Looking Back: 20 Years of the ASB Workshop

There were recently 34 video teachers in my classroom for a week. They came from California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, from all across the U.S. One came from Buffalo, MO, about 45 minutes down the road.

Why did they come to of all places, aging Hillcrest High School on the “old side” of Springfield? Apparently, they heard good things about our “little-workshop-that-could.” So we did our best to give them what they needed.

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Since the summer of 2000, teachers have taken a chance on our approach, and we are honored they have. At that first workshop, 26 of them showed up, and many remain my friends today. Others I lost track of, because…life. But I think of them now and then and wonder where they are, and if they have good memories of the Ozark Empire Fair, where they shot their big stories. Of food often breaded and fried up, and of the deck-to-deck VHS editing they did when they weren’t experimenting with a new device called a “Casablanca.” Or was it an “Avio?” Either way, they found frustration with those new-fangled digital editing machines.

The second year, we had 37 teachers show up, and they were really crammed into my classroom, but they did not complain. I saw some pushed to tears as they tried to meet our deadlines. I saw some wince a little when their projects early in the week were critiqued in front of the entire group.

We have not changed much since those first years. We still harp on STORY. Beginning, middle, end. We ask them to be “teacher as student” for a week. To let us share a ton of information, and offer a variety of approaches they can choose to use, or ignore. We also say every story needs a simple focus. What’s yours?

So what of the 20th group of educators who chose to visit Springfield, the land of Pineapple Whip, the Mudhouse, and those tasty “throwed rolls,” and put their faith in us for a few hot summer days? How did it go this time around?

It is safe to say as a staff, we felt we did a nice job presenting material, and giving the attendees the kind of hands-on opportunities that bring the the best lessons to life.

But how did it really go? That is never easy to answer. It will take weeks, months, probably an entire school year to see how the workshop impacts 34 programs around the country. I hope to hear from the teachers now and then, as things happen in their classes that hopefully we covered.

In the meantime, I have a cup of joe waiting on me on South street. You see, everybody knows to come downtown to the Mudhouse for a great cup of coffee…




A Modest Proposal

I was visiting with a good friend and colleague from the scholastic journalism world and he talked about a flaw in our national conventions, pretty much all of them…the schedules.

When students get the privilege of visiting a great city, full of attractions, history, opportunities, what do we do? We schedule convention activities and contests all day, when students and teachers could be touring, soaking up all the things the area offers, getting their money’s worth. Conventions are not just about contests and keynotes.

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The thing is, these great cities we visit are all a lot riskier for kids at night. SO…why not have as many contests and convention sessions, presentations, whatever, in the evening? Give us the daytime, as much as possible, for touring. You want us to come to the big cities, but then you try to keep us tied down all day.

There is one exception—getaway day. Sunday, usually. You have to run the awards ceremonies early so everyone can hit the road, head to the airport….or start doing the site-seeing they weren’t able to do the previous three DAYS.

A modest proposal, but a smart one. I can say that, because it wasn’t mine.

Seattle, STN, and Final Thoughts

We have had a week to digest the experience we had in Seattle at the annual STN national convention.

The weather in Seattle was basically perfect. No rain. Lots of sunshine. Yes, I’m talking about THAT Seattle. It was amazing. Great weather for touring, competing, just walking and taking in the sites, and absorbing the feel of a big city.

So here are some reflections from someone who loves this event, and even chaired it the first five years. Yes, you can file this under “For What It’s Worth,” because I have no role in running the convention. I am just one of the 3,000 who attended.

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1—The opening ceremony got really rough reviews from the seven or eight teachers I talked to about it, but full disclosure—we did not attend. After the usual stress of the Crazy 8 contest, we visited the Space Needle to take advantage of the clear blue sky, and then we went to dinner. We had actually not heard of the keynote speaker, and my students who attended last year said the opening was their least favorite part of the convention. So they asked me weeks ago if they could bail. I said okay. This time.

2—The Crazy 8 really needs to run from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Nothing is open at 8 a.m., which is when it starts now. Folks are not answering the phone. Having the deadline one hour later can not be that big of a hindrance to the judges, and it’s still three hours before the opening ceremony.

3—The Crazy 8 is skim-the-surface-time for us. We have a hard time doing stories that have much depth, or importance, really. I do appreciate the tough topic this year, which threw some folks off-balance, I’m sure. A bad note: I had a crew drop by a shop to see about an interview, and the owner said they were contacted “two weeks ago” for an interview. Two weeks ago? Come on people. That’s pathetic.

4—It is impressive how professional the STN in-house broadcasts are. They are also streamed live of course. The gang from Texas High School have it down pat. Never let them go. And starting on time was a plus. Good work all.

5—The contests are the backbone of the STN convention, and it is impressive so many kids meet deadline and do high quality work. Amazing, really. We only had one team miss deadline, and they are turning their project, which was not submitted, into a piece for our show later this month, which is great. They will get something useful out of their efforts despite missing deadline in Seattle.

6—I was glad there was a new category, “Podcast Story.” I think it’s great, but my kids took it literally and concentrated on telling a story with sound bites, voiceover, kind of a journalistic approach. I am not sure the judges were looking for that.

7—I did two sessions, one for teachers-only that was just what some of us needed. Lots of positive, specific reflections from the teachers in the audience. I came away energized and encouraged. I hope others did as well.

8—I am always proud to see Mizzou sponsor the STN teacher luncheon.

9—I did not visit the vendors. I was in that area a few times, but the contest meetings happened there, and it was pretty congested. Probably bad timing by me to go up to the third floor at the wrong time. Once I was running late for a session, and it was a madhouse. The other time I was meeting colleagues. By the way, the check-in/registration process was simple. I appreciated that.

10—I enjoyed the usual variety of cameras, accessories, mics, prompters, you name it. I love seeing the technology other schools are using that we will likely never have. I am serious—it is great to see the cool toys.

None of my critique is meant to take individuals to task. There is no perfect convention ever, trust me. I can attest to that. I have the scars to prove it. The STN convention is huge, it’s exciting, and it is here to stay. I have no idea if anyone had similar experiences or reactions.

Feel free to comment here about anything you want. I am sure the STN folks appreciate constructive input from their customers. On to D.C. in 2020.

STN Prep Time

Are we ready for a national convention of 3,000 dedicated video students and teachers? Maybe.

I am taking 20 kids to Seattle March 28-31 for the annual STN Convention, an event that began in 2004 with 500 attendees, and has now grown to become the nation’s largest gathering of high school and middle school video producers in one place. It can be overwhelming, but it really does not need to be.

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Here are some simple tips for those attending for the first time, or for the first time in a while:

1—Encourage the kids to do their best in the contests, then get out of the way. Let them fail, or succeed, on their own merits. Besides, if you are caught assisting in the on-sites, your kids get DQed. Explain that to mom and dad when they meet you at the airport.

2—Go to sessions that might take you out of your comfort zone. Listen to presenters that challenge the way you normally do things.

3—Visit with vendors. Ask questions. Find out about the latest, coolest, newest thing coming your way, because it will arrive eventually, and you will have to deal with it. I remember “digital” video being a far-off concept. The idea of non-linear editing? In high school? Never.

4—I hesitate to say “network” because it is overused, but hey, STN is a network. So meet folks. Swap ideas, find out what they do, and how they do it. You see a kid using a fancy, new-fangled gizmo? Go up to them and politely say, “Can you tell me about that, because it looks cool.” Get ready—kids love to share with curious teachers.

5—Thank some of the key folks you see working their tails off. Folks like Charles and his crew that produce the in-house (and online) broadcasts of the convention’s big sessions, like the opening, the closing and the film fest. They are unsung heroes every year. Or how about Jeb, the guy who runs the contests, which means no sleep, lots of stress. They are around, and a pat on the back can mean an awful lot.

If you are not going this year, follow the live streams via the STN website and see what all the fuss is about. One highlight, which has been the case from the very first year—STN’s closing awards ceremony is hosted by students. It is a nice experience for them, and a valuable reminder for the rest of us that the event is really first and foremost about the young people, the ones who give it life and energy every year.

Is This a Video Story or an Audio Story?

Since we debuted our podcast, “Bay 11,” in the fall of 2017, a new conversation has become pretty common in my advanced Broadcast Journalism class. It usually goes something like this:

“Would that be a better podcast topic? Or is this an HTV story all the way?”

Now that we have an audio storytelling outlet, we have the luxury of tackling those non-visual stories on the podcast.

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Non-visual topics are brutal for teens. The students often have great intentions, but when they get ready to put their story together, they frequently fall back on photos. I call it a “slide show story.” Where are the moving pictures…the video?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe your broadcast journalism staff can take on any topic. You can do video stories about anything, but it can be really difficult to “show” things like teen depression, for instance. It is a huge issue worthy of coverage, but one that challenges a young, visual storyteller.

Our latest podcast is about human trafficking. It contains the compelling story of a woman, Kris, who was trafficked when she was 18. Everything she describes is vivid. It grabs you and won’t let go. Had we tried to illustrate her story with video, we would have resorted to a lot of “representational” images, some blurry effects, all the post-production wizardry we could muster, but somehow, I think it would have just distracted from her story.

So if you are a long time video journalism teacher like me, and are late to the podcast world, like me, all I can tell you is how much of a difference it has made. We can now critically examine a topic and decide which medium—audio or video—offers the best opportunity to provide the best coverage. And isn’t that the point?

The Rush Is On

Just a quick post here to remind broadcast and video teachers who are thinking about attending our ASB Workshop in Springfield, MO…the tried and true workshop we have hosted since the summer of 2000…registration is moving at the fastest pace ever.

We limit it to 30 attendees. That is the number we found works best for our space, our staff, and our curriculum. If you want to know more, just hit the “Workshops” link at the top of this page. Sign up soon if you are sure you are coming. We will not begin invoicing until early February.

The ASB Workshop is hands-on, and is beneficial to both new and veteran broadcast and video teachers because of the way the week progresses. It is a busy, but rewarding experience, grounded in the reality of the classroom.

Ask any colleagues who have attended in the past for references, or e-mail questions about any aspect of the workshop to: dave@scholasticbroadcasting.com.

Hope to see you in July.

My Favorite Things, 2018

Looking back at the year 2018, here are a few of my favorite moments, epiphanies, or just fun comments about my job as a broadcast journalism….make that Broadcast Journalism teacher and adviser. Feel free to leave some of yours in the “comments” if you want.

*LOVE love love love producing our “Bay 11” podcast. Who knew in the twilight of my career, I could learn so much about a new way of storytelling? Our crew is a small group of four that keeps me on my toes, and I try to reciprocate. Podcasts are fun, the format is wide open, and we are learning as we go. Bay 11 has also found an audience…or should I say, an audience has found Bay 11. One of our most memorable episodes came right after the Parkland tragedy. It is called, “Wildfire,” and it was produced and uploaded in just four days. Check it out when you get a chance. “Bay 11” is on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, and the htvbuzz.com website.

*Back stories always interest me. Those little nuggets about what happened with the crew on a shoot. I had a team of two at the ice rink shooting a story about our local college hockey team. They were having such a great time at their first hockey game that the reporter texted her mom to share the excitement. Mom told me the other day that they loaded up the rest of the family had headed to the rink to join the fun and had a great time. The girls did a nice job. Here’s the story they filed: http://htvbuzz.com/ice-bears/

*After seven years away, our HTV gang went to the STN Convention in Nashville last March and we had a blast. The kids got to compete and rub elbows with about 3,000 student broadcasters and video producers. We will be back in 2019 for STN in Seattle. Bring on the flying fish.

The Cardinals missed the post-season but might have made the moves necessary to remedy that in 2019. I caught several games in Busch Stadium last season, and a couple on the road.

The Cardinals missed the post-season but might have made the moves necessary to remedy that in 2019. I caught several games in Busch Stadium last season, and a couple on the road.

*Speaking of travel, two of my life-long buddies and I hit the road for a four-day trip to see our St. Louis Cardinals play the Pirates in Pittsburg. We also stopped over in Louisville and checked out the Louisville Slugger Museum. That was in late May and it got the summer off to a great start. Fun thing: we drove back non-stop, overnight, from Pittsburg to Springfield, just because.

*The ASB Workshop for broadcast and video teachers I run was all over the map last summer. We did workshops in Springfield, MO, our home base, but also in Cuyahoga Falls, OH and Sacramento, CA. We love the “road shows” and expect two more in 2019, as well as the one here at our home base in the land of the Mudhouse and “throwed rolls.” If those are foreign terms to you, then you best come to the workshop and find out more. Registration is open now.

*I became a grandfather for the second time in September. It has enriched my life beyond words to have Vivian, and now Elliott, visiting our home regularly. Dealing with teenagers is one thing, but a 2 /12 year old, and a newborn? The best!

So please have a great 2019. Do something out of your comfort zone, that thing you have been thinking about for a long time…you might fail, you might succeed, but if you do not try it, you will never know.

Some Principles for Principals

I have been blessed with administrative support for our broadcast journalism efforts the last 29 years at Hillcrest. Our “HTV Magazine” kids have covered anything and everything they wanted to cover on our monthly show. That does not happen everywhere.

I know teachers in journalism programs across the country who are restricted by their district, or their school administrators, and that can end up forcing a promising broadcast program to basically stand in place year after year. It has a chilling effect on journalism students when they are not allowed to act like journalists.

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Here are some things I think can lead to better, more dynamic journalism, if principals will get on board:

*Never require or expect student journalists to do PR for the school or the district. Guess what? If they become strong journalists, they will bring a lot of community support to your school anyway because they will earn the respect of your patrons.

*Give kids ownership of the broadcast program. Do not give them your expectations. Let them figure it out, name it, claim it, and then watch it fly.

*Support your student journalists as much as you do other programs. How? Remind, even require teachers to share student programming in class, or during a specified time like home room. Just running videos on a monitor in a loud lunch room or commons area is not providing a proper atmosphere for student broadcasts. It’s like having history class in the gym during a basketball game.

*Make sure you encourage your broadcast kids to attend national conferences, where they learn and compete and feel valued. Athletic teams compete all over the state, sometimes all over the country. Your student journalists should get the same opportunity at least once a year.

*Watch their programs and give them feedback. It is a powerful moment when the building principal takes time to view a student-produced show with the kids who produced it. Try it. The give and take and discussion will be very positive, even if there is some constructive criticism. Kids can take it. Feeling like they produce their shows in a vacuum is a far worse feeling.

*Do not overreact if someone voices concerns about a story or a show. Talk to the adviser, and the kids. Do not automatically apologize and then start making rules, or asking to see the show before it airs. Do you ask for the football coach’s game plan the week after he loses a game?

That is my modest list. Food for thought for admins, but I realize they do not read this blog. However, some broadcast teachers do, so I am not letting you off the hook here.

It is much easier for a principal to back a teacher or a program if the journalism on display is done well.

Stories are accurate, objective, thorough and fair. Kids make an effort to be professional. You can not expect a principal to go to bat for you if you continue to produce a weak show rife with spelling or grammatical mistakes, sloppy video and audio quality, unbalanced reporting, immature behavior, things that reveal a lack of effort and expertise.

An atmosphere of trust leads to the best-case scenario, where your broadcast journalism program is student-focused, teacher-led, and principal-supported.