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July 17 2011


June 30 2011


With News Challenge funding, The Tiziano Project will expand training and tools for community journalism

We’ve reached a point where debates over citizen journalism have been washed over by a torrent of online video, blogs, and other media created by people who, while they may not identify themselves as journalists, are nevertheless documenting what’s happening in their communities. Sometimes that’s a political uprising, other times it’s a devastating tornado. Often, the documentations get picked up by mainstream sources — or, based on the power of the stories they tell, go viral all on their own.

What that’s done is give equal weight to the impact of video and multimedia produced by individuals to that of the content created by professional journalists. The key difference now is quality, not in the sense of refined storytelling, but in the sense of the equipment and tools used to produce multimedia narratives.

In its pilot effort documenting the lives of residents in Kurdistan, The Tiziano Project — named for an Italian journalist “who liked to go where he shouldn’t” — attempted to close that gap through offering better tools and training to regular folks. Now, with the help of a $200,000 Knight News Challenge grant, the project will try to refine its technology and expand its scope.

Jon Vidar, executive director of The Tiziano Project, said the project will develop a suite of tools that will help community journalists produce and showcase their work — effectively a content management system designed specifically for multimedia storytelling. Vidar and his team will be building that system off the template of their 360 Kurdistan project, which featured personal accounts of Iraqis coupled with work from professional photojournalists. Vidar expects they’ll move quickly, using the one-year grant to build a beta in 6 months, then test and tweak the project for the rest of the year.

“The grant itself is a technology-only development grant for us to take the 360 platform we built in Iraq and use the funding to make it scalable and usable by other organizations,” Vidar told me. Part of that also includes designing a new interface that will include an interactive map to display an array of 360 projects from various communities. (To get an idea of what those projects look like, check out the interface The Tiziano Project created for the Kurdistan project, which combines still photography with audio as well as video segments.)

In many ways, Vidar said, the original 360 project was a proof-of-concept, showing that with sufficient tools and support, people can tell compelling, visually arresting stories about their community, the kind that may otherwise go unnoticed. Taken together, those stories have a great impact and can change perceptions about a group of people and where they live, Vidar said.

But those stories don’t happen automatically. “Back in 2006, 2007, when we were starting up, “community journalism” was a buzzword, like hyperlocal is today,” Vidar said. “A lot of those programs failed. They went into communities and handed out Flip video cameras and thought they were going to get amazing, high-quality video content.”

One of the big hurdles in the Kurdistan project was funding, which was provided through a $25,000 grant from the JP Morgan Chase Community Giving program. That helped to provide the basics, Vidar said: a team of photographers to offer guidance and a Flash developer to build out the site.

Part of their focus now will be developing a front end for the project, something that works across multiple platforms, from desktop to mobile and tablets. The original project was built in Flash, but Vidar said they’re now looking at using HTML5 to build a flexible site. That too can provide complications, though, and Vidar and his team want to make sure they’re using the right technology for the job. If you’re dealing with photography and video, the design and usability experience is key to getting people to engage with your work, Vidar said. “We don’t want to take the quality of the experience down just to make it cross compatible.”

What the 360s could provide is a new avenue for local journalism, something that is a hybrid between pure amateur cellphone video and packages developed by professionals.

“There’s three types of content producers now,” Vidar said. “The professional journalist; the citizen producer — the everyday guy uploading to YouTube; and then there’s the intermediate. They’re not professional journalists, but active commentators, people who use [video] in an in-depth way. We want to elevate the people who are taking cellphone video and posting it to YouTube — elevate them to the next level.”

January 07 2011


December 29 2010


October 07 2010


Scripps fellows buy time for a local online strategy

When the E.W. Scripps Company announced its new “Scripps Fellows” program, cheers of “huzzah for jobs!” could probably be heard going up from around the news industry, not to mention on our Twitter feed. Granted, the 40 or so new media fellowships are 6-12 month stints, not the full-time gigs journalists crave, but it’s frontline work at newspapers around the country that have mostly been shrinking their staffs.

Maybe that cheer should have been “huzzah for strategy!” It’s not as catchy, but it’s on point: The fellows program, aside from offering opportunities for new and established journalists, is Scripps’ way of helping their papers shore up staff and create time to devise a localized web/print strategy for content and advertising.

“This frees up time for site managers and people like myself to focus on strategy,” Mizell Stewart, editor of the Evansville Courier & Press, told me. Stewart is a member of the task force overseeing the fellows program.

Instead of creating a cross-company strategy for integrating web and print or raising online revenue, Scripps has tasked each paper with finding out what works best in their community. With fellows in areas like multimedia reporting, web design/development, and user experience analysis, managers will be able to tasked with exploring things like CMS options, delivery of mobile products, and how to create stronger local content.

“The evolution of digital in a lot of local newspapers has started in the newsroom, broke off to a separate operation, and now we’re at the point where it is integrated into the newsroom again,” Stewart said.

Scripps papers are like countless others that find themselves spinning plates: Turning out a daily paper, producing a website, devising online advertising rates, attracting new readers, experimenting with social media, the list (or plates) go on.

In this case each Scripps paper will hire and deploy the fellows to suit their needs, so while the Naples Daily News may get someone handy shooting and editing video, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis may get an online producer. Stewart said a number of fellows with programming or UX experience will work with the interactive newsgroup in Knoxville that provides support to their websites.

Just how aggressively are they going after these digital natives? They’re directing applicants to their Facebook page to get more information and apply.

“Oftentimes people who are just beginning their careers but coming out of those education institutions that do training in digital media, sometimes their skill sets are stronger than those who have been on our staff a long time,” he said.

October 05 2010


September 29 2010


Meta! Here’s how Storify looks telling the story of Storify

At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week, one of the new tools to emerge — besides, that is, Lark, the new app that wakes you “silently, without a jarring alarm” — was Storify. Founded by Burt Herman (a former AP reporter and founder of the journotech meetup group Hacks/Hackers) and developer/entrepreneur Xavier Damman, the platform promises a new way to leverage the real-time power of social media for creating stories. It’s doubling down on the increasingly common assumption that the future of news will demand curation on the part of news producers.

How does it work? With the caveat that the platform’s still in closed beta, it seems only appropriate to write the rest of this story using Storify.

Conclusion? The platform, at least in its current beta stage, might not be ideal for longer, text-heavy stories: The text field is a bit clunky, and the modular system lends itself more to narrative interruption than to flow. Still, the multimedia presentation aspect, used smartly, could be a refreshing counterpart to more traditional, text-heavy stories. (See for example, Penn professor and Wired blogger Tim Carmody’s engagingly Storified tale of a follower (re)quest.) And, for breaking news, where journalists might just be interested in the quick curation of tweets and videos, Storify’s drag-and-drop simplicity could be amazingly useful. It’s a simple mechanism for curating and contextualizing the atomized tumult that is the web — a little lifesaver for selected bits of information that otherwise might be lost to the news river’s rapids. Because, as Herman puts it, “stories are what last.”

September 28 2010


September 06 2010


August 06 2010


Journalism.co.uk forays into podcasting: follow here

Journalism.co.uk has made its first few steps into the world of podcasting in recent weeks and wants to know how we can use audio in the best way for you.

As well as filing radio features and interviews from events we attend, Journalism.co.uk will also bring you a weekly news-round up of the top stories we think you should know about – our latest one can be found here.

You can already sign up to receive all Journalism.co.uk podcasts by RSS feed or subscribe to our iTunes podcast account.

Feel free to leave comments below on what audio activity you want to see from us in the future, or use the #jdotaudio hashtag, or email multimedia reporter Rachel [rachel@journalism.co.uk] with your comments.Similar Posts:

August 05 2010


Audio interviews: a simple way to improve your online offering

If you’re looking for a new way to offer content to your online audience, Christine Gallagher at socialmediatoday.com discusses the value in multimedia platforms, in particular audio interviews on topics of interest.

She says it is a ‘win-win’ situation for online content providers, their audiences and sources alike.

By doing so you will be providing valuable content to your audience while building relationships with the people you interview. I have developed a deeper relationship with each person that I have interviewed on my online radio show and my listeners are really enjoying the content.

She offers advice on who to interview, what to ask, how to record it and the best way to maximise the impact of the end product online.

See the full post here…Similar Posts:

July 02 2010


Music journalism and data (MA Online Journalism multimedia projects pt1)

I’ve just finished looking at the work from the Diploma stage of my MA in Online Journalism, and – if you’ll forgive the effusiveness – boy is it good.

The work includes data visualisation, Flash, video, mapping and game journalism – in short, everything you’d want from a group of people who are not merely learning how to do journalism but exploring what journalism can become in a networked age.

But before I get to the detail, a bit of background…

We’re in the second of three parts of the MA – the Diploma stage (read about the Certificate stage here). Students are studying 2 modules: Multimedia Journalism, and Production Labs.

The Multimedia Journalism module sees students explore a range of media platforms – audio, video, interactivity, data and visualisation (I’ll write about Production Labs at another point).

In their first assignment students explore a few of these platforms (you can see Caroline Beavon’s blog post about hers here). They then specialise in one medium for their final assignment.

Surprisingly – or perhaps not, given my own current interests – a majority of students decided to specialise in exploring data in some format, with video also proving popular. Over a series of posts I’ll look at some of the most interesting work – beginning with an example of how data journalism skills can be applied to music journalism.

Visualising crime, VFM, rainfall and everything else about music festivals

Caroline Beavon’s portfolio of data journalism investigating and visualising every aspect of the UK’s music festivals is collected at Datamud.

If you wanted to know which festival was the safest in terms of numbers of arrests and numbers of crimes, you could now see at a glance (with the context of each festival’s footfall).

In addition, the investigation unearthed some curious anomalies, such as the crackdown on untaxed vehicles at one Festival, while data looking at capacity compared with estimated attendance highlighted the peak that preceded Glastonbury taking a break (presumably to resolve security and fencing issues).

For a consumer angle, Caroline used crowdsourcing to compile a ‘value for money’ chart showing how much it would cost to see each festival’s performers as separate concerts.

And for a viral-friendly piece of visualisation, it’s hard to beat this image of festival rainfall in the past 3 decades.

festival rainfall in the past 3 decades

The most impressive aspect of Caroline’s work was that underlying the data and graphics was some solid journalism: combining public data, Freedom of Information requests, personal connections and a critical eye that followed up and verified the devil in the detail. It shows that you can do in-depth investigations in the field of music journalism.

Next, I’ll look at how one student used game mechanics to explore civic history, and data and mapping to investigate cycling collisions.

May 04 2010


Eric Maierson speaking at Ohio University, May 5th


MediaStorm producer Eric Maierson will be speaking about multimedia production at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio on Wednesday May 5th at 8:00 p.m.

The event will take place at Mitchell Auditorium, Seigfred Hall on the 5th floor.

The talk is free and open to the public.

If you’re in the neighborhood, come by and say hello.

March 19 2010


#ds10 – Follow the Digital Storytelling 2010 event

Journalism.co.uk is attending today’s Digital Storytelling conference – a free one-day event looking a new tools and techniques for multimedia and online journalism. If you’re interested in following the day, use the liveblog below or follow the hashtag #ds10 on Twitter. We’ll try to share the best bits on the day on the site.

Similar Posts:

March 15 2010


How Mark Luckie Created 'The Digital Journalist's Handbook'

It's an increasingly common story in the news business: Young journalist roars out of graduate school at Berkeley, gets a great job at a magazine in New York, works like mad, gets laid off when the economy tanks, turns to his blog and Twitter to brand himself a rock star in his field, publishes a book packed with the tips, tricks, and tutorials he's been blogging about, then gets a great gig with a non-profit news startup back in California.

Okay, so maybe it's not all that common a career path, but it's the way things have unfolded for Mark Luckie. These days, Mark is a multimedia producer at California Watch -- but you might know him best as the voice behind 10,000 Words. Now he's also the author of The Digital Journalist's Handbook. I recently spoke with him about how he turned his blog into a book.

Mark Luckie

Ryan Sholin: Mark, I've been following you on Twitter and on your blog for some time now, and you make a habit of sharing what seems like all your secrets, from tools to tips to tutorials. When did you decide to wrap all that together in a book, and how did you start gathering all the right pieces up?

Mark Luckie: I decided to start writing a book in the summer of 2009 when I was unemployed and had lots of free time. I spent weeks in the public library reading through old posts from the blog and reading what others had written about online journalism.

RS: How hard was it to make sure everything that landed in the print edition was evergreen?

ML: It was probably the hardest part... weeding out technologies and topics that could possibly be obsolete right after the book was printed. Twitter lists, for example, are a great tool for journalism, but they just debuted and it would be unwise to include them in a book when they're still so new and journalists are still finding ways to use them.

RS: Right, so instead of cataloging apps and widgets that could vanish next week, you took the approach of building what you call "a comprehensive guide to the fundamentals of digital journalism." But it's more than Photoshop and Final Cut tutorials, right? How do you take a common tool and explain the best practices for journalists armed with it?

ML: Absolutely... there's more to digital journalism than photos and video. There's slideshows, databases, maps and more. When I write, I try to break the topic down as simply as possible and try to omit technical jargon that it's easy to get intimidated by. I try to find real world examples that people can look to and say, 'Oh, that's what that is.'

Many professionals who teach online journalism use terms and examples that the beginning journalist isn't familiar with. It's all about making it as simple as possible.

RS: Let's rewind a bit here -- you wrote the book in the summer of 2009 while you were unemployed and had lots of time. What happened before that? When did you pick up multimedia and online journalism as a passion? (Michele McClellan wants to know if it was after spending time at the Knight Digital Media Center at Berkeley.)

ML: I didn't know there was such a thing as multimedia journalism until I attended grad school at UC Berkeley. I had known how to use the tools like video, photo and computer programming, but didn't know I could combine them with my love for journalism.

It was when I started teaching multimedia skills to other journalists through the Knight Digital Media Center that I realized how much I loved the craft and the ability to tell stories using many different media.

(Editor's Note: The Knight Digital Media Center is a sponsor of MediaShift and Idea Lab.)

RS: It seems natural now, of course, that you can move from teaching in person to your blog to your book. Not sure how many people would have seen that coming five or seven years ago. What do you think might be the next platform for journalists like Mark Luckie that want to share their knowledge with their peers?

ML: Good question. I still think there's a platform for blogging, but I'd like to see people take advantage of the various kinds of blogging like video blogging or live blogging.

I'm a big fan of tools like CoverItLive and Ustream that allow anyone to have live, ongoing discussions instead of static, one-way talks.

And that I think is the future for journalism, too.

RS: Speaking of tools, what's your general advice when it comes to free web-based applications vs. full-featured software?

ML: I rarely ever feature software on the blog, not only because there is a lot of sketchy software out there that can do damage to your computer, but also because it's hard to convince people to download, install, and try full-fledged programs.

I love web-based applications because it's an opportunity to try a new tool without investing too much time and effort into it. If you like it, you can keep using it and if not, you can just kinda move on. Also, if you really like a web-based tool you can always upgrade and grab professional software that offers more features.

RS: Do you think of yourself as someone who practices a degree of radical transparency? What secrets are you keeping for your next book?

ML: I think journalists often ask people some of the deepest, probing, and most personal questions they'll ever be asked, yet journalists are notorious for keeping their professional and personal lives under wraps. I don't see the harm in sharing personal information if it helps someone else out. I'm actually a very private person but I know that ultimately what I do share can potentially help someone else having the same kind of issues.

As for the next book, I never try to think too far ahead. When I went to undergrad I had no idea I'd become a journalist, and when I went to grad school I had no idea I'd leave a multimedia journalist. And I certainly had no idea I would ever write a book. So who knows what the future holds?

RS: Let's rephrase that question about the next book, then. What was the last thing you decided to leave out of 'The Digital Journalist's Handbook'?

ML: The one major thing I purposely left out was detailed tutorials for specific programs (they all exist online). Maybe the next step is a '...for Dummies' series of books, but I focused on what aspects of the programs journalists should use ...

But my next project, whatever it is, will definitely be based on the response and feedback from this first book, and whatever journalists' needs are.

RS: Sounds like a great idea. Here's the last question: What's the one tip you'd give to journalists that are still behind when it comes to building their multimedia and online skills?

The Digital Journalist's Handbook

ML: Besides buy the book? ... I'd say don't wait for someone to come around and teach you multimedia skills. If you really want a future in journalism you have to start using online tutorials to start learning some of the programs and then start practicing on your own.

A couple of years ago, there was a huge barrier to learning new technology because of the expense, but nowadays multimedia tools are incredibly inexpensive and the Internet is a free platform where anyone can experiment with various media.

RS: Mark, thanks for taking the time to do this. I hope your book helps out lots of journalists, whether they're freelancers trying to string together gigs into something full-time, or veteran editors looking to learn something new.

ML: Thanks Ryan. I'm excited to see where journalism is headed.

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November 04 2009


How a blog, a camera, and a court are feeding journalism’s long tail

When people talk about the long tail, they often focus on consumer goods, where the infinite shelf space at a company like Amazon or Netflix allows a huge variety of products to be sold. But the same concept can apply to news, where cheap servers make it possible for hyper-targeted coverage — the stuff that only appeals to a few hundred people — to live online with few concerns about space or scarcity. Toss in search engines and dead-simple publishing tools and you’ve got a bounty of easy-to-find, niche-friendly content.

Whether intended or not, Ron Sylvester is stocking the long tail. The veteran crime and courts reporter for The Wichita Eagle uses his blog What the Judge Ate for Breakfast to publish two-minute videos that dive into the intricacies of a courthouse. They’re fascinating clips, touching on everything from the role of prosecutors, to odd defendant behavior, to the less glamorous responsibilities judges assume. These glimpses into the life of a court are classic examples of long tail content: the type of stuff that would never see the light of day on traditional platforms.

It makes sense that something like this would come from Sylvester. He was one of the first beat reporters to jump on the Twitter bandwagon, tweeting updates from the courtroom. The positive response to the Twitter coverage encouraged him, and he started looking at different techniques for covering his beat. “There’s so much human drama in the courthouse,” he said. “I’m trying to find ways to expand the coverage and use multimedia to do that.”

What the Judge Ate for Breakfast (the name comes from a quote attributed to Jerome Frank) launched in early 2008 as an ancillary outlet to Sylvester’s court coverage. It initially featured interesting asides and courtroom miscellany, all delivered as regular text-based blog posts. Sylvester started mulling bigger ideas about a year into the site, and his growing interest in video dovetailed serendipitously. “I was kind of jealous of TV,” Sylvester said. “I wished people could actually hear some of this testimony and see the expressions instead of me describing it to them.”

With the help of colleagues in the Eagle’s photography and web departments, Sylvester cobbled together equipment and started learning. The first video in the series — which runs under the title “Common Law” — appeared in July, and he’s now posting a minimum of one new clip per week.

Juggling platforms and coverage

What the Judge Ate for Breakfast is part of The Wichita Eagle’s website, Kansas.com, but it isn’t Sylvester’s full-time gig. He juggles platforms, producing coverage for print, web, Twitter and the Common Law series. When journalism schools teach “multimedia journalism,” Sylvester is the kind of reporter they’ve got in mind.

The essential skill of multimedia reporting, Sylvester told me, is knowing how to match content, medium, and audience. Twitter requires brevity. Long-form print and web demand context. Blog posts, particularly those driven by video, need to be short and engaging.

That’s why you won’t find Common Law videos in Sylvester’s traditional coverage. The point is to offer something different for the audience and appropriate for the medium. Take a look at one of Sylvester’s favorite clips as an example: it’s a piece that follows sheriff’s deputy Dioane Gates as he unexpectedly arrests someone he knows. This is one of those slice-of-life tangents that typically gets cut when space is limited and a deadline looms. Recognizing that this is a story and then finding a place for it is where a skilled multimedia reporter shines. Otherwise, you’d never see this stuff.

A look inside the tool box

The role Sylvester plays varies with the subject matter. Big cases require a team, so for something like the upcoming trial of Scott Roeder, Sylvester tweets from the courtroom and provides print and web copy, while one photographer manages pool photos and a second grabs video from the TV feed and sends it to the website.

Sylvester handles all the coverage for smaller trials and hearings. His equipment needs can shift from case to case, so he rolls around a briefcase that holds a Canon HV20 camcorder, a Sennheiser EW100 wireless microphone, a MacBook Pro with Final Cut Express, and a collection of wires and A/V accessories. The jumble of gear occasionally raises eyebrows at the courthouse’s x-ray machine. (It also summons memories of a certain senator’s previous career.)

Posting new Common Law videos is a simple process: Sylvester uploads clips to VMIX, a video encoding service used by McClatchy papers, and then he adds video embed code to a new blog entry. The hardest part is the editing, which can take up to two hours. “It’s like writing a story,” Sylvester said. “You’ve got to try to get it down to two minutes, but capture the essence of what’s going on.”

Watch a few videos and you’ll see that Sylvester weaves in B-roll shots (e.g. a judge listening to an attorney). Sylvester only has one camera, so a “listening judge” clip may come from earlier or later in the hearing. That’s not a huge issue since most Common Law clips revolve around a concept rather than strict coverage, but Sylvester does limit B-roll footage to shots from the same hearing.

How Sylvester gets in

Kansas allows cameras in the courtroom at the judge’s discretion, so Sylvester coordinates his weekly coverage needs in advance. Whipping out a video rig isn’t a surprise most judges would welcome.

Access is made easier because Common Law clips almost always revolve around a de facto “cast”: public defender Lacy Gilmour, prosecutor Marc Bennett, sheriff’s deputies David Rank and the previously-mentioned Dioane Gates, and Judge David Kaufman, whom Sylvester has known since before he wore a robe.

Sylvester credits his 30-plus years in journalism and nearly 10 years on the court beat as keys to greasing the skids. “They’re letting me into places and through doors that normally we wouldn’t go [through],” he said. “You have to have trust in order to do that.”

Forget the numbers

Sylvester declined to share website stats, citing corporate policy. You can get a rough sense of traffic to Kansas.com’s blog section here, and Sylvester did note a gap between his regular coverage, which is often among the most popular stories on Kansas.com, and the limited gravitational pull of What the Judge Ate for Breakfast. That’s the big problem with the long tail of content: small audiences lead to tiny metrics, and those are tough to swallow even when you can rationalize the results.

Sylvester, who knows the humbling sting of web traffic, has a solution: when it comes to beat reporting, forget the numbers. “I’m like everybody else, I like to look at the numbers every once in a while,” he said. “But on this one I’ve stopped. I want to concentrate on producing good content, because I really do believe that as more people get their information on the Internet, I think that good content is going to win out.”

That’s not to say Sylvester disregards all forms of measurement. He just places more importance on the feedback he gets from readers and courthouse staff. “This blog is an extension of the beat,” he said. “This may not get huge numbers, but the people I deal with everyday like it, and it’s building credibility.”

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