Freshman journalism majors lack tech resources

While first-year journalism enrollment increased by 27 percent this year, most of the department budget went toward salaries for new teachers in the 100-level classes. According to the Journalism Department Chair Janet Kolodzy, none of the money went toward the iPod Touch kits, the main equipment available for the 158 enrolled first-year students, including transfers, to use on a day-to-day basis in their reporting classes.

First-year journalism and visual and media arts majors are limited to resources from the Equipment Distribution Center that correspond with their training level and their class status. Some first-year students see this as a hindrance to their work and to their time at Emerson.

Alana Hagerty, a freshman journalism major, said she had trouble renting a DSLR from the EDC for her photography class. She also claimed the visual and media arts majors in her class were able to rent out the cameras with no hassle at all.

“It’s just so stupid that they’re telling us an iPhone can work just as well as a nice camera would,” she said. “It’s an obstacle for me in my classes.”

Traditionally, iPod Touch kits are the only pieces of equipment allocated to freshman journalism students for their first-level courses, according to MacArthur.  After going to her professor to sort out the dilemma, they told her to shoot it with her iPhone because it would have been too complicated to get her another camera.

As of now, there are about 80 iPod Touches available in the EDC, Associate Director of Television, Radio & Film Production Timothy MacArthur said.

iPod Touch kits come with a handheld microphone, a tripod, and an optional lavalier mic. The devices have been updated with new software every year but never replaced, Janet Kolodzy said. This is because the journalism department plans to retire the five-year-old devices but has not yet decided on a replacement device.

MacArthur and Janet Kolodzy said iPhones are more mobile and convenient devices than the bulky DSLR cameras, and even award-winning journalists use them to capture and record news stories.

David Abel, a reporter for the Boston Globe, won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, where he recorded footage with an iPhone.

“We now know that journalism happens in newsrooms and without newsrooms, and that being mobile is a major part of journalism today,” Kolodzy said. “The journalism department will start with the essentials.”

The purpose of the EDC is to support coursework for both VMA and journalism majors, according to MacArthur. Because of the limited resources and number of classes that require cameras for their coursework, there are not enough resources to circulate for non-curricular work, MacArthur said.

The EDC carries over 800 camera kits including the iPod Touches, to provide to over 1,000 students per semester. MacArthur said non-curricular use is a common request.

“They kind of painted that picture that you can take cameras and do whatever you please right off the bat,” Hanna Velcofsky, a freshman visual and media arts major, said. “You can’t take a camera out for personal reasons and if you don’t have your own camera, I don’t know what you’re supposed to do.”

According to MacArthur, the Media Services Center in the Ansin Building is an alternative if either a VMA or journalism student is seeking equipment and is unable to retrieve it from the EDC.

Velcofsky said she expected more resources to be available at Emerson.

“I think people came in thinking the system worked differently, and even if it is a good system, I think [the college] painted the wrong picture,” she said.

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