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Analyzing Broadcast Journalism

A case study of Emerson College, Department of Journalism

SnapStream’s powerful TV search technology provides the Department of Journalism at Emerson College with digital access to a constant stream of televised newscasts for media research and content analysis.


The Challenge

As a university that specializes in communications, Emerson College recognizes the importance of studying, capturing and analyzing journalism across all media platforms, including television.

Before SnapStream came along in 2007, the Department of Journalism recorded a limited amount of news broadcasts on VHS tapes, according to Paula Niwa, graduate journalism professor. “The technology was clunky and a huge burden,” Niwa said.

Because copies of news programs had to be requested in advance from the school’s Media Services Department, Emerson professors lacked a nimble way to capture, edit or view live TV in the classroom environment.

Paul Niwa
Graduate Journalism Professor
Emerson College

With a digital TV archive spanning thousands of hours, SnapStream enables Emerson students to study both historic and breaking TV news.

The Solution

SnapStream’s enterprise-class digital recording and TV search capabilities fit the bill for advancing broadcast journalism studies at Emerson College.

The SnapStream deployed in Emerson’s server room records six concurrent channels and maintains an automated recording schedule, which can be adjusted on the fly just like a DVR.

With a digital TV archive that spans thousands of hours in depth, SnapStream enables professors like Niwa, and students as well, to search and study breaking TV news from the computers on campus. “It enables us to be spontaneous and dynamic,” Niwa said. “I can perform an ad hoc search, create a clip on the fly, and pull it up in class.”


The Results

SnapStream’s powerful recording and search technology provides Emerson with immediate access to developing news, as well as the ability to look back on archived news. With newfound flexibility, the Department of Journalism pursues a wider variety of teaching strategies, such as:

  • Side-by-Side Comparison: “It’s a great tool for comparing angles and teaching the focus of the story,” Niwa said. With the features of TV streaming and clipping, professors are able to show video clips from multiple newscasts and highlight the differences between them.
  • Media Research: Graduate students can tackle the most laborious research methods with speed and ease. For instance: content analysis with keyword searches, word counts of transcripts, examination of rhetoric, and identifying the frequency of mentions per topic.
  • Student Projects: In the department’s computer lab, students can log into SnapStream to view recordings, conduct searches, make clips or download transcripts. At Emerson, they record broadcasts on the campus cable channel, which features real student reporting.
  • Digital Archiving: Emerson’s SnapStream provides enough storage capacity for months of automated recording, making it convenient for stories to be studied across news cycles.
  • Real-Time News Analysis: Professors can pause and time-shift live TV to give students an unprecedented opportunity to examine news coverage as events unfold.

About Emerson College

Located in downtown Boston, Emerson College is the only comprehensive university in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to communication and the arts in a liberal arts context. The Department of Journalism provides its students with access to industry-leading technology, often before it’s even adopted in newsrooms, to ensure future career success. The College enrolls more than 3,000 full-time undergraduates and 900 full- and part-time graduate students in its School of the Arts and School of Communication.