Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
My first teaching certification was in language arts which included a smattering of journalism.
I was the newspaper advisor and taught photography and creative writing. When camcorders came on the scene, I started incorporating television news into my class. About the same time, the local cable company offered our school system control of their PEG channel. I jumped at the chance to have that outlet available to my students. With one camera and two VCR’s we produced our first program in late 1989. Our first live program for cable was that year’s graduation. My program evolved and I eventually handed the print journalism class over to another teacher. My students have found an appreciative audience in our rural community which rarely gets local news coverage by distant network affiliates.
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
I wrote grants and more grants. The biggest ones came through the West Virginia Department of Education in conjunction with various technology initiatives. At one point, our local representatives in the state Legislature helped us out. Once the equipment was available and the students were consistently producing quality work, I added a school-based enterprise, selling copies of games, etc. and on occasion taking paying clients for weddings, training tapes, etc. One of our biggest and most exciting fundraisers has been an annual Telethon. This ranges from 4 to 8 hours of live programming (live anchors with the occasional taped feature and in-studio guests). Crew rotates every hour. Operators stand by to take pledges which are announced on air. Parents come in to watch behind the scenes and enjoy our hospitality room. Response is always great financially, but more importantly, students meet the challenge of extended live television with all its unexpected curves.
Did you have equipment available?
When we started, we had one camera and two VCR’s. I became good friends with Radio Shack and I grew up with the technology, moving on to studio cameras and the beauty of nonlinear editing with a variety of software. Even though we have a studio, there’s no elaborate set. Students rely on creativity to make it look good and their storytelling skills to make it BE good.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
Students may take the class for as many as four terms. Advanced students take on more demanding leadership duties and produce longer, more complex pieces.
I have the beginning students in one class and the advanced in one. I have tried combining all levels in the same class and found that, yes, the advanced students can teach and lead the new crew members, and that was advantageous, but it also limited the time the advanced students had to increase their own skills and productivity. I prefer to start the beginners separately, but very quickly they’re producing simple pieces that are aired.
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
We have a 90 minute block which meets every day for half the school year. I have averaged 20-30 first year students per year (two terms), and 15-20 advanced students. Since the class is broadcast JOURNALISM, our main focus is to produce newscasts. However, students also produce documentaries, psa’s, and music videos.
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
We do not do a morning news broadcast…although last spring a small crew decided to do a daily morning news show for cable which was very successful. We basically have produced a weekly newscast for cable and a bi-weekly show for student body. We cover sporting events and have provided live coverage of special events like community festivals, parades, and graduation.
Our most recent expansion was to submit our local news packages to the nearest NBC affiliate for use on their webchannel. We were the first high school invited to do so.
What jobs do the kids do? Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?
The students do all the jobs on a show. First year students rotate through all positions because I believe it builds appreciation for other members of the team and also helps them discover what they like and are best at. Then, there’s always more than one person who can do the job in an emergency. The advanced students develop expertise at one or two positions and also are expected to be producers.
Do students audition for on-air positions? Not formally. But producers choose the people they want in various positions based on talent, skill and work ethic.
Do they write the content? Absolutely.
How long does the show run? Depends on the show. Cable newscast 15-30 minutes and is repeated all evening. School show has varied….10-12 minutes usually.
We have been fortunate to be able to set our own time limits.
Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
We have won several awards through Student Television Network in addition to a student “emmy”, the United Nations Youth Leadership Summit “Think Globally, Report Locally” contest (in conjunction with SchoolTube), and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Journalism Award. Contests serve to validate a program and judges’ sheets become good teaching tools. However, winning a contest is not the driving force of our program. We have a successful program because we produce for our local audience.
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
PEG Cable and some of our work is on the website of the local NBC affiliate.
Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
Not easily. Actually, Phil Harris, Rob Munzing and I prepared an extensive list of equipment purchasing advice (not specific brands or models) which is available on the RTNDF website as a guide. I can say that I have Canon GL2’s which have been workhorses, and I like using I-Movie with my beginners and working up to Final Cut Express and Final Cut Pro. But that is just what I have. The software is far less important than the concepts of editing. I remind you that broadcast journalism is not a spectator sport—get the best equipment you can get to give students room to grow in skill, yet get enough gear to keep as many students on task as possible at any one time.
Have any quick start tips!
Get the students’ work out to an audience as quickly as possible. An audience is their reason for being and their reason for being good.
Don’t be afraid to learn with and from your students.
You don’t have to know everything before you do anything.
Watch the professional storytellers like Bob Dotson and Steve Hartman—two of my favorites.
Check out newsu.org, poynter.org, and video101course.com. They will help you teach yourself and your students.
Join the STN and RTNDF listservs….suggestions, advice and solutions within minutes.
Janet Kerby is a National Board Certified Teacher in Career and Technical Education specializing in broadcast journalism. Janet’s extensive teaching experience at Roane County High School in West Virginia is the basis for her current work in teacher training. Her students have provided programming, both live and taped, for a community access cable channel that originates 24/7 from the classroom. Janet’s students have won various regional and national awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the United Nations Foundation’s “Think Globally, Report Locally” competition and several from the Student Television Network. WSAZ News Channel 3, an NBC affiliate, invited Janet and her students to submit the first student-produced segment to be a regular feature on their web channel. In conjunction with the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation, Janet was a contributing writer for the RTNDF Teacher-to-Teacher Resource Program. She is currently developing online courses as part of Kent State University’s Master of Arts Degree–Journalism Educator Specialization. She will also instruct these online courses, beginning in 2009.