Lessons learned from a school district’s first year hosting six online broadcast channels

header-cg2“News going twenty-four hours around the clock? A channel that’s never off in other words? No offense, but you are stupid.” – Ron Burgundy, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

Burgundy, as played by Will Ferrell, originally scoffed at the concept of a 24/7 live news channel. Even though he is just a fictional character, many of us can relate.

I know I was surprised when it came to my district.

To my school.

To my students.

This past year, my school district launched a website hosting six channels, one for each high school, one for the district sports broadcasting program and one for the district communications office.

The district invested in live-streaming equipment, converters and great cameras, in other words: the works.

And then, they set the four broadcast teachers and their students free. Yes, FREE to learn, grow, and produce great content. It was so amazing. The opportunities were endless, yet it was also amazingly scary.

Sometimes too much freedom can be overwhelming. Just what would we do?

The first feeds were streams of our daily and weekly shows from the regular program within in each building. Parents and alumni were excited to see the shows previously only available in the school buildings.

Then the first principal of our high school passed away; he was highly revered. A few of my students performed a community service by broadcasting his memorial service live, so people who didn’t fit in the main theater could watch from the gym, café, or from anywhere in the world. Community members were receptive and appreciative.

Next up, came the One Act Festival. The advanced theater students choose, cast, direct and perform one act plays. Another team of students live-streamed that event in two parts. Loads of viewers tuned in.

Things we learned:

  • Always, always run a test signal from the location days ahead of time. And again an hour before the event to make sure you have all the equipment and connections needed, and that it works on location.
  • Set up isn’t always smooth.
  • Teams are great to have for these events. It allows the camera operator to take a break.
  • Mics can hear everything – everything.
  • Alumni, along with family and friends, love this viewing option, especially when the miles keep them from attending the event in person.
  • We should do more. Ball games, fine arts productions, teachers with guest speakers, there’s just so many options.

As this year came to a close, my students and I agreed we are looking forward to broadcasting even more events this coming school year. We won’t be 24/7 live news channel any day soon, but we will be dipping a toe into the stream.

So, don’t pull a Burgundy and reject advancements in broadcast as “stupid.” Instead, embrace the opportunities they have to offer for your students and the audience they serve.

 

 

Christina Geabhart

In her 14th year advising, Christina Geabhart, MJE, advises the award-winning The Axe broadcast, N2 Sports broadcast, The Northmen’s Log newsmagazine and NorthmenNews.com online; as well as beginning levels of broadcast, writing and photography. Outside the classroom, she works as the Journalism Subject Area Lead Teacher for North Kansas City Schools.

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