Learn more, and register here, as soon as you can:

Can We Agree on One Thing?


Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 10.02.20 AM.png

I have been teaching and preaching about using natural sound in news and feature stories forever.  It is one of the things high school broadcast students frequently forget.  “NAT SOUND.”  

It is also something that seems to get a pass in national contests.  We have all seen too many stories win recognition, held up as the “best of the best,” with almost no natural sound.  Things happen visually in the story that obviously make noise, but that audio is muted.  All we hear is the reporter voice track.  

Where does that happen in the real world?  Where do you ever go where there is absolutely no sound around you?  Unless you live in a sound proof booth, the answer is no where.  

The emphasis on including NAT SOUND in video stories is pretty universal.  Professionals insist on it.  College professors lecture about it.  The best high school teachers emphasize it.  

So can we all agree that NAT SOUND has to become a consistent expectation, something that automatically separates the top stories from the also-rans?  

Remind students of this: Sound is half of your video.


Here’s an investigative piece two of my students produced about ten years ago.  The NAT SOUND was important for this piece, which could have been very, very dry without it.



Lesson Plan: Failure

It is not just a clever phrase meant to get your attention.  I really do "teach from failure" almost every single day.  Students in my broadcast classes fight challenges with gear, with story-gathering, with writing, research, time management, and of course, with those three crucial parts of any good story:  beginning, middle and end.  

So in this blog, you are going to meet some of my former students, pictured below, who were kind enough to share a few frustrations from their work in my Broadcast Journalism I and II classes.  I asked them to bravely recall failing, and learning from it.  

Clockwise, Tyler Wassam (large photo), Lindsey Cunningham, Kimberly Moore (pictured with Dylan Walker), Rob Lyons and Lexi Bull.

Clockwise, Tyler Wassam (large photo), Lindsey Cunningham, Kimberly Moore (pictured with Dylan Walker), Rob Lyons and Lexi Bull.

First up, Lexi Bull, class of 2013.  She was mildly traumatized the day I walked into her edit bay, looked at the story she was editing, and told her it had no substance.  Then I deleted the timeline and said "start over."  She was a sophomore at the time.

"I was shocked because I'd never experienced something like that. Especially being the "A" student I was. BUT, I knew it (the story) deserved it. I knew that I deserved it. And I sort of enjoyed finally being called out for not giving my best effort. I could do that in other classes and still get A's. Even though HTV wasn't ever really about a grade, my best effort was demanded (in the most loving way possible). If I didn't live up to capabilities, I experienced the consequences. But I never feared failure in the class, which was a great comfort."

Lindsey Cunningham, class of 2015, remembers struggling with sound, and with questions during interviews.

"Almost every story seemed like a failure because there were always things that could've been better.  Every story had a list of things to improve on next time around. I know I started focusing on getting natural sound for every story, because the pieces that didn't have any just sounded so awkward.  Also, I improved my interview skills from beating myself up over the questions I neglected to ask."

Tyler Wassam, class of 2014, also talked about sound, but in his case, it was a lack of sound due to technical problems. 

"Honestly, I think I learned the biggest lesson on my first story.  We had an incredible character with an amazing story. It was about a painter who survived a train wreck and spent years of his life in the hospital. We were super excited to get into the editing room and hammer out the edit, but when we started reviewing our footage we noticed something was off. We had forgotten to turn on the mic, and ruined a chance to tell someone's story. That's the number one thing that sticks out to me and I'll never forget to turn on a mic again; I'm known to double or triple check mics now, just want to stay on the safe side."

A story shot on the streets of New Orleans during the 2011 HTV "Southern Swing" bus tour still haunts Kimberly Moore, class of 2012.

"I did a walking ghost tour story in New Orleans. Thought it would be super cool, and a fun way to show the culture there. Wrong. The story was a total bust. Not only was it extremely boring and the ghost part clearly fake, there wasn't a lot of appealing visuals on the route we took, and the sound bites were awful."

So a ghost tour with no ghosts.  Kimberly continues...

"I learned many things from doing that terrible story. One, always have a plan B story in mind. It'll just be better for everyone. Two, you need to be quick on your feet and learn to work with what you've got. Any good reporter can turn a terrible story into a decent one, you just have to know how. Three, utilize the locals more. Especially being in an unfamiliar city, the best source we could have used was the locals."

The senior member of this group of former HTVers is Rob Lyons, class of 2009.  He remembers a specific story that got some intensive care at the last minute, and how he learned from it.

"My junior year we did a story about a Rogersville, MO student with a brain tumor. Though the final product turned out to be decent, what we brought to Coach was anything but. He sat down with our senior line producer and re-edited the footage in front of us, painfully reminding us what questions we should’ve asked, and how we should’ve edited what we had together. We had been taught these things since Broadcast I, but it was my initial failure in this story that transformed this 'head knowledge' into tangible guidelines that greatly helped the rest of my time in HTV."

So there you have it.  Recollections designed to remind us all, teachers and students, that broadcast journalism is always a work on progress.  One more thing--a quote from Brian Shipman, the Drury University TV instructor--something he teaches his college kids:  "Fail faster."  

In other words, you are going to fail from time to time.  Do it, learn from it, and move on.  


Controlling the Crude

The late George Carlin's famous "Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV" routine is no longer shocking, and no longer accurate.

Profanity constantly spews from the radio, the TV, and of course, from the Internet, and it is making a video teacher's job more difficult than ever.  


Mainstream cable stations such as TBS, FX, TNT and others run programming laced with words those of us born before 1970 would never have imagined hearing in our front rooms every night.  The over-the-air networks, which are held to slightly higher standards by the FCC, also bring the blue language consistently.

This impacts our classrooms all the time.  Students producing short movies, or humorous projects, look at you like you are an alien when you tell them something is in poor taste.  There is almost nothing that shocks our youth, and we now have a younger generation of teachers who have been exposed to off-color content their entire lives. 

In classes like ours, we do not want to squelch creativity and enthusiasm among our students, especially the ones so excited about their short movie script, or their well-planned parody.  Those projects are often valuable learning experiences.  

So what is the best way to handle the issue of swearing or questionable taste in student-produced videos?

This is a subjective decision we must face individually.  For example, students at one of our sister schools produced an award-winning short movie last year with stark images of drug use, including a needle-going-into-the-arm scene as the main character shot up on heroin.  It was part of a very well-executed story, but I would not share it with our school audience.  Maybe that's just me.

That is my point.  I make the call in my classroom, based on our district policies, and the culture of my school and my video department.  I have made those calls for almost 30 years.  I try to err on the side of the students.  They did the work, and shooting them down is always hard.  Those moments when I object deserve a conversation and an explanation, which I try to provide.

This is not a new challenge for us.  I know the Student Television Network went through pains in the early years of the STN national convention trying to decide what content would be allowed in contests.  I was the chairman of the first five conventions (2004-2008), and I eventually put together a strong committee of experts from across the country to draft creative content guidelines.  This after some edgy visuals in student-produced music videos raised questions among teachers, and even then, some thought the complainers were just being childish.

So yes, our culture is crude, and our kids see and hear things every day they will immitate and try to put into their own productions.  Broadcast and video teachers in this day and age can not escape these battles over content.  

You have to find balance, and you also have to protect students from their own ignorance of how their content reflects back on them, and on you, the teacher, as well as the entire school.  





Doing Journalism

Last March I wrote a blog titled, "Teach Journalism...Or Don't."  It was about teachers who are asked to take on a broadcast journalism class, and facing that daunting task with no journalism training in their background.  It is a really tough way to go. 

Now, as many of us look ahead to next year, and students and counselors start working on schedules, it might be time to remind the teens who want to sign up for your class that they need to make a serious commitment to actually do journalism.  

If your class has the word "journalism" in it, kids should know they will be expected to actually produce news stories and news features.  Not skits.  Not music videos.  Not morning announcements.  Those might be part of your class now and then, but they can not be the focus of your class if you teach Journalism, as Les Rose says, "with a capital J."

In many ways, Broadcast Journalism is a harder sell right now than it's ever been.  Our gear is not as special as it once was.  Kids are walking around with HD video cameras in their pocket.  They can even edit on their phones, and of course publishing their work online is a snap.  The bright, high-flying kids often take one look at what a beginning reporter earns and move on to consider dozens of other career options.  Finally, has any profession lost as much respect from the public in the last 10 or 12 years?  Viewers want reporting that aligns with their political or moral beliefs, not stories that force them to consider things from a different point of view.  Objectivity is not valued, and I am not sure it is not even recognized anymore by so many jaded consumers. 

It is a crucial part of our nation's DNA--a free, diligent, aggressive press corp, holding the powerful accountable, and reaching out to tell stories of those who fall between the cracks.  Before kids sign up for your class, talk to them honestly about these issues.  Give them a clear picture of what is expected next year.  

Your main goal?  Find out who has a heart for reporting the truth, because that is where a journalist is born.