**Note: The following tips, ideas and suggestions come from the writer’s personal experience as a senior Broadcast Journalism major at the University of South Alabama. The following article and all ideas contained here within are not necessarily reflective of said university.
As countless universities and colleges across the country and around the world continue to establish their own campus television stations, an increasing number of students are entering the world of mass media studies. Whether journalism, radio, television or film, the broadcast tract can be an exciting and enjoyable major.
However, for many Broadcast Journalism students, it can be an intimidating one. Shooting, interviewing, live reporting, anchoring and editing your own news pieces can be a tiresome and daunting task, not to mention a time-consuming one. Some stories may take weeks to plan and cover, followed by several hours spent in front of a computer screen editing as quickly as possible so as to meet the deadline. Welcome to the world of journalism.
But before you check out that $5,000 camera and begin shooting, you should know what you’re going to shoot. Sadly, many students wait until the last minute to find a story idea, whether it be one that is local to the area or campus-related. Either way, your professor will likely wish to approve it in advance. Here are a few campus story ideas you may want to consider:
1. Campus Construction
If your college or university is like any other, they are or will be building something soon. As student bodies continue to grow, the need for more buildings, dorms, recreational facilities, etc. becomes greater. Any campus construction, particularly construction that may hinder traffic flow or increase tuition, is of high interest to students and even faculty.
Do some investigative research. What is being built? Why? Where? How much will it cost? When is construction scheduled to be completed? Will it replace another campus building? What do students think of the project? You may need to schedule interviews with student government associations or even university officials in order to ascertain many of these details. Before shooting your footage, be certain you first secure permission from the necessary campus officials.
2. Campus Sports
This should be a no brainer. If there’s one thing the vast majority of college students are interested in, it is their school’s sports teams. From football, basketball and soccer all the way to tennis, golf and even swimming, campus sports always make for great broadcast journalism student packages, particularly for students who wish to cover sports in their future careers.
Do your research before the start of the semester. Get a copy of the game schedules and keep them with you at all times. Check your equipment out in advance, leaving yourself enough time to get on location and set up. Try to account for possible weather conditions, particularly for outdoor sports events. If you will still be shooting in the rain or snow, you’ll need the proper camera and microphone jackets.
Be prepared to run into multiple audio issues at any sporting event where crowds are large and loud. For your interviews (of players, coaches or fans), be certain you use a unidirectional microphone (one that is sensitive to sounds from only one direction). This way, you stand a better chance of cutting out all the crowd noise in the background. Remember to have fun. Get shots of the mascots clowning around, students in popcorn fights, cheerleaders and parents attending the game. School sporting events are all about fun!
3. Campus Technology
For geeky journalists and reporters, a field package on campus technology can prove exciting and newsworthy at the same time. If your university has recently acquired a cutting edge piece of technology, perhaps in the medical college, science department or even the mass media department, seek to report on it. What is it? What does it do? How will it be used? These and several other details will appeal to faculty and student viewers and will make for an interesting piece.
4. Campus Events
If there is one thing that rings true of any college or university, no matter the size, there is always something going on. For news stories, however, be certain you do not cover something too trivial. Seek the advice and approval of your professor and/or newsroom manager. A campus dance banquet or fraternity party may not constitute a newsworthy event in and of itself. Better choices for newsworthy campus events include theatrical productions by the drama/theatre department, charity projects by campus organizations, etc. Remember, these story topics are broad. You will need to narrow your focus. Ask yourself how the story applies to your campus. How will it affect the student body and/or faculty and staff? Why is it important to your school? And keep in mind that dozens of stories outside of these topics will present themselves throughout the semester. News is not something that can always be predicted. Sometimes it just happens. As a campus broadcast reporter, it’s up to you to cover it, edit it and get it on the air by the deadline.