The One Day Show

Here is an idea to help prepare your incoming broadcast staff.  I call it the "one day show."

The idea is to get your kids to one location for a day, have them all shoot stories, then edit them back at school the following week.  In just that one day, if all goes well, your kids shoot six or seven segments, and you have a final show of the year to post.

It can be a spring festival, or just a visit to your downtown area, where the kids can find unique characters or local businesses or events to feature.  Thematically, the show is simple to approach:  "A Saturday in Downtown Anytown."  Or "The Anytown Fish Fry."  Whatever is going on, chances are, your staff can find seven nice angles.

Find stories fast in your own backyard for the One Day Show.

Find stories fast in your own backyard for the One Day Show.

The benefit of this modest location shoot is it provides a great chance to let your new staff feel like a team.  It is one of those "bonding" opportunities, but it does not require much stress.  By focusing on just shooting short feature stories in a day, it lets everyone take their time and look around a bit.  The editing, and anchor intros, all the post-production, happen the following week back at school.  The one day show is all about the shoot.

Of course getting all of your kids to show up on a Saturday in spring is likely impossible.  My advice--don't sweat it.  In fact, count on it.  If 14 kids can show up, but eight or nine can't, so be it.  Those who miss out probably will make sure to be part of your next big staff event after they hear how much fun the others had on the one day shoot.  



ASB Workshop(s) Update

We still have openings for our two ASB Workshops this summer in Springfield, MO.  

The Returners-Only version is June 23-26, and you are eligible to attend that one if you previously attended any of our workshops, including the one in Springfield, or the ones we do on the road.  


The oldest, and still popular workshop for first-time attendees, happens July 8-13, and it's filling up.  We expect to close registration in a few weeks.  This workshop has been around since the summer of 2000, and has trained teachers from coast to coast, and from several foreign countries.  It is mainly for high school and middle school teachers, but we have also enjoyed having elementary video teachers join us at times.

So what's new at the workshops this year?  Here are some things to look forward to.

*Returners will enjoy new sessions we have not offered before, including comprehensive presentations about starting a podcast, and about live streaming events.  In addition, the hands-on assignments, always a part of any ASB workshop, will be new and "different" because we always keep this workshop as fresh as we can.  After all, why return for the exact same stuff? 

*The regular workshop in July, which caters to teachers in the early stages of running a video program, but also to experienced teachers looking to re-charge their batteries, will continue to incorporate our tried-and-true approaches.  BUT...we also pride ourselves on keeping the week fresh, and up-to-date, so that means some new content can be expected.  As always, expect some great local cuisine and a field trip or two you won't soon forget.

So come to Springfield this summer.  We promise some memorable lessons, some unique challenges, and a week full of great information, and hands-on experiences, you will re-visit often during the coming school year.

Register on this website under the "Workshops" tab.

STN: My Takeaways

We returned safe and sound from the STN convention on Sunday night.  No gear lost, no kids lost.  So how did it go?  Here are some reflections I have about this annual gathering of 3,000 broadcast and video production students and teachers.

*Energy.  It is the first thing that hits you in the face when you sit down for the opening ceremony on Thursday evening, for the film and "Excellence" awards presentations on Friday night, and then for the Sunday morning closing awards ceremony.  Loud, a little crazy, with chants, flag-waving, pep-rally-style energy.  And that is contagious, and just a lot of fun to see and hear.  

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*At those events listed above, the in-house and online live broadcasts have gotten more and more professional.  Great graphics, solid production values all around.  Well-done, Texas High School, the school behind those productions.

*Tompkins.  Rose.  Huppert.  The list goes on of outstanding, top-level presenters who challenge their student and teacher attendees to think in new ways, and to be better journalists.  Story telling is at the heart of it all, and that is something STN continues to value.  It has since the beginning, and the "Tell the Story" logo remains a staple.

*Film kids are killing it.  Full disclosure--I am a HORRIBLE film viewer.  I have a hard time sticking with most movies I try to watch out of Hollywood.  I find them cliched, pointless, with too much CGI and not enough heart, or they are overly violent or vulgar, and just not that interesting.  But Hollywood better get ready for a new generation of storytellers, based on the creative, captivating work I saw at the film ceremony at STN. 

*Journalism kids need to step it up.  We are seeing plenty of great depth-of-field video, but we are not seeing nearly enough depth-of-story.  Recent activism by teens, and an overall restlessness with the status quo among young people, could (and should) seep into their journalism.  At least I hope so.  The film kids are probably a little ahead of the J kids when it comes to getting beyond the obvious.

*The Crazy 8 contest is so short (just eight hours to create a show) that there is little time for real depth.  It is just a who-works-fastest kind of competition.  BUT...hang on.  I mentioned to my kids on the way home that I think we should sit it out next time, and use that as a travel day.  Rebellion.  They loved the event, and the staff bonding, which is probably the main reason to participate.  So next time we attend, we will be there, slugging it out in the Crazy 8.  

*My kids, like a lot of them in the audience at the closing awards ceremony, gasped when they saw the DQs in some categories, especially the disqualification of the winner in the "Tell the Story Editing" competition.  But I LOVED it.  Good on you, STN.  Students who misbehave and break the code of conduct should be DQed.  Boozing it up in the hotel, or breaking curfew, are not appropriate, and I thank STN for the added clout you give me as a teacher to hold my students accountable.

*No event goes off without a hitch.  The late start of the closing awards ceremony was annoying, but blame the late-night misbehavior, and the resulting disqualifications, for forcing a delay in preparing graphics and script for the final ceremony.  Adjustments had to be made.  So be it. 

*The size of the event is impressive.  It started in 2004 with 500 attendees.  Now it is six times bigger, and with schools around the country emphasizing video as a skill all kids need, even beginning in elementary school, there is no reason this convention will not grow more.  

*The event features both journalism and film/production tracks and contests, and some teachers on the outside looking in do not believe you should have both at the same convention.  But one can actually motivate the other, and both provide teachers plenty of critical viewing lessons.

*Finally, Hawaii.  It is our 50th state, but it may be the number 1 state in STN.  What a fun group to witness, the pride they have in each other's achievements, their kindness to others, that "aloha spirit" they bring to STN every year.  They have some of the best video producers in the nation, both middle school and high school.  In fact, their middle schools kids' work was the most impressive thing I saw this year at STN.  Keep that "Hawaii" chant going, kids.  You are setting the bar high for all of us.     

STN: My Five Goals

It was my pleasure to be the chairman of the first five STN Conventions from 2004-2008.  I was a full-time broadcast teacher in Missouri, running a national convention in LA, trying my best to pull it all together and keep my HTV world in tact.  After the fifth one, I was able to step away knowing the event was in good hands, healthy, and not going away.

The conflict with our spring break usually makes it hard to get kids signed up.  But this year, we are in, and I am excited to see friends and enjoy a few days in Music City.

                                                                Image from the website

                                                                Image from the website

I would like to share some of my goals for my group as we head head to STN.  Maybe it will help some teachers attending for the first time.  Anyway...


1--Soak up the atmosphere.  Just take in the site of 3,000 or so kids and teachers who are really into video production and broadcasting.  It is something to see (and hear).  Lots of energy, lots of fun.

2--Listen to the messages of the speakers.  Really listen when the great Boyd Huppert does his keynote address.  STN gets some great professionals to contribute--like Les Rose, a regular presenter at the event--and it would be silly not to soak in all they have to say.

3--Meet other teachers, get that "community vibe" that large events like this make possible.  We are all in this together, teachers, since most of us are a department of one at our schools.  

4--For your students entered in the contests, make deadline.  That is goal number one.  Do not focus on winning an award.  Instead, focus on meeting the assignment to the best of your ability.  The thing about subjectively-judged contests, like ALL journalism and video contests, even the Emmys and the Oscars, is that human beings will decide if your entry is the best.  You can not please everyone, so just please yourself with the best entry you can create, but really, JUST MEET DEADLINE, because the clock is always ticking. 

5--See the city.  When you have time, tour Nashville and see what it's all about.  There are great things to do, lots of opportunities you should consider taking advantage of as plans are made for the trip.  

Those are five pretty basic goals.  No need to over think some of it.  Students should be reminded to behave and just follow the rules.  To be good sports.  Teachers, let the kids sink or swim in the on-sites.  And if you entered a Crazy Eight contest, dive in and have some fun as a group.  This is a once a year opportunity.  ENJOY IT.


If I Can't Hear Your Story, I Don't Need to See Your Story

I have written this advice before, but with many of you taking students to the STN Convention in a couple of weeks, where they will participate in pressure-filled, TIMED contests, this might be a good time to re-visit the topic.  It has to do with editing a news or feature package.

The simple advice, to save time, and focus a story from beginning to end, is this:  Edit. Audio. First.

Sound bites need to be edited and placed on the timeline first in the editing process.

Sound bites need to be edited and placed on the timeline first in the editing process.

When my students ask me to look over their stories, the main thing I do is "listen" to them.  Video is important, but I have to hear the story first.  Sometimes, I simply turn my back to the monitor and have them play the story for me.  If it makes sense, and the voiceovers  and sound bites are solid, then we are in business.  It means I can hear a story.  Seeing it will be fun after that.

Many times, students will return from their shoot and start dropping all the video sequences they shot onto the timeline first.  I hate when they do that.  Sometimes I drop by an edit bay, where I highlight all their edited video clips, and happily hit "delete" as they look on in horror.  Well, I told you...EDIT.  AUDIO.  FIRST.  

It really saves time, because it forces you to first organize your sound bites and write your script.  Dropping in visuals and natural sound is fun, but that comes after you edit your audio.

Kids may not understand at first, but as soon as they edit a story this way and see how much easier it is, they will never again just start randomly dropping down video clips.  Plus, it will save them time, and keep their evil teacher from swooping in and deleting their timeline.    

Abortion Debate: LIVE in 1992

During the third year of our broadcast program at Hillcrest, I had the bright idea of breaking from our monthly newsmagazine format to try a live talk show, something issue-based.  A little "Phil Donahue" (Google him, youngsters) thing, where an audience made up of teenagers could pepper our guests with questions and comments.

Our first live talk show got front-page coverage from our local newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader, back in 1992.

Our first live talk show got front-page coverage from our local newspaper, the Springfield News-Leader, back in 1992.

The show's topic, we decided, had to be something edgy, something that would inspire some passion.  So we chose abortion.  I know, I know.  Just inviting trouble.   It is a good thing Dr. John Laurie, our supportive principal, was really supportive.  He had our guests, each representing opposing viewpoints on the issue, arrive early for a brief meeting in his office.  I was there, but he did the talking.  He asked them to remain professional, and avoid some of the back-and-forth "heat" the abortion topic often inspired.  Both guests said they understood, and would be on their best behavior.

Our set-up was just my regular classroom, with one Panasonic SVHS 450 camera sitting on a small platform in the back of the audience, right in the middle.  "Camera One."  The other Panasonic was perched in front of the room, off to the side of the guests, getting shots of our host, Amy Cookson, and the audience of about 30 teens as they asked questions.  "Camera Two." 

Sitting in a small room at the back of the classroom, switching the show live, was a senior named Dan Arnall.  We had a modulator carrying our signal back to Telecable, where the show went out to all the subscribers in town on the educational access channel.

It was a bold project, and the local newspaper even covered it.  Things went smoothly, but in the last 10 minutes, the two guests did start using some of the inflammatory rhetoric the issue of abortion often inspires.  It was actually getting kind of fun...then our signal was lost for some reason.  Still, we did about 35 minutes of the 45 minute broadcast we had planned.  It was a victory, as far as we were concerned.  

Why share story now?  If for no other reason, I would like to inspire you to take a chance now and then, and to step out of your comfort zone.  We did, way back when.  It was not our only live talk show.  After this one, we did a few more, tackling the AIDs epidemic one time, race relations another, and those were before 1996.  We did a live Q and A format with our local congressional candidates one year, partnering with kids from the middle school gifted program.  They came over and helped run the show and question the candidates.  Again, it was live.  

That host of our abortion show, Amy, is now the mother of one of my sophomore Broadcast I students, Madison.  She is doing a great job, just like her mom did 26 years ago.  Dan,  the director back in 1992, is now the Executive Producer of the NBC Nightly News Weekends.  

While going Iive with teenagers is always risky, I think never doing anything different can sometimes lead to stagnation in your program, and that is even more risky.  I urge you to do that crazy thing you've been thinking about, whether it is a totally different type of show, or tackling a really scary topic.  Or do both, like we did all those years ago.  It can set a tone for your program--that anything is possible--and that is a pretty cool thing for your students to realize.

Teachers: Get Your Hands Dirty

Last week, out of necessity, with deadline crashing down on us, and some illness on our staff, I took it upon myself to grab one of our shiny, fairly-new DSLR cameras to shoot a couple of sound bites in the hall outside my classroom.  

I'm not asking for a medal, but I was thinking it was mighty nice of me to pitch in.  Our show is student-produced, after all, so it is not my job to shoot anything.  There I was, getting the framing right, watching the light, making sure the audio meter was bouncing.  Boy, I just KILLED it.  Except I didn't.

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When I popped in the SD card and imported my work, I went from elated to deflated in about 15 seconds.  My shots were slightly out of focus, the audio was not good, and the color was off.  It looked like first quarter, Broadcast I footage.

So I checked my ego at the iMac and re-shot both bites.  Guess what?  I forgot to hit "record" on the second interview.  I had actually forgotten to stop recording after re-shooting Bite #1, so you know how this goes.  I got great footage of the hallway and my feet as we set up for the re-do of Bite #2.  Then when I hit the "record" button, it was already on, so I actually was stopping it.

I ended up just getting a student to do it all over.  They ended up using one of the bites she re-shot.  And I got a lesson in humility, and a reminder of this:  Teachers, from time to time, we have to shoot, edit, deal with audio recording, and lighting, and just GET OUR HANDS DIRTY with the process.  You can not just stand back and point.  You will become more empathetic with students, and more aware of your equipment's quirks and limitations, by actually USING the equipment now and then.  So shoot your family during holidays.  Or take a camera along on your next get-away.  Just use the gear once in a  while.  It will make you a better teacher.

Considering I run the ASB Workshop, and have for 20 years pushed teachers who attend to shoot and edit, just botching those two sound bites about 10 feet outside my classroom door was a moment I needed to experience.  It actually reminded me of our workshop theme:  "Teacher as Student."  And when it comes to the new cameras and accessories, this teacher has a lot to learn.



Follow the Money...With Care

"Just follow the money."

That line from "All the President's Men" lives on.  Over 45 years later, it is still applied to many stories covered by investigative journalists.

Hal Holbrook portrays "Deep Throat" in "All the President's Men.  "Follow the money" was his advice to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward as he reported on the Watergate scandal.

Hal Holbrook portrays "Deep Throat" in "All the President's Men.  "Follow the money" was his advice to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward as he reported on the Watergate scandal.

For scholastic journalists who want to sink their teeth into a "real story," this can lead them to ask questions about how their school, or their district, is using its funds.  I say kudos to the young people who put in the time, do the research, locate sources, and make an effort to cover school-related financial issues.  There is one is the fastest way to get in trouble with your administrators.

Do not go into it lightly.  There are some things you need to consider.

*Can you get access to the information you must have to be fair and accurate?  Reporting one side, or just a small part of the story, will invite trouble.

*Is your adviser supportive?  Or is this going to put your teacher in a very bad situation?  It might.  This does not mean you can't cover the story, but do not be naive.  Teachers work for the district, and can only go so far before their jobs can be threatened.  It happens.

*Are your sources legit--do they know what they are talking about?  Or are they trying to manipulate you to get a story "out there" that they can not get the professional press to cover?

*Who are the stakeholders, and have you given them all a chance to talk about the issue?  Remember to cover all sides.  

*Are you prepared to report that nothing illegal, or shady was actually done?  Are you willing to say this was just a misunderstanding, or an isolated incident or mistake?  You may be fired up to "get the goods" on someone, but you have to be willing to report the truth, even if it turns out to be less than dramatic.

*Is your information current?  This can be a huge issue for high school programs that publish once a week, or once a month.  Think about this, because stories change fast.

*Are you the best person to do this story?  Are your motives pure?  For example, if you are on the soccer team, and the story is about some of the funding for soccer being diverted to another sport, are you the best person to report this?  It might be better to kick it (sorry) to another reporter.  Even if you can be totally objective, the perception will be that you have an ax to grind if you are involved in the story.

There is always a need for journalists at any level to ask questions, and keep an eye on those in charge of public funds.  I encourage you to keep on top of these stories.  Just go into it with your eyes wide open.  Following the money is not always as fun, or as rewarding, as it may seem.