Top Ten Things This Broadcast Teacher is Tired of Hearing (With Commentary)

10. THEM: “I can’t be at the shoot tomorrow night.  We have a club game.”  ME:  “I’m sorry you have a voluntary athletic activity with an non-school organization that is going to negatively impact your grade.  But have fun.”

9.  THEM:  “Whoever had the camera last totally screwed up the iris.”  ME:  “Wow, so someone else is responsible for your blown-out video, which you could have corrected in about four seconds?  That’s rough.  Manual settings suck.”

8.  THEM:  “Our mic didn’t work, so we didn’t get the interview.”  ME:  “So we have about ten mics to choose from.  Maybe you should have taken a couple of minutes to test the mic before driving 30 minutes to the interview you now have to re-do.”

7.  THEM:  “Mr. So and So won’t let me miss the last half of math class to work on my story.  He’s a jerk.”  ME:  So the teacher of the class you are getting a solid C- in thinks you might need to stay in his class for the full period?  Even if you ask nicely to prioritize your broadcast class over his core math class?  Color me shocked.  And thanks for making him hate me.”

6.  THEM:  “We didn’t want to get in anyone’s way.”  ME:  “So glad you only got medium and wide shots, and kept at a safe distance, because tight shots are so hard to get.  So is an “A” in this class if you keep shooting wide and medium.”

5.  THEM:  “I can’t find the SD card.”  ME:  “Get out of my office and don't come back.”

4.  THEM:  “Can we put music in the background?”  ME:  “Natural sound is the noise of life.  We value nat sound.  I have taught you nat sound since you came into my class three years ago.  But sure, if you want to put music over the sounds of the parade, by all means go for it.  And yes, this is sarcasm.  Look it up.  It’s a broadcast teacher’s best friend, thanks to students like you.”

3.  THEM:  “Can I have a pass to go cash my check/get some food/fetch my practice gear?”  ME:  “So glad you think my class, and your TV deadlines, are less important than those errands.  On your way back, drop by the counseling center and enroll in wood shop for next semester.”

2.  THEM:  “We needed shots of motorcycles so we got some from the Internet.”  ME:  “Well what I really appreciate is your effort to turn a video story into a slide show.  Let’s just make HTV a newspaper and forget moving images and sound.  And also, yeah, just grab any random image from the web, because the person who shot it won’t mind.”

1A.  THEM:  “We can’t think of a story.  We need a story.”  ME:  “A monthly show like ours is mentally challenging.  You have to come up with a topic every four weeks.  Wow.  Hey, aren’t you glad we don’t do a weekly show?  That would really be a struggle.  Here, let me hand you a topic since I’m 40 years older than you, and certainly more tapped into the teen experience in the year 2016 than you apparently are.”

1B: THEM: "What do you mean no panning or to always use a tripod?  When did we cover that?"  ME:  "I should have been a farmer."

Leaving "Somewhere to Go"

Just in time for the holiday, here is something a smart friend of mine taught me with a casual remark he made over a cup of coffee at Big Momma's.

Brian Shipman, who once worked in news when he was an award-winning reporter for KY3 here in Springfield, was telling me about a student who was covering a star basketball player for a feature assignment.  Brian now runs DUTV at Drury University.  The story began with the kid playing basketball, which "leaves you no where to go."  That small phrase really registered.

How many times have my students started with the obvious, leaving them "no where to go" with the rest of the story?

Here is an example of a story two kids are working on for our show right now.  It is about a 23-year-old who up and went backpacking his way from Springfield to Hawaii to Tahiti to Australia to New Zealand.  Kind of an amazing journey, living in the moment from place to place before settling with the Kiwis down under for a year, where he works now as a photographer.

That story includes photos and videos of his travels, some really great stuff.  BUT...starting with the scenery, or the journey itself, takes away any chance to make that part of the story special or more impactful.  So the story will actually begin in a garage here on the north side of Springfield. Why?

Because to raise money to afford this big adventure, the young man and his father bought a used sports car, spent months fixing it up then selling it to a man overseas.  That is where the journey actually begins, and starting in that garage leaves the reporter and photographer "somewhere to go" as they unfurl the rest of the story.

I plan to remind other teams of students about this concept.  It is so simple, and so helpful.  Leave yourself "somewhere to go" in a feature by not starting with the obvious.

That's one cup of coffee I will remember.   Happy Thanksgiving.

Five Great Apps for Student Journalists

The title of this blog is total click bait.  I probably reeled you in with the possibility of discovering some new, awesome apps you can recommend to your students.  Maybe build a lesson plan around them. 

Sorry to disappoint.  I do not care much about apps.  Some are nice, some are lame, some are just a waste of time and yes, some are necessary in the 2016 world of journalism.  I suppose.

But here are some free “apps” that might benefit our students.

APP 1:  Appear interested.  When you conduct an interview, look the subject in the eyes instead of staring at your questions.  Be engaged, and ask follow-ups that occur to you as you "have a conversation" with your subject.  

APP 2:  Appreciate your partner.  If you are the reporter, you should offer to help carry gear, and let the photog suggest questions that you might have overlooked.  And photographers, help with research, help with the script, do whatever you need to do to make the story the best it can be.

APP 3:  Applaud your classmates when they produce good stories, or come up with great ideas.  Remember, you are all part of a team producing a show that should be a source of pride for each staff member.  Good leadership often means providing positive feedback.

APP 4:  Approach every story with this in mind:  What do I really need to know?  This will help you dig a little deeper, and at the same time, keep you focused on your topic.     

App 5:  Apply the principle of “minimizing harm.”  Covering difficult topics, or talking to people about some of the darker times in their lives is always a challenge.  Journalists should look for a way to report about these issues while striving to minimize harm as much as possible.  In this current climate, that might seem too “old school.”  But nobody said you had to check your conscience at the door to be a good journalist. 

Let Student Journalists Out of the Box

Enjoy this article by an ASB guest blogger, Michelle Turner:

It's common for broadcast advisers to swap email addresses, twitter handles, YouTube channels, and sometimes phone numbers. More often that not, we are the lone duck in our buildings. It's rare to have one, much less TWO, television teachers in the same high school. That is one of the reasons we often are found picking each other's brains at conventions or contests.

When asked, I tell fellow broadcast advisers to find my students' work at www.bluejayjournal.com. It is easy for me to remember, especially since I made sure we owned the domain long before we were given the approval to build a website (much to the dismay of a few Toronto Blue Jay fans who would like to own it).A few times last school year other broadcast advisers pressed me for video only links to my students' work. I found myself explaining that the Blue Jay Journal TV website has access to our videos, and more. It has student blogs, Humans of WHS, special feature pages, and behind the scenes articles from the staff about their stories and PSAs.

Once I found myself having to defend our website. I was asked, "You're not a school newspaper, so why do all this writing and proofreading?" 

It was as if this individual thought "video students" cannot or should not do more, which I actually find shocking. 

It's time to stop placing labels and limitations on students. I currently have a former student who is planning to major in Convergence Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism (Mizzou). She was on both the newspaper and broadcast staffs last year. She is becoming the face of what is expected from today's journalists. 

Why can't a yearbook staff make a promotional PSA or incorporate video into their books with QR codes that lead to YouTube links? 

Why can't a broadcast staff spread their wings and explore the written word, photography, and social media reporting to enhance their online packages? On that note, why can't they have true online packages instead of just a page with a video embedded on it? 

Newspapers (professional and student-led) have caught on quickly that their articles benefit not only from photographs, but from video as well. Our own local newspaper, www.emissourian.com, has worked to add more videos to their online publication. 

It's time to stop putting our students in a neatly packaged box with a label. The "real world" of journalism no longer fits into those boxes. If you have a broadcast program, do not be afraid to have your students blog or take photographs of events (odds are they are already there filming). If you have a print program, don't fear video. In the end, your students will only benefit from the experience.

Michelle Anne Turner teaches at Washington High School in Missouri and is the 2016 JEA Broadcast Adviser of the Year

It's THEIR Story

One of the colorful, cool posters we make available in our ASB Store is the one with the phrase, "It's Their Story."  Sometimes, I think this those three words get lost in the process.

When student reporters ask people to open up to them about some aspect of their lives, something that can be extremely difficult to talk about, it can really be a rush for the young journalist.  They come back talking about all the emotion of the interview, or how the subject was so open and honest.  Those are generally things to indeed be excited about as a reporter.  You want to bring your viewers something strong, something real.

You also want to remember whose story you are telling.  It is certainly not your story.  YOU are not the one who experienced the drama you are covering, whether it is something life-changing or yes, something heartbreaking.  The person you are talking to did experience it, and is willing to talk to you about it.  But it s THEIR story, and it is YOUR privilege to tell it.  Never forget that.

Those three words on the light blue poster should also motivate a young journalist to honor the person who is sharing a piece of their life, by doing the best job possible--shooting, writing, and editing the final piece with care and with dedication.

Yes, it's THEIR story, but it's YOUR responsibility.  Bring it to your audience with fairness, accuracy, and clarity.    

Two Types of Pitches

When we have our monthly pitch meetings, all sorts of ideas come up.  Some are great, some are not.  Most fall somewhere in between.  

What makes a good pitch for a broadcast journalism show?  Here is how I have started looking at it the last few years.

There are story pitches, and there are topic pitches.  One is a little more do-able than the other, but both have their place.

I consider a story pitch something that can be shot quickly and edited in just a few days.  Students pitching stories are usually planning to cover events such as community activities—games, fall festivals, Homecoming, the opening of a new skate park—subjects that do not require multiple shoots.

I consider a topic pitch something more challenging, with a much longer production cycle.  These are usually your social issues or in-depth profile pieces.  They are sometimes less visual than story pitches, and usually require several formal interviews.  They require multiple shoots, sometimes as many as seven or eight locations.  

When your students start pitching for your next show, this breakdown might help.  For us, it is usually about experience and time.  The juniors just coming onto the staff might not be ready for an edgy, or difficult topic that they might feel more confident covering in a few months.  And right now, the broadcast students who are involved in fall sports have limited time to shoot and edit, so they often pitch stories that they can shoot in one day, or maybe on the weekend.

As an adviser, I think it is important for me to make sure kids pitch things they can actually get done.  Usually, that is just about asking them simple questions about time management, sources, research, things that impact every story.  But ultimately, it’s up to them to turn their pitch into an actual segment for our show.

Contests Will Eventually Break Your Heart

Scholastic broadcast contests are so common now.  STN, NSPA, JEA, all the initials out there run video/broadcast journalism contests.  Here in ASB-land we even host one of our own every spring.

Some colleagues I respect a lot shy away from contests.  They do not see the value, or do not think the effort is worth the payoff.  I get that.

Some colleagues I respect a lot enter every contest they can, giving their students numerous chances to earn recognition.  I get that.

What I do not get is the teachers who make the contest, and the pursuit of awards, the focus of their program. 

The Horror Stories

I once knew a teacher who uploaded over a dozen entries for the RFK Award, and some had nothing to do with the guidelines of that contest, or its purpose (social journalism).

I once knew a teacher who repeatedly talked about how “awards are not the most important thing,” but was the first to contact the school district and local media with over-hyped press releases about their latest honors, often within just a couple of hours of the award being handed out.  

I once knew a teacher who publicized an on-site convention award as meaning “we are the best in the NATION.”  An on-site award.  Think about it.  You had to be there to even participate. 

I once saw a teacher march out of an awards ceremony with his students in tow, obviously angry about not winning the big show award, even though they were up for other awards that had not been announced yet.  As soon as they heard they lost the “big one,” they walked.  In front of everyone.  

I once saw a teacher railing at convention runners because her school tried to turn in an entry five minutes after the contest deadline.  It was a broadcast journalism contest.  Deadlines matter in that area, right?

 

There Are Lessons We Can All Learn

Regarding the teachers who shy away from competition, as long as you are honest with your students about the contests—what they are about, how you enter, and what happens if you actually win or place—I support your staff never entering.  But the students are the ones who have the biggest stake in this.  So maybe have the conversation and let them decide?  They might surprise you. 

To the contest junkies, the teachers who deny caring about awards but show with every submission that they really do care, you just need to keep it in perspective.  One way is by not mentioning contests every other day.  Stop focusing on them.  Enter all you want, but you have to know you will lose more than you win.   

To the teachers who put so much focus on contests, then start judge-blaming as soon as they lose, you are setting a horrible example for your students.  Broadcast contests are subjective, and have to be judged.  And on this day, maybe this judge or panel just didn’t love your kids’ work as much as you think they should.  It happens, and when you share the results with your staff, YOU become the lesson.  Stop judge-shaming and judge-blaming.  I have been guilty of both, so I am not sitting on high moral ground when I say this.  It took me a while to gain perspective.  But the glory is in the story, not the contest.

And speaking of perspective, can we all stop using the phrase “BEST IN THE NATION” once and for all?  Just stop.  Nobody gets to claim this.  Ever.

"Best in the nation" when 3/4 of the schools out there have not even heard of the organization or the contest you are talking about?  Seriously?  We have won national awards for stories in the past that did not even win an award at our own media banquet in May.  It is all relative.

Until all the initials come together, agree on the exact same standards, and run ONE contest a year to name the best this or that, we can not even come close to using the phrase “BEST IN THE NATION.”  

Better to say, “We just received the so-and-so contest award, and we are excited to celebrate this.”

Yes, celebrate awards and honors that come your way.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Would a basketball team win the state title and simply head to the showers, letting the team manager collect the trophy at mid-court?  CELEBRATE.  Eat cake.  Share the news.  Enjoy the moment.

But always remember the title of this blog:  Contests will eventually break your heart.  

 

Some New Year Story Ideas

As the new year begins for scholastic broadcasters across the country, the annual search for story ideas begins.  My students have said for years that it is their biggest challenge.  Not learning the cameras, mastering the editing software, or managing their time.  It is that constant struggle to find the story—the idea—that stresses them the most.

Filling in the assignment board is always the challenge.

Filling in the assignment board is always the challenge.

So here are some ideas that might work, or at least lead to a good topic, for your students as we all struggle to find compelling content.  Feel free to share more ideas in the “comments” section.  We are all in this together!

*Fall sports that are not football deserve coverage.  Have you tried doing a feature on the lonely cross country runner?  Lots of repeated action and some great camera angles (think W-A-L-L-D-O) are possible.  Why do they do it?  What keeps them going?  Coaches love to talk about dedicated runners.  This one practically edits itself.

*Instead of the usual “meet the new teachers” story, how about visiting with the veteran teacher starting his/her 25th year in your building?  How has the school changed?  Your yearbooks provide a lot of b-roll possibilities.  The changes in wardrobe, hairstyles, and such will be evident.  As the veteran teacher talks about the school then and now, you can give great texture with the old photos.

*Election coverage seems appropriate, but find the most passionate teens who are actually participating in the process.  Get past the same old sound bites about the candidates and see what motivates the teens to volunteer at headquarters, or help post signs and such for their candidate.  This is a great opportunity to cover both sides—get supporters of each candidate for your primary sources, but maybe find a surprise such as a teen committed to a third party candidate.  

*Changes—every school year there are changes.  How about drilling down on just one of them?  Pick out the change most kids are talking about.  A new bell schedule—new procedures at lunch—rules about parking.  The “newness” of the changes makes them perfect fodder for a news story, especially on a daily or weekly show.  Note:  Some changes are actually well-received.  Students should be allowed to talk about the changes they like as well as the ones they question.

*Seniors are entering their final year of high school.  What’s in store?  Talk to a school counselor about all the milestones ahead—from taking the ACT or SAT, applying for colleges, ordering graduation announcements, planning for prom, all the “last times” ahead.  What makes the senior year special/expensive/exciting/hectic?  

Those are just five ideas that might get your pitch meetings going.  Have a great year, and find some great stories!