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Ben Diedtrich holds a camera for the new film and video club. Jordyn Pair | Col­legian

The fall of my sophomore year, Jordan Finney ’16 and I rushed to the Grewcock Student Union after our Monday classes to set up a camera and boom-micro­phone in the Richard Raese Con­ference Room. We were scheduled to film an interview with vis­iting pro­fessor of history Victor Davis Hanson, and the con­ference room was the only available filming space.

A long and narrow con­ference-room table dom­i­nates the rel­a­tively small room, which isn’t optimal for filming, but it was the only room without other stu­dents.

Sit­u­a­tions like this one are fairly common for student jour­nalists trying to film inter­views, and because Hillsdale doesn’t have a student TV studio, student jour­nalists looking to film shows and inter­views often have to be cre­ative about finding a suitable filming location.  

The college is already raising money for a Film and Doc­u­mentary Program, which would train stu­dents in doc­u­mentary film­making and digital media. Not included in this budget, however, is funding for a studio — a vital part of video pro­duction that would also round out the college’s Dow Jour­nalism Program. A TV studio does exist on campus in the basement of the Old Student Union, but it’s not for student use. The college uses it to film videos or facil­itate inter­views with broadcast tele­vision sta­tions like Fox News.

Hillsdale already has mul­tiple well-estab­lished student print pub­li­ca­tions and a blos­soming radio program. A TV studio would make these offerings more com­plete. By opening a small TV studio just for stu­dents, the college would provide another tool to prepare them for careers in jour­nalism, videog­raphy, theater, and rhetoric.

Hillsdale’s jour­nalism program values hands-on expe­rience over the­ories taught in the classroom, and a student TV studio would enhance this learning expe­rience by allowing stu­dents to imagine ways to use this classroom knowledge to translate their video ideas into reality.

Today’s print jour­nalists, at print pub­li­ca­tions of all sizes, need to use video in their reporting. New York Times reporters fre­quently share their findings on Facebook Live, and the mid-sized Detroit News recently began filming short videos with colum­nists to talk about recent political events or upcoming sports match-ups.

Stu­dents already use classroom teachings to inform their writing, and since last year, their on-air radio com­men­taries. It would be ben­e­ficial for stu­dents to have the oppor­tunity to learn how to do this in front of a camera.

Even without a TV studio cur­rently available to stu­dents, senior Kayla Stetzel and sophomore Jordyn Pair began a film and pro­duction club in Feb­ruary, and this semester, members of The Col­legian film a weekly interview show.  

In the first full year of the Radio Free Hillsdale, over 10 student-pro­duced radio shows and seg­ments have been launched. This could easily happen with a TV studio as well. Stu­dents could create news shows, sports-talk shows, interview shows, comedy rou­tines, or even video essays. These videos could then be shown live or saved for later on Facebook or YouTube at no cost.

While alumni like Genna Hilgen­brink ’15, Abigail Gilbert ’14, and Kat Timpf ’10, were able to make the jump from print to TV without the benefit of a studio to practice in, it doesn’t mean future stu­dents wouldn’t benefit from on-campus broadcast expe­rience.

Money has already been set aside to hire a staff member to run the Film and Doc­u­mentary program. In making the final hiring decision, the college could choose someone capable of running a student jour­nalist TV studio as well, like Scot Bertram does with the radio station.

For as little as $200,000 extra, in addition to the $740,000 ear­marked for equipment, the college could pay for the con­struction of a TV studio. While the college’s current studio cost about $1.7 million to con­struct, a student equiv­alent could be built much less expen­sively because it would only need to produce internet-quality videos. It wouldn’t need to meet the broadcast-quality stan­dards the college’s TV studio cur­rently has to meet to host pro­fessor inter­views on Fox News. The cost dif­ference between high-end con­sumer equipment and broadcast-quality equipment is sub­stantial.

And while space to build a studio up the hill is extremely limited, the college could poten­tially convert a floor of one of the college-owned houses cur­rently being rented-out into studio space.     

Today’s jour­nalists must be well-versed in video as well as print and radio. Hillsdale College should con­sider directing some of the money it raises in the Film and Doc­u­mentary Program cam­paign toward building a TV studio, where moti­vated stu­dents could develop their skills for video while putting their rhetorical and writing skills into practice.

  • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

    Ok, let’s ask the obvious question. Why are stu­dents unable to use the college studio? Training? Lia­bility issues? Sched­uling? College per­sonnel required to used the studio?

    One person has been hired for the program, but that person is likely someone familiar with the story side, not the tech­nical side. For that you are looking for someone with a com­pletely dif­ferent skill set. Unless we are talking about a program that films with phone cameras, there is a lot more to it than a $200k room, editing rooms, voiceover booth, the list goes on.

  • Evan Carter

    Hi there — good question. I wouldn’t say that stu­dents are never able to use the college’s current TV studio, it’s just that the studio really isn’t for stu­dents, so in my expe­rience, trying to schedule time to use it is a hassle. It takes time for the studio to schedule their workers to film a video someone else wants to make.

    Further, I would like to respect­fully dis­agree with your other asser­tions. This semester I’m pro­ducing a web show for the Col­legian and we were able to pur­chase equipment to transform one of the rooms in the college into an ad hoc studio for less than $2000. A studio that’s pri­marily meant to give stu­dents the oppor­tunity to create videos (versus train them to work in the broadcast TV industry) could be minimal and built very inex­pen­sively. Running a studio like this would take much less knowledge than is needed by someone like a tech­nical director on a more tra­di­tional TV broadcast set.

  • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

    Ok, I read “student TV studio” and thought some­thing similar to com­munity access cable studio. It’s not the latest and greatest, but it’s TV quality.

    Sure web­casting you can do that with a laptop, that’s totally dif­ferent, just be sure to avoid VVS please.

    I get that you are favoring content over pre­sen­tation, but, don’t under­es­timate pre­sen­tation quality in helping the content cir­culate faster/easier.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    the school isn’t going to let a student use the same studio that a famous right wing windbag like Dr. Laura, Sean Hannity, or Rush Lim­baugh might someday use.