The Next Generation Moves to Backpack Journalism

Since 2000, more than 200 middle- and high-school students in the Brunswick (Ohio) City School District have produced between 125 and 150 shows annually.
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By Nancy Caronia--
Since 2000, more than 200 middle- and high-school students in the Brunswick (Ohio) City School District have produced between 125 and 150 shows annually including news, sporting events, local concerts and Board of Education meetings.

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Nicole Rhoades on the BEAT The work, primarily done after school hours has earned awards for the Brunswick Schools Video Program (BSVP) and has been the engine of Brunswick Educational Access Television (BEAT), broadcast on Channel 22 to the approximately 40,000 residents of Ohio’s Medina County and streamed on-demand (at

In July 2010, BSVP received the Alliance for Community Media’s Hometown Video Award (for overall excellence in educational access among programs with a budget less than $200,000) for the second time in four years. BSVP was also chosen as the first-ever student video documentary team for the 2009 Ohio School Boards Association Capital Conference, where BSVP students had a chance to interview CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.

While BSVP focus was originally on the technical side of video production, four years ago BSVP co-advisors John Wasylko and Sam Boyer “took tours of professional facilities in Ohio and saw how news people were being asked to wear many hats,” said Wasylko, also the BCSD community relations director. “We changed our program to reflect the trend towards backpack journalism and made it a mass media journalism program. We wanted to give students a taste of the industry that exists now and will exist in the future.”

BSVP has a 40-by-40-foot classroom-sized studio within the Brunswick High School, and a local Fox news station donated a news studio set when it was updating. The students use JVC HD250 cameras along with a portable flypack that includes a Grass Valley switcher, Shure mixer, Marshall monitors, Chryon character generator and Mackie mixer. The flypack can be easily rolled from the studio to the auditorium or out to the athletic field, and students learn to do both single and multi-camera events. Editing is done on Final Cut Pro. The studio has ARRI lighting and Vinten donated professional tripods. Leightronix UltraNEXUS powers that company’s PEG Central Web hosting and streaming video-on-demand service.

Wasylko noted that manufacturers have been instrumental in making sure that the students work on and with cutting technology. “The impression I get is the companies want to see students learn on industry standard equipment,” he said. “They are the future.”

In the first year, students learn the basics of journalism—how to tell a good story. Recently graduated senior and soon-to-be Asbury University media communication major Sean O'Connor said he joined the BEAT in seventh grade where he quickly learned that “writing is most important. In any media career, you always have to figure out what a good story is.”

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In the control room In the second year, students learn to conduct interviews in the studio and in the field before being taught how to shoot, edit, and produce. By the end of the second year, they are producing at least one story per month. Wasylko noted, “They learn how to use the written word to express themselves and address things that need to be addressed. They use technology to enhance the pieces.”

Their third year is filled with monthly assignments in addition to focusing on an area of interest—some students enjoy being in front of the camera while others love editing. Currently, there are 40 students in the program who learn to collaborate in various team formations. “This is a small but mighty group,” said Wasylko. “They have assignments and deadlines. Ultimately it is their responsibility, their job to make sure that the viewers will watch and enjoy.”

Next year, three third-year veterans of BSVP will also learn management duties at the channel. “I thought it would be beneficial to my career in the future,” said ninth-grader Nicole Rhoades, one of the new management trainees. “Since kindergarten I’ve loved history. I wanted at first to be a paleontologist, then an anthropologist, but now I’m focused on being an underwater archeologist since I can focus on United States history. BSVP helps me since we focus on what is in the community and the changes that are happening here.”

BSVP receives generous support from the BCSD, Board of Education, and City of Brunswick, according to Wasylko. In addition, there are 80 local and professional business sponsors who have contributed more than $150,000 in funds, equipment and services.

Wasylko says part of the success of the program is the ability to give students individual attention and have fun while learning to express themselves responsibly. “These young people have so many great observations and ideas,” he said. “We want to empower them. The future of the program is in how far the students want to take it.”



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