Teaching Television Producation in the Age of YouTube

James N. Cohen MA, Molloy College
Peter R. Gershon, Hofstra University

Pages 50-56


In this paper, we offer an examination of why traditional television producation pedagogy remains congent into the second decade of the 21st century. The shift to smaller distribution platforms and the democratization of television distribution through YouTube will cuase production teachers to shift emphases in their overall approach. Our thesis is that regardless of the delivery device, composition, the grammar of television and story structure still matter.

Teachers of the art and craft of television production routinely deal with a paradox; specifically, prepping their students for the future while adhering to their own educational and professional training that is often deeply rooted in the past. For decades, educators updated knowledge and upgraded skill levels by attending conferences and symposia, doing their own production work, and/or periodically re-immersing themselves in professional environments. New production technologies, practices and workflows have continually evolved but with some effort, teachers have always been able to keep their knowledge and skill bases current. Keeping pace with hardware has een a different tale. While industry trade shows have always tantalized attendees with the newest and coolest of technologies, collegiate budget lines have historically been guided by many things other than the need to be on the cutting edge.This has not helped college keep pace with ever-escalating changes in technology and equipment. As a result, teaching at the collegiate level has historically meant working in under-resourced facilities, with equipment and technologies just slightly behind those used in the professional world. Despite constant technological changes, however, it could be argued that the basic television production pedagogy learned in the last decades of the 20th century has remained relatively unchanged, viable and applicable well into the first decade of the 21st.

As we enter the digital age, television production proccesses and workflows have undergone a shift of tectonic proportions, and that raises questions about the methodology and information necessary to now teach it. Optimistically, television production can still be taught the same it has always been, with updated information regarding digital production and distribution technologies, as well as mobile and social-media distribution outlets. But in order to succeed in the digital world enveloping them, educators will likely have to make some changes in how they approach teaching. And that will include understanding how the cultural terrain has changed for television production students, as well.