Just Fun: Jack Black Is Acceptable

Jack Black and VH1 have created some fun, but not entirely safe for school (NSFS) how to videos for their new show Acceptable.tv. Check them out here http://acceptable.tv/tutorials – with a little editing, they might be usable in the classroom. But they are fun.

Mr. C

Preparing Journalists: For How Long?

As a teacher of high school journalists, I wonder, just what are we preparing these kids for anyway? I’ve been a teacher of journalism for 12 years, and I worked at a PBS station on a college campus for 2 1/2 years before that. So, for nearly 15 years I’ve been preparing kids to become journalists or work in the media. In the last 3 years I’ve had a lot of success, several of my students have gone on to college to pursue careers in RTV-Film, Communications and Journalism.

I try to encourage them, and I haven’t got the heart to tell them that I wonder if journalists will even exist in 20 years. The technology that has set journalism free may also be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. The internet, which has made it easier than ever to be a journalist and get your message to the audience, is also killing journalism.

If you haven’t been paying attention, newspapers are dying. Ad revenue is down, news web site revenue is flat, classified are on Craig’s list, used cars are sold at autobytel.com, even obits are online now. TV is starting to feel the pinch too. Just as we see more and more channels, we are also seeing a splintering of the audience. The net and TiVo are killing commercials and viewership is down overall. The news is being hit the hardest. Why watch the news when you can get it all on the net? College’s are closing their yearbooks. Independent photographers are having trouble selling photos.

I’m sure a few daily papers will survive USA Today, NY Times, Wall Street Journal. CNN and Fox News will make it too. But what about local or regional news?

It’s not all bad news – Google and Yahoo are starting small news staffs, newspapers are hiring VJ (video journalists), college newspaper ads sales are strong, and most of the skills our students learn in high school journalism translate really well to the web.

But how much longer will what we do be called journalism? Already at my school, I will be teaching 7 classes next year 3 journalism and 3 instructional technology and one that is half of each. I predict that within five years, I’ll be teaching almost no classes that fall under journalism. Yearbook/Newspaper will become Desktop Publishing, Broadcast Journalism will become Video Technology, Photojournalism and Journalism will stop and Web Design and Intro to Mass Media will replace them.

The skills are nearly the same, so the learning curve for me as a teacher is very small. But the output is different. Journalism has a higher calling that is founded in the First Amendment. Journalists have a calling to shine a light on corruption, greed, crime and to hold up our community and nation to a higher standard. The new media does this, but only when they feel like it. Sometimes it goes unwatched, unspoken, unwritten. While the new media has the ability to be almost everywhere, it does not have the deep pockets to do real investigative journalism.

The new IT classes I will be teaching seem to have PR at their heart more than journalism. I’ve always felt that most state and local governments would much rather see high school and even college newspapers go away. They’d rather have a PR instrument like a yearbook, a “GMA” style TV magazine show, or a great web site for the school, etc. Reporting, editorials and unpleasant facts they can do without. For many, the death of real journalism will be seen as a good thing – a barking dog they can do without. For others, they will barely notice it’s passing an ever growing number of schools have lost their newspapers or yearbooks already.

I will continue to try to do my best to prepare my students as journalists. But I fear that the days of journalism are passing right before our eyes. The unfortunate fact is that freedom of the press means that the public can ignore real news in favor of infotainment, “reality TV” and pop culture. A free press is no guarantee of an interested or educated public.

Mr. C

10 Great Journalism Movies For Summer

Want to refresh your batteries this summer – go rent some DVDs. I personally like Blockbuster online, but Netflix works good too. Just click and they show up in the mailbox. Here’s some great movies to get excited about journalism again this summer:

1. Shattered Glass – This is probably one of the best journalism movies ever made. It focuses on ethics and how easy it is to ignore the faults in the popular kid in the newsroom as he makes news out of whole cloth. Based on the true story of Stephen Glass at the New Republic.  PG-13

2. Good Night and Good Luck – Second best journalism movie ever made. It is of course the story of Edward R. Murrow and his fight against McCarthyism. And he even smokes on air – a sin under the new MPAA rules. PG

3. The Pelican Brief – Denzel Washington plays a great newspaper reporter. I like to use just the part where he interviews her and reviews his notes with my students. It is a great way to show kids how to take good notes. Based on the John Grisham novel. PG-13

4. The Killing Fields – Another great true story of a photographer Dith Pran and a reporter during the fall of Laos and the aftermath. R

5. All The President’s Men – I guess you just can’t escape this movie, the grand-daddy of all journalism movies. If you don’t know about Watergate, then you might want to check out a history book first. PG

6. State of Play – Really good movie about the modern world of journalism.  It’s all in here, the salty old dog reporter and the young pup with a blog, layoffs, technology, politicians, a scandal, a corporate boss and good old fashioned beat reporting.  PG-13

7. Absence of Malice – Another good story about ethics and when you should print information that might be damaging. This is one of the few fictional ones on the list. PG

8. The Truman Show – Not really about journalism, but about our television culture and how much we are invading into people’s personal space and the Orwellian camera culture we all live in today.  PG-13

9. The Devil Wears Prada – Pretty good movie based on the book of the same name about the difficulties of breaking in and working at a fashion magazine. The movie is now an obit for a dying industry. PG13

10. Broadcast News – Pretty good movie on what is fake in the news. Some good scenes you could actually use to show kids how a news interview is really done and how looks are sometimes more important than talent. R

11. The Paper – Micheal Keeton plays a great foul mouthed, deadline oriented, sensationalist editor. An often too realistic look at many daily newspapers. R

Bonus 12+ Superman or Spiderman – Who doesn’t see journalists as superheros (especially journalism teachers)? Go rent almost any one of the movies featuring Peter Parker or Clark Kent.

And www.imdb.com, the Internet Movie Database, has a great new feature – search by topic: journalism, television, photographer, etc.

Support my site – buy these movies from the TeachJ Jouralism Store

Found A Great Video, But Your School Has A Terrible Internet

My school has both the slowest T-1 connection ever known and a cranky IT director who refuses to unblock useful sites because they don’t want any streaming video to slow down our already slow servers.

So that means if I want to use a video clip from the internet at school, I have to download it at home, save it on a disk and bring it to school. This is perfectly within our rights as educators under fair use to show video, especially short clips as part of the educational process. Plus many podcast creators made their show so that people could use it to learn – and they don’t expect to get anything back for it. Just be careful – don’t download commercial products from bitTorrent sites.

OK, but I can’t get this thing to play on my computer. There are a bunch of file formats on the net, the most common are .wmv .mov .flv .dv

Most of these can be played by downloading free players like Windows Media Player and Quicktime. Both are available on Mac and Windows. But FLV files are a little bit different. They are only playable with a FLV player or a converter. And they are harder to download, since you can’t just right click on the file and save it.

So, how can you download the pesky FLV files. Use the Firefox web browser, if you are still using Explorer or Safari – give it up and move into the 21st Century. Firefox is free at www.mozilla.org. Now install the free Video Downloader Plugin (http://www.download.com/download_video/VideoDownloader/3000-11745_4-10546007.html?tag=txt)

This will give you a little icon at the bottom right of your window. Click it to download an open video. Rename the video and give it a .flv ending.

Now you need an FLV player. The Wimpy FLV player works great. Download for Windows or Mac.


Don’t forget to install it on your school computer too. And make sure you have the latest versions of flash, java, etc. go to http://www.pluginchecker.com/

Mr. C

41 Mini Photoshop Lessons: Downloads

Here’s a great resource for photography teachers, Photoshop Wednesday – a video podcast by John Chambers, a great Photoshop teacher.  The lessons are in Photoshop CS, but I know they translate well into PS 7.0 and CS2 as well.  Each lesson covers one of the main Photoshop tools.  You can download it here:


or go to Apple’s iTunes and subscribe.

Mr. C

Tackle TED Talks With Seth Godin

Seth is an advertising guru who understands that the world has changed from media driven products to user driven ones. His TED Talk is one of the better ones, but there are lots of gems there. The TED talk site is http://www.ted.com/talks or you can download them at Apple’s iTunes site. Go to the podcast links or just search for TED Talks. I’ve attached my PPT file that I’m going to share with my students this fall. I hope we can embrace this philosophy of change for our yearbook and turn it into a vehicle for student centered content.   Stop Selling To The Center

Mr. C

Good Writers Read: 10 Magazines For The Classroom

All journalists should be good writers and the best way to become a better writer is to be a better reader. Every journalism classroom should have six to ten decent magazines available for students (and the teacher) to read. Here’s a few that I suggest:

1. Wired – Almost all media is high tech today and Wired is on the ragged edge of tech. They do a great job of keeping you informed of the up and coming tech trends before they get here. They also have very cool design and well written stories and interviews.

2. CJR – Columbia Journalism Review. How can you call yourself a journalist if you don’t read CJR? They have a great piece in this month’s issue on the Military Times and another one about the British Press and how it is different from the American Press.

3. Print – A really great design magazine that is just full of ideas for all kinds of things like use of text and color.

4. Shutterbug – Picking a photography magazine is hard because you want one that does not show nudity. Shutterbug is more focused on the serious amateur photographer and their needs. There are reviews of new cameras and equipment, technique articles and web resources.

5. Entertainment Weekly – Just a great magazine about pop culture that has fun headlines, good layout and well written articles. Usually stays away from the more gossipy stuff.

6. MacLife (used to be MacAddict) – If you use computers, you should read a computer magazine. If you don’t use Macs (you should – joke) then get a decent PC magazine.

7. US News & World Report – It is getting really hard to find a respectable weekly news magazine since so many of them have been part of journalistic scandals lately. I used to take Newsweek until they fabricated a story. As a teacher, you really want the most reliable news magazine you can find.

8. C:JET – Communications: Journalism Education Today. Join JEA (www.jea.org) and you will get it for free! Great magazine, although it tends to focus mainly on print and photography.

9. In house publications: Taylor Talk, Josten’s Adviser & Staff, the UIL Leaguer (Texas), The Quill, etc. Whatever company you use to print your yearbook has a publication, your state journalism organization probably does too, so does Quill & Scroll. Read them, they have great ideas.

10. Finally, the local paper. If you teach newspaper or an introduction to journalism class, this is a must. But it is also useful for almost any journalism class you teach. My wife is an English teacher and she finished up the year with her freshmen with a 2-week mini lesson on newspapers. The kids liked it and thought it was an interesting change from literature and prepping for the TAKS test and the AP test.

Happy Reading

Mr. C

Time To Pack Up: 10 To Do’s Before Summer

If you are like me, then you are solely, 100 percent responsible for the equipment in your journalism or media room. So, take some time and pack up right. Here are some to do’s before you leave for a well deserved summer rest.

1. Update the system software. If you are on Mac, run the system updater in the control panel. On a PC, download the latest patches for Windows.

2. Update your software. If you use Adobe products for photography or desktop publishing – run their updater. Also go to versiontracker.com and check all your other software.

3. Throw out the computer trash. Delete all the old files you won’t need anymore. Make a back up of this year’s photos and video projects. Label and store your backups. File all your archive footage of really important events. Put it in a cool, dry place if possible.

4. Clean out your files, your desk and your storage areas. Stuff accumulates. Three years ago I moved to a new classroom and I ended up throwing out 10 giant trashcans full of junk! Pitch it if you don’t use it. Or find a new home for it. Give it away if you can.

5. Order stuff you need. Yearbook advisers, get your publisher to send you stuff like rulers, calendars, etc. Many give away a lot of stuff or sell some promotional items cheap. Video – you will need tapes, batteries, DVDs, bulbs, etc.

6. Make sure all your equipment works and is inventoried before putting it away. Invest in plastic tubs with lids to keep out moisture and keep stuff organized. Hit the dollar store or Big Lots. Check and roll cables, etc. Get some cable clamps in the hardware aisle to keep mic cables from becoming spaghetti.

7. Clean up. Rinse out your coffee cup, put away extra office supplies, box up random stuff lying around.

8. Get ready for camp. Get all your summer paperwork done and pack a box of things for camp.

9. Turn it all off. Unplug everything that can be left off for the summer.

10. Go home and have a great summer.

Mr. C

Who Says Surfing Is Just Wasting Time?

I’m always coming across new stuff about DV (digital video) on the net by accident. Usually just surfing or from some of the sites on my blog. Here are some new DV tutorials and ideas I found this morning.

They have a huge tutorial archive that you can add to with your own stuff!

Paige Williams : How to Use Mini DV Camcorders & Mini Digital Video Cameras

Chris C. Conklin : How to Use a Digital Camera: Learn Basic Digital Photography Techniques

This is a class site for a high school video course. Very well done for high school kids.

Mr. C

Money Money Money – 10 Great Fund Raising Ideas

Unfortunately almost all high school media advisers have to raise money through fund raising – and we hate it. Most of us were raised in the editorial/creative departments of our college and professional newspapers, radio, TV, magazines, etc. We were not in the ad department and we really never wanted to be.

So, now that we are tasked with making sure the bottom line stays healthy and out of the red, we end up having to fund raise for trips, t-shirts, equipment, etc.

So what to do? How do you raise money without going crazy? It is a tough nut to crack. So here are some ideas for relatively easy fund raisers that won’t steal all your time from your real job – producing some kind of media.

1. Powder Puff Football Game – if you have a lot of girls on your staff, or a lot of guys with girlfriends willing to give up their time for a game of flag football. Most schools have a stadium on site, even if it is a JV field with metal bleachers. All you need are flags, Nerf footballs, a scoreboard, a ref and some of the senior football players to coach it. You charge $2 a head and 500 tickets later you clear a cool $1000. Get the crazy guys to dress like cheerleaders and have some fun with it. Just don’t forget to have the parents sign a release form for injuries. Do it near the very last week of school before finals.

2. Host a video game tournament. Have the players pay $10 to play and give the winners a gift card to a local game store. Sell tickets for $2. (see above for profit)

3. Host a Homecoming or Sweetheart dance. DJ it with a computer with iTunes and a decent sound system from the AV department at school. Keep ticket prices low to get more people to come $3 singles or $5 for couples. Cost is may be $30-50 for music off iTunes (clean versions of course), plus some decorations.

4. Host a community carnival on a Saturday. Use it to sell yearbooks too. Sell booth space to other organizations. Keep the price low – $10 per booth to promote lots of organizations joining in. More booths = more organizations helping you promote it. You have a booth or two also.

5. Sell T-shirts with the yearbook theme and each class’ graduation year on it. Find an online seller to get your price down to less than $5 per shirt – sell them for $10.

6. Host an athletes vs. coaches basketball or dodge ball game.

7. Rent out your video/audio skills. Many high school events are boring. Offer to help one organization out – help them pep up their show for free! Create videos, multimedia, logos, music, lighting effects, etc. for their show. Help them create a really exciting experience to showcase their talent. Now tell other organizations on campus that you will do it for them too – for a price. Create a price sheet that your school’s organizations can afford, but where you make money too. If they are making $1000 from a show, ask for $200 or set a price sheet for various services such as video filming, editing, final show production, etc.

8. Buy a fast DVD burner and agree to shoot and sell DVDs of school events for $5 each.

9. Desktop publish for clients. Get with a local restaurant that has a terrible menu and redo it for free. Now send your work to every local restaurant in town, but ask for $100-$200 depending on how detailed it is. Offer to shoot photos, etc. and help them choose a professional printer. If you get 5 or 6 a year, that is more than $1000.

10. Share your idea! Leave your idea for a great fund raiser as a comment below!

Mr. C