Palatinate at 75: the PalTV perspective

Working in harmony: PalTV and the future news cycle

By Dylan Rana, PalTV Station Manager

As we celebrate Palatinate’s momentous milestone and look back on 75 years of print journalism, it’s important to look ahead to the future of how we deliver news. In today’s digital world, how readers engage with news has changed. And so, we’ve adapted the way in which we tell stories that matter to students accordingly. This shift has birthed video journalism – an approach to news & storytelling formerly confined to broadcast television. 

But now, the art of video is accessible to everyone. In the last ten or so years, the price of creative equipment such as cameras, microphones, computers etc., has plummeted. The ability to create broadcast-quality content on the budget the size of PalTV’s was a pipe-dream 10 years ago. 

Yet now, technology has evolved so quickly and the quality of free online technical training is stellar. Video content creation has essentially been democratised. Anyone, anywhere, can tell their story, and with platforms like YouTube and social media sites, students can publish their work for the world to see. 

It’s this very freedom to create that powers PalTV’s investigative video journalism. With video, we can dive deeper into topics and investigate student issues with greater detail. This isn’t to say that video will replace print. Instead, documentaries and short videos can complement Palatinate’s tight written content. 

That’s the power of video: we told the narrative of a complex event in a digestible and entertaining manner

PalTV’s recent documentary on Durham’s student housing crisis is a brilliant example of this symbiosis. Our producers drew heavy inspiration from ’s analysis of Durham’s housing costs in context and even featured both Emily and Palatinate’s Editor-inChief Daniel Hodgson. 

Our extensive video journalism isn’t just limited to local & student issues. In an instalment of ‘PalTV Investigates’, we had originally set out to cover a solidarity protest in Market Square after pro-democracy activist Bob Chan was seemingly beaten outside the Chinese Consulate in Manchester in October. 

Upon contacting the consulate for comment, we received misleading content and propaganda that questioned the accuracy of the British press’ coverage. Our producers then gathered footage from the event and conducted a thorough visual investigation. The video walks our audience through the key moments of the protest. That’s the power of video: we told the narrative of a complex event in a digestible and entertaining manner. 

It allows PalTV to dive deeper into topics, but what it can’t replicate is Palatinate‘s timely and reliable coverage

These two projects in particular demonstrate how PalTV has been able to craft a distinctive style of video journalism. We combine studio segments with vox-pops and interviews to weave a narrative in our content. This helps us present important issues and difficult conversations to our audience and help shape the conversation surrounding topics like the housing crisis, homelessness, local devolution and more. 

What does this mean for the news cycle moving forward? Video captures attention, and our slick content style has been moulded to keep our viewers engaged in the stories we tell. It allows PalTV to dive deeper into topics, but what it can’t replicate is Palatinate’s timely and reliable coverage. 

In our video journalism, PalTV instead takes a step back and find evergreen angles to news stories. With that, we can build on the incredible work of Palatinate’s journalists while providing a fresh perspective on key issues. 

That’s precisely what excites me about Palatinate and PalTV’s strong relationship: two styles of journalism working in harmony.

PalTV won the National Association for Student Television award for Broadcaster of the Year in 2022. (Image: PalTV)

By James Tillotson, Founder of PalTV

PalTV and Palatinate are both run in their entirety by unpaid student volunteers. Those participating receive no course credits for their degree, unlike many universities that have media and journalism courses, not that this has ever been a disadvantage for the teams at PalTV and Palatinate. The widely varying experiences of the students that make up our teams strengthens our journalism. Through effectively bringing together highly motivated Durham students that are keen to learn we have produced award winning journalism and creative content time and time again. 

Projects are never the work of one individual, whether it’s a light-hearted creative show or an interview coming in from Chile with PalTV global. In Durham, or internationally, a project team consists of producers, presenters, writers, researchers, camera operators, editors and a plethora of other support functions from media law checking to marketing and publicity. Without every element the station wouldn’t be able to produce the content it does. PalTV’s structure is similar in many regards to professional TV stations, but with a critical difference. Members of the team are encouraged, and oftentimes required, to not be specialists but generalists. A presenter may need to jump onto a camera, a broadcast controller might need to interact with an online audience during a broadcast – the list of situations goes on. 

As student run outlets, PalTV and Palatinate can afford to be experimental

This is possible as a student station – a strong culture of shared learning ensures that when someone joins the team it’s not long until they’ve picked up skills in a wide set of areas. This partnered with a strong sense of ‘making do’ and a keen aptitude for improvisation has seen PalTV excel at making content that rivals professional broadcasters, with little to no funding and equipment at points. This leads to PalTV members being proficient across the full production process from commissioning all the way to broadcast, a skillset that would be hard to build anywhere else. All these skills are self-taught within the teams, handed down from experienced students to new joiners. 

As student run outlets, PalTV and Palatinate can afford to be experimental, challenge established formats and hold institutions to account. For the most part, if a piece doesn’t do well it doesn’t matter, we’re all students and no one is relying on revenue for an income – the stakes can be gloriously low. However, the flip side of this is the potential for success when we get it right. 

In many instances PalTV has been first on the scene at many events which have gone on to be in the national and international spotlight. Our team, as students, are entirely embedded within the communities we report on. Just a few months ago we deployed a team late at night to film and interview people queuing for housing. Through the hard work of multiple students on the team this footage was edited into packages, explainers written up and then sent to national news outlets. Within a day PalTV’s reportage was in front of millions of viewers on national news from the likes of the BBC and ITV. This in turn raised awareness of what was unfolding and forced accountability for those responsible. It’s always rewarding hearing angry murmurings from institutions after they are held to account, especially when they’re forced to change for the better.

Humble origins to broadcaster of the year: PalTV two years on

By Elle Fitzgerald, Palatinate Deputy Editor-in-Chief and PalTV Head of welfare

As a founding member of PalTV, it has been amazing to watch its development from the beginning. Founded during the Covid-19 pandemic, all interviews were conducted over zoom and the initial team did not meet each other for another term. A team which started out in isolation, filming our first projects and interviews remotely from our rooms at home during lockdown, has flourished into not merely a team of over 100 members but a community of enthusiastic student journalists aiming to inform and entertain the wider Durham community. 

While part of PalTV I and many others have been able to build a portfolio of work, giving us firm footing for our future careers. Whether I have been presenting light-hearted interviews with Durham students asking how ‘rah’ they are, interviewing an award-winning Hollywood art director, or an impromptu livestream of the South college protests for the benefit of national media outlets, PalTV has afforded countless opportunities which would have otherwise been unattainable. PalTV members are renaissance men, with team members holding expertise in multiple areas — creating a team of well-rounded and highly adaptable journalists. 

I hope they experience our same sense of pride and nostalgia on their 75th anniversary

Having been part of Palatinate since my first term at Durham and PalTV from my second term, PalTV has given me the platform and training to develop my journalistic skills in broadcast journalism alongside traditional print. Being trained in presenting, camera operating and scripting has given me practical skills which I would have otherwise not had the opportunity to develop. PalTV’s robust leadership structure has also presented the chance to mentor other students as they too develop these skills, offering a sense of guidance and initiative which helps to train future student journalists and maintain PalTV’s outstanding skillset. 

Beyond having the opportunity to work in front of the camera, working as Head of Welfare, looking after a team of such talented, creative and resilient individuals has been an honour. To see the channel come from nothing to winning NASTA’s Broadcaster of the Year in only a year has been an unforgettable and incomparable experience. To have been involved in PalTV since its creation has been an unparalleled chance to see how a successful station is built from nothing. I look forward with preemptive wistfulness to see how the future years of PalTV members continue our legacy. I hope they experience our same sense of pride and nostalgia on their 75th anniversary.

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