Journalism students recognize access restrictions at the EDC


Madison Murillo

Students checking out equipment at Emerson’s EDC.

By Faith Bugenhagen

Junior Giulia Campos noticed a difference between the equipment she could access for her journalism courses and her visual and media arts classes when she transferred to the individually designed interdisciplinary program in fall 2018.

Campos found that the JVCR-200, a commonly used camera in journalism, was not available in any of her journalism courses. Instead, the cameras provided to journalism students were DSLRs, basic photography cameras which have minimal capability to shoot packages.

“With the VMA classes, I got the opportunity to use some of the best equipment at the EDC, and that’s something that a lot of the time journalism majors are not able to get,” Campos said. 

Associate Director of Media Technologies and Production Tim McArthur, who oversees the Equipment Distribution Center, said journalism majors and VMA majors have separate equipment allocations. Equipment allocation is based on the needs and numbers of both majors, and that the only role of the EDC is to provide each individual the technology they reserve, McArthur said. 

“It’s partially just an enrollment question,” McArthur said. “The VMA Department is the largest on campus, where Journalism is smaller, which doesn’t make them smaller, there are just fewer of them and their requirements for equipment are very different.” 

McArthur said that administrators and professors determine equipment needs of each major by examining their coursework. 

Junior Gabriella Leonel, like Campos, switched into an IDIP with a documentary film-making focus. She echoed similar concerns over the lack of equipment available.

“We were offered lavalier mics—I don’t even know if we were offered cameras,” Leonel said. “A lot of students just used their phones, and that was something that wasn’t discouraged, because journalism is very much what you can do in the field.”

Leonel said she saw a noticeable difference in equipment availability outside of the Journalism Department after she started taking VMA classes for her IDIP major.   

“I enrolled in documentary production, and within documentary production we have access to check out from the EDC a C-100, along with tons of other equipment like lavalier mics, three-point lighting kits, and more audio equipment—there is just truly so much more,” she said. 

Leonel constructed her IDIP knowing she would have access to more advanced equipment if she enrolled in VMA classes. 

“There is so much value behind having something look nice and having equipment to be able to execute that properly,” Leonel said. 

VMA Department Chair Brooke Knight said budgets are determined by the needs and demands of each major, which could contribute to the difference of equipment allocated for each. 

“IT has a bunch of money towards buying new equipment or new facilities, or whatever needs doing, and each department puts in its request,” Knight said.  “So VMA has its requests and journalism has its request.” 

Knight said the needs and numbers of students within each major is a large factor when distributing equipment among departments. 

“It may appear as if VMA has everything, but there is a lot more VMA production that happens college-wide than journalism production,” Knight said. 

Journalism Professor Tim Riley echoed Knight’s sentiment and said that although Emerson’s mission is to create multimedia journalists, the equipment needed for their classwork is not the same as what VMA majors require. 

“We are not very equipment-heavy in journalism classes,” Riley said. “Our graduate students get DSLR cameras, and maybe other teachers have students get more equipment, but overall it is not equipment-heavy.” 

Riley also expressed the minimal importance of technology in delivering the content of a story. 

“The filmmakers need fancier equipment,” he said. “I have never assigned an assignment and wished that a student could check out better equipment.” 

Riley said he had never encountered a problem with equipment distribution in the Journalism Department, and he commended the EDC on how they handle technological distribution in the college’s production-heavy departments.

“I think the EDC runs a tight ship, and it is impressive to me how they meet such a demand that they do,” Riley said. 

Senior journalism major Katharine Rhee echoed Riley’s admiration of the EDC. She reflected on the EDC’s organization and the minimal problems she has encountered with renting out equipment. 

“The only issue I have had was as a sophomore I would want to rent out a JVC-200 camera because I knew how to work it, but they were only allowing us to use DSLR cameras [because of the course’s level], which was wonderful, but because I had taken camera workshops, I could’ve used the JVC-200,” she said.  

Rhee’s said she often experienced confusion while rescheduling equipment pick-ups, although she put some of the blame on herself, recognizing that she often procrastinates in contacting the office for pickup. 

Although Rhee said she has not had any major issues with the EDC, she said she prefers going to the Journalism Production Center to acquire the equipment she would need to shoot with, particularly because she was always on the journalism floor attending classes. 

“I would highly recommend for students who are journalism majors to rent their equipment through the JPC, because they know exactly what you need and what tripod to give you,” Rhee said. 

Campos said she understood the elements that go into the process of determining what equipment goes to which major, but she still advocates for change within the distribution of equipment. 

“One of the things that Emerson preaches the most is that they want journalists to be multimedia journalists,” Campos said. “They want us to know how to take pictures and videos, write stories, and be prepared for everything. But how can we be prepared for that if we are not given the right equipment to do so?”