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November 30 2010

17:00

Team of volunteer journalists wants to train locals in conflict zones to tell their own stories, improve their lives

What if online video could prevent genocide? That’s what three USC Annenberg School graduate students wondered when they hopped a flight to Rwanda a few years ago, Flip cameras in their carry-ons.

“The idea was, in a time where YouTube exists, it’s immoral for genocide to exist in human history,” Jon Vidar told me recently. The group wanted to give survivors tools to tell their own stories. “Honestly, we were pretty idealistic going in.” Since that first visit to Rwanda, Vidar, a freelance photojournalist, and his journalist friends have taken the concept to neighboring countries and then, earlier this year, to Iraq. Their ad hoc trips have morphed into a nonprofit, kept going by volunteers, called The Tiziano Project, named for an Italian journalist who liked to go where he shouldn’t. Their mission is straightforward: Train locals in conflict zones and post-conflict zones in the craft of journalism, particularly new media, and give them the tools they need to tell their own stories.

“We’re trying to train locals to be journalists,” Vidar said.

The group’s most recent project, Tiziano360, trained 12 locals in Iraq in new media, producing a website that “documents the life, culture, and news in present day Iraqi Kurdistan.” Vidar worked in the Kurdish region of Turkey for four years doing archaeological research, a motive for the region selection. Logistically, it was easier to work on the Iraq side of the border, Vidar said.

The site has a slick design and the content is high quality. It recently won an award from the New Media Institute for multimedia storytelling. But Tiziano also has a practical aim. “A direct goal of the project is job creation,” Vidar said. “We don’t care where people get jobs, as long as they are using the skills in new media storytelling.”

Four of the participants credit the project with new job offers. Other trainees from past projects now string for Western outlets.

“The best thing in this project was the practical aspect of it,” Shivan Soto, who participated in the Iraq project, wrote in an email. “[It] was a very good and new experience for me.”

Since picking up new skills, Soto has been offered a variety of gigs from news organizations and NGOs. And another participant, Sahar Alani, took a job with a large corporation in the region working in new media.

For now, Tiziano is funded project-by-project. For the 360 experiment, they submitted a pitch to a Facebook contest backed by the JP Morgan Chase Community Giving program. They won $25,000, Andrew McGregor, a Tiziano founder, told me.

“During the competition, we really motivated the Kurdish community [on Facebook],” Vidar told me. “We had 600 Kurdish friends, friends in the government. We had friends in NGOs.”

Next up for Tiziano is a project that will start by working with students in Los Angeles and move on to the Congo. The trainer himself is a genocide survivor.

August 23 2010

09:40

Why every independent news site should have a YouTube channel

John Hillman is editor of PC Site and head of publishing and projects at Net Media Planet.

With video in the ascendancy many independent online publishers and bloggers are beginning to feel that offering video content is a necessity rather than a nice optional extra. Yet creating editing and hosting a video can be an expensive and time consuming business that isn’t always easy to get right.

However, building a YouTube channel to sit alongside your indie website, whether it’s a blog, online magazine or hyperlocal, is much easier than many people would think. You can build the channel out to look exactly like your existing site, and with some good content and clever use of title tags you could find yourself attracting lots of new readers that may never have found you otherwise.

The figures speak for themselves. People searching for videos on YouTube make up a staggering 25 per cent of all of Google’s search volumes; it stands to reason therefore that anyone serious about increasing their readership should be tapping this rich source of traffic. When you also consider that Google now automatically displays a selection of YouTube videos in its search results, the opportunity for drawing new readers to your site should be obvious

As an independent online publisher we’ve found that YouTube has a lot to offer, providing us with a platform on which to publish unique video content, increasing our readership levels and helping us build our reputation as a quality online technology site.

Video equipment

Fortunately online video is valued more for its content than its production value, so while big news organisations may spend thousands on AV equipment, any indie publisher can get going with tools as basic as a Flip video camera and an open source video editing programme. This amounts to a total cost of around £150.

At PC-Site we use Flip video cameras all the time. They are cheap, small and fully optimized for the internet. This lets you get on with making basic videos without having to worry about such unfathomable tech conundrums as codecs fighting each other on the timeline.

When it comes to editing software there are lots of open source options out there, but Camtasia Studio works exceptionally well as both a movie editor and for creating screencasts. It costs about £220, which is excellent value for money. It also lets you automatically upload directly to your YouTube channel once you’ve finished the production process, saving you time. Alternatively we use TubeMogul to upload our videos as it enables us to do it across multiple sites, such as YouTube, HowCast and Vimeo simultaneously.

Branding your YouTube channel

This is a very important part of the process. It takes surprisingly little to give both your videos and your YouTube channel a quick makeover so that they reflect your blog or website.

Using Adobe Fireworks, for example, you can quickly mock up a little logo, if you have one, which will sit nicely in the corner of your screen during playback. Those of you with Adobe Illustrator skills can even create an ident to give your videos that real ‘TV Channel’ look. All of these things require a bit of extra effort but they really make a big difference to the finished product.

Your YouTube channel itself can also be branded by uploading a suitable background image that fits with your blog or website, and by going through the YouTube registration process you will be able to choose how the URL ends, also giving you that extra brand uniformity.

Once you’ve customised your videos and YouTube channel you can use the ‘sharing’ button to automatically syndicate your videos through your various online social networks, and you can embed your videos on your blog or website. You can also link your YouTube channel directly with your blog using the ‘blog setup’ button, this way your videos will post straight to your website from YouTube.

Getting it all up and running does take a small investment from you in terms of time, problem solving and creative thought, but the benefits that come from it are well worth the effort. One of our videos got nearly 30,000 views in a couple of months, all from just a cheap video camera a free video editing platform and the benefits of YouTube’s vast army of viewers. Not bad for an afternoon’s work.

More from John Hillman on Journalism.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @johnjhillmanSimilar Posts:



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