Monday, September 10, 2012

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Throwing laptops...

I am a little late on my normal blogging (two weeks in fact) but I wanted to wait until after homecoming (or at least I am telling myself that is the reason why I didn’t do this on Friday). On Saturday, WMCR alums from the 70’s thru today stopped by to visit and celebrate 50 years of WMCR. I will share some recorded reminisces later this semester in a special 50th anniversary radio program.
One student, who was in one of my first Speech classes on campus, shared a story he loves to tell and it brings up a good point. The student, we’ll call him Ian (since that is his name), tells the story of the first radio meeting when I took over WMCR. The semester before some students had broken a laptop. I decide to make a point by talking about treating equipment well and throwing the laptop onto the floor. The laptop shattered and as he puts it a board from the computer went flying at him. This was one of his first classes with me. But it got me thinking, in media we make choices all the time go big or go subtle (some may say the later rarely happens).
In the Multi-media production course this semester, students are working on a 60 second video announcement. This very decision is at the core of what they must do to frame the piece. Do you make a point with subtly or do you go over the top? Over the years students have had interesting results from both angles, from simple showing different shots of a swimmer about ready to dive into the water to show tension and excitement for swimming to a drop of water chasing after someone who was being wasteful. Both approaches can work it all depends upon the audience and the subject matter. For example, last weekend I posted a picture on Facebook of a sign in front of a cemetery headstone business. The sign read, “End of Summer sale… Buy now for Fall.” This was weird to me. Do you really buy headstones on sale or pre-buy for fall? Subtlety is an art, which I am not known for. But it brings up an important lesson for students, you have to know the audience you are trying to reach and craft a message that will meet their expectations. I expect to want many things at the end of summer from a sale, but not a headstone. Nor would I be buying one to stock up for fall.
So is it a little subtle persuasion or am I throwing a laptop at you to say, watch the latest edition of MC-TV at the bottom of this blog and become a fan on facebook.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Only as strong as its weakest link...

After a week’s hiatus, which will be followed by another week’s hiatus, I have returned for another peak into the broadcast booth. This week will be kind of a hodge podge of thoughts and events.
Last semester marked a milestone for student radio, 50 years at MC. The student radio station signed on in March of 1961. There is a nice pictorial trip down memory lane on the WMCR website from an alumni reunion a few year ago. Take a look. We will be celebrating with a reception on the Saturday of Homecoming, Oct. 22nd from 11:30 to 1. I hope many alums will come by the Tartan Room in the Stockdale Center to have a refreshment and reminisce about radio. I hope to record many of the reminiscences for a special 50th anniversary countdown show highlighting the 5 decades of music played by MC radio.
On the TV side, my student in my Multi-Media Production course began to work in the TV studio this week. A couple of students remarked to me, as they usually do, that this looks easy as a viewer but it really is very hard from the other side. This is a common misconception with people about TV that I am glad student eventually get. To the viewer it looks effortless, point the camera, record stuff, play the tape and talk to the camera. In reality it is a complicated effort that rises and fall by how well each member of the team does their job and functions in the group. Unlike radio, which a great deal of time is a one person job on the air, television is a massive group effort requiring each person down the line to know there job and to do that job well. I think this is an invaluable lesson for student to learn not only if they are going into broadcasting but for any profession. What you do is not the most important it takes everyone working together to put the show on the air. A very important lesson that after this last week we all can take a lesson from.
With fall break beginning at the end of today and no classes on Monday and Tuesday, we will not have a newscast next week. So I will see you in the blogosphere in two weeks. I made it all the way through a blog with no broadcasting clich├ęs. You didn’t think I could do it, did you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

For the love of it

Student broadcasting is starting to settle in to their routine (as always this week’s new MC-TV This Week is at the bottom of the post). The new workshop students are starting to do their first stories with little training and I think more than a little fear. In some ways, being thrown to the wolves, so to speak, gives the students focus and sometimes a faster appreciation for the difficulty of television news.

In last week’s post, I mention that I would be spending the weekend at the Black Earth Film Festival since I am on the board. During the panel I moderated and through other conversations with the attending filmmaker, I was reminded of an important lesson about work that not only my media students need to learn but all students need to understand. Passion is the key to work. In media it is so important, as in most other professions, to be passionate and committed to your work. I try to show my students that one thing that will make most of their work better is if they genuinely care about the finished product. I see this quite often with my workshop students. A recent case in point is the video that the students just completed for the Admissions Office. If you would like to watch it here is a link. The students were genuinely excited by the project and cared about the outcome. If only I could transplant that attitude to every student and every project.

I think of this in my own life in reference to my days as a radio disc jockey. As a part-time DJ for almost 12 years, I saw a good number of career radio people struggle to make a living wage by working a second job. They were in it because they were a little crazy and because they loved it. A friend of mine described it best as being like drug addiction. While you are in the business, you have highs and lows. Some days all you want to do is get out of it and move on. Then once you have gotten out, all you want is to get back in, to have another fix. This is so right. Those who stay in media love it, their addicted to it and can’t image doing anything else. Or after a while they go teach it to get other people hooked. I never thought of this but I am sort of pusher getting my students addicted to media, the addiction they will have all their lives. Okay maybe I am taking the analogy to far.

I can’t believe I went the entire entry without a lame attempt to weave in broadcasting lingo. So until next week, same time , same channel…. Oh, there it is.

Friday, September 16, 2011

So any bad broadcasting puns to start this week’s blog… (This is way too quick for me to have run out). I’ll just start then. This week a very interesting thing happened to one of my students while they were shooting an interview for the newscast. There was a car accident in the background. You see the start of it and hear the crash. Take a look.

Although this was a minor little fender bender it brings up the notion of events unfolding on camera. The student stopped recording where I would have put the camera onto the accident to see if there was a story there. I’m not sure if that is a positive or negative for me or the student. Beyond the news instinct, the saturation of technology does put a camera in front of unfolding events everywhere. The Quad Cites had recent example where a mother of an elementary school student was videotaping with her phone her child’s bus. There had been reports that the driver was not extending the stop sign. The mother caught on her phone the bus rolling forward when the drive forgot to engage the break when she got up to calm down students on the bus.
This week I will have to cut it short. The clock on the wall says I am about out of time (and you thought I was out of broadcasting lingo). If you are looking for other activities this Parents Weekend, the Black Earth Film Festival is going on in Galesburg this weekend and yours truly is moderating a panel on filmmaking Saturday afternoon at 3.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Deadlines and Banter

Coming up this week in my blog… (You always have to tease in media). Besides promoting the fact that regular DJ shifts have started on WMCR, listen at and click on the live stream tab, or that MC-TV This Week has another new addition available on line or at the bottom of this post, I wanted to talk about two big ideas that media students have confronted this week.

First is the deadline. Not the fact that projects need to be done on time which I am constantly on their case about, but how deadline pressure can be a great motivator. I remarked last week about the video project we have taken on for Admissions. The students have basically had one week to go through the archives and pick through hours of news footage, pick and edit songs to go with them, shot additional video footage, and edit together a finished piece of work that will showcase the college to students at open house event. Even though students sometimes can’t image getting a project done in a month, the week time frame of a fairly complex project keep them focused and working very hard to have a rough cut ready today. And that cut is ready to show to Admissions later today. The entire crew did a great job.

The second relates directly to this week’s newscast, located below (plug number 2 finished). Going out of your comfort zone is hard and particularly hard when you are on live TV. This week our news anchors tried it and it worked well. One of the harder things for students to get proficient at what in the business we call “Banter,” when anchors are talking to each other or a reporter seemingly without a script. Haleigh and Gabi tried it at the end of one story and it worked very well. What is interesting is that once you can get students or anyone for that matter out of their comfort zone they tend to want to do more and more. So keep on the lookout for more “Banter”, on set interview and all sorts of things real TV people do.

So to end this week’s waste of web space, watch MC-TV thru the link at the bottom (final plug done) .

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Student Broadcasting Starts Now

This is the first entry in a new blog chronicling the exciting adventures in student broadcasting at Monmouth College. If you aren’t excited by now…

Last night MC-TV kicked off its semester of “This Week” with a short first episode. We focused on the biggest issue on campus, new construction. In sports, we look at how both volleyball and football are preparing for the news season. Take a look.

Also, the start of regular radio broadcasts for WMCR will start on Monday. Take a listen. Those of you who are saying what is MC-TV and WMCR, here is your answer. MC-TV is a student produced weekly news/sports program and WMCR is the student radio station. Both of their websites are linked here on the blog.
With the start of a new year, some exciting changes are coming to MC-TV. In previous semesters the Fusion program has produced multiple shows during the semester. Starting this year, we will be doing one show per semester. This will allow us to do a better show and will free up the students to do other projects that will better their abilities in Media Production. Currently, they are working on two projects. First we will be completing a video for the Admissions office that will be shown during open houses. Second, we will be finishing a project for the Midwest Governors Association that was started last semester in partnership with one of Prof. Fred Witzig’s Illinois history courses. This project will consist of a couple of video for their website that feature what is great about the Midwest.

Throughout the year, I will attempt to talk about what the media students are working on and also talk about the academic process that our student go thru to not only try to learn the technology but to try to create meaningful and powerful messages. This is a common theme of mine with student and I will share it with you. Technology is great but when you come down to it no measure of technology can fix a poorly constructed message or a weak story. If you don’t believe me, watch Avatar on a regular TV. I think you will see my point.

As an old Radio DJ, I will sign off now and talk to you later. The time is a five minutes till the top of the hour and next is your local news…