Broadcast Journalism On A Budget

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These days you don’t need to be a prince of Qatar to start a broadcast journalism program. Here are some ideas for creating a broadcast program on a limited budget.

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An iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch can shoot and edit HD video. Many students have their own devices, which means fewer cameras you need to purchase.

Free or low cost production: Use what you’ve already got

Everyone has a smartphone these days that can record and even edit video. Professional news programs are training their reporters to use iPhones to record b-roll, so why not your students? Edit video with apps like Splice (free) or low cost apps like iMovie for iOS ($4.99, or free with new iOS devices).

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Use a DSLR camera to shoot HD video. An external microphone improves audio recording for interviews and natural sound.

DSLR cameras shoot great looking video, so if your newspaper or yearbook staff already have these–or students have their own–you’re good to go.  Read this article to find out more about how to choose a video camera.  If you shoot with these cameras, editing will need to be done on a laptop or desktop computer. iMovie or Final Cut Pro ($14.99, and $299 respectively, Mac only) are solid choices.

Free or low cost distribution

Broadcasting your newscast or stories now means posting your work to the internet. If your school doesn’t have a closed-circuit network to send your signal into every classroom, your only choice is online. Fortunately there are a lot of free and low-cost options that work very well.

YouTube and Vimeo are the most common sites for hosting video content. Their free accounts have limits on the amount of video you can upload, though. For a small fee, you get more or unlimited storage. Take the embed codes for those videos and drop them into your free Weebly website.  Check out the broadcast journalism site for Ladue View created on Weebly as an example.

Social sites like Viddy, Instagram and Facebook can also provide a free way to share your video content with a broad audience.

Live streaming

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To stream your show or events live, you’ll need a breakout box like this Intensity Shuttle from Blackmagic Design. It connects your video and audio signal to your computer.

High School Cube and US Education TV provide free streaming services to schools so you can send your  events or newscast to the internet live as they happen. US Ed TV also has an interface for each school that resembles a website complete with archived videos, additional content, social media links, your own banner and twitter feeds, and options for advertising to earn revenue. If you stream live, these will most likely require some kind of breakout box to input your video and audio signal into the computer. Devices from Blackmagic start around $200-$300.

Strategies for growing your program on any budget

Most programs can’t afford to buy everything at once, and have to build up their equipment over the course of several years. Think about what you really need, and prioritize purchases. Consider the volume and frequency of student work, and student to equipment ratio. Then make a plan to acquire what you’d like to have over a period of months or years.

Typically, you’ll need more editing capabilities than cameras since it takes longer to edit than to shoot. Some other important accessories include tripods for stable shots, and audio gear like microphones, cables, adapters for your cameras, etc.

What are your solutions for inexpensive broadcast journalism?  Have a favorite piece of gear or method for buying equipment?  Please share your tips in the comments below.

Michael Hernandez

Michael has taught Film/Video Production and Broadcast Journalism since 1999, and advises the Pacemaker-winning Mustang Morning News. He regularly presents seminars on journalism, video and technology-related topics, and is a former JEA National Broadcast Adviser of the Year. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cinehead

mhernandez has 52 posts and counting.See all posts by mhernandez

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