I’m adviser Tripp Robbins, and this is my newsroom…

What is your name?
Tripp Robbins

What school do you teach at?
Menlo School

What city and state is your school located in?
Atherton, CA

What different media are produced at the school?
Journalism (convergent program), yearbook, moviemaking

How many students are involved at the media program at your school?

Describe your space for us.
After teaching in a run-down trailer for seven years, I was lucky enough to be moved into this room when it was new six years ago. It’s huge (53’x 30′) and now it’s well equipped for the media classes I teach in it. Having the “classroom” space at one end, a mini-studio space at the other, and a row of computers along the window wall is wonderful. It’s a bit of a fishbowl, having one wall, facing into the building, all glass, but it adds to the sense that it’s a huge room. The big windows add to the open feel of the place. The industrial ceiling allow me to easily hang inflatable sea and air creatures, which helps keeps the space fun.

What do you think are some of the benefits of the workspace you all have?
The tables and chairs are configurable, so if we need to set things up for a particular purpose, we can. The mini-studio consists primarily of the LED light panels and roll-down white, black and green screens. The light panels are set up to be super easy to use; I can teach anyone to use the lights and screens in just one minute. The large LCD monitor at the “teaching” end of the room connects to both a HDMI-wired system and an AppleTV wireless system, so I can have anyone display from their device pretty quickly. And we have a good amount of in-room, lockable storage. The big, north-facing windows allow light in (without having direct sun). Having roll-down shades on all the windows lets us darken the space if needed.

What do your students like most about the workspace you have?
There’s enough space to do what we need (although when I had 32+ students in a moviemaking class, it got a little tight if people were shooting something in the room). I think they like the aquarium and the critters and lights hanging from the ceiling. Having the 18 iMacs with Adobe CC suites and Final Cut Pro X on them is great even though it feels like most students use their own laptops most of the time. I also think they like the square arrangement of tables so that we are all on the same level, able to talk with each other.

What computer programs and/or apps is your staff using on a regular basis for their work?
Adobe InDesign for journalism; web browsers for yearbook work (using our publisher’s browser-based DTP program); Final Cut Pro X for video editing.

What tech equipment are your students using on a daily basis?
The moviemaking program has about 9 Canon T5i and T6i DSLRs, a Panasonic HMC-40P camcorder, a BlackMagic Pocket Cinema camera, and a modest variety of lenses. We have the roll-down backdrops and 6 LitePanel LED wash lights. We have a camera drone that we don’t use much, and a nice Xuen Crane gimbal, as well as some other gadgets. And we have Final Cut Pro X on the 18 iMacs in the room. The publications kids use their own laptops often, but they do use the iMacs for InDesign when publishing print newspapers.

Aside from the computers and the programs, what are one or two pieces of equipment that you have that you think other programs should have.
It’s almost not worth mentioning because I think everyone requires it these days, but the 72″ LCD screen, which may be just as good as that product from a china led display manufacturer, is crucial. Beyond that, for shooting studio photos or video, the LED lights and the drop-down screens are great.

How is your workspace funded?
All my programs (Moviemaking, yearbook and convergent journalism) are funded by the school. We do sell yearbook “senior tributes” to parents and raise a good deal of the cost of the book from that (about 25-30% of the gross cost). We do not sell newspaper ads currently (and haven’t for years).

Do you have anything on your wishlist for your space? If so, what do you have and why?
Well, one can always wish! I feel very lucky to have good resources for the students, but I would love to add a few things. That would include some large external monitors for a few computers, so we can better see our layout designs before printing. Currently we have a B&W printer that can print 11″x17″ and that’s nice, but it’d be great to be able to print in color. I’d like to have better cameras available for my journalism and yearbook students. And I ask for semi-regular upgrades to the fading DSLRs in the moviemaking program – I’m able to retire the lowest-end ones every few years and get newish ones to replace them.

(This is one of a series of posts where high school newsrooms are showcased. We’d love to showcase your newsroom on the site. To find out how, check out the information here and submit yours today.)

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 26th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He is the 2023 JEA Teacher Inspiration Award Winner and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on X and Instagram @manfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

Aaron Manfull has 865 posts and counting. See all posts by Aaron Manfull

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