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.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 12.02.10 PM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 11.04.33 AM.png

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:

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 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:

*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.


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.

4-State Flashback

Regional events like the “ASB 4-State Conference” last weekend give broadcast and video production students the chance to attend some breakout sessions, and then compete against their peers in some creative contests.


There were about 350 in attendance this year, and my students, all 20 of them, had a great time. They also got smoked in a few contests, while taking home a few honors as well. Events like this really help prepare students for larger gatherings such as STN and JEA/NSPA.

Here are some highlights/cool things from the event I wanted to share in case you are thinking about doing a regional conference some day in your area.

*All the teams had a home base in one big hall. It was great. It was nice to be around the energy of the other schools and students as editing took place.

*Variety in the contests allowed kids to find something they actually wanted to participate in. Everything from “Edit the Scene” and “5-Second Film” to “Spot Feature” and “Sports Roundtable,” plus many more.

*The opening ceremony was fast, fun, and did not feature a parade of boring speeches. Best thing—it left everyone time to leave and get a good dinner before breakouts.

*A smart schedule….breakouts on one night, followed by a full day of just contests.

*Students could enter two on-sites that each took half a day, or they could sign up for a full-day contest. Pick your poison.

*Allowing teachers to remain with their students during contests gives us a chance to teach and advise. We could not touch equipment—that makes sense—but it totally deflates all the tension over “cheating” because a kid was talking to an adviser during an event. So what? The kid had to do all the work, under the pressure of a real deadline.

* The awards ceremony was over in an hour.

*It was affordable. Only 50 bucks to register, and that included a tee-shirt.

Biggest gripe: The hotel needs to empty the trash more frequently. There are a lot of wrappers and boxes when 350 teens and teachers populate a room and snack the day away.

See you next year.

Covering One of Your Own

On thing that makes me a little antsy is when a kid pitches a story where the main source is a former student from our TV staff. Why?

Former broadcast kids know what you’re after. They “get it.” I do not mean they lie, or that their stories are not worth covering. I just think inside jobs can be a lazy way to get a story. I would prefer kids look elsewhere for sources. BUT… if a former broadcast student’s perspective is so vital, so necessary to a story’s impact, I usually can find a way to get comfortable with it.

Case in point…our latest “Bay 11” podcast. We needed to talk to some current or recent high school students who had tried fad diets, the topic of the piece we were preparing. While my reporter, Anna, looked for teen sources, I contacted a former HTV News Director, Emily, who just graduated college. I often ask former staffers for contacts when we are struggling, and Emily has helped us in the past with some solid leads. Our HTV alums can be invaluable resources, and they remember how hard it was to find people for their own stories when they were on the staff.

Screen Shot 2018-10-06 at 9.39.05 AM.png

This time, when I told Emily what we were covering, she said she definitely had a source. It turned out that she had a diet story or her own to share. She offered to talk to Anna. Like I said, I am usually not comfortable with “inside jobs,” but when Emily explained her dieting journey, and its dramatic consequences, I knew right away teens and others needed to hear it. Anna agreed. It changed both the focus, and the impact, of her final story.

So my sage advice is to not rule out using recent students as sources. Just make sure it is worth not looking a little harder. In this case, I think we got it right, and I certainly appreciate Emily’s willingness to share her difficult experience with us.

You can hear “Losing Weight, Losing Control” on the latest Bay 11 podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play,, basically wherever you usually find your podcasts. You can also find it on our home page at

First Show "Teaching Moments"

Guess what? Sometimes, we just screw things up. It is year 29 for “HTV Magazine,” a show I actually started at our school in 1989, and things still go off the rails from time to time.

So here are my latest first-show-of-the-year miseries, and remember, my staff is made up of juniors and seniors:

*Two boys get great b-roll, but no audio from their primary interview. Just a lot of static. So they convince the guy to give them a second chance a couple of days later. This time, the photog is so focused on the audio recorder, that we discover later that he forgot to hit “record” on the camera. So he had audio the second time, but no video.

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 8.32.01 PM.png

*Three girls decide to cover our new, first-year head football coach, always a big deal on campus. They shoot a nice interview, well-lit, good questions. They shoot a decent amount of b-roll at practice, and at a game that unfortunately took place in a downpour. Problem is, they shot about three plays from scrimmage, total, from the game, and none from practice. So lots of shots guys standing around. The coach standing around. But this is football and still, the footage had no sounds of pads crunching, a quarterback’s snap count, no visuals of completed passes, tackles, kickoffs…just guys pretty much standing around, mostly in the rain.

*Another story was about 9-1-1 prank calls. Not a good thing. My crew goes to the call center, gets almost no natural sound…a lot of shots of people sitting around, and the primary interview, I find out later, is with the reporter’s mom, who works there. What’s next, my dad the plumber? My sister the dancer? I mean….

*The line producer’s job in our program is to assemble the show. He takes the anchor spots we shoot, all the finished packages, the show opening that he produced, and he glues it all together, making it sound and look as good as possible. And he adds our lower thirds, the captions with the names and descriptors. Reporters write their lower thirds for him, and turn them in so he can actually drop in the graphics. He has only received captions for two of the eight stories. Thanks, reporters.

*A crew I reminded 100 times to shoot tights didn’t. All wide and medium. I mentioned these are juniors and seniors, right? We have covered WIDE-MEDIUM-TIGHT since they got here. I mean, I’ve helped produce a training video about that, seen by thousands, and apparently forgotten by at least six or seven teens I know.

SO…I could go on and on. We all could, right? Some of you, at least? I have to remember every September that first shows provide teaching moments. That is a good thing. But if those mistakes continue, then the old guy I see in the mirror needs to get his message across a lot better.