Video studio brings changes to Johnnie Bennie Media, class assignments

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October 22, 2018

By Mike Killeen

studio with students

Story photos credit: Sierra Lammi ’19

Out with the old and in with the new.

That’s exactly what happened when a video studio and control room opened in the fall of 2017 in the Colman Barry Creativity Center at Saint John’s University’s Dietrich Reinhart Learning Commons.

Out was the traditional mode of radio and television. In came an emphasis on online broadcasting and podcasts.

Out was Media Services. In was Instructional Technology. With it came an opportunity to integrate technology into classroom assignments.

“One of the core tenets of Johnnie Bennie Media is to promote media literacy,” said John Nguyen, general manager of KJNB Radio and a senior economics and Hispanic studies double-major. “What better way to do that with this new studio including all the equipment associated with it.”

Although Johnnie Bennie Media remains the heaviest users of the new studio, an increasing number of students are using the space for classroom assignments and personal projects.

“Our new structure, under Instructional Technology, allows us to integrate technology into the course work or into the curriculum,” said Ethan Wittrock, Instructional Technology specialist. “So, we partner with faculty members to create assignments and find types of projects that would complement the work that is traditionally done in classes.”

One faculty member who is assigning projects for her students to produce in the studio is Dana Drazenovich, instructor of communication and first-year seminar.

“Dana definitely (has used the studio) with her Intro to Media Writing and Advanced Media Writing classes,” said Myah Christenson, executive producer of Johnnie Bennie Campus News and a junior communication major. “In her intro class, we had to create a video on basically anything you wanted on campus, which is a great step in the right direction toward using these resources in the center.

Christenson added that she would like to see more classes use the facility for course work. “Why not take advantage of all these resources? I wish more people would take advantage of it,” she said.

The other change that has come with the new studio is switching from traditional television and radio delivery methods to focusing to online delivery.

“The benefit (to the online model) is you have a better way of keeping track of what is being shared, how many people are watching and how people are interacting with the content,” Wittrock said. “Students come in knowing a certain amount about social media and new media, but we help them try to focus so they can have a deeper appreciation for information literacy, media literacy and digital citizenship.”

The new resources play into that. The control room includes a wide variety of monitors, a video switcher and a 32-input digital audio mixer.

Nguyen, for instance, has produced a video series from the studio. Called “The KJNB Studio Sessions,” the series have featured campus musicians Jake Braun and the band Fresh Milk.

“I never would have even thought about the music-video series if we were continuing in the same space, up on fourth floor Quad,” Nguyen said, noting the original cramped studio that was used from 2013-17.

Another new resource are the teleprompters for Johnnie Bennie Campus News. That addition has been much needed, according to Ellen Munshower, who regularly co-anchors the newscasts.

What passed for a teleprompter in the old studio was a laptop computer propped up on a high table. Someone had to stand behind the laptop and scroll down while the anchor read off the screen.

“It really was like Bill Gates, who started Microsoft in his garage. It kind of felt like that,” Munshower said of the lack of teleprompters. “We knew there were better things out there. So, we tried to just deal with all the things we didn’t have, like teleprompters.”

“We put the camera just above (the laptop), and it bothered everyone because you could tell we were looking down and reading, rather than looking directly at the camera, which you can with teleprompters,” said Munshower, a senior biology major.

“To see those problems solved is amazing, honestly. It started with the teleprompters, but then we have an actual control room attached to it, instead of next door,” she added.

Nguyen, like Christenson and Munshower, believes students have “only scratched the surface” of using the new studio.

“They (students) are able to do as much as their creativity will allow them to do,” Nguyen said.