Teaching Multimedia Journalism

Multimedia finds home with TJ Media

My seventh period class is a three-ring circus.

While I am a willing ringmaster, juggling an introductory journalism course, three sections of production (Journalism 2-4) and Broadcast Journalism during one 90-minute block is exhausting.

Did I mention there are only 17 kids total in those five sections that meet during one block?

Did I mention that those 17 kids are in charge of three different publications?

I’m certain I may seem exasperated right now, but that’s only sometimes the case. Most of the time I love what I do; leading the three-ring circus is what keeps me in the game (to mix a metaphor or two).

The staffs of tjTODAY and TJTV News have been dabbling in multimedia for the last five years – coincidentally about the same time I took over as their adviser, though this was actually not a coincidence at all. I started the broadcast journalism class in the hope that it would grow in popularity and give me an opportunity to give up one of my English classes (which I like teaching, but I do not love).

So far, five years later, we are holding strong at three students.

As the adviser, I am trying to train my students to be the complete package. I want them to be able to write, photograph, design, video, podcast, anchor, Instagram, tweet, snap and Facebook, and then be ready to accept the challenge of whatever new medium comes our way.

Filming the weekly morning announcements on top of the roof of Jefferson, the four-man 2016 Broadcast class uses a DSLR to film and a makeshift MacBook as a teleprompter.

Regardless of our lack of numbers, having the broadcast class embedded into the journalism class has made it much easier to incorporate multimedia into our slowly converging journalism program.

The three-ring circus actually makes this task easier.

If I’m teaching lead writing to my J1 students, I’ll do a mini-lesson for all students because, Lord knows, I’m still seeing leads from everyone that start with, “Many students wish they got more sleep,” and “While people may think Physics is hard, some don’t think so.” Broadcast kids can take this lesson and think whether or not their opening shot and sound is enough to pull the viewer into their feature.

As for my expectations for this course, I’m hoping to learn how to best show my kids that multimedia storytelling is worth the extra time. It is easy to write a quick news brief, throw it online and be done with it. It takes more time to start with a tweet and then continue with a live blog. It takes even more time to go out and interview stakeholders as the story progresses and include video updates in your live blog. For high school students that are already overextended, I have to remind myself that journalism is not their full-time job. Their full-time job includes six classes other than mine.

If I need to do a mini-lesson with my broadcast students on shot sequences, some days I’ll stop the whole class and review, always preaching the applicability of wide, medium and tight shots to everything we do.

I’m hoping that this class will help me explore an idea that I got from Susan Tantillo’s class last semester. We studied a couple of single-issue websites, and The Ration jumped out as a prime example of something that could be feasible for my circus. We would continue to print tjTODAY, post content to tjTODAY.org and put out weekly announcements on TJTV News, but what if we picked an issue of importance to the Jefferson community and used true multimedia storytelling to shed light on it? To worry less about which club met on Friday or which Netflix show is the most popular to binge watch, and more about a topic that is actually impactful to our student body?

I know I’m crazy, but hopefully this course will help me throw one more ball in the air to join the ones I’m already juggling.