Hands-on learning students proves valuable for college readiness

searcy-school-broadcast-journalism

Broadcast journalism has adopted much technological advancement throughout the years, which has affected how we get our news. From radio to television, the internet and live streaming, the news has become more instantaneous and accessible than ever before.

I write this not only as having worked with the Student Television Network (STN) since its inception in 1999, but also as having taught broadcast journalism for the past 30 years. I’ve spent the last 16 years teaching the discipline at Searcy High School (SHS), located in Searcy, AR.

As technology changes, I make sure to change with it. Otherwise, what good am I doing for the students? The Searcy School District is very supportive of the program’s needs, but as a public school, we have to be conscious of budget. Thankfully there exists professional and affordable equipment for students to learn on.

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In 2011, I wanted to make the move from SD to HD. While the students enjoyed shooting on new HD cameras, the fun stopped there. Once they brought the footage into the studio, the switcher couldn’t support the workflow and kept crashing. I began looking for a Mac-based switching solution that provided professional features at an affordable cost to complete the HD upgrade, and on a tip from Charles Aldridge at Texarkana’s Texas High School, I found Blackmagic Design.

In my class, there are no textbooks. The students learn by broadcasting SHS’ Lion TV themselves. Open to grades nine through twelve, the students start off the year-long broadcast journalism course learning the fundamentals. Once they’ve mastered the basics, they can apply for a staff position on either Lion TV’s daily or weekly news shows.

The studio’s control room houses four iMacs and an ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher and Broadcast Panel. The first iMac feeds into the ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher for graphics, the second is used for playback, the third records the broadcasts via an H.264 Pro Recorder and the fourth is used as a teleprompter.

The students complete all prep and taping in only one hour, and then it’s time for editing, incorporating prerecorded segments, finishing and outputting to DVDs for the school and local education channel for airing the following day. I also create an M4V file for upload to the school’s website. It now takes a third of the time that it used to take to put a show together thanks to a more streamlined workflow, as well as more efficiency and flexibility. And it’s all in HD.

We have a fairly sophisticated setup for a high school and really try to dig deep with all the tools and functionalities. Part of developing the program included the jump to broadcasting live events outside the studio, such as football games, homecoming and talent shows, as well as live streaming.

While we have a dedicated hardware control panel in the studio, it doesn’t make sense for our mobile broadcasts. We have an ATEM Television Studio in a portable case, and we rely on the ATEM Software Control Panel, which we run from a laptop, enhancing our mobility. We use an Intensity Shuttle to capture and encode the footage, which we then live stream on Lion TV via the school’s website.

Most of the students who help with the mobile broadcasts are volunteers from the first year class, and they are hungry for hands-on experience, so we sign up to broadcast any school event that we can. The hands-on learning the students get at Searcy is so valuable, especially when they go off to college and already have knowledge and experience.

Jacki Romey is the vice president of the Student Television Network and a Broadcast Journalism teacher at Searcy High School in Searcy, AR. Jacki has a BA in journalism from Arizona State University and has been teaching broadcast journalism for the past 30 years.


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