Online Journalism

Chapter 9: Data-Driven Journalism and Digitizing Your Life

March 29th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 9: Data-Driven Journalism and Digitizing Your Life

graphic design work by Emmanuel Cloix

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Digital life is based upon a gratuitous amount of information and data; therefore, managing the data is the most critical part of digital life in journalism. Organized data not only helps journalists retrieve their memories from certain events via computer-assisted reporting, but also helps keeping in contact with colleagues and people of interest, and even coming up with new story ideas. Data-driven journalism excels in the following areas: depth, customization, searchability and long shelf life. The areas of management ranges from:

  • Emails
  • Contacts
    • Digitally stored contact lists expedites search
  • To-do lists
  • Calendars
  • Notes
  • Productivity tools
    • Word processing
    • Spreadsheets
    • Presentations
    • Images
    • Databases
    • Project management
    • Web or graphic design
    • Collaboration with colleagues

Besides Google and Office Live, there are a variety of productivity tools that one can start with

  • Instapaper: Saves web pages to be read later
  • Remember the Milk: To-do list manager
  • Oh don’t forget: Reminder tool that uses SMS
  • Evernote: To-do list and note taking utility that can also record audio using cell phone
  • Jott: Audio to-do list
  • Dropbox: Collaborative cloud file storage
  • Backpack: Organizer that is used for document sharing, plus notes, task lists and calendar
  • Basecamp: Team project manager
  • Socrata: Database and spreadsheet-managment
  • MindMeister: Brainstorming helper that uses mip-maps

Often these services use cloud-computing method — in which the user accesses the third-party server outside of his or her own computer to use the service. This method requires internet connection at all times, but it is also convenient that the user does not need to always bring the storage required for the project.

The ability to share data is also a critical advantage in data-driven journalism. Several large news organizations such as the New York Times, the BBC, NPR, and the Guardian utilize application program interface (API) to allow anyone to borrow their data and build tools for their webpages. The API helps circulation of the digital ecosystem, bringing up full potentials of any data provided. Some of examples include interactive maps that geographically explain certain stories.

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Tags: Comm361 · New York Times · Student Blog Posts

‘JournalismNext’ Chapter 10 Summary

March 9th, 2011 · Comments Off on ‘JournalismNext’ Chapter 10 Summary

News is a conversation now, not a lecture, and there is no going back, says Mark Briggs in Chapter 10. Briggs acknowledges that some journalists would prefer a lecture style of news, but says that journalism is made better by audience participation. The key now is for journalists to learn to “manage, and leverage, that [...]

Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Chapter 10: Managing News as a Conversation

March 7th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 10: Managing News as a Conversation

Questions and challenges for the modern journalism:

Description: Social Networking Source: own wor...

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  • How to maintain objectivity or credibility
  • Legal and ethical issues with publishing freedom for everyone
  • How to gather the audience

With social networking tools and blogs embedded on news sites, conversing the news is possible. One can converse through comments or social networking (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.). This can enable tremendous ways to communicate and collaborate with the audience, despite potential problems due to anonymity. The benefits to news as a conversation include:

  • Transparency
  • Immediate feedback
  • Spread of news through word-of-mouth marketing

The 1-10-100 rule for participatory online communities:

  • 1 percent of the user community — including the journalists on news sites — actually create content
  • 10 percent of the user community will “synthesize” the content by posting a comment, e-mail, blog post or a link from a separate site.
  • 100 percent of the user community will benefit from actions of the first two groups.

Some of successful Web sites that utilizes user-generated communities are Wikipedia, Flickr and YouTube. User-generated communities do not cost money. However, it takes a great amount of time, energy and resources to build the sufficient community for the purpose. Major tasks for creating user-generated communities include:

  • Evangelizing the brand
  • Soliciting the content
  • Moderating comments, blogs and other user submissions
  • Solving user problems
  • Staffing booths at weekend events
  • Running contests to drive traffic

Some of ways to keep your user-generated communities clean and safe:

  • Don’t editorialize
  • Consider if public disclosure of someone close to you may become embarrassment to them.
  • Monitor offensive postings
  • Know your legal responsibilities
  • Correct errors
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Tags: Comm361 · Facebook · Student Blog Posts

Chapter 8: Telling Stories with Video

March 3rd, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 8: Telling Stories with Video

Thanks to the emergence of cheap video cameras and free video-editing softwares, video journalism has become easier than ever. Even without purchasing over $35,000 worth equipments that used to be requirements, anyone can produce high-quality videos and upload in Web. It has become  so easy that millions around the world frequently upload videos. In mid 2009, YouTube reported that 20 hours of videos were uploaded on their server every second.

MSNBC NYC HQ Studio

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As a beginner in video journalism, what kind of mindset should we have?

Perfection is not necessary. Just do it and make as many mistakes as you can.

Of course, it is always better to produce the perfect video that we think of. However, quick and less polished videos tend to attract more viewers, because of it s natural atmosphere and intimacy it provides to the viewers. Even professional video journalists intently give imperfections in their videos, such as shakes or interruptions by others in the video, to emphasize certain aspects in the story.

The following video is a footage of the protest in Egypt, which also captured the reporter being attacked by protesters in the middle of turmoil:

Click here to view the embedded video.

As shown, the imperfect handling of camera and the sudden attack on the reporter well delivers the atmosphere of the scene.

Different approaches for different projects

  • You will never know what will happen while filming a breaking news video. Although you will often not have access to the closest to the scene, capturing witnesses and surroundings of the scene can also make a good video.
  • Breaking news stories can also be connected to the press conferences to help audience analyze the situation.
  • Compilation of highlights can shorten the length of the video with the most available information delivered to the audience
  • A documentary video gives you more freedom. However, it requires more planning and resources.

There are three kinds of shots — wide shots, medium shots and close-ups. It is better to mix your shots to give your video a variety. It is recommended to use “five-shot sequences,” which consists of five different consecutive shots to keep the audience focused on the video.

Stand-up is often necessary in reporting breaking news or covering major sporting event. The below are some tips for planning your video:

Bauer Bosch Video Kamera

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  • Keep your content short, but always be ready to provide something little extra for the audience
  • Even when reporting breaking news, always write a script and warm up
  • Be stable in posture and breathe easily
  • Use some hand gestures to make yourself look easy on camera

Camera

  • High definition or standard definition
    • With abundant resources and technologically knowledgeable staffs, don’t be afraid to use HD
    • If your resources are limited with amateur staffs, it may be better to use standard definition
  • Media type
    • DVDs have many limitations, including slow writing speed
    • Solid state media, such as flash memory cards, have faster access time and more flexibility
  • Video-editing software
    • Make sure the video format captured by a camera is compatible with the editing software you will be using
    • Some programs do not work with DVDs or with new AVCHD format
  • Accessories
    • Tapes and batteries for longer running time
    • Microphones to capture more delicate sounds
    • Tripod when the video is to be captured in a stable setting
    • Headphones to make sure the audio is being recorded clearly
    • Lighting to be used in darker environment, or to change the tone of color of the scene

How do you shoot a video?

It’s simple. Follow these steps: Focus, zoom and adjust the exposure. Aim for solid clips rather than dramatic, spectacular clips. Be selective when to run your camera to save your runtime, and avoid panning and zooming in the middle of the video to prevent the audience from feeling dizzy watching your clips. Keep your voice silent to avoid putting unnecessary, or often unpleasant sound effects in your video, and follow the rule of thirds.

Rule of thirds: When framing your video, the most important subject in the frame should be aligned on one of four axis points in your imaginary nine-square grid within the frame.

Editing

  • Keep it short
  • Choose your own fitting editing software, ranging from free softwares such as Windows Movie Maker and iMovie, to professional, pricy softwares such as Final Cut, Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, Corel VideoStudio, Cyberlink PowerDirector and Pinnacle Studio.
  • Publishing can be done via YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv and Metacafe.
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Tags: Comm361 · Student Blog Posts · video

Chapter 7: Making Audio Journalism Visible

March 3rd, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 7: Making Audio Journalism Visible

Some might say audio journalism is not as exciting as video or Web journalism, and will die along with newspaper. Despite this belief, because of its distinct taste and unique content delivery, audio journalism is strong and will be strong as long as there are listeners who seek its essence. For example, 14 million downloads podcasts from NPR and visits its website every month. The key to success is encouraging show hosts and reporters to engage personally to their audience, therefore allowing the audience to enjoy the intimacy with them.

Jackie Martinez with a microphone 01

Image via Creative Commons

Advantages of audio journalism:

  1. Flexible to work with many different devices — file size is usually smaller than video files
  2. Opens up imaginations for the listeners
  3. Can be consumed while commuting
  4. A reporter can literally bring readers to the story
  5. Tone of voices, expressions, intonation and pauses can be reserved
  6. Atmosphere of the scene can be brought to the audience
  7. Podcast — Episodes can be uploaded without establishing difficult schedule
  8. Breaking news can be packaged in a quick audio report

How can you use audio journalism? The recipe may vary depending on the goal and the subject. However, generally audio journalism can be used with the following:

  • Interviews
    • Choose your location — pick a place that’s quite and has good acoustics
    • Gather natural sound — search for sounds that will help describe the setting
    • Prepare your subject
      • What part of the story will audio play?
      • Who is the audience?
      • How long will the interview be?
      • What kinds of questions will be asked?
      • How much editing will be done?
    • Watch what you say — keep quite while the subject is talking
    • Delayed recording — ask the subject to repeat their answer
    • Mark the best spots
  • Voice-overs
    • Write a script — be prepared
    • Warm up — practice
    • Find operative words — words that convey the story
    • Keep it conversational
  • Natural or environmental sound
  • imported sound clips, including music

Devices range from cheap compact recorders to $500 recorder with stereo recording. It is recommended to use a recorder that can upload its files directly to the computer so that the recordings can be stored securely. Also, use telephone recorder for over-the-phone interviews. It is also recommended to record the interviews in WAV format, which is an uncompressed format, so that tweaks that are made after the recording will not drastically reduce the quality of the sound. Input volume level is suggested to be set at about 70 percent of its possible level.

For the better recording for quiet subjects, external microphone can be used to amplify the sound. Headphones can be used to examine the quality of the recording as the recording is being done. While recording, make a note for each 10 minutes of the recording in the notebook. This will save time for browsing through the notes and recordings during editing.

Audacity-Windows

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Editing

MP3 is the most balanced audio format that is widely used by many different media players, while conserving high quality sound with small file size. Widely used professional audio editing programs are: Avid’s Pro Tools, Adobe Audition and Sony’s Sound Forge. However, for the most of users, free audio editing programs such as Audacity should suffice their needs.

Besides cropping and cutting pieces out of audio, Audacity offers a variety of effects:

  • Fade: A gradual increase or decrease in volume of audio
  • Cross-fading: A mix of fades with one track level increasing with another decreasing
  • Establishing music: Use of song clips to set tone
  • Segue: Smooth transition between tracks
  • Transition: Connecting different tracks
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    Tags: Comm361 · multimedia · Student Blog Posts

    Chapter 5: Going Mobile

    February 22nd, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 5: Going Mobile

    In New York Times in 2009, John Markoff wrote “the four billion cellphones in use around the globe carry personal information, provide access to the Web and are being used more and more to navigate the real world.” The mobile technology already has evolved enough to create a whole new field in journalism: mobile reporting. Due to its flexibility and wide availability, mobile reporting fills the gap of coverage where professional journalists cannot fill in. Mobile technology is an essential tool for journalists, but it is also hard to adopt with its jet-fast evolution.

    Mobile Journalism

    • Those who practice mobile journalism are often referred as “backpack journalist” or a “mojo” (mobile journalist).
    • Among one billion mobile phones sold in 2008, 100 percent offer text messaging, 92 percent have a Web browser, 90 percent have a color screen, and 71 percent can send and receive “picture messaging” and 63 percent have a camera.
    • Despite these capabilities, publishing is constrained by the major telecommunication companies.
    • Upcoming technologies should focus on publishing to mobile audiences to help mobile reporting evolve.

    Making Mobile Journalism

    Mobile phone evolution

    Image via Wikipedia

    Gadgets and services take up the most of what a journalist can do and cannot do. Depending on the needs, a journalist may equip with simple devices such as smartphones — Blackberry, iPhone, etc, or carry a variety of camera, tripod, audio recorder, microphone and a laptop.

    The main point of mobile journalism is being available anytime, anywhere. Keep your luggage simple, and be ready to pull out your device whenever you need to.

    ◊ How to choose what to report

    1. Will the audience benefit if we can take them there?
    2. Will the journalism be better if it’s done with urgency?
    3. Can this event be effectively communicated with the given device?
    4. Will sound reporting or video footage, turned around quickly, help people understand the story?

    ◊ Some of stories that can be reported mobile:

    1. TrialsSpeechesBreaking news of all types — fires, shootings, natural disasters, wilderness rescues, plane crashes, and auto accidents
    2. Public gathering such as protests
    3. Sporting events
    4. Grand openings of shops or restaurants

    As there are always many types of of anything, we also categorize mobile journalists with their equipments.

    Gearhead: A mojo, characterized with heavy backpack or a shoulder bag with electronic cords sticking out, who reports all day, everday. This person always has, or wants as many as the most recent and advanced equipments available in the world. This type of mobile journalists will need

    1. Laptop
    2. Internet connection
    3. Camera
    4. Video camera
    5. Tripod
    6. Audio recorder
    7. Headphones
    8. Microphone
    9. Cell phone — or smartphone, rather

    Light Packer: Traditional journalists who occasionally reports immediately from the field. This person has, or wants just good enough equipments. They usually bring a smartphone that has a camera that shoots videos and pictures and a full QWERTY keyboard.

    Publishing Options

    There are many ways to report using mobile devices from the field. One may use Twitter or Utterli.com for microblogging, laptop or more advanced apps on smartphones for live blogging, video streaming services such as Qik or YouTube for mobile video broadcasting, or combine altogether to accomplish mobile multimedia.

    Mobile Crowdsourcing

    Every news organization should be ready to accept photos and videos from mobile devices for breaking news. Some news organizations, such as CNN’s iReport, has already gathered a significant amount of crowds sourcing mobile multimedia feeds for their news.

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    Tags: Comm361 · New York Times · Student Blog Posts