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University TV Manager Uses Wits, Smartphone

The lack of video cameras did not stop James Haralson from recording an event.

The head of a university television station has shown that today’s video technology combined with a willingness to take the initiative and spring into action using only what is available, can lead to a real broadcast coup.

Louisiana State University’s Tiger TV has been operating since 1988. The station broadcasts to all of the dorm rooms, and televisions on campus, and some university programming is broadcast to the greater Baton Rouge area, said James Haralson, Tiger TV’s manager.

Haralson had been the station’s manager for just over a year when on May 11, 2011 he was at a protest on campus in which graduate student Benjamin Haas had earlier announced his intention to burn an American flag. Haas’ protest attracted about 1,000 angry LSU students whose rage over the potential burning of a flag led to police removing Haas from the school for his safety.

Haralson said, Haas alerted students about his intention to burn the flag in an e-mail, and on Facebook. “That’s how the word spread quickly,” said Haralson, who added it must have been effective because at the time Haas scheduled to burn the flag, the protester was surrounded by a multitude of students. However, Haas could not burn a flag because in Baton Rouge a permit is required to burn anything. “He was not able to get the permit, so he sat there and started talking. At that point emotions were running high, and he only got in about three or four words before the students started throwing bottles at him,” Haralson said. If police had not been protecting Haas, the response by LSU students likely would have escalated, he adds.

Haralson said the students’ reaction to a potential flag burning was “the biggest” news event to occur at LSU since he took over as manager of the station, yet no Tiger TV staff were there to shoot video. That was because it was finals week so the station’s cameras were locked away and most of the staff was gone. However, the lack of video cameras did not stop Haralson from recording the event. He took out his smartphone and started shooting.

“You never know when news is going to strike, so never underestimate the power of a smartphone for text pictures or text video,” Haralson said. “A lot of the time we might get caught up in ‘we don’t have the right equipment,’ but when news happens people just want to see it. That was the situation I found myself in because all of my equipment was all locked up, but I simply when ahead and shot the video.”


Because most of Tiger TV’s staff was gone, Haralson “ended up doing a couple of jobs to get the video aired,” he said. “My video was the first video to go up and the hits immediately shot up; I think we had nearly 2,000 hits within a couple of hours,” he said. “A lot of people wanted to see the video,” and soon after it was posted there were requests from news stations across the country for the video. “In moments like these and all you have is a smartphone, that’s enough,” he said.