Emerson College

Analyzing Broadcast Journalism

SnapStream’s TV search technology provides Emerson College’s Department of Journalism with:

  • The ability to capture, edit and view live TV in the classroom
  • Access to a vast archive of TV news broadcasts
  • A valuable tool 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 Paul 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.

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.

The Results

Based out of Houston, SnapStream has been making TV/video distribution products for over a decade. Apart from Universities and K-12 schools, SnapStream’s diverse list of several hundred customers include: The US Senate, the Library Of Congress, broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS and NBC and news organizations like Politico.

Learn more about SnapStream at www.snapstream.com/university

University of Cincinnati

Making an Impact in Children's Media

Nancy_Jennings_-_Headshot.pngNancy Jennings
, of the University of Cincinnati on the impact of media and technology in the lives of children and their families.
I recently met with Nancy Jennings, who is doing some amazing things with her research into children’s media. Nancy directs the Children’s Education and Entertainment Research Lab, or CHEER, which is dedicated to improving the quality of children’s media through research studies and community projects. Nancy employs the use of SnapStream in the CHEER lab to record and analyze television content for use in her research.

Q: Let’s start at the beginning...what motivated you to focus your research on children’s media?

Nancy: This actually all started way back when I was an undergraduate and I had a passion for teaching and children’s education, plus, I knew I really loved writing. But I was at a conundrum; I didn’t know what to do when I was in college. I took a class with a communication professor, when she introduced herself, she said “I’m Ellen Wartella, and I study children’s media” and the lightbulb went off! “Perfect! That’s how I can combine my two interests of writing and children’s education”. I ran up to her after class, introduced myself and said “what do I do now?”

Q: That’s a great story and it’s obvious that you’re passionate about what you’re doing. Can you tell me more about the CHEER lab and how that came about? 

Nancy: We are a research lab that is oriented to getting quality research that can be applied to the children’s media industry. I have a passion for applied research, I don’t want it to just stay behind at the university, and I want to make an impact on society and in children’s media. So our focus has been thinking about, what kind of tools do people need to cope with and understand what’s going on with media and their kids. So, that’s everything from parenting tips and techniques to working with the kids and trying to get them to understand what media does. What is persuasive content, how to be safe online and different types of things.

Q: Tell me about your research process currently; walk me through how an idea or concept is processed. 

Nancy: I really try to look for problems/issues/concerns that people have with media use in their families. I look at a real life situation and try to figure out what kind of research solution can we develop to address that concern/question. Oftentimes that’s talking with parents, watching kids play with media, going to the library for observations or even talking to my own kids, the neighbors' kids, etc.



Q: How is SnapStream useful in this process?

Nancy: SnapStream comes into the process particularly when we’re talking about content. If there are questions or concerns about advertising content, for instance “We saw this commercial and we couldn’t believe it was on-air”. I can use SnapStream as a way to capture that content and better understand it. I can take that SnapStream captured video and talk to kids about it, using qualitative and quantitative methods. We might show them a clip and ask them questions about it either open ended or close ended.

Q: What was the research process like before using SnapStream?

Nancy: It was very sad. I was still able to record things, but this was in the dark ages where we had VHS tapes. I was still able to get some video, but the processing of the video was much more complicated and oftentimes prohibited me from being able to do the type of research I wanted to do. It’s been very helpful in terms of having something much more manageable to work with.

Q: Can you tell me about a specific idea/project where SnapStream was instrumental?

Nancy: As part of the FCC regulations, broadcast stations need to air 3 hours of educational television per week in order to facilitate their licensing. Every October I record the new fall season of these educational shows that broadcasters are putting out there for kids. When I was doing it before, it was very complicated, I had lots of VCRs, I was using some at my house and some at a colleague’s house. The shows were being broadcast at the same time, 4 different broadcast channels, plus Nick, Disney and Cartoon Network...it was just...impossible. Because it was VHS, I then had to digitize it to be able to use it in the lab for analysis.

SnapStream allows me to be able to capture all that content very easily on one device. I can then go back and share that video with the researchers, the people that are identifying things and helping me count…”how many ads were there for this movie trailer?”, etc. It’s been incredibly helpful to capture everything together on one device and share the information.

Q: What would you say has been the most interesting/important/surprising discovery you’ve made throughout your research?

Nancy: I’ve been focusing a lot on children’s relationships with television and media characters. One of the things we’ve been trying to dig out is, “what are some of the implications of these relationships?” (we call them “parasocial relationships”) that the kids are developing with these media characters. We’re finding that trust is really important in these relationships, so we’re going to go back now to look at the content and find out why. So, kids to have trust in the media character is really important for the development of a friendship. Which is very important to them in their real world, too. So it’s interesting to see how they’re playing out in their real world and their media world.

Q: Outside of the CHEER lab, in what ways do you utilize SnapStream (if at all)?

Nancy: I have some students that have been able to use it for their own research projects, so I’ve started incorporating into my research methods class as well. We do content analysis, so I give them the opportunity to do their analysis on television shows with the SnapStream. I have a student this fall, who is actually going to be using it for his thesis.

Q: I understand you have done further research into violence in TV as well as gender studies in advertising, can you tell me a little more about this?

Nancy: There’s a show called the Fosters, a lesbian couple who have these children that they’re fostering in their home. So I’m interested in seeing how children react and respond to the representation of the two moms, from both the perspectives of a child who has a traditional mom and dad as well as from children that have two moms. So, is this representation real, how are they processing it?

The other area has a lot to do with advertising. What kind of things are being advertised to kids, particularly during these educational shows. We’re coming up (in 2017) on twenty years since the first implementation of the FCC rules, so I’m really interested in collecting data on what kind of educational shows have been going on since then.

Q: Are there any other specific areas of the children’s media you are interested in researching further?

Nancy: One of the interesting things I’ve been trying to figure out with the parasocial relationships is with the characters that look through the television, that break the fourth wall. Characters like Dora, that will actually turn to the screen and ask questions. What I’ve been curious about is doing screen capturing of kids, scanning to see where their eyes are at on the screen. I’m curious to see if they’re making eye contact, or looking at other things on the screen. I’d like to see how this can be used for script development as types of intervention for kids with autism that may or may not be able to make eye contact.


Q: Has SnapStream helped you to be innovative in your research (has it helped you to think of new research ideas or ways of researching that you hadn’t thought of previously)?

Nancy: The transcripts! Oh my god. The transcripts that are able to be pulled from the closed captioning have been incredibly helpful and it really made me think about what words are used in children’s television. One of the research findings (previous research) is about the speed, pace and types of words used in television shows and how these increase vocabulary. So, I think about how I can use these transcripts to document that.

I want to thank Nancy for taking the time to speak with me about her research and how she and the research team at the CHEER lab are utilizing SnapStream. The CHEER lab is doing some amazing work, and we can't wait to see how they utilize SnapStream in the future. For more information on Nancy Jennings, her research and the CHEER lab, check out the University of Cincinnati's page here.

Indiana University

SnapStream Expands Television Research Capabilities at Indiana University

Before SnapStream, associate professor Nicole Martins would have had to sort through about 800 TV episodes by hand to conduct her research.

Martins is working with University of Wisconsin journalism professor Karyn Riddle to update a 20-year-old study about how violence is portrayed in primetime television. Instead of having to coordinate all of the recordings and pass out DVDs to the 20 student coders and workers assisting her, she can record everything digitally through the television search technology SnapStream, brought to The Media School for faculty use this year.

“Having a DVR that not only records lots of things but allows me to upload those recordings to Box where I can share that with my coders and my student workers makes that a very attractive program and really easy to use,” Martins said.

This year, The Media School implemented the television search technology SnapStream to make it easier for faculty members to sort through television programs for research purposes, allowing them to efficiently capture what’s going on in television media.

I want to store everything to keep it. Whatever the latest hot topic of news is, it's important to keep an archive of that so 100 years from now people can know what it was like in 2017. — Media School archivist Josh Bennett

The program was tested in the summer, and now it’s available for all Media School faculty to use. Sharon Mayell works as the assistant director and research associate in The Media School’s Institute for Communication Research and coordinates recordings through SnapStream.

“It’s almost like a no-brainer because we’re a media school, and here we have this great service,” Mayell said.

It’s essentially the world’s largest DVR, said Mayell, but more powerful. Through SnapStream, one can record six simultaneous channels for up to 10 days straight.

The technology can be used to schedule recordings of anything from news programming to movies. Perhaps the most useful feature is its ability to capture a program’s closed captioning. Users can search for keywords in a program’s transcript and run a content analysis on exactly what they’re interested in. For example, somebody could use SnapStream to record multiple news channels’ coverage, search for “Black Lives Matter” in the transcription and compare the way each channel discusses the topic.

“I want to store everything to keep it,” Media School archivist Josh Bennett said. “Whatever the latest hot topic of news is, it's important to keep an archive of that so 100 years from now people can know what it was like in 2017.”

The technology to record news programs and other content digitally is a benefit from a teaching and research standpoint, because it provides a better understanding of how topics are covered.