What’s the best way to get to know new people who share a common interest? Join a club. As we settled in for the first semester of our fellowship, we noticed a recurring theme in discussions at Wallace House: the growing need to be your own everything on assignments. We would have to become the videographer, photographer and audio technician on every story. The message came in loud and clear, over and over again: newsrooms are looking for more content to post on the website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and it’s up to us to be efficient providers.
With these ideas in mind, we started the Knight-Wallace AV Club. Think beyond the high school version; there are no film projectors or running slide shows. This AV Club focused on digital world problems including improving camera and audio skills. Print, radio and television journalists joined the club. Most had basic knowledge of professional DV cams and audio setup but some were starting from scratch. My biggest concern stemmed from past experience. After I had completed my former company’s training program, I went for months without needing to use the equipment and suddenly, I would need to haul out that box of gear, hoping my memory didn’t fail me on deadline. However, the club’s built-in mandate to practice together gave promise to committing these techniques to our long-term memory banks.
We quickly found that this fellowship organization needed a faculty advisor. New Knight-Wallace board member Jim Burnstein and Assistant Director, Birgit Rieck, found just the right fit in Screen Arts and Cultures instructor, Victor Fanucchi. He navigated around our busy class and seminar schedules to create a program tailored to our individual needs. Working out of both Wallace House and Michigan’s Instructional Support Services Media Center, Victor covered a different topic each week. Club members got the chance to focus on one area of learning: lighting, audio, composition or a complete overview of each topic. The same amount of time was spent on the science behind shutter speed selection as strengthening a person’s comfort level handling the equipment.
Television producer Eric Strauss said, “Even as someone who has already had experience using videos cameras, lights and microphones as a producer at ABC News, I found the KWF AV club very valuable. Victor was able to combine introductory and advanced elements in the same class. For me, the sessions proved to be refreshers and an opportunity to learn some advanced techniques.”
I am left-handed by nature. Working with Victor, however, I realized I was faster and steadier working with my right hand. Beyond learning from Victor, we learned from each other. Jason Margolis, correspondent with Public Radio International’s program “The World,” shared his audio knowledge. He offered tips for handling sound in spaces with less than ideal acoustics and how to get the best microphone position for interviews on the fly. Associated Press reporter Samantha Henry recounted her experiences as a multimedia journalist, reassuring us that with patience we, too, could successfully navigate this new way of covering stories from a multitude of different angles.
Even after completing the formal sessions, Club members are still in action. As fellow Larry Lage develops his project, a news platform for the deaf and hard of hearing, we are video documenting his progress and conducting on-camera interviews as part of his audience research.
Bottom line: the future favors multimedia journalists. As newsrooms rely more on social media to promote content and engage viewers, we can find more opportunities to extend coverage and raise our digital profiles by improving our abilities across all platforms. The Knight-Wallace AV Club brought us all a little closer to reaching that goal.