Journalists and smart phones – a good combination

Move over backpack journalism we have entered the era of pocket journalism!

News organisations have been using material gathered on mobile phones for some time now, but mostly it has been photos or videos shot by ‘citizen’ journalists.

However more organisations are equipping their staff journalists with better phones to capture material from the field quickly.

In this interesting article over at Poynter, Damon Kiesow talks to Ventura County Star’s Visuals Editor Ray Meese about using the iPhone to break news.

The paper last year purchased six iPhone 3Gs for the staff and trained much of the newsroom in basic video and audio capture, editing and transmission. Meese said the best approach to making this work is simply to lead by example. “Just go out and do it. If you do that one or two times people see the result and see (the video) on the website 30 minutes after the event happens.” That’s what gets people to buy-in to the concept, he says.

Meese elaborates on the kit being used alongside the iPhone:

Hardware
-Two different battery boosters (the Mophie Juice Pack Air and the Griffin PowerBlock Reserve)
– The Owle Bubo, which lets you attach an external microphone, a cold shoe, a tripod or an interchangeable lense
-Xshot case, which has a tripod adapter

Software (apps)
-PhotoGene for still photos
-ReelDirector for editing video
-ITimelapse for editing video
-Pixelpipe for transferring content (currently unavailable)

So you might need big pockets in many ways for that lot, but as Meese points out smart phones are being improved all the time and many of the items you have to add on or need for improved performance may be integrated into future models.

He goes as far as saying that it is feasible that a smart phone could eventually replace a still camera, video camera and audio recorder. I agree with that.

Now for the results.

Here are some videos recently shot by journalists at the Ventura County Star. They don’t indicate on their site, which videos are shot using an iPhone but after watching a few I’d say these two probably were:

‘Bear rescued from tree in Oxnard’ Video by Staff Reporter Adam Foxman (great part at about 1.40 – easy to see why this has good ratings)

‘Two people injured in Oxnard house fire’ Video by Staff Reporter Adam Foxman

What strikes me about both of these videos is even though the quality is akin to that of any footage taken on a good mobile phone these were produced with a journalist’s eye.

I think the Ventura County Star shows the opportunities that lie in pairing journalists with new technology.

Visual Editor Meese will be taking part in a webinar next month (17 June) called ‘Tools for Mobile Journalists’.

Putting the 17 June in my diary and downloading new apps,
B

Good storytelling links, 6 May 2010

Boston.com has a very powerful selection of more than 30 photographs on its ‘Big Picture’ feature that show the devastation caused by floods in Tennessee. The series of images convey the destruction and loss clearer than most articles or videos could. Take time to look through them if you can.

Boston.com's The Big Picture

Some Irish users could complain about the time it takes to load these large images. But bear in mind most people in the US have faster connections. (Must return to examine how slow connections could be holding back certain forms of storytelling in Ireland).

The New York Times featured a great infographic showing the inter-linking of European debt. To explain this in  written form would have been taxing for the reader but this, quite simple, graphic tells the story so well.

NYT Inforgraphic; Europe's Web Of Debt

Third example comes from The Guardian’s web coverage of the elections. It has a nice feature where it’s asking voters to tweet when they have voted and tag their tweet with their postcode so that it can be represented on a map to illustrate voter turnout. Good interactive way to tell the story even though it’s limited to Twitter users. (When I checked it out it didn’t seem to include Northern Ireland)


Have you seen any good storytelling this week?

B

Media 2020 Conference – Twitter Stream Highlights

I wasn’t at the Media 2020 conference in Croke Park, Dublin, today.  But using the Twitter hashtag #Med2020 I could follow many of the main points, which were highlighted by tweeting conference attendees as they were made by the speakers.

Here is the summary of points I have picked out from the stream, which I think are relevant for journalists and content producers.

I’ve broken it down by speaker (not all speakers are included) and used one tweeter per speaker to avoid confusion (each point is an individual tweet from the stream). Thanks to all the tweeters for keeping everyone updated!

First off, some overview points that seem to be coming back a lot from the #Med2020 twitter stream:

1) Experiment, cheaply, quickly, if you fail do it fast and learn from it
2) Mobile is going to be massive
3) Revenue models are not clear yet

By speaker:

Maeve Donovan, Former Managing Director, The Irish Times
Tweeter: Niamh Smith (@niamhsmith)

-Can newspapers make the necessary changes? Maeve believes they can based on her 30 yrs experience in the industry

-Roles of newspapers to make the most of the immense opportunities offered by emerging technologies

-Digital revolution has much broader implications than its effect on newspapers or tv

-Hardest words to say are ‘I don’t know’ – and she doesn’t know for sure the future of newspapers

Jonathon Moore, Guardian News & Media
Tweeter: Hugh Linehan (@hlinehan)

-Guardian Eyewitness iPad app: very simple app publishing one photo a day. Video: Jobs sings its praises

-You live or die by user recommendations on the app store

-Big traffic spike on Guardian app at 10.30pm. Technology changing how and when people consume content

-Moore: We expected migration to our app would cause fall-off in use of web browser. Hasn’t been the case

Mark Little, Storyful
Tweeter: Gareth O’Connor (@garethoconnor)

-#Med202 hears from @marklittlenews that basic reporting skills still needed by curators and super-users in new age

-New business opportunities for storytelling @marklittlenews tells #med2020

-@marklittlenews tells #med2020 that 2010 marks turning point in journalism

Ronan Higgins, Local, mobile social software start-up
Tweeter: Niamh Smith (@niamhsmith)

-Apps store – a new walled garden. iTunes-simplicity, quality, speed-applied this ethos to iPhone

Matt Locke – C4 Commissioning Editor, New Media & Education
Tweeter: Hugh Linehan (@hlinehan)

-Facebook picks up tiny snippets of attention and rolls them up into something gargantuan

-Very intelligent stuff – but a bit depressing that the experimental groundbreaker cited is Embarrassing Bodies. Blecchh

-Bingeing on cult content – four or five episodes at a time (I think I recognise myself in this presentation)

-Cult content. The Wire first TV series passed around like a 1970s rock album from friend to friend. User content around Lost

-Events-driven initiatives like ITV’s election debate worm – broadcasters comfortable with that

-What broadcast does well is events. So we’re seeing the eventisation of TV, from talent shows to Lambing Live (!)

-Locke: broadcasters used to own the audience. But with new technology, old platforms have to learn what it is they really do well

Múirne Laffan – Executive Director, RTÉ Publishing
Tweeter: Eoin Purcell (@eoinpurcell)

-Laffan: 3.5 million uniques a month for rte.ie and 1 million of those are overseas!

-Laffan: RTE has a hub and spoke model. Create content in hub and reuse as much as possible

-Laffan: Boundaries to entry are very low. Global opportunities. But getting to market quickly is important. Mobile is huge

-Laffan see every tv connected to the internet in Ireland in 10 yrs!

-Laffan: Consumer expectations are through the roof

Note: Compiling this post this evening has reinforced my feeling that Twitter streams are much easier to follow live and are hard work to use as an archive – looking forward to some journalists’ and bloggers’ analysis of the conference.

**Update – Two good pieces about yesterday’s conference: The Irish Times’ Hugh Linehan (including video of Minister Eamon Ryan) and Fin O’Reilly.**

-B

Mark Little Sets out Stall for Storyful

A former journalist and presenter with Ireland’s public service broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Mark Little is spearheading a new digital news initiative called Storyful.

Due to launch this summer, we have already been given a glimpse of the type of offering we can expect from Storyful through its link-up earlier this year with RTE.ie for the Portraits of the Global Irish series.

In a blog post today, Little outlines his vision for Storyful.

I wanted to find a way to fish the useful stories about our lives from that unholy torrent of internet debris.

He talks about ‘filter failure’ and how users have shifted away from personalised news towards searching to discover or find stories.

What lies behind the shift from search to discovery is the emotional charge that comes with an unexpected find. You know that feeling, that distinct jolt, when you come across an image or idea in all the clutter that speaks to you.

A word you hear bandied about a lot by news pioneers these days is serendipity. Expect to hear a lot more of it as we try and resolve ‘filter failure’.

Little says the companies who guide their users to unexpected places are the ones who will survive.

As I’ve mentioned here before there is a lot we can learn from existing platforms to help us with future ones like Google suggested with Fast Flip.

Digital media companies have something to learn from newspapers in how they organise and categorise discovery.

But the parallels with newspapers may end there as Little says we must also learn from the mistake made by ‘old’ media.

We should model our solutions on how real people talk about information that matters to them. They don’t spend alloted times of the day discussing politics and sport. They don’t schedule gossip for half an hour in between a chat about money and a debate on the arts.

Instead, they tell stories about many things, at the very same time. This is how they consume information relevant to their lives. This is how they will consume useful and relevant digital journalism.

This is the clearest indication of how Storyful is going to unfold:

The ultimate responsibility for discovering useful information now lies in the hands of real people not appointed gatekeepers.

Journalists will ultimately lose control over the flow, direction and timing of the news. Instead, they will guide their communities on a voyage of discovery and curate the stories that resonate along the way.

Some of that sounds similar to work being done out in Honolulu by former Rocky Mountain News’ editor/publisher John Temple (backed by Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar) with Civil Beat (see my post from the weekend), except that project is more locally focused than I think we can expect from Storyful.

It’s an interesting blog post from Little – sounds like it could be the Storyful manifesto? The one missing thing is revenue – where is it going to come from?

Intrigued,

B

Pierre Omidyar’s Honolulu local news site goes live

I’m watching the development of Honolulu Civil Beat with great interest.

Backed by the founder of Ebay, Pierre Omidyar, the online news project was launched earlier this week.

Subscribers will play a key part in the operation, which allows them to discuss issues affecting their communities through a concept called the ‘civil square’ hosted by journalists with different expert areas.

In an article on the site headlined ‘A New Approach to Journalism’, Founding Editor John Temple (formerly of the Rocky Mountain News) explains what it hopes to provide:

We start this news service with the belief that we’re here to serve you. That means our daily work is to ask the important questions citizens might have in the face of the complex issues facing our community. And to answer them in a way that helps members reach an informed opinion, based on our reporting and the discussion that will take place as we together create the new civic square.

You’ll find that our initial coverage is centered around five fundamental beats: Hawaii, Honolulu, Education, Land and Money. For each of these coverage areas, we have identified critical issues – and now that you’re here we hope you’ll help us sharpen our focus.

The monthly fee of $19.99 to use the site is generating the most comment.

Here’s Daily Finance’s take on the pay model:

Skeptics say no one will pay such a princely sum (in Internet terms) to participate in a local journalism site, and a lack of participants could doom the online “civic square” to failure.

But Omidyar’s new startup could be timing the bottom of the paid-content market perfectly. For starters, the subtle reeducation of Web users that not all content is free is well underway. The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times are all on paths to paid content in their online forms. Since these are “must read” publications that drive lots of other news coverage, it’s hard to ignore this trend.

Paidcontent’s view:

If they were aiming for a straight news service, then it makes sense as a business-model decision to let people know from the top that getting a quality product will take their financial support. But a civic-square vision carries a different kind of connotation and a suggestion of more, not less, openness. The implicit suggestion is that only people who pay are worth listening to. That seems to run counter to Omidyar’s description of the richness and diversity of Hawaii and “discussions that involve a diversity of points of view, conducted in a respectful and good-faith search for common ground and meaningful compromise.”

With a billionaire’s backing this project has plenty of room for experimentation, but it will be interesting to see what the people Honolulu make of it!

B

Emily Bell leaving Guardian role for Columbia University

Guardian News & Media’s Director of Digital Content Emily Bell has been named Director of Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

Earlier today, Wired reported that Bell will ‘oversee the university’s new dual-degree Master of Science Program in Computer Science and Journalism with The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science’.

Bell envisions these graduates heading up the newsrooms of tomorrow, bridging the divide between media and tech and creating software that helps journalists work more effectively to wrangle the ridiculous proliferation of data into meaningful information.

Bell will take up the role in July, according to the article.

In a statement Guardian News & Media Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger says Bell will continue as a consultant to the Guardian, ‘giving strategic advice from her new base in New York’.

Rusbridger says Janine Gibson will take up a ‘wider strategic role in addition to her present duties as editor of guardian.co.uk’.

However he adds that further announcements will be made about the development of the Guardian’s digital content ‘in due course’.

More from Columbia University about the Bell appointment here

What’s happening in hyperlocal…

Yesterday, the New York Times announced a collaboration with New York University to cover local news in the East Village.

NYT journalist Richard G Jones will edit the Local East Village site, developed by staff and faculty at the University’s Arthur L Carter Journalism Institute. The site will ‘live’ on nytimes.com.

The Times has already collaborated with another journalism school on a hyperlocal project in Brooklyn, it has a venture in Chicago and an upcoming Bay Area link-up in San Francisco.

Speaking about the most recent announcement, the Editor of Digital Initiatives at NYT, Jim Schachter, says:

We want to continue to expand our network of collaborations, in the New York area and across the country, through associations with individuals, companies and institutions that share our values — foremost, increasing the volume and scope of quality journalism about issues that matter.

The new East Village site is not the only recent development in local news.

AOL is expanding its local news venture patch.com. According to a report last week from Business Insider, the group is planning to grow the number of local news websites from 30 to ‘hundreds’.

Citing an internal communication with employees, Business Insider reports that AOL said it wants to be ‘the global and local leader in sourcing, creating, producing and delivering high quality content.’

Insider says:

Patch is already growing fast. It served just 12 communities in New Jersey and Connecticut as of October 2009, when it announced plans to expand to another 11. It currently covers about 30.

Insider also reports that AOL is out at events (recently in NYU) seeking to hire journalism grads.

Writing about the AOL news, GigaOM’s Matthew Ingram says if patch.com is a failure it will be the biggest blow to hyperlocal yet.

Across the Atlantic, guardian.co.uk took its first steps into the world of hyperlocal with its Leeds website. Sites for Edinburgh and Cardiff are on the way.

Journalism.co.uk says Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger told Twitter the move was a ‘tiny toe in local web water’.

On her blog, Director of Digital Content for Guardian News and Media, Emily Bell says:

A hugely important part of this project has been the involvement of MySociety, who we’ve collaborated with to provide customised versions of their civic tools, allowing and encouraging local residents to report issues, contact their representatives and generally become engaged in the governance and care of their locality. This is an important partnership for us because we share many of the same values with MySociety, and it has been very valuable to work with them on a project like this.

I think hyperlocal has a big future – I have thought that for a long time.

I find it bothersome, however, that it mostly, at least in the US, remains the preserve of citizen journalists, journalism students and recent grads. Aside from the person tasked with being the editor, it seems the big names or more established journalists tend to be missing.

How do organisations expect readers to take local news seriously if they are not throwing major muscle, including journalists, behind it.

Local news is important. After all it can have the most immediate impact on readers’ lives and could possibly drive them to other parts of a media organisation’s operation.

B