A few years ago, Ball State University’s (BSU) media program was divided in two.
Students were either majoring in journalism, or majoring in broadcasting without learning the skillset for the opposite genre.
Internal Anatomy of the Unified Media Lab
• iDesk: where students create multimedia content for online news. Students write online stories, shoot and edit video, and study audience analytics.
• AVID stations: industry-standard broadcast editing work stations. Students import raw video in the stations, write scripts and edit copy.
• Editor Stations: spaces where student editors can collaborate and discuss content for story coverage.
• iMac Stations: work stations that feature the latest Adobe creative software for students to create, write and publish multimedia stories. Students can also use Adobe Premier/Auditions to edit online video/audio, and InDesign/Photoshop for print and tablet publication designs.
• Small /large conference rooms: areas where students can interview sources or collaborate on stories.
• Faculty offices: where students can meet with instructors for assistance on news projects.
• Classrooms: learning spaces that can accommodate up to 20 students.
Tim Underhill says the university reconsidered the curriculum setup, and combined the two into one course of study through the help of the Unified Media Lab.
“We took a long look at it and decided we’re not going to have journalism students, we’re not going to have broadcasting students, we’re going to have news students,” says Underhill, Instructor, Department of Telecommunications, BSU. “Once we did that, we said, let’s make the facilities reflect what we’ve done with the curriculum. We created what’s called the Unified Media Laboratory.”
Underhill says that Unified Media Lab enables students to work together more efficiently; that way, students can work on the same story together rather than cover the same story separately.
“All of our student media can work out of the same room, and collaboration is the key to making sure we’re covering the same stories,” Underhill says. “Why should we have six different outlets covering the same story when we can collaborate together and make it more efficient?”
Juli Metzger, Instructor of Journalism and Coordinator of Unified Media at BSU, says the lab enables students to take the reins on their own news projects, and work on them as if they were actual news stories.
“We let the students make the content decisions on all of our platforms,” she says. “Rather than having it be instructor or faculty-driven, it’s driven by our students. Our faculty gives them training, classes, etc., but they get to come in and experiment and play with the equipment.”
Metzger also says she and other faculty use the lab to teach students how to run news equipment, which includes the lab’s Grass Valley broadcasting solutions, and working with the “professionally” designed news desk.
“We really wanted to replicate what we thought the future of journalism is for in the industry,” she says. “All platforms are struggling to find the right combination of skillsets. We find more and more that if we can send students and new hires to employers with skills across all platforms, they can write, edit, and shoot– they’re more employable and marketable.”