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Tuning in online

Margaret Sheridan | Interrobang | News | February 4th, 2008

A small, yet dedicated, group of Fanshawe's broadcast journalism students are taking full advantage of the college's technology to wade into one of the newer media markets- webcasting.

A weekly hockey webcast hosted by five broadcast journalism students is carving out a niche in the online news community, a community that is growing by leaps and bounds and pulling both the college and media itself along for the ride.

The webcast, called “The Red Line”, is a weekly show highlighting the six Canadian NHL teams that airs just prior to Hockey Night in Canada at 5 p.m.

“We started the show last January when they started Stellar Radio,” said Adam Hill, one of the shows co-founders and a current host. “[Fanshawe faculty] said that if you had any ideas for shows write up something about them, just a draft of what you wanted to do, so I talked to a few guys who were in the program last year and we got started.”

Stellar Radio is the station used by the college's broadcast students for their news and radio shows as part of the broadcast journalism program. By visiting, students and the public alike are able to tune into the programming they make available, which on Saturday evenings includes the hockey roundtable.

The particular show that I sat in on was during the All-Star Weekend, and although I was told that it would be different from their regular broadcast because of a lack of available content, it was definitely an hour that hockey fans, no matter which team tthey cheer for, would appreciate. And part of that has to be given credit to the fact that the five-person panel represented a broad spectrum of hockey connoisseurs from the Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal markets.

“I grew up in Vancouver,” explained Hill. “It was the Canucks always. I grew up watching them and listening to them. All of us I think the reason we're on this is we're all really into hockey.”

Debates during the hour-long broadcast shifted from opening with a prepared statement after Hill lost a wager regarding the outcome of a Vancouver/Los Angeles game before moving on to Dion Phaneufs multi-glass-shattering shot and animated discussions about the pending All-Star game.

“This is the only sports thing that I really get to do,” Hill said. “And I love doing it every week and it's a chance to do something different.”

The entire webcast and podcast subculture is just getting it's roots firmly settled into pop culture and has the newest generation of ‘tech savvy' youths, as well commercial products like iPod's, to thank for it's growing popularity.

“It's really in its infancy and we're just starting it now with Stellar,” said Robert Collins, a professor coordinator with Fanshawe's radio broadcasting and broadcast journalism programs. “That's what's so fun about this technology - that it's so leading edge. It's the students, through their everyday lives in dealing with iPods and iTunes and that technology that are bringing that together in here.

“With all the students' creativity and imagination that they bring to it, it goes off into every direction. So that's where we're really doing unique research, and to the best of our knowledge looking into things no one else is doing.”

Part of the charm of webcasting is that it doesn't require high-end technology to create a viable show and can, as is being done at Fanshawe, be put together using commercial technology easily purchased at most electronics stores. According to Collins, at this point in time it's not the teacher, but the student, who are leading in this area of the program.

“The students who are doing the shows and the broadcasts here are teaching us to a certain extent,” Collins said. “Because of the students own ingenuity and creativeness they've come up with a plan. So we're kind of caught in a time warp in terms of ‘what do we teach and to what extent?' That's a struggle we have with this technology.

“But what this has proven is that if you give the students the tools and the framework and they start producing wonderful content like the sports show and they're becoming great content providers and making their own niche in that particular area.”

The broadcasting students at Fanshawe are doing their part in helping the newest form of media take off.

“As long as more people watch and know about it [webcasting] it can take off and go in new directions,” stressed Hill. “And having this site, this broadcasting property here, there are so many ways it can be used, and right now it's not being used to it's potential. CBC and ABC, they're uploading hourly webcasts to their websites, so you can go there and it's separate from what you'd see on TV. It's cut down to two minutes, a quick view of it online.”

But both Hill and Collins believe that webcasts won't eclipse traditional broadcasts, at least not the way they're being broadcast now. But with the advent of video iPod's and the like, it's becoming a simple click away form on-demand news at a persons fingertips.

“The shift has occurred,” Collins said regarding the public's transition to more portable mediums of getting their news. “I'm getting an iPod Touch, so I can record the A Channel news at six o'clock and put it on the Touch and watch it at my convenience, in the palm of my hand, so that change is already occurring.

“We really are in the experiment stage, this may be the starting point for us to do more.”
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