The BEAT Video Program is a nationally-recognized, award-winning group of thirty-five student "backpack journalists" (grades 6-12), who produce 200-250 print/web/video stories annually about their schools, community and county.
This student-run, self-managed and totally self-funded program manages its own cable channel and website (which receives over 50,000 hits monthly).
The students' content is sent weekly to Northeast Ohio media sources, of whom publishes over 70% of its submissions.
We've had the opportunity to speak with John Wasylko, the director of this amazing program and are please to share his insight with you.
John, tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
Personally, I have over thirty years of experience producing videos supporting commercial, corporate and educational audiences. As the Community Relations Director for Brunswick City Schools (1998-2012), we developed our award-winning BEAT Video Program to give select students (grades 6-12) a unique opportunity to become “backpack journalists” for their schools, community and county.
This self-funded, student-managed Program is the only one of its kind in the nation. The BEAT Program develops communications and teamwork skills that will benefit students in whatever career path they choose. Also, it connects students with their communities in a natural and tangible way.
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
In 2000, I approached a variety of local businesses, each of whom pledged $500 in support of the Program (as “sponsors”). This allowed us to purchase equipment and establish the foundation for the Program.
Since its inception, the Program has received over $200,000, as businesses /corporations continue to enthusiastically embrace the Program. Additionally, the Program has earned grant support multiple times from the Medina County Community Fund, as well as both the Scripps-Howard and Gannett Foundations – all of whom recognize the value the Program brings in developing future TV/print/web journalists.
Did you have equipment available?
No, the Program started as a concept. But, due in large part to the relationships we developed through the Community Relations Department, businesses stepped up to support the Program. They showed great faith in us – and our students stepped up and proved they were worthy of their support.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
Currently, there are 44 students in the BEAT Video Program. Two-thirds are in grades 6-8. The students meet only one day a week – on Saturdays, between 9:00am – 5:00pm. There are first and second-year BEAT classes, along with BEAT veteran (3+) classes.
Each week, BEAT students are taught basic journalism and TV production skills (in one-hour classes conducted by veteran BEAT
Over 200-250 print/video/web stories are produced annually, which are sent to Northeast Ohio media sources weekly. Over 70% of BEAT stories are published annually.
The BEAT is a multi-year Program. BEAT students with two or more years of experience are eligible for paid roles as managers or special-project producers.
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
Classes are one-hour long. During the first half of a BEAT reporters’ first year, students are taught the basics of Journalism. They are challenged to produce three news stories on their own (six weeks for each story), on deadline. During the second half of the year, BEAT reporters are taught basic TV/News production. They are asked to produce three news videos on deadline during this time.
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
BEAT reporters produce between 200-250 “Brunswick School News” segments per year – all of which can be viewed on the BEAT’s website (www.thebeat22.com). Additionally, these segments are shown hourly on the BEAT Channel 22 (Time Warner), along with the BEAT’s streaming link (also on www.thebeat22.com). Additionally, BEAT students produce between 25-30 on-location multi-camera sports/events programs annually. Finally, BEAT student tape all monthly Board meetings, and over 100 adult-hosted programs (SportsBEAT, BusinessBEAT) annually.
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?
All BEAT reporters must perform all facets of production – script to screen, both in front of and behind the camera – to remain in the Program.
Do students audition for on-air positions?
BEAT reporters must submit a printed application (with three letters of recommendation from teachers), and be interviewed by a team of BEAT veterans in ordered to be considered as a member of the Program. Each year, the BEAT receives between 500-750 requests from students for applications (of which between 10-15 new members are selected each year).
Do they write the content?
BEAT students are totally responsible for coming up with own story ideas, and writing/producing all content by deadline. BEAT students are encouraged to bring THEIR ideas to the table.
How long does the show run?
BEAT news segments typically run between 3-5 minutes.
Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
Yes, the BEAT has won numerous regional and national awards, including the Sportstime Ohio “BUMP” award (for top newscast), the Alliance for Community Media’s Top School Channel in the Nation (three times over a five-year period), and MCA-I Gold and Silver Reels for Excellence. Additionally, the BEAT was the first school documentary team selected for the ETech Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
View all BEAT Programming at www.thebeat22.com . The website includes links to over 1,000 videos produced by BEAT students. Additionally, the BEAT channel is streaming 24/7. This website receives over 50,000 hits monthly from a global audience.
Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
BEAT Programming is posted exclusively on www.thebeat22.com.
Recently, BEAT students were the featured speakers at an Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) workshop. The workshop was a huge success, with several districts expressing interesting interest in establishing their own BEAT Programs. The BEAT is currently working with them to make this a reality.
Read more about the BEAT Video Journalism program in The Morning News, coming in August, 2015. John Wasylko will also be featured in future issues as he breaks down why the BEAT is so successful and shares valuable tips on implementing a similar program in other schools.