Digital, social and broadcast productions prepares students to work in modern media

Sunday, February 4, 2018
Iowa Lakes Community College student Jennifer Astello operates a video camera during a basketball game. (Photo submitted)

Technology and market forces have rapidly reshaped the media landscape in the past decade, and as the media changed, its professionals have had to master a broad array of communication formats.

That’s why the digital, social and broadcast productions program at Iowa Lakes Community College features writing, graphic design, audio production, radio and television broadcasting and social media.

“I think what makes this program unique and stand out is that you are able to get your feet wet in every division of broadcast media,” said Kevin Tlam, the program’s lead adjunct instructor. “In many cases, students find out they enjoy certain aspects of the industry that they didn’t realize (they liked).”

As newspapers now often require photography, video and multimedia skills from their writers and radio stations often require writing, photography and multimedia skills from on-air personalities, students in the program experience a variety of media formats.

During the first year, they take classes in digital photography, digital media marketing, writing, audio and video production and editing and oral communication. In the second year of the program, students take writing and marketing classes, as well as design, web analytics and media law and ethics. They also have the opportunity to take an extra class in web design, radio or television production.

The two-year associate degree also prepares students to transfer to a four-year college and complete a bachelor’s degree there.

“There is still a large need for announcers at radio stations, reporters and writers for TV stations, and journalists for publications, etc.,” Tlam said. “Having experience in all these avenues will make you more marketable to employers.”

Jason White, station manager at MC22, graduated from the broadcasting program at Iowa Lakes and now serves as an adjunct instructor, specializing in television broadcasting.

Originally, he had intended to work behind-the-scenes in audio and video production, but at Iowa Lakes he learned to work on both sides of the camera.

“I was surprised at how many different paths a career in broadcasting can take a person,” White said. “This is a challenging, diverse and fun field of employment.”

Matt Heinrichs, sports editor at the Dickinson County News in Spirit Lake, also studied at Iowa Lakes Community College before he became an adjunct instructor in the digital, social and broadcast productions program. He values the wide range of media experience he got at Iowa Lakes.

“At Iowa Lakes, I learned how to write, photograph and design, and learned how to manage a staff of writers, photographers and designers,” Heinrichs said. “At my first full-time gig at the Lake Preston Times, I put all of those skills to work. I wrote all of the stories. I shot all of the photos. I designed the entire paper. I sold and designed much of the advertising. Heck, I even delivered the paper around town on occasion.

“Even the best four-year J-schools in the country can't prepare students for that sort of work,” he added. “Iowa Lakes did.”

More changes are ahead for those in the media industry, as it moves to a more digital platform, Tlam said. “There are multiple ways to reach people and communicate with people. Having the knowledge and credentials to do this effectively will be beneficial.”

Unlike many other programs of its type, the digital, social and broadcast program at Iowa Lakes includes a strong emphasis on social media, including learning to implement social media in many settings, understanding how it is used in advertising, marketing and journalism, using social media to communicate globally and using multiple social networks in multiple careers.

The program would be a good fit for anyone interested in broadcasting, journalism or communications in general, Tlam added.

“Degrees like this one at Iowa Lakes prepare you to be well-rounded in the digital and social world,” said Jennifer Astello, a student who chose the program because it offered experience with multiple media formats, including social media, writing and television.

Broadcast, written and digital journalism are only a few of the careers digital, social and broadcast productions could prepare a person for, as the skills involved are also involved in other communications, marketing, business and programming careers.

“In two years at Iowa Lakes, you have plenty of opportunities to prove yourself through your stories, photos, videos, podcasts and social media pages. Take advantage of them,” Heinrichs advised.

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