Top>Opinion>Shooting "What Human Beings Are": The Purpose of Teaching TV Program Production at a University

OpinionIndex

Ryoichi Matsuno

Ryoichi Matsuno [Profile]

Shooting "What Human Beings Are": The Purpose of Teaching TV Program Production at a University

Ryoichi Matsuno
Professor of Media and Journalism Studies, Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University

TV program production as a program that develops ability

What is the point of teaching film making or TV program production at a university? This theme is so chaotic that it has frequently been a topic of debate at The Japan Society for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication and various other study groups and symposiums. Moreover, learning TV program production does not directly lead to getting a job. In Japan, mass media outlets develop human resources by themselves through on-the-job training after recruitment instead of employing journalism school graduates as they do in the West. Therefore, media outlets do not want prospective employees to study the media at university in a way that differs from their training.

Nevertheless, I have taught TV program production at a university for seven years. That is because I am quite sure that the practical training process of TV program production provides an excellent program which develops ability in a way that ordinary university education cannot.

On the "Tama Tankentai" TV program

While guiding students as they create their graduation theses in my seminar within the department, I am also giving practical training in TV program production through the FLP seminar, for which students are selected from the entire university. The seminar students produce a TV program entitled Tama Tankentai or Tama expeditionNew window, which is a ten-minute community-based program broadcast once a month since May 2004 via five cable TV stations in the Tama region. The students are aware of broadcasting and copyright laws and are responsible for all steps-from planning to shooting, formatting, editing, and delivering the program-every month.

This program's policy is Act Local, Think Global (Act Locally, Think Globally) which means that it should not only deal with topics within the Tama region but also always consider their national or global significance. In other words, it is an attitude that seeks universality as well as uniqueness.

Psychological analysis of data collected through this activity revealed that TV program production improves numerous abilities in students, including: (1) increased media literacy (2) heightened sensitivity (3) enhanced ability to collaborate smoothly (4) increased communication skills, and (5) enhanced abilities related to activeness and willpower. But I have found that students cultivate something more basic to human beings that cannot be represented statistically or quantified-something linked to "what human beings are" or to "the meaning of life."

Learning about the lives of various people in the field

One example of such learning in the field involves a male student who was going to cover an old store in Hachioji which produces handmade konnyaku, a Japanese traditional food. The store owner, however, would never agree to an interview with the student, stubbornly insisting that he was too busy. The student visited the store every day between classes, cleaning the yard and inside the shop. After three months, the owner finally offered a cup of bitter coffee and began a conversation with the student, saying "you are curious." He told the student that he had to give up his dream of working for a trading company in order to take over the family business after graduating from university, and that he had been living his life enthusiastically trying to create unique handmade konnyaku now that he was a konnyaku maker.

In another case, a female student covered a sake brewery in Tama. Its president was also a woman. Immediately after the program aired, however, the brewery decided to close, after 130 years in business. The student went to cover what had happened after the broadcast and watched as, on the last day of the brewery, sake barrels that had been sold were taken away by trucks one after another. Inside the empty storehouse, the woman president was crying. The student, following her in, recognized the harsh reality with bitter tears in seeing the hollow space from which everything had been removed. She could probably understand the president's regret particularly well as she is also a woman. Later, she received a letter from the president about her own life to date, and this letter is now a lifetime treasure for the student.

Every August, Tama Tankentai features war-related ruins to deliberately trace the scars of war remaining in Tama. The program has succeeded in making documentaries on exchanges between the student camerapersons and those they filmed based on the following stories: In 2005, the story of the School Bag Jizo statue, about children who evacuated to Hachioji to avoid urban aerial bombing but were killed by the machine-gun fire of battle planes; in 2006, the air strike on a train at Inohana tunnel in Hachioji; in 2007, an anecdote about the novelist Eiji Yoshikawa and a crewmember of the B29 bomber that crashed in Oume; in 2008, the Tachikawa air attack and the tragedy of the Yamanakazaka air-raid shelter; and in 2009, the film of the Hachioji aerial bombing that was found at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. All the five previous episodes were formatted onto DVD and distributed to about 300 libraries and schools in Tokyo.

Considering "the meaning of life" through encounters with many people

The programs that air are only a part of the students' experience, like the tip of the iceberg. The mass of the proverbial iceberg below the surface is filled with the conversations and exchanges that students had with the many people they covered for such a long time, and the lessons that they learned in the process. Without a doubt, off-campus TV program production develops not only media literacy, but also a range of abilities in students. The most vital point of all is that by engaging in conversation with many people in the field, students are inspired to consider "what human beings are" and "the meaning of life."

Ryoichi Matsuno
Professor of Media and Journalism Studies, Faculty of Policy Studies, Chuo University
Professor Matsuno was born in 1956. He graduated with an undergraduate degree in Psychology from the School of Education at Kyushu University and a Master of Arts Degree in Education from the University of Tsukuba. He received his PhD in Policy Studies from Chuo University. Before assuming his current position, Professor Matsuno served as a city news reporter for Asahi Shimbun newspaper, a producer for Tokyo Broadcasting System, and a research fellow at Harvard University with a Fulbright scholarship. One of his research interests is the relationship between the development of abilities and expressive activities using media. The Ryoichi Matsuno seminar has won various awards including the Good Design Award; the Podcasting Grand Prix Award; the Incentive Award at The Age of Regionalism Video Festival; the Grand Prize at the Hida-Takayama Documentary Film Festival; the Foreign Minister Prize at the Development Education and International Understanding Education Contest; and Second Prize at the Takarazuka Film Festival. Many seminar students get a job in the mass communication industry every year. Professor Matsuno's publications include The Theory of Civic Media [Shimin Medyia Ron] (Nakanishiya Shuppan, 2005); Citizen Media Activity [Shimin Medyia Katsudou] (edited and co-authored, Chuo University Press, 2005); and Public Access Television: America's Electronic Soapbox [Paburikku Akusesu Terebi: Beikoku no Denshi Enzetsu-dai] (translation, Chuo University Press, 2009).