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August 14 2012

14:00

Channel 4 Gives Blanket Coverage to Paralympics, While NBC Falls Short

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Later this month, the Paralympics will open at the same London venues as the Olympic Games, and for the first time, will get full-day and prime-time coverage in the U.K.

In 2008, Great Britain and Northern Ireland came in second in the Paralympics medals table with 102, including 42 gold, compared to 47 medals in the Olympics. But the success in the Paralympics was not matched by media coverage.

While the BBC, which held the rights to both games in 2008, aired several hours daily of Olympic action on the main networks, BBC1 or BBC2, their Paralympic broadcasting was limited to highlight shows during the week on BBC2, and live coverage on the weekend.

That imbalance between the major sporting events is about to change in the U.K.

When the Paralympics open on August 29 in London, Channel 4 will carry the broadcasting torch, marking the first time the contract has been split for the two linked Games.

Channel 4 is stripping back its entire schedule, leaving just its evening news and half-hour evening soap opera. The rest will offer 400 hours of estimated broadcasting of the Paralympics.

They have been building up profiles of British Paralympic athletes, challenging disability transport issues in London ahead of the games, offering free phone and tablet apps for following the event and plugging into various social media platforms.

Other networks around the world have signed up to broadcast the games, including China's largest national broadcaster, CCTV, Brazil's Globo TV, and ABC in Australia.

In April, the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) said the 2012 Paralympics would be the most watched ever.

By contrast, NBC is not broadcasting any Paralympic events to U.S. audiences except for a highlights show on September 16 from 2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Network is showing the Paralympics for the first time. But the coverage is limited to four, hour-long programs on September 4, 5, 6 and 11, according to Adam Freifeld, vice president of communications for NBC Sports Group, in an email to me.

He added: "This is the first time Paralympic coverage has been available on NBC Sports Network, the cable network that was rebranded earlier this year from VERSUS."

Channel 4's approach to coverage

Rachael Latham competed at the Beijing Paralympics and holds the European record for the 200m butterfly, the world record for 50m butterfly and British record for the 200m backstroke. But, because of injury, she has moved into broadcasting. Channel 4 conducted a talent search for new presenters, recruiting a number of fresh faces from different disability backgrounds, including Latham.

The 22-year-old from Wigan, Lancashire, was born with Erbs Palsy -- paralysis of the arm -- and said the increased coverage will make a difference.

"It is not that prior to Channel 4 winning the broadcasting rights there was bad coverage," she said via email, "It's just that BBC did not show enough. Maybe the BBC thought they knew what the public wanted and served them accordingly, seeing the Paralympics as having minority appeal rather than something in which the public could have a big interest in.

"In 2008 the BBC approached the Paralympics with respect, with most events available to the viewer; however, there was no substantial background or build-up to any of this.

"Channel 4's belief in the Paralympics is reflected in the amount of transmission hours given to the game and it is their biggest focus for the whole summer. The BBC can thrive on the Olympics and Channel 4 can thrive on the Paralympics."

Despite the criticism of NBC's delayed broadcasts of the Olympics, the Games so far have been a hit on both sides of the Atlantic for both NBC and the BBC, and Channel 4 will be hoping that interest will extend to the Paralympic games.

Regular features on "Meet the Superheroes" as well as other documentaries have introduced the athletes to TV audiences like never before, as well as explaining the sometimes complex classification system.

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The network is introducing the Lexi Decoder (LEXI) to help explain the different categories according to levels of impairments, developed in cooperation with Paralympic gold medalist Giles Lorig.

Latham said the media is a vital way to spread the word about sport and inspire people to participate, not just watch the Paralympics.

"Paralympic athletes train alongside the Olympic athletes in Britain and train just as hard," she said. "So for the public to build up their respect for Paralympic sport alongside Olympic sport would mean everything to the athletes. It is not Channel 4's job to 'turn round the attitudes' just more 'create an attitude'. I don't think the public has ever been given the chance to care about the Paralympics. At the end of the day, if you aren't given the chance to see something and understand it, you probably won't care, and that relates to all aspects of life.

"Channel 4 is giving the Paralympics the air time it deserves and hopefully by doing so people will watch the athletes and understand the sport so they want to watch it. C4 doesn't need to do anything in particular to change people's attitudes, just by the network broadcasting it for the public to watch will be enough for people to make up their own minds and then potentially positive attitudes will be formed."

Social media coverage

Twitter and social media in general, has formed a massive part of the Olympics so far this year, and Latham said social media will also be a huge part of the Paralympic coverage. Channel 4 has always been keen in getting Twitter and Facebook followings for presenters and reporters, but this is increasing with the Games and promotion of the athletes as well. The free tablet and smartphone apps will also allow live-streamed action.

During the Games, Latham will be the main "mix zone reporter" at the pool, interviewing athletes after their races, as well other presenting duties. She had always set the goal of being in London for the Games, but the injury forced her to turn to presenting from competing. On a personal level, she said she is loving the opportunity.

"C4's goal is to bring Paralympic sport into full public focus before, during and beyond the 2012 Games and to deliver a lasting legacy, including developing public attitudes to disability and disability sport," she said. "If four years down the line, people are excited about the Paralympics as well as the Olympics, that will show C4 has been successful."

Channel 4 set a goal of 50 percent disabled on-screen talent during the Games and searched for new presenters to help towards the target. For the network itself, this is the biggest event in its 30 years, but they could not confirm at the time of writing whether they would bid to broadcast the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

A spokeswoman for the British Paralympic Association said in a statement: "We welcome the increased media interest in the Paralympic Games and we hope that, with the support of the British media in raising the profile of British Paralympic athletes and their phenomenal sporting achievements, the BPA can achieve its vision of positively affecting the way that British society thinks, feels and behaves towards disabled people."

Tristan Stewart-Robertson is a Canadian freelance reporter based in Glasgow, Scotland, operating as the W5 Press Agency.

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December 20 2011

15:20

7 Ways Salespeople Can Better Understand the Editorial Side of News

There was quite a reaction to my previous column, suggesting editors learn more about, and cooperate with, the business sides of their organizations.

This time, I'd like to talk to people on the business side about how they can cooperate with the editorial side to work effectively to keep a news organization solid while also increasing revenues and ensuring the organization's survival.

First, though, let me respond a bit to the critics. A lot of the comments, on Facebook, Google+, blogs and elsewhere indicated people had read the provocative headline, "Tear Down the Wall Between Business and Editorial," perhaps a subhed or two, but not the piece in full, or even half. Some were nasty, political or ad hominem attacks (one called me Mr. "Bank Oil," the kind of play on my name I hadn't heard since elementary school), others were amusing, and a fair number were supportive and thoughtful.

One careful and considered rebuttal came from the liberal Common Dreams site, which called me "oblivious to the dangers of basing your business model on giving the sponsors what they want."

I'm not. But I have seen multiple news sites struggle to survive, including ones where I've had to cut staff.

Common Dreams asks for donations, and I hope they get enough to support their operation. Most news organizations, though, cannot survive on charity. Many are in deep trouble and have gone out of business or are struggling to survive.

News media executives and entrepreneurs -- including one who praised the previous column -- have told me how pained they were at their inability to financially sustain sites they considered superior editorially.

Overcoming Skepticism from Editors

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"With many news publishers, the online brands haven't had the revenue to support the reporting and editorial operations, let alone the rest of the staff and infrastructure that's needed for a modern news organization," Tim Ruder, chief revenue officer of ad optimization company Perfect Market, told me last week.

Ruder has often faced skepticism and even the ire of editors at major news companies when offering his company's technology, which optimizes page layout and links to get more readers in and serve them higher-value ads. The editors, understandably, don't want their pages changed in any way.

But, Ruder continued, "If these type of revenue opportunities can support the newsroom without compromising reporting, that's not to be ignored."

The news is not all glum, either. I have seen entrepreneurs make a business out of news while cultivating their ability to do great work.

Part of the reason is their keen focus on what matters most. Which leads me back to the point of this column: How the business side can intelligently do its work to sustain and enhance the organization over time.

1. Remember, It's the News Business

Your product is news. News is nothing without credibility -- and that credibility can be damaged by the wrong kind of ads or sponsorship. I spent a lot of my time at ABC News explaining to the sales side why we couldn't do one thing or another while trying to suss out the advertisers' goals to reach them within the bounds of editorial tenets.

After all, the credibility and association with your site is a good part of the reason advertisers want to be on it. Without that credibility, they'll lose the venue to get the word out about their products.

If something you're proposing calls the reliability of the organization -- its credibility or trustworthiness -- into question, that damage is very hard to recover from.

2. Know and Advocate For the "Product"

I've worked with salespeople who seem to see a news page as an array of ads, with the text and pictures simply filling up the space in between.

Even if you think of the business as only a business, not a special public trust, you have to respect the product and not bastardize it in the name of making quick money. Part of your job should be to help sustain the business over the long-term.

You can't really sell the news unless you have a powerful, abiding respect for what it is and can do, the ways it serves, informs, motivates and even impassions a community. You'll be much better able to intelligently sell the advertiser on that community if you understand what motivates the people in that community, in addition to their demographic profile.

3. Get At The Client's Real Goals

Sponsors will sometimes try to push the envelope, or get something they've envisioned that's not on your site. They'll ask if they can put this extra doodad here, get that ad size or flashy thing there.

When it's not possible, any intelligent sponsor or media buyer should be able to tell you something of what the goals are. Maybe you can offer that special something in another way, or achieve their aim with an offering you already have in your arsenal.

Sponsors who are considering your organization are doing so not only because you offer them exposure to a certain user base or group, but also because of the environment they get to be in.

It can be a bit of work, especially when you're dealing with media buyers who are trying to fit you into a spreadsheet model as part of a larger buy. But I've found that more often than not, there's a way to help them understand, then reach an accommodation.

4. Understand the Line, Then Help Hold It

It's very tempting when there's money on the table to say "yes," then run to try to get the request fulfilled. Cultivate and listen to the voice in the back of your head that will tell you when something goes a little, or a lot, too far.

A sponsor may request something you are pretty sure won't fly. First you have to understand why. It's not enough just to know the rules. You have to grasp the reason you can't do something a sponsor is asking.

I give a flat "no" when asked if sponsorship would guarantee news coverage of a given client and am ready with very clear reasons for giving that answer. I also then work to get at the client's underlying goals to find a way to reach them within the strictures. (See the previous point.)

To salespeople, editors can seem like "no" machines. If an editor objects to something you're proposing to offer, he or she may seem obstructionist, but there may be a legitimate reason.

Just as I called on editors to work with the sales side, the sales side has to understand the editorial imperatives and try to work within them. It helps, too, if the business side works with the editorial side to devise the strictures.

5. Work With the Editors, and Let Them Help You

Having a strong relationship with editors can beget other benefits. Mike Orren, founder of Pegasus News, a site that serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area, put the newsroom and sales teams in the same room.

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"Our ex-newspaper restaurant critic was yelling across the room saying there was a review coming, and the sales team might want to pitch them," he said, noting that the critic didn't say whether the review was good or bad. Either way, the sponsor might want to be there -- if the article is negative, the sponsor may want the opportunity to counter that perception. But "never was she [the critic] going to let somebody tell her how to review a restaurant," Orren said.

The sales team also helped the editorial side. "Sales would tip the editorial team that someone wasn't paying bills and maybe were going to go out of business," Orren told me at the Street Fight Summit earlier this fall. "We got more scoops out of our sales team than probably anywhere else."

6. Don't Underestimate How Hard It Is To ...

  • Get a story. The text and video you see that magically appears day after day takes a lot of time and effort to gather, edit and produce -- especially in a reliable and trustworthy way. A lot of reporters work all hours and sacrifice health, sleep and social life to get a story. Understand and respect that dedication. It can be a lot harder than it looks.
  • Get people to look at it. A lot of the work of getting people to discover a story once it's been produced falls on the editorial team, especially in the digital realm. That, too, takes time, effort and understanding of the community.

7. Now, More than Ever

For a few decades, news in America had a heyday of nearly unsurpassed profitability brought about by advantages such as high barriers to entry, limited distribution channels, and advertisers with few other ways to reach consumers. Salespeople could literally sit and wait for the phone to ring.

"It's like printing money!" one publisher gleefully exclaimed to me, holding up a classified page on which every column inch represented more dollars.

Those reliable and hefty profits supported all kinds of editorial efforts that, unfortunately, can no longer be sustained in the same way.

As the industry restructures, I have suggested editors learn how the business works and how far they can go to help it without compromising the operation. Sales needs to understand that "money talks" but the people making "the product" are ultimately responsible for whether it's worthwhile for those who consume it.

I want to see news organizations survive and do great work, and I believe that today, the only way to ensure that is to take a more holistic approach to the business of news.

An award-winning former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA (with honors), Dorian Benkoil handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift, and is the business columnist for the site. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, and activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk and you can Circle him on Google+.

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August 02 2011

17:00

How to Control (Or At Least Influence) Children's Media Access

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This week, MediaShift will be running a special series on navigating the relationships between kids and media. Stay tuned all week as we explore topics like this one.

Once you have a child old enough to use a remote, the angst begins over how to control access to media. And absent the will to live a technology-free existence, media access is virtually impossible to control.

Still, I have been able to assemble some tips on ways to at least try to influence how children navigate the media landscape. These are some of the conclusions I've reached after talks with friends and family, and a lot of personal experience as a father.

TIP: RESTRICT TV IN THE HOME

Often, the first screen a child will access on his or her own is the TV. In earliest years, it's not too hard to put the remote control out of reach and monitor use closely.

Once they get a bit older, you can turn on whatever parental controls your TV provider or set allows, sometimes even block access to certain channels.

A few friends and family members don't subscribe to cable TV. You can also go without TV, which one friend told me she has done since before the era of video on the web.

HINDRANCE 1: TV? What is this, the 1990s? Most media shown on TV is soon available on some other screen the child has access to. As I said to a friend whose children were issued notebook computers in middle school: "Once they get laptops it's game over."

HINDRANCE 2: Media is pervasive out of the home. Family members in Minneapolis don't have cable. So, their daughter for years has just gone over to the house of a friend who seems to have every channel known to man, as well as a giant plasma screen.

Even at school, your children might watch movies and shows without your explicit permission. I was unhappy, for example, to learn that my child during elementary school recess on rainy days was put in an auditorium to watch entertainment that was anything but educational.

HINDRANCE 3: Parental controls are often based on rating systems that may not match your values. My friends and I, for example, find sometimes startling levels of violence in programming that's considered "safe" for children, while a fleeting bare breast in an innocuous setting will cause a show to be blocked.

TIP: CONTROL NETWORK AND COMPUTER PERMISSIONS

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You can restrict access and set permissions on your wireless router for different computers (via, for example, identifying the computer's "MAC address" -- a unique identifier code for every computer's WiFi antenna). Some routers allow different permission levels for different computers, so you can restrict them from accessing certain web addresses. On some routers, you can also monitor activity on the network.

You can also set yourself up as an administrator on a computer, and make your children simple users, then use browser tools to restrict access to certain web addresses and kinds of content.

HINDRANCE 1: Do you really want to be the admin on your children's computers and have to be called on every time they need to download some little plug-in to access something they may need for homework or to play a legitimate game?

HINDRANCE 2: Your progeny (they are smart, aren't they?) may find a workaround and get the content from some avenue you haven't blocked. If you restrict them at the browser level, for example, they may figure out a way to download through a different browser.

Another friend was able a few years ago to block his daughter's access to AOL Instant Messenger chats by, he said, denying access on his home router. But the means of accessing AIM and other real-time social engines have ballooned to where he knows it would be a losing battle now to even try.

My movie-obsessed 15-year-old nephew knows how to fake proxy servers and make a website think he's coming from a different IP address or country to get around restrictions where he lives.

TIP: CUT OFF WIRELESS ACCESS

Instead of trying to restrict access over a home network, how about doing away with it altogether? One friend told me he and his wife decided to go retro. "We cut off our wireless Internet at home, and instead ran cables through our house" so everyone had to physically plug in to access the web there, he said.

He and his spouse also require their children under the age of 16 use computers in open areas of the house rather than their bedrooms.

HINDRANCE 1: Neighbors. My friend and his wife noticed their children doing homework in a cramped area near the front porch. It turned out they were accessing an unprotected wireless network named "Stevo" emanating from next door.

HINDRANCE 2: Going without wireless can tie your own hands. My friend, who is a busy hospital doctor, found it to be a hassle when he had to get online at home and find a free port while the kids were doing homework.

In a house like mine, where I'm constantly accessing media in all corners for work and pleasure, I have trouble imagining going without wireless.

HINDRANCE 3: Children often have access to smartphones and tablets, on which they can consume media over a cellular network, and sometimes tether to a computer to give it wireless access.

HINDRANCE 4: Laptops can be carried to places with WiFi over which you have no control.

TIP: CONTROL ACCESS TO PAID SERVICES

You can set up a separate log-in or account for your children's access to services like Netflix, and monitor what they're watching.

HINDRANCE: My 14-year-old daughter and nephew are masters at finding whatever they want to watch. They're fans, for example, of the British version of "Skins," which is considerably more frank about sex and drugs than the American knockoff.

If they can't get what they want through Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other legitimate services, they seem to find it some other way. When they can't get a whole show, someone inevitably posts choice bits to shared sites like Tumblr or YouTube.

I have told my daughter of the agreement reached between content providers and cable companies to limit access to unapproved content, so she can better understand the dangers of downloading material that our ISP finds illicit.


TIP: WATCH TOGETHER

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In our house we encourage media consumption together, as a family. That way, at least, we can ask and answer questions, discuss what we're seeing and hearing, and I can gauge reactions and levels of sophistication. I'd rather have an idea of what's being consumed than believe I can place blanket restrictions.

HINDRANCE: Many children, once they're old enough, will resist watching shows with the family. Friends and I have experienced various excuses and explanations.

Our children will say they've already seen a show we want to watch and don't want to watch that episode again, or that something they want to watch isn't appropriate for younger siblings.

CONCLUSION: TEACH YOUR CHILDREN

Let's be frank: Part of growing up is doing things your parents don't approve of and testing limits.


Rather than resign myself to losing battles, I try to influence media consumption -- and production -- habits by instilling values and judgment. My daughter at this point would have to be pretty dull, for example, to not understand the risks of a) putting embarrassing personal material online or b) interacting with someone she doesn't know.

I try to encourage her to tell me what she's watching and listening to, even if it makes us both squirm a little at times.

An upside for a media professional like me is that children often act as a window into other media worlds. My daughter told me of YouTube sensation "Fred,"":http://www.youtube.com/user/Fred whom I've since researched and now use in lectures to demonstrate the power of the new social ecosystem.

I also believe we can't lord it over children if we're going to let them have rich, interactive lives, while hoping they have gained values and judgment that buffer them from the worst possibilities.

I know my daughter won't share everything with me. Yes, I can see her Tumblog and am her "friend" on Facebook. But I also am well aware that there may be other Tumblogs, social networks and websites where she does things she hides.

I do hope I've helped arm her with values so that in creating and consuming content she shows the good sense I've seen on so many other occasions.

Read more stories in the Kids & Media series on MediaShift.

Photo of family watching TV together by Paul Emerson via Flickr.

An award-winning former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA (with honors), Dorian Benkoil handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, and activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk.

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July 29 2011

16:47

How Do You Like Watching TV Shows?

It used to be so easy. You'd cozy up on a couch, get your remote control (and popcorn) and turn on the TV for a night of vegetation. But now, you have options. So many options. You can watch shows when you want by recording them on your DVR. You can cancel cable TV and use a Roku box to watch shows through Netflix streaming. Or watch shows on your laptop or desktop computer through the websites of various networks. And then there's your handheld devices, smartphones and tablet computers, which now have such high quality video. So how do you like to watch TV? On the big screen? On time-delay? On computers or handhelds? Let us know your TV show viewing habits in the comments below or by taking our poll.


How do you like watching TV shows?

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16:47

Mediatwits #15: Special Cord-Cutters Edition; TV Networks vs. Streaming

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Welcome to the 15th episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, the founder of PaidContent. This show is all about cord-cutters, people who like to watch TV without paying for cable or satellite TV (like Mark & Rafat). The big news is that Fox will not allow free streaming of its shows online for 8 days after airing unless you pay for Hulu Plus or can authenticate that you are paying for TV. Special guest Brian Stelter of the New York Times talks about the move by Fox and how ABC might make a similar move soon. Brian also talks about the streaming race between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others, as Netflix raises its rates and Hulu goes on the sale block.

Plus, the show covers recent moves by various app-makers who are stripping out the ability to buy books or subscribe to magazines within apps to keep from having to pay 30% to Apple. Apps for Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Kobo all have stripped out "buy" buttons and are directing people to buy outside the Apple ecosystem. Will others follow suit? Will a rush continue to develop web apps and HTML5 apps that get around Apple's big bite out of revenues?

Check it out!

mediatwits15.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Cutting the cord

0:25: 'We hate Skype' episode

1:50: Rafat uses Roku, Apple TV to stream Netflix, Amazon

5:10: Mark sometimes watches shows on iPad via Hulu Plus

6:25: Rundown of topics on the show

Fox restricts online streaming of shows

7:45: Background on Brian Stelter of the New York Times

9:45: Fox affiliates happy with this move

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12:20: Will people get to watch the shows they want when they want (without cable)?

14:15: The pain of authenticating pay TV to see streaming services online

17:00: Can Netflix get more content?

18:20: Competitors like Amazon now targeting Netflix

21:10: HBO Go as an example of the future of streaming

Getting around Apple app restrictions

24:00: App makers strip out "buy" button to keep from giving 30% to Apple

26:00: Magazines pull "subscribe" buttons, look at web apps instead

27:20: Amazon's Android tablet could break Apple's chokehold

More Reading

Your Guide to Cutting the Cord to Cable TV at PBS MediaShift

Fox to Limit Next-Day Streaming on Hulu to Paying Cable Customers at NY Times

Fox TV Shows Get Pay Wall at WSJ

Fox Affiliates Pleased With Network's Plan For Limited Streaming at B&C

Amazon Prime Follows CBS Deal With Movies From NBCUniversal at PaidContent

Big Cable Braces for a Lousy Quarter at AllThingsD

Netflix vs. Hulu - the screen battle at Variety

How Netflix, Hulu And Amazon Stack Up at PaidContent

Analysts: CBS Corp.-Amazon Streaming Deal Bodes Well for Sector Giants at Hollywood Reporter

Apple forces Amazon to alter Kindle app at CNET

Kobo creating HTML5 Web app to buffer Apple at CNET

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how you like watching TV shows:


How do you like watching TV shows?

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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July 07 2011

18:12

KOMU-TV Puts Google+ Hangout Video Chat on the Air

As a reporter and anchor for KOMU-TV, the NBC affiliate in Columbia, Mo., and the broadcast lab for the Missouri School of Journalism, I already chat with viewers via Facebook and Twitter on our "Livestream" behind-the-scenes webcam mounted on the news set. Now, KOMU has added yet another delightful distraction to the other side of the set. It's turned me into one distracted driver.

Google Hangout is Google+'s video chat feature, and it's a shiny red sports car for an interactive anchor.

Squirrel!

Google+ Distraction

Let me explain the allure of this distraction.

Hangout is similar to a group Skype chat for up to 10 people. On Monday, we believe we were the first station to use this video feature to interact with our TV viewers during a live newscast. We posted notice of our "Hangout" on our Google+ profile and invited people inside and outside our "Circles" to join in. The result gave viewers around the world not only the opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes of a live newscast, but for the first time, it also gave us anchors the chance to see our viewers beyond their profile pic. 

We followed up Wednesday night with what we believe to be the first Google+ Hangout on air. Viewers from all over the world got the chance to wave to people in mid-Missouri as we took a live screenshot of our video chat screen. (Watch the video here.)

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On Livestream, I can only see a still profile picture of who's chatting with me during the newscast. In Google Hangout, I can see the viewers in real time: his sunburn, the baby she's holding, the psychedelic curtains hanging in their living room. No more chatting with profile pics or typing emoticons in chat. Anchors -- and the audience -- can now see our viewers' smiles!  

On Sept. 12, KOMU News will launch an interactive newscast "U_News @ 4" that will further explore this real-time conversation going on between anchors and viewers during the newscast. We're excited about the role Google Hangout could play in better connecting with our viewers, especially during severe weather and breaking news.

Jen Lee Reeves, the station's interactive director, put it this way: "KOMU's goal has always been to reach out to our market and truly connect. The Google Hangouts allow that in a way we've never been able to do before. Not only are we writing and speaking, we get to see instant reactions and feedback. It's just one more way for us to really show our news consumers that we are in this together."

Changing lanes

No longer is the studio camera an anchor's sole focus during a newscast. Now, there's a lot of typing and talking to viewers even during a 10-second sound bite. The talented people who keep KOMU on this interactive road are changing lanes and embracing this new kind of "talking head." With two netbooks, two phones and two tablets on set, all with different viewer conversations going on them, our floor director is starting to add a snap to our "standbys" to get our attention. Producers are learning they have to talk in our earpieces like bingo callers and repeat instructions loudly and slowly.  

Drop, B-17.

Drop. B 17.  

Bingo!

With so many interesting roads for interactive anchors to explore, the good news is they all lead to closer connections with our viewers. I'm still learning how to talk and drive and not end up as roadkill on camera.   

After a couple test drives, I see Google Hangout as another opportunity for us talking heads to take our hands off of 10 and 2.

Squirrel!

How to Improve Hangouts

Here are some items that would make Google Hangout an even better extension of our newscast.

1. Allow more than 10 viewers in the Hangout. 

2. Make the Hangout screen a 16×9 friendly format so that its dimensions look proper when we take it live on-air.

3. Provide captioning when audio is muted. We have to mute the Hangout audio during our newscast so as not to interfere with our microphones. We can see Hangout viewers but not hear them. It would be great if there was a captioning or Google translate function that would pop up when you mute the audio so that anchors could still read what the viewer is saying.

4. Provide the opportunity to join a Hangout even if you don't have a Google+ profile.

5. Allow recording of the Hangout so that after the session ends, the creator can save it as a video file that can be shared on other social networking sites and blogs.

6. Enable some kind of private messaging in chat. We get frequent story tips in newscast chat. Why? Viewers like to say in front of a bunch of people that they've got a hot news tip. But they often don't want to provide the background details of the City Hall extortionist in a public chat room. 

Sarah Hill is an anchor and reporter on KOMU in Columbia, Mo. You can Hangout with Sarah weekdays during the 5 pm (Central Time) newscast here. Not on Google+ yet? You can also check out KOMU's behind-the-scenes webcam and chat with us here during the news. 
 

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May 27 2011

15:18

Mediatwits #9: Twitter Buys Tweetdeck; Facebook's Role in Breaking News

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Welcome to the ninth episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser along with PaidContent founder Rafat Ali. This week's show looks at the recent purchase of Tweetdeck by Twitter, and the questions it raises about companies starting businesses on the platform of other companies. If you run an app for Twitter but aren't bought by Twitter, where does that leave you?

This week's special guest is Jen Lee Reeves, who teaches at the Missouri School of Journalism and is the interactive director for KOMU-TV. She has been covering the recent tornadoes and bad weather in Missouri and using her TV station's Facebook page to connect with its community. Finally, the talk turns to conflicts of interest for entrepreneurial journalists and tech bloggers such as Michael Arrington, Kara Swisher and Om Malik. Should they be able to invest in companies they cover, be venture capitalists themselves? How do they maintain credibility?

Check it out!

mediatwits9.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

NEW! Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Rafat taking one more trip

1:08: Getting to Uzbekistan

2:20: No media fact-finding

2:45: Rundown of the show's topics

Twitter buys Tweetdeck

04:30: What will Twitter do with it?

07:05: Dick Costolo remains Twitter CEO (for today)

08:40: Inhibiting innovation?

10:25: TechCrunch Disrupt startups not tied to Twitter, Facebook

Interview with KOMU's Jen Lee Reeves

11:10: Background on Reeves

13:35: Heavy Facebook use in mid-Missouri

15:30: How Facebook use is different from Twitter

18:45: People coming to KOMU page rather than just reading news feed on Facebook

21:40: KOMU website changes to "river of news"

Conflicts for tech journalists

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23:45: Background on conflicts for Michael Arrington, Kara Swisher, Om Malik

25:55: Rafat on how PaidContent dealt with conflicts

28:10: Mark notes the problem might be what people don't cover too

30:10: Om Malik was a respected journalist before becoming venture funder

More Reading

Twitter Buys TweetDeck at WSJ Digits

What the Tweetdeck Acquisition Means for Marketers at AdAge

Newsroom, Community Use Facebook as Key Hub After Joplin Tornado at MediaShift

Images and Video from Joplin Tornado at KOMU

KOMU on Facebook

Kara Swisher, Michael Arrington, and me: New conflicts, and new opportunities, for the tech press at Nieman Lab

Godspeed on That Investing Thing, Yertle-But I Still Have Some Questions for Your Boss, Arianna at AllThingsD

Arrington Says The Real Conflict Of Interest In Tech Reporting Has Nothing To Do With Money at Business Insider

It's Hilarious That Mike Arrington Gets Beat Up For Investing In Startups When Om Malik Is A Partner At A VC Firm at Business Insider

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how journalists can deal with conflicts:




What's the best way for journalists to deal with conflicts of interest?Market Research

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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May 24 2011

19:59

Newsroom, Community Use Facebook as Key Hub After Joplin Tornado

When Joplin, Mo., was hit with a massive tornado, I knew my community would react. Even though we're nearly 250 miles away, many people in Columbia and mid-Missouri are either Joplin natives or have family there. My newsroom's normally local-focused Facebook page quickly became a clearinghouse for updates about how mid-Missouri could help the tornado-ravaged community.

Fans are using the page now to share news, photos, videos, information on relief efforts, and in general, to connect with each other in a time of crisis.

The efforts grew organically on our page. The KOMU online audience is already very interactive. We have 10,000+ fans and, on average, 7,500 users have some level of interaction with us on a weekly basis, according to Facebook Insights.

I encourage sharing and conversations among everyone in an open and transparent way. I and my web team pay attention and are constantly interacting with our fans. Over time, a relationship has developed -- the kind that's enhanced during severe situations like what happened in Joplin.

When the tornado hit, our Facebook fans knew they could trust us to coordinate and share important information there.

So that's just what we did. Since the tornado, I've been on overdrive. In the last 24 hours, I've gathered information on social media to share on our website, KOMU.com, and on Facebook. I'm gathering as many relief drives as possible to share on Facebook, KOMU.com and the newsroom's Twitter page. My goal is to share and gather data from the social spaces where KOMU's audience already interacts.

The Beginning

When the first information came out on Joplin, KOMU-TV was on the air with details about severe weather in our area. Our meteorologists shared images live that were posted on our Facebook page using an iPad. Anytime we show live Facebook content on television, our interaction online starts to jump.

I was working from home, but knew we had a spark of community activity on our Facebook page. I and a few others working in our newsroom started posting links from our website to Facebook. One of the most viewed pages is a collection of tweets curated on Storify. It's had more than 8,000 views in less than 24 hours and was shared on Facebook more than 165 times. These kind of collections continued to bring people to our Facebook page to interact and share.
SharingOnFacebook

A number of people wanted to know how they could help. We posted immediate links and information about how medical providers could offer their expertise and how relief agencies were trying to coordinate assistance. I wrapped up my oversight of the page around 1:30 in the morning with a dramatic video on YouTube. It created a stir, even though it was very late at night (or early in the morning, depending on your perspective).

Some of the conversations I had with our Facebook audience led to our morning show coverage. A woman who posted a picture about a tree that crushed her van became the subject of a live report the next day.

treesdownscreenshot

The Next Day

Not only did we have continuing requests on how our Facebook users could help, a growing number of people had information about blood drives, fundraisers and donation sites. Not only did I take the time to thank users for the information, I added a link to my Facebook profile by typing "@jen Lee Reeves" to identify myself as the person commenting as a representative for KOMU.

My newsroom started to ask for the community to tell us about the relief efforts they knew about. I tried to keep up with a list and encouraged our Facebook users to post their efforts on a discussion page. When I learned about items that weren't added to the page, I'd copy and past from the Facebook wall and Twitter. (Our newsroom encouraged our region to use #JoplinMidMo to help us keep track of local efforts.)

The best development with Facebook pages is the "Notifications" link that helps me keep track of any interactions on the page. I'm able to see new posts, likes and comments on items that might be hours old on the page. Almost every time I respond, I add that link to my Facebook profile.

Near the end of the day, I slowed down my obsessive oversight of the page. One member was unable to find a donation location, and other page members jumped in with some details. I was able to research a few extra details and add to the conversation.
HelpingScreenShot

A Wish List

After spending so much time inside the Facebook page, I have a few things I'd love to have the next time I'm helping manage a crisis.

  • The ability to post notes. Facebook groups have a wonderful ability to let members create and contribute openly to notes. This would have been much easier to manage with our collection of relief efforts. I'm helping manage a community Facebook page that allows notes. My "television station category" doesn't get notes in Facebook.
  • The ability to create a call to action at the top of the page. I had to repost a number of helpful links and information because our Facebook users kept asking the same questions. It would have been great to have the main relief information easily accessible.
  • Photo tagging needs to be easier. I know this is a new feature where Facebook users can tag a page they like. I had a number of people tell me they weren't able to tag KOMU to a picture. I've also noticed this service is spotty.
  • The ability to tag posts from a mobile app. When I left the newsroom, I had to add to the comments on the KOMU page without the ability to identify myself.

It will be interesting to see how long this call to action continues on our Facebook page. Our newsroom is planning a telethon with local organizations on Thursday for Joplin. I hope to Livestream the event on our Facebook page and offer anyone the ability to embed the stream to their websites. (I haven't figured out all of the logistics, but hopefully I'll have it ready by Thursday.)

Many other Facebook pages focused on Joplin relief, especially one built solely to offer updates and relief. KOMU was able to focus on the efforts in mid-Missouri. The online relationship we had before the crisis was able to grow in this time of need.

Hopefully, it's an example of how a commitment to social media can help encourage ongoing conversations between a newsroom and its community.

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April 09 2011

23:35

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, NY Times Feud at Logan Symposium

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BERKELEY, CALIF. -- I am at the 5th Annual Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium, a gathering of the top investigative journalists that happens each year at University of California at Berkeley. Lowell Bergman, a professor at the school and former "60 Minutes" producer and longtime investigative journalist, brings together an invite-only crowd of journalists, technologists, academics and more. The title of the conference is "Leaks, Laws & Lies" and will include a live Skype call with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange.

(You can see previous coverage of post Logan Symposiums by PBS MediaShift here.)

My goal was to live-blog the Symposium, but due to issues with Internet access, I was only able to take quick live notes, which I'm now posting on MediaShift. The highlight of the first day of the conference was the appearance via Skype of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, who is under house arrest in the U.K. A panel called "The War on WikiLeaks included representatives from the New York Times, Guardian and Der Spiegel, all news outlets that worked with and published the leaks from WikiLeaks, including the Afghan War Logs, Iraq War Logs and international cables from the U.S. State Department.

New York Times executive editor Bill Keller at one point was asked why he had described Julian Assange in such a critical way in a story after posting the leaked material. Keller said he had never met Assange and that his description of Assange came from what reporters told him. Later, Assange joined the panel via Skype, and the warmth quickly left the room. None of the panelists wanted to ask Assange a question, until Keller attacked Assange for saying that the U.S. media didn't care about what happened in the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Assange looked over the panel from a large projection screen, almost like a world leader via satellite.

Below are my detailed notes of what people said on that panel, and the intro before the panel. These are not exact quotes but are paraphrases of what the principals said. I also took some videos of some of Assange's answers, and will posting the best of those as well.

Intro from Lowell Bergman

Lowell Bergman, UC Berkeley: Our investigative reporting program is totally privately funded, so Jerry Brown can't slash our budget.

People in our audience are from Latvia, Japan, Germany, the widest group we've had, with people who've won Oscars, Pulitzer Prizes. Not just journalists but also financiers, law enforcement, faculty, students, and even PR flacks.

David Logan passed away but his sons are here...I learned that David Logan was a man of many interests, from a jazz afficianado, he had Picasso drawings and he eventually funded the chair at Berkeley for me to teach here. We also have investigative journalism fellowships here.

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Six months ago I got a grant from Knight for a study about collective work in investigations that's being done by a former fellow. For the next year and a half, we're going to do a study on collective investigative reporting, create a guide and set up standards and procedures for how to work together. We'll talk more about collaboration on the WikiLeaks panel.

Non-profits can't afford legal counsel so we have an active group helping them. Hewlett Packard found information about journalists including John Markoff of the New York Times. He sued and won a quarter million dollars, and he gave us $100,000 to give out a Markoff Award, with a drawing of John on it. We give it out to our low maintenance supporters. This year the winners are Bob Bishop, and Herb and Marion Sandler.

Something new for us: We'll have a series of talks about WikiLeaks, along with a videotape we produced with Julian Assange. He was here last year, and can't be here this year, obviously. We did send an invitation to Bradley Manning but he can't make it. We'll have two brief talks, Julian's tape and then the panel, and if we can pull it off, Julian will be on his way back to his residence, he will try to get there in time by the end of the panel, and will join us by Skype. And will be on during lunch to answer questions.

Julian is not really a source. He's a new kind of person, with a new kind of vocation. We all need to do a lot of thinking about it. He's not a source, and he's not a legacy journalist. He's an advocate and that's not rare among journalists these days.

Bradley Manning is being held without charges and is in solitary confinement in conditions that are close to torture. Daniel Ellsberg, who's in Hawaii and can't be here, was indicted under the Espionage Act, but was only saved because they broke into his office. Today a liberal administration is holding him under bad conditions and no one is protesting it. Those are my blunt observations of what is going on. And the leaks continued.

Mark Feldstein, author: This is a Cliff's Notes of the history of leaks. Thomas Jefferson even leaked information himself. President Buchanan leaked information about President Polk. The only time it related to national security was in World War II when the Chicago Tribune wrote that the U.S. broke a secret code, but it wasn't really a threat to national security. In the atomic era the government started using the Espionage Act from World War I to prosecute leakers. Newspapers self-censored themselves at the request of the government.

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Jack Anderson, a syndicated columnist, was the WikiLeaks of the '40s and '50s, and his column went out to 1,000 newspapers, so it was hard to censor it everywhere. Anderson would have news conferences and hand out documents to make sure newspapers didn't miss it. He was a seasoned journalist and could handle himself better than Julian Assange. The White House plotted to kill him by poison. He blackmailed the White House, to make them back off. Assange is not quite that sophisticated.

Then came the Pentagon Papers in the '70s and Nixon and his administration tried to stop them, and turned it into a cause celebre. Now we have WikiLeaks, with national security documents able to be disseminated in a click of a mouse.

Larger lessons? All administrators want to control the agenda, exaggerate harm, want to stop the leaks. None have come to grips with the fact that the biggest threat to national security is not the press, not leaks, but mistakes by government policy. Leaks are as old as apple pie and that's why they'll continue.

Julian Assange Video

Julian Assange: The U.S. government is saying that any form of collaboration between a source and investigative journalists is espionage. That's why the New York Times is saying they were not collaborating, but that we're just a source. But the truth is that it was a collaboration. The grand jury is investigating espionage and the White House is pushing an angle that collaboration between journalists and sources is illegal. We all know how investigative journalism works. You call up a source, meet them at a cocktail party and get information.

That interpretation will result in making government completely unaccountable to investigations. You'll hear Bill Keller of the New York Times say they work hand in glove with the government. I do say that news organizations and journalists must understand their role to hold government and other powerful people to account. It's not to be popular or be a propagandist for organizations.

People say to me, "I could never do what you do." I have fears just like all of you do. The key to courage is simply understanding what the risks are and taking actions accordingly. And not being scared to challenge and see whether the risk is correct.

Panel: The War on WikiLeaks

Moderator: Jack Shafer, Slate

Panel: David McCraw of the New York Times, Holger Stark of Der Spiegel, Bill Keller of the New York Times, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Hudson Institute, Nick Davies, Guardian.

Shafer: WikiLeaks has served as a valuable archive for documents and insight into many secretive groups like Scientology, Rand Corp. and others. I'm hoping to run the most incendiary panel and discussion of the symposium.

Nick Davies of the Guardian: I heard about Bradley Manning being arrested. The most interesting story was all the documents. I found these chat logs on Wired, with someone purporting to be Bradley Manning says he finds near-criminal back deals all over the world. That it should be seen all over the world. It's breathtaking and horrifying. As a reporter, it sends shivers down your spine.

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I set out to find someone at WikiLeaks to tell their story. I made contact with people all over the world, and wanted to get in touch with Julian Assange. I found out he was flying into Brussels to make a speech, but was afraid of arrest. He figured it was a high profile place where he wouldn't be grabbed. I talked to him in the European Parliament building. So how could I convince him to give me the story, someone in the mainstream media? There was a physical threat to him.

This is a very political landscape, but we can reduce that if we create an alliance to give Julian power he didn't have. The New York Times came up as part of that alliance because it would help to have the most powerful newspaper on our side. I hooked up with Julian, and he is wonderful and strange. He was crashed out at 3 pm after a flight from Australia, I woke him up and talked to him for 6 hours. Julian could see the value and wanted to talk about the possibilities.

He agreed to give information to the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel in four packets. The Afghan War Logs, the Iraqi War Logs, the diplomatic cables and something that hasn't been published yet. How to get it? I left with nothing, Julian created a website and gave me a password made by the logos on napkins. That was the crown jewels in the journalism world.

Bill Keller, NY Times: Julian Assange has had his revenge, because we have to show up for an unlimited number of panel discussions. I'm going to skip my time and believe that the most interesting part will be the Q&A.

Holger Stark, Der Spiegel: We're actually still in touch with Julian Assange, unlike the other news organizations. We published in September 2010 an interview with him, and he was very angry because people said he was acting like a dictator. I spent a weekend with him discussing many things, and we are still going through another project with WikiLeaks. I've been asked how much WikiLeaks changed journalism. It has changed journalism and brought a revolutionary thing to journalism with an anonymous dump of documents and something no one has done before. But journalism has changed WikiLeaks more than WikiLeaks has changed journalism.

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They used to post everything they found on the Internet. Last summer he planned to dump the entire Afghan War Logs with all sources online. We all told him it was irresponsible, you can't do that, and he agreed to change that. When we published the Irag War Logs, we realized they had to be redacted. When we published the cables, he let the publishers decide what to publish. It was handed over to the media.

WikiLeaks is much more a journalism organization than it was before.

David McCraw, NY Times: There are circumstances when the press can break the Espionage Act. It's a complicated topic. If the government was secretly monitoring every mosque in the U.S., it might help national security but it also might not be legal and should be exposed. There's a very high standard that needs to be met with the First Amendment and Espionage Act before we can show that the press has broken that act. The system does in fact work.

We understand there's a responsibility and there's a way we should do this. The prosecution understands they shouldn't prosecute newspapers that are publishing this. There hasn't been a single prosecution of a news organization under that act.

Q&A with Panel

Shafer: Julian was listening in on his cell phone. I'll ask a softball question to Bill Keller. We all know that publications will work with the government before publishing sensitive information.

Keller: With the Afghan War Logs, the government didn't want to work with us at all because they didn't want to legitimize what we were doing. We allowed them to argue why we shouldn't publish them and wanted to get their reaction before publishing. They did, with caveats, make a statement about their relationship with Pakistan. When it got to the cables and the State Dept., they were prepared to be more engaged. We offered them the opportunity to make the case that we shouldn't publish them at all, or question the theme of the documents. The scale of the document is without precedent, but the process was typical. We offered the State Dept. the chance to comment before publication.

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It was a series of stories that ran over two weeks. They knew which documents we had, we told them the subject and allegations we were making. There were three categories of documents, and types of discussions: the easy calls to redact names of dissidents and sources; on the other end, stories that would be embarrassing but we didn't think that would prevent us from publishing; and then things in between where we had lively discussions. We went along with the administration's argument sometimes but not always.

We made editorial judgments on all the stories, and if Julian Assange says it's a collaboration with government, he can say that. He gave us a large amount of information, we agreed to an embargo date and that was it. He didn't see the articles, he had no input into the journalism we did. So in my view it's not a collaboration with him or with the government. We gave the government a chance to have their say.

Shafer: Gabriel, can you make the argument that the public doesn't have the right to know?

Schoenfeld: Yes, in some cases, journalists should not publish how to create an anthrax bomb. In one case someone published how to create an atomic bomb, but most of that information was in the public domain. My argument with Bill Keller is that I think the government does have a case against the leakers causing issues with national security.

An argument broke out between Nick Davies and Gabriel Schoenfeld. Here's a video of that exchange:

Shafer: Holger, play press critic for me. How did Der Spiegel cover this? What was the focus?

Stark: Sure, I will. We were interested to see how the U.S. government would respond. The U.S. government didn't want to put pressure on the press but all on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. We'll see that in the next weeks and months, they'll try to show that WikiLeaks is not a journalistic enterprise. How did we look at the documents? Not much differently than the other news organizations did. Maybe we published a bit more that would be a scandal in the U.S., about a task force that was set up to capture and kill leaders in Afghanistan. That's something we don't have in the German army, so we investigated those things more. We invested a lot of research into what Hillary Clinton was doing to collect intelligence at the UN.

Shafer: Bill, you describe Assange as smelling like he hadn't bathed in days. Do you have anything to add to that? Is that any way to talk about sources? That won't encourage more people to be sources, will it?

Keller: The fourth packet of information won't come to us, we know that. By the time I wrote that piece about Assange, it was an attempt to describe what we did and why we did in narrative form. It could have been written like a master's thesis, but it had some snippets of color. I never met Julian Assange, we only had phone conversations. I reported from what our reporters told me in their reporting. That was only one small part of the article I wrote.

He was also the story and was a public figure, and is a complicated public figure. I don't presume to make any bumper sticker statements about him.

Q: How do you think you would handle new leaks, and what effect will new copycat WikiLeaks-type groups have?

Keller: We could set up drop boxes of information. There's now OpenLeaks, and Al Jazeera has set up a dropbox but nothing has come along. We had a lot of time with introspection and second guessing, and we think we handled it right.

McCraw: There are always concerns about authenticity. The security firm from Bank of America wanted to dump fake documents to WikiLeaks, so we have the same concerns we had before with info from a plain brown envelope. Every time we had a discussion about this.

Keller: There has been a big effect of WikiLeaks documents in North Africa. There was an effect in Tunisia, which sparked other protests. We can argue whether that has been good or bad, but it has had an impact on the street.

Stark: We have a duty to publish these things, the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world and it's the role of democracy to publish them.

Q&A with Julian Assange

Here are videos I shot of some of the Q&A that happened between the audience and WikiLeaks' Julian Assange.

Q: What was in the fourth packet?

Q: How well did the media cover the leaks?

Julian Assange on how the U.S. media doesn't care about the world.

What will happen for future sources of leaks?

True Grit Panel Intro

Michael Isikoff: I've gone from an old print guy to network broadcast correspondent, and have had culture shock. I'm on NBC News and pitch stories to various shows, sometimes with success. I sold "The Today Show" on a story about a possible presidential candidate, and they bought it and were going to do it, and we had a back and forth about the script. A producer wanted some changes, and was ready to run it, and then I got a message. "I haven't been able to get to it because Lindsey Lohan fell down." I thought it was a joke but it wasn't, and "The Today Show" went to DefCon 3!

I was an ink-strained wretch with Newsweek for years. Newsweek was sold and I was looking for a job and took a job with NBC News, and they put out a release saying Isikoff will be a multi-platform journalist. I had no idea what it meant or how to do it. The best explanation I heard was from a cameraman, who said, "You want to get on 'The Nightly News' you might at best get about 2 minutes, that's like being above the fold on a front page. And then everything else is where you put out the information. You write a text piece, you put documents online and web extras, and put them all online. It's the multiplier effect.

Does it work? I have no idea. On a couple occasions it seemed to work. We did a piece on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.S. Cole. It worked fine, we had a piece on broadcast, and on the web I got some newly declassified documents about the bombing. I did a story recently on Anonymous, the group of computer hackers, who shut down MasterCard and Visa in defense of WikiLeaks last year. I had someone on Anonymous willing to come on camera to explain how they work, describing how they got onto a secure service. I had a web piece that was supposed to go with it, it was all teed up. The web extra was ready to go live, and I emailed the source and told him to watch 'Nightly News' and he emailed back and said, 'I know, I've already read it online.'

It appeared that Anonymous had penetrated the NBC web system to read the post before it had been gone live! But it wasn't really the case, because someone had actually posted it early online. It's all interesting, and fun, but whether it works are not is another question. Today we Twitter, we blog, we gab on TV, but in the end it comes down to producing valuable and important content. In our brave new world, it's about content, content, content -- that's the only thing people will remember.

*****

I'll be back at the Logan Symposium tomorrow to cover a panel on collective work and another on non-profit investigative journalism.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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March 25 2011

16:30

SXSW Showcases Rise of Multiplatform Storytelling and Collaborative Filmmaking

South By Southwest (SXSW) is an annual gathering of interactive, film and music creatives, executives and marketers in Austin. It is the ideal setting to explore multiplatform storytelling, multiscreen experiences and projects that reflect the talents of the collective. After several days of knowledge-filled panels and hyper-networking featuring digital thought-leaders, there were a few notable trends that made an imprint once the conference's closing credits hit the screen.

The Two-Screen Experience

The two-screen, or so-called companion viewing experience, was recently implemented at the Academy Awards via the Oscars All Access app, which gave viewers multiple camera angles within a paid app. While laptops, smartphones and tablets are all capable of the two-screen implementation -- basically, using a device while watching additional programing -- the ideal form factor is the tablet due to its screen size and ease of interaction. The rapid emergence of tablets such as the iPad have opened up a new opportunity for studios and networks wishing to amp up DVD sales and TV ratings.

SXSW featured the "TRON: Legacy" Lounge, which allowed visitors to experience Disney's Second Screen -- a parallel universe of interactive features on an iPad in sync with the Blu-ray version of the movie (available April 5). The additional content on display included filmmaker annotations, image sliders, progression reels to show effects in a scene and more ways to immerse yourself in the movie's Grid. Learn more about it in this video:

A separate SXSW panel titled "TV + New Media = Formula for Success" featured executives from USA Network highlighted Psych Vision, a two-screen experience to promote the TV show "Psych." The app enabled viewers to check into the show, unlock exclusive video content, earn points and redeem them for show merchandise.

Telling stories in multimedia

Transmedia, or telling stories across multiple platforms and formats, is in chapter one of its journey to mass adoption. But it has quickly moved from experimental buzzword to a powerful new storytelling genre.

There were several panels focused on transmedia at SXSW, including: "Can Transmedia Save the Entertainment Industry?," "Transmedia Storytelling: Constructing Compelling Characters and Narrative Threads," and "Next Stage: Transmedia: An Interactive Exploration of the History and Future of Production in a Transmedia World."

I attended the "Unexpected Non-Fiction Storytelling" panel, which featured many creative interactive projects, including "Collapsus," this year's SXSW Interactive Award winner in the Film/TV category.

"Collapsus" is a great example of the promise of transmedia. This eco-thriller from director Tommy Pallotta (producer of "A Scanner Darkly") was developed by SubmarineChannel and is based on the documentary "Energy Transition" from Dutch broadcaster VPRO. It is a mix of animation, interactive maps and documentary, presented in three panels and requiring viewers to make informed decisions about energy production:

Collapsus Walkthrough from SubmarineChannel on Vimeo

While a worldwide tour with PowerPoint slides may have been effective in driving awareness on global warming, "Collapsus" presents a compelling new media approach to addressing planetary issues.

The National Film Board of Canada showed several interactive projects, including "Test Tube." It deals with another global crisis -- the exponential growth of the human population (represented by bacteria) within a finite planet of resources (symbolized by the test tube). The site asks visitors what they would do with an extra minute, then environmentalist David Suzuki makes a compelling case on why we're in the final minute of existence. The concept is thought-provoking and the innovation is evident in the various tweets that are dynamically pulled into the site based on your "extra minute" entry.

Out of more than 67,000 entries, the most popular response to the minute question is "sleep" followed by "eat." (Disclosure: I entered "make coffee" for my final minute, which may not have been the best answer to save the world/test tube.)

Crowdsourcing and Collaboration

Star Wars Uncut "The Escape" from Casey Pugh on Vimeo.

SXSW also featured award-winning crowdsourced projects and the premiere of one of the most anticipated crowdsourced video initiatives. Creators of the Emmy-winning "Star Wars Uncut" film, which is featured above, discussed how "the Force" of the crowd helped re-imagine one of the most beloved films in the galaxy. More than 1,200 contributors from 100 countries helped build the final film, elevating scenes into the film based on popularity or likes.

Annelise Pruitt, one of the project designers, called it "the largest user-directed movie" in history. She attributed its dynamic playback capability as the main reason that "Star Wars Uncut" won the 2010 Emmy for interactive media.

Another contemporary classic in the brief history of crowdsourcing is The Johnny Cash Project, a music video for "Ain't No Grave" composed of 1,370 frames built from art submissions worldwide. And there ain't no stopping the success of that project as it received another prize at SXSW, the Interactive Award in the Art category.

The YouTube project "Life in a Day," produced by Ridley Scott (Oscar-winning director of 2000's Best Picture "Gladiator," as well as "Alien" and "Gladiator"), also relied on the submissions of the collective. The project received more than 80,000 video submissions from people in 140 countries who wanted to share their personally documented story on July 24, 2010. The film made its premiere at Sundance earlier this year and was screened at SXSW last week. National Geographic Films picked up rights to the movie and will distribute it in theaters this summer.

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For filmmakers looking to develop and distribute full-length features rather than a slice of a larger project, JuntoBox Films is a new collaborative film studio that merges social media with traditional film production. They plan to finance five films in 2011 with a budget range of $200,000 to $5 million each. Filmmakers are encouraged to "get junto'd" after creating a profile on the site and having their project rated by their peers in order to be considered for the film assessment phase.

"Junto" means together in Spanish. The interactive storytelling, the two-screen experiences and the collaborative initiatives showcased at SXSW reveal that projects built together and experiences shared together are worthy of the highest rewards.

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and Web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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March 14 2011

21:02

IMA + SXSW = Major Discussion on Future of Public Media

Public media makers found a whole new crew to hang with at this year's Integrated Media Association (IMA) Conference on March 10 and 11. Joining the mix were attendees at a Knight Foundation-supported panel on news innovation and content strategy.

Adding a further dose of excitement was a new collaboration: The IMA preceded and then flowed into the interactive track of the SXSW festival on the 12th.

Despite looming cuts and recent controversies, participants seemed eager both to learn about a raft of recent public media experiments and collaborations, and to meet their online friends and followers in the flesh. This annual public media conference, IMA, has recently been revitalized with new leadership and strategy, and felt much hipper and more cohesive than the last iteration of the conference in 2009.

But don't just take my word for it. Here's a glimpse at the conversations through the eyes of attendees -- noted in bold -- and my own running Twitter coverage at @beyondbroadcast. You can follow a larger discussion of both conferences by going to the #imaconf and #sxsw hashtags on Twitter.

The run-up

Geez -- pack for IMA or glue myself to the screen to track blowback on Schiller's resignation? #pubmedia, I can't keep up!

@rbole (Robert Bole, CPB): Getting in the shute: first #imaconf re: #pubmedia analytics, then #SXSW on open APIs and finally #mediafuturenow on digital journalism

@nextgenradio (Doug Mitchell) : @beyondbroadcast Plenty to talk about amongst the faithful at SXSWi. Leaving today for Austin.

Opening panel: Innovation Anxiety

@martineric (Eric Michael Martin) : RT @LCKnapp: Jeannie Ericson encourages #pubmedia to adopt some Texas swagger while @ #sxsw2011 & #imaconf in Austin

@aschweig (Adam Schweigert, WOSU) : @joaquinalvarado: public service media seeks to identify need and engage with communities to solve problems

PBS and NPR Local/National Strategies

Kinsey Wilson (of NPR) at IMA conf: "I am here to tell you that NPR will keep moving forward."

PBS incubation lab is building directory of station tech staff for collab projects.

At #iMAConf, #pubcorps is announcing "America's Next Top Public Media Model" contest.

Learn more about these Top Model projects and the Kindred collaboration platform at publicmediacorps.org.

LaToya Jackson from #pubcorps says that "at this moment, #pubmedia needs drastic action if it's going to survive."

@rbole: @timolsonsf (Tim Olson, KQED) sending picture of Next Top Model at #imaconf

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Beyond the Stream: Mobile Apps that Matter

mobile apps panel: Andrew Kuklewicz of PRX (@kookster), Colleen Wilson, Seth Lind, Demian Perry on which/how/why

Wilson: Interesting question re. geolocation app: "How can we get people lost?" Give people rich locative experience

Wilson: PBS/NPR already have streaming apps -- station apps need to take advantage of local assets/engagement

Seth Lind of This American Life: Exciting to be able to feature individual stories on iPad app, offer live content

Lind: "Thinking about mobile has pushed us to think about users way more actively, and it's just been great."


@kookster: Mobile is not as forgiving; you have to think about every pixel and what the user is seeing.

@kookster: variability of both networks and devices makes mobile development trickier than web by an order of magnitude.

@kookster: "people feel entitled to have amazing things in their pockets," & will tell you loudly if you fail to deliver

Lind: Users find push notifications offensive, especially when they are asking for donations

Wilson: proximity is key--finding what's near you now: discounts, stories, members

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Lunchtime Keynote

@mediaengage Top 10 #pubmedia Tech Trends, courtesy of @webbmedia at @IntMediaAssn #imaConf http://wp.me/pUN9X-a4

Re-thinking public TV

On the platform: Chris Hastings (@chrishast) and Bob Lyons from WGBH re. "Re-thinking Public TV" | http://www.worldcompass.org

Lyons: World is a national digital TV channel that is serving as a platform for independent and international #pubmedia makers

#worldchan website has a different take/voice than the channel -- younger, multicultural, multiplatform, participatory #pubmedia

#worldchan is arranged thematically, organizing a variety of content on the channel and online. Sample theme: Skin You're In #pubmedia

WorldCompass site just got redesigned for the 3rd time in 6 months; will rebrand again/ iterating on the fly #pubmedia #worldchan

(PBS MediaShift recently covered the redesign of WorldCompass.org.)

#worldchan is demonstrating multiplatform branding and cross-silo collaboration in #pubmedia; example: live video from The Takeaway on site

Lyons: the "visual vocabulary" of seeing the reporter unshaven and on the beat at 6:00 in the morning was exciting

Lyons: show's audio morphing into other things: audio slideshows, Snap Judgement multiplatform/animated storytelling, #pubmedia #worldchan

Lyons: #worldchan offering periodic "callouts" for public content. @chrishast elaborates. Goals: Incubate & support new creators #pubmedia

@chrishast: More goals for #worldchan--innovate new production models, bottom-up storytelling, solution-based civic discourse #pubmedia

@chrishast: Will be doing public callouts via WGBH Lab (lab.wgbh.org) to populate #worldchan #pubmedia

@chrishast current call is for videos re. gay rights, inspired by Stonewall anniversary #worldchan #pubmedia

@chrishast "In some ways we're creating a pipeline for independent makers that doesn't exist, in addition to PBS" #worldchan #pubmedia

@chrishast "It's not just about creating a platform for discourse, it's about solution-based discourse...not the rant" #pubmedia

@MediaFunders: Is it enough 4 public media 2 ask content makers to preformed mold? How can public truly enter the space?

@martineric: blog coverage of Re-Thinking Public TV: The World Channel from #SXSW Interactive http://worldcompass.org/blog

Open Wide: New Models for Public Media

Back at #SXSW -- at a panel on new models in #pubmedia, with Orlando Bagwell, Sue Schardt, Jacquie Jones and Greg Pak. How to innovate?


Bagwell: How to reinvent public service for a multiplatform environment?

Jones: describing trajectory of NBPC (National Black Programming Consortium)

Jones: every year that she's been at NBPC, there's been "a watershed event that galvanized an African-American public"

Jones: Began by supporting diverse producers, but then realized #pubmedia wasn't reaching minority audiences; how to create relationship?

Jones: realized there was no dedicated producer corps within #pubmedia creating content relevant to minority communities -- how to address?

Jones: next step was to create the #pubcorps in order to build linkages and skills among young producers and community/#pubmedia orgs

Learn more about the #pubcorps at publicmediacorps.org

Jones: "There's still a lot of opportunity to engage new voices and have a real impact in #pubmedia...even though we're in dicey times"

Jones: #pubmedia produced by young people may look very different: games, citizen journalism training, etc. Need to be reflected in content

Bagwell: Is there a possibility for young ideas to lead the future of #pubmedia? Jones: Yes, but it's really challenging, different process

Jones: "We learned that we have a lot more to learn"

Bagwell: a recurring issue in #pubmedia now is "how do you find the public where they are"

Sue Schardt (@Schardt) from Association of Independents in Radio (@AIRmedia) talking about vibrant, diversified universe of makers/content

@Schardt: "How in #pubmedia can we harness this invention and energy" of indy producers? MQ2 project: demo project exploring this

@Schardt: #pubmedia #sxsw You have to balance structure with creativity. Learn more about MQ2 here: http://bit.ly/Spreading_the_Zing

@Schardt: We don't throw out the existing infrastructure, but we have to reflect humanity in a relevant, meaningful way

@Schardt: It's a tremendous challege to produce authentic #pubmedia at this moment when many institutions are risk-averse

@Schardt: Every one of the MQ2 projects took themselves outside of the structure to deep into communities. #pubmedia led us there

Jay Rosen: Bloggers vs. Journalists Redux

Listening to @jayrosen_nyu deconstruct the psychology of journalists and bloggers & why they love to hate each other

@jayrosen_nyu: the "fantasy of replacement" is a phantom of journalists' fears re. waning business model.

jay rosen

@jayrosen_nyu: journalists dismiss bloggers as "compulsive," "random"--displaced anger at a public that doesn't value journalism

@jayrosen_nyu: what do journalists have against basements, anyway? pajamas? flies in the face of intrepid journalist stereotypes

@jayrosen_nyu: if it were self-evident that commercial model is better, drawing contrasts w/bloggers would be uneccessary, yes?

I always marvel at the skill with which @jayrosen_nyu brands himself and revisits his own crusades to clever effect

@jayrosen_nyu: bloggers turn critique around to claim that big media should be responsible so they can slack off. but press is us

@jayrosen_nyu: "discarded parts [of old news habits] live on in the subconscious...and have come roaring back with blogging"

@jayrosen_nyu: i.e.--Bloggers are the return of the repressed

@jayrosen_nyu: voice is what you take out of modern professional journalism--if you succeed you might one day earn a column

@jayrosen_nyu: "Bloggers disrupt the moral hierarchy" by jumping straight to voice without the discipline of flat reporting

@jayrosen_nyu: It's time for some psychiatry with journalists--to "get them to tell a better story" about themselves & the world

@jayrosen_nyu prescription: bloggers, learn some basic standards. journalists: get flexible. "mutualization"

@jayrosen_nyu: In psychology, you don't get over the things that have wounded you; instead you can open up space for motion

@jayrosen_nyu: "freedom of the press is a public possession," the right for citizens to print their opinions

@jayrosen_nyu Wants NPR to drop ideology of "view from nowhere" and replace it with pluralism & transparency

Editors' note: Read Jay Rosen's discussion of the attempts to defund public media.

@jayrosen_nyu: "so-called objectivity is a very expensive system to maintain" b/c anything that pierces it threatens outlet

@jayrosen_nyu: The only place we actuallly define journalists is via shield laws and velvet ropes

How PBS and NPR Can Support Local Journalism

Reporting from #sxswlocal panel on future of local w/ @kdando @tgdavidson @janjlab @amyshaw9net Photo: http://yfrog.com/gzfkcksj h/t @JLab

interactivepanel.jpg

Last #pubmedia panel of the day: On what PBS/NPR are doing in the local news space. @janjlab talking about variety in news ecosystem

@janjlab: lots of news innovation happening in silos; not networked in a way that can amplify news/info

Amy Shaw from the Nine Network in St. Louis talking about Homeland project, which we covered here: http://to.pbs.org/9Q6Ja0

Shaw: "I wish there was a more holistic perspective" about how to work in an community news ecosystem

Shaw: people need to "tuck their peacock feathers in at the door" and think about what's good for engaging community

Shaw: people need to be nudged around creating dialogue around stalled, intractable issues

RT @PatNarciso: Nine Network on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/STL9Network

@amyshaw9net: the master narrative about immigration is demonization and polarization of "undocumented"--wanted to deepen issue

@amyshaw9net: they are training people how to use flip cameras: young people get tech but not story; older folks the opposite

@pubmlicmic: Schaffer: Need to end mentality that once funding is over, project is over

@mediaengage: Great wisdom shared by @janjlab @kdando @amyshaw9net & @tgdavidson (and @nicolehollway!) at today's #SXSWlocal #pubmedia session

@JackLerner: "#pubmedia can help local news by being a hub, a partner, or an innovator." - @JLab's @janjlab #SXSWlocal #sxsw

And onwards...

@CJERICSON: Video or audio of #imaconf coming soon. Audio this weekend. Video next week. For all attendees & members.

@g5member: Great to meet so many of public media's creative and dedicated minds at #imaconf. Now, #sxsw time!

Full disclosure: In my role as the director of the Ford Foundation-funded Future of Public Media Project, I am working with the National Black Programing Consortium to incubate their Public Media Corps project via the Center for Social Media, and have also worked with PBS/NPR on the PubCamps and Association of Independents in Radio on a study of their MQ2 project. More details on all of these here: futureofpublicmedia.net.

Jessica Clark directs the Future of Public Media Project at American University's Center for Social Media, and is a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation.

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March 04 2011

17:25

World TV Revamps Site to Entice a Younger Audience

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Business content on MediaShift is sponsored by the weekend MA in Public Communication at American University. Designed for working professionals, the program is suited to career changers and public relations or social marketing professionals seeking career advancement. Learn more here.

How can public media spur multi-platform engagement through a national TV channel? That's the challenge that was posed to the team developing WorldCompass.org, the companion website for the World TV channel, a news and documentary channel now available in parts of 32 states.

The World channel, originally called PBS World, was piloted in 2007 in the northeast U.S., putting PBS programs (mostly documentaries) that were still in rights on a 24-hour channel. The channel went national in 2007. In 2009, WGBH instigated an effort to turn the channel into a multimedia project that invited new voices to public media. (To date, the World channel has not conducted national ratings, although a plan to obtain national numbers is in the works.)

Funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the World channel is the result of a collaborative partnership. The channel is produced and distributed by WGBH Boston, WNET New York and American Public Television in association with PBS and the National Educational Telecommunications Association, which is more commonly known as NETA.

The website has a slightly different makeup of partners. WorldCompass.org is managed by WGBH, with American Public Television overseeing marketing and managing relationships with stations. The site has also pulled together a team of informal advisors from across the system to offer feedback on a multi-platform strategy.

New Media Mission

Part of World's mission is "to create a new model of content creation and delivery for public media 2.0, one that exemplifies diversity, digital media and dialogue." WorldCompass.org builds upon the broadcast offerings by offering its own curated content, blogs, and social media features.

Despite facing many of the common public broadcasting challenges -- most importantly, a small staff and a wanting budget -- WorldCompass.org has made clear strides since the beta launch and the staff is optimistic for the future. A revamped version of the site just launched in response to lessons learned through the initial beta site, which had been in operation since July 1, 2010. Expanded features include more integrated social media tools and organized menu items that help to reinforce the relationship between broadcast and online platforms. The updated site hopes to take advantage of new tools to engage with "hip" 30- to 45-year-olds and capture the elusive 18- to 34-year-old demographic.

"Currently, a majority of our viewers are your usual PBS demo of 50- to 60-year-olds," said Matey Odonkor, WorldCompass.org's manager of online communications. "Not that this is a bad thing."

Still, World TV has a different mission and audience in mind. "We want to offer age-relevant programming to young adults who grew up watching PBS programs with their parents but stopped watching," said Odonokor.

Cross-Platform Integration

Like the World channel, WorldCompass.org aggregates content around monthly themes (The Skin You're In, Diaspora, etc.), including audio documentaries, feature length films, video blogs, television episodes, and other media. The monthly themes highlight connections among a wide range of stories -- both big and small, and objective and subjective.

This month's theme is Land, and content includes a selection of audio (like this State of the Re:Union broadcast on Greenburg, Kansas) and video features (like this American Experience episode featuring the Civilian Conservation Corps), plus a request for users' own stories about their experiences with land. There are currently no responses for this request, although it's still early in the month. However, February's request for users' own childhood stories only garnered one user response during that month.

"The fun part," said managing editor Kavita Pillay, "has been connecting with emerging voices in public media -- people like Glynn Washington, Hari Kondabolu and Zadi Diaz."

Hari Kondabolu is an up-and-coming comic, who recently starred in a "Comedy Central Presents" special. His videoblogging for WorldCompass is more intimate and personal than his stand-up but no less funny. Here's a contribution he made to the Diaspora series:

'Thematic Evolution'

"The hope is to give the user/viewer an 'I never thought of it that way' moment as they go through a theme," Pillay said.

Currently, the topics are chosen by WorldCompass.org's staff and advisors. But, said Pillay, "at some point, we're considering a 'thematic evolution,' meaning that we'll retain the creative approach to themes but maybe present them in a different way or on a different calendar. And we'd love to start taking theme suggestions from users!"

Integration between the website and the channel has increased with the relaunch. Streamlined menu options include TV schedules and "Where to Watch" options. The site also now includes video previews and written summaries for films and programs airing on the World channel. WorldCompass.org producers are looking to increase this type of cross-platform promotion by highlighting broadcast content through more live chats, excerpts, deleted scenes and online exclusives.

On the broadcast side, the World channel runs regular interstitials sending viewers to the website for engagement activities and online extras. And, added Odonkor, "The presence of World's crop of talented and funny videobloggers on TV and the website helps to tie the two platforms together."

Increasing Engagement

WorldCompass.org pairs content pieces with crowdsourcing activities. Such "Call-to-action items" include polls, quizzes, trivia, weekend assignments, and live votes. These often link users to WorldCompass's Facebook page or a partner website. For example, this Faces of America video includes a poll item about Henry Louis Gates' lineage. To find the correct answer, users are directed to an ABC News story.

In addition to its Facebook fan page, which currently has 285 fans, WorldCompass has integrated social media with a Twitter account (96 followers), and a YouTube channel (44 subscribers). While these numbers are small, the staff is experimenting with ways to increase them.

"When we can, we try to be creative with our use of social media -- for example, we organize Facebook live chats [with] viewers and producers," Odonkor said. "For what we do online, curating shorts, it's important we provide extras to engage users and invariably increase time spent on the site or the Facebook page."

WorldCompass.org also employs social media to promote partners' work. For example, the organization teamed up with the National Black Programming Consortium to promote Season 3 of the AfroPop Series that is airing on World TV.

Looking Ahead

So far WorldCompass.org's focus has been on introducing more appealing content -- and engaging users with it -- rather than convening citizens around particular issues or problems. The tone mirrors other productions and channels aimed at this smart, mobile, multi-ethnic demographic, such as Current TV or IFC. It may be too early to tell how well this approach is working, or whether the site has succeeded in attracting viewers who don't already watch the channel. PBS has long been attempting to court a younger, hipper demographic with less than stellar results.

Stay tuned for additional videobloggers joining the team over the next few months. In addition, WorldCompass.org is about to increase its original content in the near future, using a combination of licensing, commissioning, and crowdsourcing.

"The site and the channel are works in progress," said Pillay. "We know that there's a wonderful opportunity for us to find new ways to bring together content from users and emerging producers as well as from established folks."

Katie Donnelly is Associate Research Director at the Center for Social Media at American University where she blogs about the future of public media.

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Business content on MediaShift is sponsored by the weekend MA in Public Communication at American University. Designed for working professionals, the program is suited to career changers and public relations or social marketing professionals seeking career advancement. Learn more here.

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February 23 2011

23:23

Closed Captions Should Be Standard with Online Video, TV

When "The French Chef" appeared on PBS in 1972 with captions, it marked the first TV show ever to be fully accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. For the next decade, people with disabilities enjoyed more and more captioned TV, culminating in a 1990 law that required all TV shows to be captioned.

Fast forward to today. When viewers tune in on their computers -- now the fashionable way to watch TV and web programming -- most of the shows are not captioned. Not even "The Annoying Orange," which is the No. 1 webisode series, garnering more than 50 million monthly views on average -- more traffic than for some cable channels.

Just when the "legacy" TV and cable industry began getting into the captioning groove, accessibility seems to be moving backwards. With the rise of the Internet, video content is now moving online to meet the demands of always-on consumers -- and the captioning technology, standards, and processes must begin anew. New types of programming -- like "The Annoying Orange" webisodes -- are growing in popularity, but making them accessible for people with disabilities has been a low priority.

Big Problem

That's a serious issue for the millions of hearing- or vision-impaired Americans. In the U.S., there are 25 million people with significant vision loss, and 36 million Americans have reported some form of hearing loss -- a number that is expected to double by 2030. There are now 75 million Baby Boomers who will encounter vision, hearing, cognitive and mobility disabilities as they age, and more than 1 million veterans returning home from a decade-long war -- many with physical and mental conditions.

As consumers achieve greater freedom in how and where they watch and listen to movies, dramas, sitcoms and sports, it is increasingly important that Americans with disabilities are able to access and enjoy this programming along with them.

Solution in Sight?

The good news is that President Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act into law on October 8, 2010, marking a tremendous step in the right direction for these groups. This law amends Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policies to require that any program that has been previously aired on TV must be captioned when shown online.

However, the FCC only has the power to regulate broadcast, cable, and satellite TV providers. The lion's share of emerging programming is not covered under the new law and will not be captioned or described for people with hearing and vision disabilities. This includes hundreds of hours of online-only programming like popular webisodes (yes, including "The Annoying Orange"), YouTube videos, podcasts, and movies from Netflix, which now offers streaming TV shows and movies online and through devices like iPhones and PlayStation consoles.

Recently, the Department of Justice has been looking closely at the issue of accessibility, and is considering stepping in where the FCC's jurisdiction ends. The DOJ can amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to require websites to make their content accessible. That would be a heavy-handed move -- and they will not make this decision lightly -- but the DOJ has an obligation to protect the access of the 54 million Americans with disabilities to public goods and services, which includes public websites.

Forward Looking Businesses

Fortunately, some online programmers are voluntarily choosing to make their online content accessible -- notably, Hulu. Netflix has also started to caption its online library (though it had dragged its feet for years.) Others, such as TheWB.com, which is owned by Warner Bros., and Crackle.com, which is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, simply ignore captions altogether. They do this because they can.

Once a cottage industry, emerging online formats now have the potential to lock the disabled population out of a huge marketplace of content unless new regulation or innovation -- or a combination of both -- spurs more businesses to embrace accessibility and its implications for future generation of Americans.

Even if "The Annoying Orange" is a truly annoying show, shouldn't people with disabilities be able to make that choice on their own?

For more information, read my white paper on the issue of online video accessibility.

Suzanne Robitaille is the founder of abledbody & co. and the author of "The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology & Devices." Her company provides marketing and consulting services to organizations seeking to reach the disability community. Suzanne lost her hearing at age 4 and grew up profoundly deaf. In 2002 she received a cochlear implant, which she credits as "the ultimate assistive technology." As a disability writer, Suzanne is a trusted source of disability information for The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, USA Today, HealthDay, Ability Magazine and more.

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February 17 2011

16:45

Blizzard Builds KOMU Community with Mobile Video, Facebook







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

I've always dreamed of a time when my community could come together with the help of our on-air and online collaboration. All it took was a blizzard to make it happen.

Mid-Missouri was hit with a blizzard-like storm that dumped 17.5 inches of snow into Columbia, Mo., and even more south of the city. The entire viewing audience of KOMU-TV was home and stuck inside. An ice storm had threatened to cut power across the region, but that didn't happen. Instead, the community was snowed in with power to their computers and high speed Internet connections. They were contained and ready to be engaged.

The KOMU newsroom was ready. The staff is a mix of professional reporters and journalists who are still students at the Missouri School of Journalism. The managers of the newsroom -- who, like me, are also faculty members -- encouraged the students to step up and help out in the coverage of what was looking to become an epic storm.

About 40 faculty, staff and students essentially lived in the newsroom to make sure all of the newscasts got on the air. I gathered up multiple teams of reporters, who were then placed into different communities. Each team had a really nice camera and at least one person had an iPhone, Android or Blackberry phone that could shoot video and/or Skype. I had the reporters download a set of tools that would help them tell multimedia stories about their locations and how those smaller towns were dealing with the heavy snow.

My recommendations were:

While we didn't use all of them, I wanted to make sure we were ready and able on all kinds of platforms.

Videos on the Scene

The reporters went out to their various locations, found a hotel, and got ready. As the day went on and the snow fell harder, the mobile reporters went out into the storm. They were looking at scenes no one else was willing to travel out to see -- like what a closed interstate highway looked like:

My favorite was taken the morning after the storm when one of our student reporters hopped onto a snow plow to survey the bad road conditions:

While the reporters were out sharing their stories of the snowstorm, our viewers were at home watching every link, video, and live broadcast. When the majority of the storm was over, the KOMU 8 viewers took over by sharing many of their own stories about the storm. Our newsroom has an email address that accepts moderated photos into a Ning network. Hundreds of photos were sent to KOMU -- and that was in addition to the more than 620 photos posted to the KOMU Facebook wall.

The fan page was the centerpiece of our online interaction during the storm. A year ago, KOMU had fewer than 500 "fans" on the page. Before the storm, it was up to 3100. After the storm, it was up to 5500. Our newsroom has yet to use contests to encourage fans to join our page so this jump was huge. Along with the increase in fans, more and more people join in on the conversations and share on the page.

Big Moment for Sharing

This is what I've always craved as a journalist working in a regional market. It's exactly the sort of interaction I've taught my students to foster for years. I have always wanted open the line of communication and sharing with my news audience. This blizzard was the first time I really had that opportunity.

During the storm, I lived on my computer. I commented and reacted to every discussion for at least 36 hours. I slept very little.

My experience was not unique for the staff. My husband, who also works in the newsroom, and stayed there for two days while I worked from home with our children. I had student employees who slept at the station and worked with me throughout the storm.

It was awesome and exhausting. But the relationships formed during that storm seem to be holding. In the two weeks since the storm, KOMU's Facebook page has only had about ten "fans" leave the page.

The downsides? The amount of user-generated content we gathered was overwhelming. I wanted to make sure we had opportunities to share all it. Our anchors did stories about the content viewers had shared, and we featured the images and video by showing off an iPad on the air. I also had my students create collections of the photos our viewers uploaded. Here's our Blizzard Kids collection:

The best moment? I'd say it was when our team found a woman and her son digging out the reporters' car. They were compelled to help by a Skype conversation during our newscast about how the reporters' car had been buried at a local hotel. The mother and son, who were staying there at the time, left their room just to help the reporters get their car out of the hotel parking lot:

What lessons did we learn? That when you have a chance to engage, grab it. We used mobile tools to report and encouraged our viewers to do the same. We shared, we compared, and we were a true community on-air and online. I would suffer through a hundred more blizzards if it meant we could continue to share and collaborate like we did during this one.

Jennifer Reeves worked in television news for the majority of her career. In the last six years, she has moved from traditional journalist to non-traditional thinker about journalism and education. Jen is currently the New Media Director at KOMU-TV and komu.com. At the same time, she is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and was a part of the inaugural class of Reynolds Journalism Institute fellows (2008-09).







Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by the USC Annenberg nine-month M.A. in Specialized Journalism. USC's highly customized degree programs are tailored to the experienced journalist and gifted amateur. Learn more about how USC Annenberg is immersed in tomorrow.

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December 16 2010

18:02

CNN's Joshua Levs Uses Social Media Savvy in Hard, Soft News

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Social Media content on MediaShift is sponsored by the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, a program offering innovative and entrepreneurial journalists the resources of Stanford University and Silicon Valley. Learn more here.

When Joshua Levs left NPR's Atlanta Bureau to become a correspondent for CNN, he found that something was missing. Specifically, it was time. The rapid pace of TV left him with a fraction of the time he once had to present the many layers of a story. In the end, Levs saw that social media could fill the gap and provide an additional avenue for him to share information and connect.

"I like to give more information," Levs said. "Social media is a way for me to tell you more than I can on air." That's one reason he often closes a story by saying that he'll post additional details on his Twitter account or Facebook page.

One of the most social media-savvy journalists in broadcast news, the Murrow-award winner and Yale grad has carved out a niche both in complex international and economic stories, and fun, offbeat features such as his weekly "Viral Video Rewind" segment. (Anchor Kyra Phillips last month called him one of CNN's "premier Facebookers.") But social media isn't just about getting information out there -- it's also about bringing it in.

"He knows how to strike the right balance between using it as a way to get leads for an ongoing story and using it to share his own thoughts with the world at large," says Sree Sreenivasan, the dean of student affairs at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a professor of digital media who teaches social media workshops. "Unlike Josh, too many journalists only use it as a one-way communications tool."

Iran Protests

One of Levs' most recognizable efforts was his coverage of the violent Iran election protests in June 2009.

"The Iran riots showed us that times have changed," Levs said. "A few Tweets can lead you to discover something that an entire country with soldiers doesn't want you to know. It was a huge change. It was a sign that newsgathering now has a new option."

Even though Iran banned journalists from covering protests over the disputed victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, outraged citizens posted videos of the violent repercussions online. A CNN editorial team worked around the clock reviewing them.

"We would talk and look at the videos that came in and say, 'What do we know about it? Can we verify anything here? Do we recognize the location? Is there anyone at all we can reach to help us understand what's in here?' It went through a pretty complex and important -- but also swift -- vetting process," Levs said.

Finally they decided which videos to air, and which ones needed scenes blurred, like the death of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan.

"That one was particularly shocking ... horrifying," he said. "We studied it to try to gather any information we could about the location, confirm the authenticity, etc. We had native speakers listen to the words being shouted. It's a devastating video to see, and being the one to tell the world about Neda was not an easy task. But it was important."

Levs presented the videos with what he describes as a message of total transparency.

"We would say on the air, 'Look, because of these limitations now inside Iran, there's a lot we cannot tell you; here's what we do know about this video,'" he said.

Election Coverage

Today, social media is a critical daily newsgathering tool. For example, Levs covered voting irregularities in the November elections this year, just as he did in 2008. But this year brought a large-scale social media outreach to viewers.

"We said 'Hey, any information you get, any experiences you have, and questions, problems -- get in touch with us,'" he said.

Watch him in action during the election:

Levs said he's seeing more law enforcement and court officials using social media when big stories break. For example, law enforcement officials used Twitter to update the media during September's hostage stand-off at Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Politicians and even federal agencies now use social media.

"There are people out there who don't use Twitter much, or don't know how to use it, and they say, 'You can't report what you see on Twitter,'" he said. "Right -- you can't report what some random person puts on Twitter. But when it's an official agency that's putting information out there, that's what you should be reporting. You make sure that you're dealing with official sourcing and then you grab it and you say, 'They just put this information out there.' That's our new reality. It used to be fast. Now it really is instantaneous."

Just as using social media for newsgathering requires caution, communicating with viewers takes care as well, according to Levs.

He said reporters should be sure they only post items of value that are appropriate and worthy of being in print or on the air.

"It's easy to get lost in the maze on Twitter and on Facebook, so you want to be sure that you keep in mind what your role is -- that's what you're focusing on all the time," he said.

Levs on the Lookout

His job also has a lighter side. Every weekend his "Levs on the Lookout" segment highlights the week's most unique stories. It opens with animation that one of his producers says highlights his "animated personality."

He also features some of the week's most interesting and often funniest viral videos.

"For me, Viral Video Rewind is a weekly dessert," Levs said. "I cover so many hard news stories all week -- sometimes three or four different topics in a single day. But these videos also say a lot about us and our society at this time. They're reflections of what excite and fascinate people. Plus, when you look back at previous generations, you don't just look at the news stories that were above the fold on newspapers. You also look at what movies and shows they were excited about. That's what viral videos are in this era."

Terri Thornton, a former investigative reporter and TV news producer, owns Thornton Communications, an award-winning PR and social media firm. She is also a freelance editor for Strategic Finance and Management Accounting Quarterly.

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Social Media content on MediaShift is sponsored by the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, a program offering innovative and entrepreneurial journalists the resources of Stanford University and Silicon Valley. Learn more here.

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December 13 2010

17:40

Why I Want a Hulu for Sports (And Why It Won't Happen Soon)

When it comes to television shows and events, we the people have been taking more and more control of what we see and on what medium. The rise of everything from DVRs to streaming Netflix to mobile TV means that we get to decide when we want to watch our favorite shows. More people have taken the plunge and cut the cord to expensive cable and satellite TV services in order to watch shows exclusively online or on services such as Roku, Boxee or Google TV.

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But one of the big hurdles to getting people to cut the cord is sports. While you can watch many local sports teams play by accessing free digital broadcast signals (which includes the major broadcast networks), there's very limited selection online when it comes to watching major sports teams play. (Note: There are a variety of overseas gray market sites that offer streams of big games for a price, but their legality is muddy, at best.)

What sports fans need to cut the cord is a potential new service that I call "Hulu for Sports," a way for us to watch the games we want online or streamed to our TV. Hulu currently offers TV shows, movies and some sports highlight shows, with some provided advertising-supported and free, and others coming in a premium offering called Hulu Plus. Why not add in live sporting events, with the less prominent games at the free level (e.g. the Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Milwaukee Bucks) and higher interest games at the premium level (e.g. the Miami Heat vs. the Los Angeles Lakers)?

Below is a breakdown of what I'd like to have in a Hulu for Sports, and below that is the inevitable reality check from new media strategist Seth Shapiro, who explains in gory detail why my fantasy will not be realized anytime soon.

What I Want

All Sports, All the Time
I want to have access online to all the major sports from around the world, from real football (a.k.a. soccer) to cricket to basketball to extreme sports. Maybe some of the major leagues could create a joint venture, similar to Hulu, where they each would get a cut of the revenues generated. They would make sure in all future TV contracts to allow this new site to stream sporting events as well.

Freemium Model
So how would this site make money? It would use all the current online video ad formats, from overlays to pre-roll ads to surround-ads that go around the video player. The vast majority of sporting events would be shown for free. A minority of sporting events would be available in a premium offering where you pay a monthly fee. And an even smaller minority of events would be available as pay-per-view streams. So these events might be broken down like so:

> College women's volleyball game: free
> Major league baseball game in May: free

> Regular season NBA game between top teams: premium

> Super Bowl: pay-per-view

Interactive Experience
If I'm going to watch most of my sports online or on my TV through streaming, I want to have more interactive features. I want to chat with others online during the game, share feeds with friends through social media, forward along highlight clips, pick camera angles, and more. Once sporting events are shifted online, the possibilities are endless for features like instant polls, live chats with experts, and a stream of star athletes' tweets (before or after games when allowed).

Play on Demand on All Platforms
Now that I'm used to having a DVR, I want to be able to watch sporting events on my own time, fast-forward through slow parts, replay the best parts and generally decide when to watch what. That means giving me replay controls similar to TV but online. And not only do I want to be able to watch the games on the web in my browser -- I want to see them on all my devices, including smartphone, iPad or Internet-enabled TV. Hulu for Sports needs to be multi-platform and on demand.

Great Archives
Gosh, I'd really like to see a replay of the Giants/Rangers World Series. Or maybe a college football game I missed earlier this year, such as when the Missouri Tigers beat the Oklahoma Sooners? Or maybe a string of old boxing matches when Mike Tyson knocked out various opponents in the first round? The Hulu for Sports service would need to have a robust series of archives available, supported by ads or pay-per-view depending on the popularity of the event.

Why It Won't Happen

Now that I've envisioned the perfect sports-on-demand online service, I'll pull my head out of the clouds for a reality check. Not surprisingly, my bubble is easily burst in a world where massive TV sports contracts restrict leagues from offering up all these games online. In a few cases, such as CBS March Madness on Demand during the NCAA basketball tournament, the networks are able to show full games online supported by ads. But with TV contracts in leagues like the National Football League, the chance for watching games online is severely limited.

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With the NFL's online offerings, you can watch NFL games in HD online with full DVR functionality, but you have to live outside the U.S. If you want to watch games inside the U.S., you can do so after the game is long over. Watching live games online isn't possible, even for a price.

Seth Shapiro, the digital media strategist at New Amsterdam Media, has worked with Comcast, DirecTV, Universal, Showtime and Disney in the past. He explained why a Hulu for Sports is highly unlikely at this time.

"The sports leagues have been the biggest defenders and exploiters of rights, period," Shapiro told me. "When looking at sports licensing fees [paid by cable providers], they really explode. Sports is really expensive to the consumer and the distributor ... And they have a pretty good deal as it is. In the case of Apple doing a [possible] subscriber service for Apple TV at a $30 price point, once you factor into account that ESPN is $4 per month per subscriber, that's a lot of money. It's hard to picture a situation where the premier stuff -- NFL, NBA and MLB -- giving their games away for free. Even as a loss-leader to build a new service."

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Shapiro explains that the pricey TV contracts with leagues put them under pressure to restrict what they can offer online. Any move to cable-cutting by sports enthusiasts would hurt TV viewership and by extension those multi-billion-dollar contracts with the leagues.

"The place it comes to roost is the master affiliation deals between league and distributor," Shapiro said. "The rights over who can put things online become very contentious. The distributor can say they don't like the idea of a league offering the same content elsewhere, undercutting their exclusivity. The home games are available in market. But out-of-market rights, the argument is, 'Look we're paying you a lot for these games, so you can't sell it to anyone else.' That's where Hulu finds itself. You can put some things there, but not sports, which is the most expensive stuff and the least likely to be offered there. If there's a game on Monday Night Football, ESPN would say, 'that's our game! You're not going to give that away!'"

Fair enough. But what if the leagues got together to form a joint venture, the same way that TV networks got together to form Hulu? Couldn't their combined power force the networks to let them put games online too? Shapiro is doubtful.

"If you've got a Comcast with 26 million households or a DirecTV with 20 million households, that's direct revenue to whoever owns those rights," Shapiro said. "If you're a league it's very hard to figure out how you're going to come up with that kind of money by going direct to the consumer. If the ad market were really strong, then maybe you could do it ... You're forgoing a real and predictable revenue stream for something that might be a lot bigger but no one has really cracked yet."

And yet, I still hold out hope for my vision of Hulu for Sports. Perhaps when a big TV contract is up next time a league will consider holding some rights for online distribution and new models. And perhaps, just perhaps, the cord-cutters will have an option to watch the sports they want on their own time on the platforms they enjoy most.

*****

What do you think? Would you cut the cable TV cord if you could watch sporting events live online? How would your own Hulu for Sports work? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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December 07 2010

20:20

How NewsHour Used Crowdsourcing to Refute TSA Meltdown

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Social Media content on MediaShift is sponsored by the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, a program offering innovative and entrepreneurial journalists the resources of Stanford University and Silicon Valley. Learn more here.

During Thanksgiving week, the debate over stricter TSA security measures was turning into the big story. A handful of airport security anecdotes were making the rounds via news organizations and social media, but no one knew before the biggest travel day, the Wednesday before Thansgiving, whether National Opt Out Day protests would create air travel gridlock.

Not knowing how the story would play out, the PBS NewsHour team decided to craft a way for the public to help report the facts of their airport security experience so we could better report the story. Thus, the #TSATime hashtag was born on Twitter.

Here's how we pulled off the project, and why collaboration and planning were key.

Planning and Testing

At a weekly planning meeting, we decided crowdsourcing was the best way to get a handle on the airline security story. We knew many travelers were going to be talking about their security experience on Twitter. We figured we could find a way to aggregate those reports into something useful.

Unlike other Twitter hashtag trends that crop up organically, we knew it could be tough to create one from the ground up. We settled on asking travelers to use the #TSATime hashtag and tell us the three-letter airport code where their travel began. Here's a sample of how we asked:

How long did it take you to get through security? Tweet w/ #TSATime and 3 letter airport code http://to.pbs.org/TSATime

It was a straightforward question that would create data that we could easily track without getting overwhelmed. Knowing that this issue had created passionate debate, we took pains to keep all of our language neutral. We asked people to report facts and observations, not what they thought about the new security measures.

Screen shot 2010-12-06 at 9.28.17 PM.pngAfter the idea was cemented, our wonderful graphics and design team built an embeddable widget in less than 36 hours that could also be viewed on smartphones. (Interactives editor Chris Amico summed up that process in his own blog post.)

To keep the project manageable, we decided to focus on the 52 busiest U.S. airports, because security lines might be a bigger issue there. But we also included the option to see all #TSATime tweets in real-time to get a glimpse of how the story was playing out across the country.

Promotion

Of course, this project wouldn't work unless people actually used it. We used several mediums to promote the trend. Luckily at NewsHour we can use social media, our website and our broadcast. The key was using them all effectively to help it catch on.

On Monday night of the busy travel week we published the first blog post announcing what we were doing and how to participate.

On Tuesday, we added a promo video, complete with Hari Sreenivasan's luggage, that also aired that night on the NewsHour:

Using the NewsHour's Social Media Google Group email blast, we reached out to other public media stations with this information and provided pre-written tweets, Facebook posting language, five easy ways to use #TSATime and the widget.

Of course, we also reached out on social media. We knew it was a useful and timely idea that would easily spread once people caught on. I couldn't find any organization that had a similar project or hashtag, so we happily offered it to anyone and everyone.

Collaboration

wapotweet_goodtravel.jpg#TSATime really took off when other news organizations began to pick it up and tweeters began to help spread the word. I received a call from the Washington Post's Melissa Bell, who runs their BlogPost blog. She asked if they could share the hashtag, and we jumped at the offer, CC'ing @WashingtonPost in some promotional tweets as the long weekend approached.

Bell said in an email that she thought partnering up was key for this particular trend since we were asking for a little more than a straight answer from followers.

"That was the key thing: it was kind of a tough trend to get a lot of responses to, but since we partnered up, we were able to both push it," she said.

Others news organizations adopted the project as well, including the Houston Chronicle,
the Miami Herald and Fox News

I encouraged public media stations to promote the project using their local airport codes and ask for particular things they wanted to know. For example, KQED asked Bay Area travelers to include #KQED in their tweets.

The Payoff

Dave Gustafson, NewsHour's online news and planning editor, put it well when he said "we helped the public participate in public broadcasting."

By Tuesday evening, a few travelers were starting to use #TSATime and more people were pledging on Twitter to use the hashtag for their travel later in the week.

By late Wednesday morning, it became obvious that travel was going smoothly for most fliers across the country. #TSATime provided a way for the public to share that news directly, and allowed us to get a handle on the story more quickly than we would have been able to without crowdsourcing.

We curated tweets using Storify, and used our @NewsHourLIVE Twitter account to retweet a large number of responses.

Not forgetting our broadcast, a few tweets were included in a Wednesday night travel segment:

There were detractors of airport security coverage in general. David Carr of the New York Times mentioned the NewsHour's widget in a piece decrying the massive coverage. However, the Post's Melissa Bell shared this with me about the project.

"Our readers gave us the knowledge early on that we should not flog the story," she said. "Rather than it being a symptom of an overreacting media, it was a cure that quickly sussed out the truth."

I couldn't agree more.

What We Learned

We came away with two key lessons:

Cement Your Idea Early
The success of #TSATime hinged on it being a useful idea that could easily be conveyed to travelers and other news organizations. We decided early on to keep things simple, especially because we had just a few days from idea to implementation. Luckily, the design team was able to shift priorities to jump on this project, but we may not be so lucky next time.

Collaboration is Key
We knew from the outset that we'd have to "let go" of some aspects of #TSATime, as other tweeters and news organizations adopted it. We wanted lots of people to use it, but that meant the risk of profanity and abuse. Thankfully, people responded with enthusiasm for the project and plenty of useful responses.

Using this project as an example, I think we made a strong case for creating shared Twitter hashtags. This especially applies to public media, where the question of how to better collaborate across station boundaries always comes up. The key is to make sure that you make it as easy as possible for other public media to participate, and tell them why it helps them. I wrote tweets, suggested changes that could be made for individual communities and copied embed codes into emails to save everyone a step.

The #TSATime widget is still live, and a few tweets show up here and there. We'll continue to use it and promote it as a resource, especially as holiday travel ramps back up again. We know that the framework we built could be used for other crowdsourcing projects, too.

*****

What did you think of the #TSATime social media experiment? What could we have done better? I'd love to hear what else we can do with it, and other ways public media could use it to their advantage.

Teresa Gorman is the social media and online engagement desk assistant at "PBS NewsHour." A Boston University graduate, Teresa spent time as a community journalist in upstate New York before reaching NewsHour. She first caught the public media bug as an intern at NPR as the executive producer of their Spring 2010 Intern Edition. You can find her on Twitter @gteresa.

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Social Media content on MediaShift is sponsored by the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, a program offering innovative and entrepreneurial journalists the resources of Stanford University and Silicon Valley. Learn more here.

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November 20 2010

17:36

How Public Access TV Evolved into Community Media Centers

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The Public Media 2.0 series on MediaShift is sponsored by American University's Center for Social Media (CSM) through a grant from the Ford Foundation. Learn more about CSM's research on emerging public media trends and standards at futureofpublicmedia.net.

Around the country, community media centers are launching exciting new collaborations with local organizations, neighborhood activists, schools, and media outlets to create online, hyperlocal citizen journalism sites. These projects are re-imagining how Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) access TV stations -- which are funded through regional negotiations with companies like Comcast -- can serve their communities' information needs in the digital age.



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These innovators are using digital and cable access technology to generate civic awareness and create diverse local media -- a function that's increasingly crucial as traditional journalism institutions face their greatest challenges to sustainability.

These centers provide much more than public access to cable television, having fully embraced computer-based production and broadband technology to augment their media training programs. As a result, innovative experiments in community news production are replacing the tired old "Wayne's World" stereotype of public access. This article spotlights five examples of how PEG access organizations are using funds tied to cable television as the bearing wall to support experiments in inclusive community news production.

Deepening Citizen Reporting

The Grand Rapids Community Media Center (GRCMC) launched the Rapidian in 2009 in partnership with the Knight Foundation and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. At this year's Alliance for Community Media Conference, Laurie Cirivello, executive director of GRCMC, explained how her access center spent nine months generating community interest and support before launching the community news project:

This project is greatly a result of social media and community coming together. We consider ourselves a host of the Rapidian and a welcomer. We created the platform in response to what people were asking for and looking for. We held a series of town hall meetings. We had meetings where we invited our commercial media folks to discuss how this could help with what they're doing.

Out of these meetings, GRCMC staff decided to develop four neighborhood news bureaus, but they realized that they needed to connect with the community physically before the neighborhood would buy into the community news platform online.

The Rapidian and NeighborMedia at Cambridge Community Television (where I used to work) are two examples of citizen journalism projects that are leading the way in community news innovation. The good news is now other PEG access TV organizations in Philadelphia, Sacramento, and Reading and elsewhere, are launching their own neighborhood news initiatives.

Opening up Election Coverage

PEG access is often the best place on TV for residents to access local election coverage. Take the Center for Media and Democracy in Burlington, VT, which operates the city's government access TV channel. The station has been at the forefront of innovative uses of cable access TV and the web. For example, earlier this year I wrote about how viewers can access on-demand "clickable meeting agendas" via the Center's website.

During this past election, Channel 17 created Live Vermont Election Coverage, a website where residents could livestream the results and interact via CoveritLive. The Center also posted videos featuring local voices from exit polls produced by community members. When combined with new online tools, community media centers can use their TV channels to make local content more accessible and more relevant to people's everyday lives.

Hosting a Media Commons

The Bay Area Video Coalition(BAVC) operates San Francisco's Public Access TV station. Along with offering media production classes and youth media programs to Bay Area residents, BAVC has found new ways to bring cable access into the digital age.

BAVC.gifBAVC's public access website at SF.commons.tv is powered by MIRO Community, a project of the Participatory Culture Foundation. This interactive video platform gives BAVC producers the ability to share their local media alongside any other video available online using embeddable RSS feeds. For example, SF.commons.tv has a San Francisco Bay Area channel featuring local news from KQED, a public media organization in Northern California.

Creating a Civic Media Memory Bank

Access Humboldt in Eureka, California believes that broadband is the future of community media. They have established partnerships with other community organizations to develop a broadband network for the rural community they serve. Their "Digital Redwoods" project is working to cultivate a "sustainable media ecosystem." As they explain:

Local PEG Network assets are deployed and interconnected with wireless transmission networks that reach remote locations for broadcast radio, TV and Internet, and for mobile users' broadband needs. This 'digital ecology' approach takes a long term view for the growth of communication networks both on the ground and overhead, engaging local resources with any media necessary to help meet comprehensive community needs and interests for public health and safety, for lifelong learning and for civic engagement.

Access Humboldt is building on their broadband infrastructure through a partnership with the Internet Archive. The two organizations created the Community Media Collection to encourage public access centers to upload their community-produced content. Thousands of hours of local cable access programming from across the country can be viewed at archive.org.

Amplifying Minority Perspectives

After 27 years of trying to launch a Public Access TV station in Philadelphia, PhillyCam began cablecasting on October 23, 2009. A year later, it received an award from J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism to launch Drop Zone, a
"youth-led investigation into why young men of color leave school," in partnership with the Voice of Philadelphia website and YESPhilly youth training organization."

In an announcement about the project, PhillyCam partner Voice of Philadelphia said: "The effort, which will involve local youth affiliated with YESPhilly, will investigate why young men of color leave school. Aside from reporting, the project will allow VoP to engage in one of its other long-term goals - the training of citizen journalists." Drop Zone builds on PEG access TV's long-standing mission to ensure access to diverse voices in local communities.

Community Media's New Context

These innovative community news projects show the potential of PEG access TV stations to re-imagine themselves as community media centers in the digital age. However, all is not rosy for public access TV. TechFlash recently reported that SCAN TV in Seattle will shut its doors to the public at the end of the year. In the process, SCAN TV joins a long list of community media centers that have been negatively affected by an economy in crisis and by legislation that has shifted local control of media to the state over the past five years.

These cutbacks are happening at a moment when community media centers are serving vital local needs. After all, it has been proven that many support what a recent report by Blair Levin calls "a sensible approach to broadband adoption" by providing the public with media and digital literacy training.

Free Press and other public interest media organizations have called for an expanded public media system to provide funding and support for community news projects, which model an open and democratic form of Public Media 2.0. PubCamps across the country -- such as the one this weekend -- are beginning to set the stage for collaboration between public and community media. To thrive, the PEG access community desperately needs a broadband policy framework that supports such pioneering local media initiatives.

Colin Rhinesmith is a doctoral student and Information in Society Fellow at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an Affiliate with the New America Foundation's Media Policy Initiative.

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The Public Media 2.0 series on MediaShift is sponsored by American University's Center for Social Media (CSM) through a grant from the Ford Foundation. Learn more about CSM's research on emerging public media trends and standards at futureofpublicmedia.net.

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November 09 2010

22:02

Inside the NewsHour's Multi-Platform Election Night Bedlam

Elections test how much information a news organization can process and then quickly and accurately share it with an audience. They're also a good time for news organizations to take stock of how far they've come since the last one, and to try the latest journalistic tools (or gimmicks).

Four years ago, YouTube was nascent and Facebook had finally opened up to everyone. By 2008, Twitter was taking off and web video was becoming more commonplace. This year, as Poynter noted, the iPad and live-streaming proved to be the 2010 election's focal points for journalism innovation, but the technology and implementation obviously have a ways to go.

At the PBS NewsHour, we'd already had plenty of time to experiment with the tools we implemented this Election Day, and things went rather well as a result. Below is a look at the different strategies and technologies we used in our election coverage last week, along with some observations about what did and didn't work.

Live-Stream at Center of Vote 2010 Plans

As was the case two years ago when the NewsHour's web and broadcast staffs were mostly separate operations, planning for 2010 Election Day coverage began months ago at the unified and rebranded PBS NewsHour.

Over the past year, the Haitian earthquake, the Foot Hood massacre and the Gulf oil spill taught staffers to operate in a more platform-neutral manner: Information is gathered and triaged to see what works best for web and broadcast audiences, and sometimes both. Vote 2010, however, was the first planned news event to truly test how our staff could concurrently serve our audiences on TV, mobile devices and on the web, as this video outlined:

We had a monumental TV task ahead this year because we were taping broadcasts at our regular time (6 p.m. ET) and adding 7 and 9 p.m. "turnarounds" for other time zones. As in past years, we opted to host a late-night election special to be fed to PBS stations. This year, the NewsHour started taping at 10 p.m., feeding the first hour exclusively to a livestream, then continuing at 11 p.m. both as a livestream and feed to stations.

We also put more effort than ever before into spreading the word about our free live-stream. As part of pre-election social media and PR outreach, we spent a few hundred bucks to sponsor an ONA DC Meetup to kick off the sold-out Online News Assocation conference. We publicized there and to our PBS colleagues that we were giving away our high-quality election night livestream.

Thanks to a combination of outreach to established partners and cold-calling other media and bloggers that might want an election video presence, we increased the reach of the NewsHour's live-stream by having it hosted elsewhere including local PBS stations, the Sunlight Foundation, AARP, Breitbart and Huffington Post.

We also hosted a map with live AP election data on our site and combined it with our map-centric Patchwork Nation collaboration. We used CoveritLive to power a live-blog of results, analysis and reports from the field. Extra, the NewsHour's site for students and teachers, solicited opinion pieces from students in Colorado, Wisconsin and Florida on topics ranging from why they back specific candidates, why young people should care about voting and whether young voters are informed enough to cast a ballot.

Collaboration via Google Docs

Thankfully, many of the tools we experimented with to cover the 2008 election -- Google Docs, Twitter, Facebook -- have since matured as newsroom resources. Except for a few momentary hiccups, Twitter was as stable as we could have hoped on Election Day.

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Two years ago, Google Docs had a clunkier feel. If two people were in the same document, both would have to click save repeatedly to quickly see updates added by the other. But upgrades have since fulfilled some of the instantaneous collaborative promise (and hype) of the now-crested Google Wave.

On election night, more than a dozen NewsHour staffers worked in the same text document in real-time -- filing reports from the field and transcribing quotes from NewsHour analysts and notable guests on other networks. In a different spreadsheet, staff kept track of which races were called by other news organizations and when. We also used the embedded chat feature in Google Docs to communicate while editing and adding information.

Unlike two years ago, I could copyedit a report still being typed by my colleague, Mike Melia, several miles away at the Democrats' election HQ in Washington. We worked out ways of communicating within the document in order to speed up the process. For example, when he typed a pound sign (#), that signaled the paragraph was ready and I immediately pasted it into CoveritLive.

The instant that major races were called by one of our senior producers, reporter-producer Terence Burlij alerted our control room via headset then added a Congressional balance of power update to our liveblog.

In-House Innovations

Our graphics department and development team cranked out numerous innovations to serve the election demands of the website and and our five hours of breaking news broadcasts. As Creative Director Travis Daub put it:

Katie Kleinman and Vanessa Dennis crunched the AP data and built a truly innovative system that dynamically generates a graphic for every race on the ticket. Thanks to their efforts, we were able to call up any race with accurate data in a matter of seconds. I venture to bet that we were the only network last night with an election graphics system running in Google Chrome.

Those same graphics of more than 450 candidates and races were available in a matter of seconds for use on the web, but we opted not to use them since the vote tallies changed so quickly.

Traffic Numbers

Creating a valuable-yet-free live-stream and quickly posting concession and victory speeches onto our YouTube channel, live-blog and Facebook appears to have paid off in terms of traffic.

newshour facebook.jpg

Thanks to our partners at Ustream, who helped us stream 516 years' worth of oil spill footage earlier this year, we were able to attract a sizable audience for our special election live-stream, in large part due to them posting a giant promotion on their home page for a full day. Our election live-stream garnered more than 250,000 views, more than 141,000 of which were unique.

We also notified our 73,000 iPhone app users of our special coverage plans, and more than 8,300 used the app to view our election coverage and/or live-stream. Our app download traffic tripled on Election Day, and pushed us to the brink of 100,000 app users.

As for Facebook, we were blown away by the breaking news engagement we got. It has us reconsidering that strategy to post more breaking news content for our Facebook audience. A separate two-day effort targeting NewsHour ads on Facebook pages of specific political campaigns grew our fans about 7.3 percent in that short period.

What We Learned

So what were the major takeaways from this latest election season?

  • Earlier, Wider Promotions -- Our social media and promotions teams landed our elections coverage some great placements and media mentions this year. In 2012, we'll start our outreach to potential partners and local stations even earlier, and do more promotion on-air, online and on mobile devices and with whatever new tools or services crop up between now and then.
  • Be All Things to All Visitors -- Every person who visits our site seeks a different mixture of information. Some want the latest election returns, some want smart analysis of what's transpiring and some want to watch the NewsHour broadcast or victory and concession speeches. We'll continue to feature all of that, but we'll improve how quickly they can find the specific information they want.
  • Practice Makes Perfect -- Just when you think the staff's last pre-election live-blog rehearsal has perfected your workflow, one tiny detail proves you ever-so-wrong on the big night. The last two things I did on election night before heading home was click "end event" on CoveritLive then check the home page. Turns out, by ending the event -- instead of leaving it on hiatus as we'd done in practice runs -- transformed what had been a reverse-chronological live-blog into a chronological one. At 3 a.m., we suddenly had news from 5:45 p.m. at the top of our homepage. I got Art Director Vanessa Dennis out of bed, but neither of us could find a quick-fix solution. We disabled the live-blog home page feed and I reworked some live-blog content into a short blog post summing up the night's biggest developments that could hold until our politics team posted the Morning Line dispatch a few hour later. Lesson learned.

The tone was mostly upbeat at our election coverage post-mortem meeting. We then realized the Iowa caucuses are just 14 months away -- so election planning will be front and center once again very soon.

Dave Gustafson is the PBS NewsHour's online news and planning editor. He mostly edits copy and multimedia content for The Rundown news blog and homepage, but his jack-of-all-trades duties also involve partnerships, SEO, social media, widgets, livestreaming, freebies and event planning.

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November 03 2010

21:28

Canadian Murder Trial a Crucible for Real-Time Coverage

Late last month in a Canadian courtroom, Russell Williams, a former high-ranking colonel in the Canadian military, pleaded guilty to the murders of two young women as well as 86 counts of break and enter, sexual assault and other crimes. His sentencing hearing was widely covered by major Canadian media. Here, Canadian online journalism professor Robert Washburn explains how journalists tackled the story, in real-time.

Using social media in journalism is like watching lightning. It can be explained as a physical phenomenon using the laws of physics. Scientists study it and forecast when it will happen. But nobody can predict where it will hit. Nobody can predict the results. More than anything else, nobody can make it hit the same spot twice.

Social media played a significant role during the Russell Williams hearing, as it became a news ticker from inside the courtroom, sharing vivid, often disturbing details of his crimes.

More and more, newsrooms are recognizing the importance of the use of social media like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and so forth. The American Journalism Review in March reported the influx of social media editors working with citizen journalists, engaging audiences. NYTimes.com and CNN.com, for example, experienced a 300 percent increase in unique visitors via these media.

Yet, social media continues to confound those who want to see reproducible results. Social media is viral and uncontrolled; messages get reworked, reshaped and retweeted, as Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias pointed out in her post-G20 analysis of the use of Twitter during the protests in Toronto in June.

Robert Picard, a fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, said it best in a recent article in Nieman Reports.

"So this may not be the ideal time to suggest that the social media landscape is continuing to be transformed in ways that journalists and news organizations will find confounding," he wrote.

Already there are analyses starting, looking into the ethical dimensions of the use of Twitter during the Williams hearing. It will be up to the media ethicists and other scholars to dissect the content and provide analysis. This article is meant to be an early examination of the role of social media technology and the lessons learned for future applications in journalism.

BlackBerry Ban Lifted

Immediately, it is important to understand the unique context of the Williams hearing. First, a judge lifted a BlackBerry ban and allowed reporters to bring laptop computers and smartphones into the courtroom. This is not always the case in Canada, and is determined by each judge for each case. Hence, this was unusual.

These tools allowed instant communication with the newsroom. It also gave reporters the ability to instantly publish what was going on. Twitter was a popular tool, as some organizations allowed reporters to post to individual accounts or to use aggregator technology like CoveritLive, where a number of reporters, commentators and editors were presenting a stream of information via text and images.

The content was very raw in some instances, as reporters became stenographers, passing along details with little -- if any -- context or forethought. Twitter technology constrains journalists in this manner, according to Mark Walker, business team leader at Toronto-based real-time content management system ScribbleLive. For one thing, he said in an email to me, messages are limited to 140 characters. It's also push technology, meaning the audience subscribes and then automatically receives information. It is unedited, unauthenticated and unverified, he argued, breaking three of the major protocols of good journalism.

Sure, the contents of the hearing were compelling. Certainly, there were members of the audience and journalists who found the content repulsive. Still, the way crown attorney (prosecutor) Lee Burgess walked the judge through the evidence, building layer upon layer of detailed evidence, made a word-for-word reporting pretty enticing. This, in turn, became more shocking as it unfolded. It was a challenge for journalists to stop and use news judgment due to the momentum created by this legal strategy. The evidence was presented in such a way as to create a very dramatic narrative as the nature of the crimes and violence escalated. While the technology made it easy to publish, the content smoothed the process as well. Neither the technology nor the news media needed to add anything to make this case sensational. It was inherently sensational.

Beyond Social Media

The high news value of the Williams hearing meant additional resources were given to the coverage. And the technology went beyond social media. While some reporters were alone in the courtroom, platforms like CoveritLive allowed editors and other journalists to contribute to the information stream. Reporters back in the newsroom included contextual background, uploaded photo galleries and provided filler when the streams were slow. In the courtroom, illustrators uploaded their drawings directly to the newsroom's live feed. CoveritLive also enabled news organizations to incorporate what readers and other Twitter and social media users were saying.

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In other cases, CoveritLive was used to hold live, interactive chats with audiences to discuss aspects of the trial. For example, the CBC invited trauma specialists and psychotherapists to discuss the impact of the trial.

Another factor was the high public interest in the case. The coverage of the murders, the investigation, the arrest and the pre-hearing reporting laid the foundation for a large audience seeking more information. Social media was a good channel for audiences because it allowed them to follow details instantly and from anywhere.

Expect To Be Confounded

Twitter is useful to journalists as a form of news ticker, a steady stream of information for audiences. It is good at letting people know up-to-the-minute what is going on in the format of short snippets. But the use of CoveritLive by the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and CBC (and ScribbleLive by the National Post), among others, mitigated some of the issues raised by using Twitter alone.

In these cases several techniques were used. For example the blending of several Twitter feeds provided varied points of view. In other cases, Twitter messages were combined with other journalists and experts outside the courtroom and in the newsroom, who were able to provide context, images and other information. This added context in some cases and other perspectives, as well. It also made for a single delivery platform for audiences, giving them one channel to receive a wide range of information.

Toronto Star reporter Joanna Smith, who distinguished herself as one of the better Twittering reporters in the country when she used the platform to report from Haiti, was quoted by her own paper in a story about using Twitter to cover the hearing.

Screen shot 2010-11-03 at 1.26.24 PM.png

"The immediacy of Twitter has a power that both news consumers and journalists are still getting used to harnessing,'' she said. "I think of my tweets from Haiti and how crafting a single 140-character tweet that worked as a complete narrative had a power that gave me chills, sometimes, in a way that the same amount of text in a newspaper story would not. I think many of my followers felt the same way about it. I think the same dynamics are at play here, but the content is so graphic that almost any tweet can blow someone away. We have to respect that, and work hard to check and balance ourselves accordingly."

Is Twitter a useful tool for journalists? No doubt. And, should journalists continue to use social media? Of course. But, as Picard rightly said, we must expect to be confounded. What is most important is journalists should be free to experiment with these new technologies. The Williams hearing was an important crucible to test the use of social media in news coverage in Canada.

We are in a period where innovation can happen spontaneously. New standards are yet to be formed. Journalists must remain open to the possibilities. Still, it should never be viewed as predictable or controllable. Like lightning, journalists will need to understand it, but also stand back and watch.

Prof. Robert Washburn instructs in the new Journalism: Online, Print and Broadcast program at Loyalist College in Ontario, Canada, where he teaches the uses of new technologies in journalism. He is the innovation editor for J-Source.ca, where he launched the Canadian Hyperlocal Journalism Project aimed at building resources to assist those interested in this emerging area. He has worked for more than 25 years as a journalist in newspapers, magazines and radio, and was the first post-secondary educator in Canada to teach in Second Life.

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