Monday, March 30, 2009

HuffPo Funds Investigative Reporting -- Including Video

Arianna Huffington announced today that she's launching a new venture -- The Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

This nonprofit Fund will produce a wide-range of investigative journalism created by both staff reporters and freelance writers. As the newspaper industry continues to contract, one of the most commonly voiced fears is that investigative journalism will be among the victims of the scaleback. And, indeed, many newspapers are drastically reducing their investigative teams. Yet, given the multiple crises we are living through, investigative journalism is all the more important. As a result, all who recognize the indispensable role good journalism plays in our democracy are looking for ways to preserve it during this transitional period for the media. For too long, whether it's coverage of the war in Iraq or the economic meltdown, we've had too many autopsies and not enough biopsies. The HuffFund is our attempt to change this.
American News Project's Nick Penniman will be executive director of the new entity. The Web site is collaborating with philanthropic donors to generate an initial budget of $1.75 million. That will pay 10 staff journalists and freelancer contributors. (The current HuffPo news/opinion blog has seven staff reporters.) "It will also provide new opportunities for seasoned journalists who have been laid off or forced into early retirement," Huffington said. First assignment: the economy.

Work that the journalists produce will be available for any publication or Web site to use at the same time it is posted on The Huffington Post, she added. The Huffington Post leans liberal, but she pledged that the work done by the investigative fund would be nonpartisan.

The best news, from our perspective: "The pieces developed by the Fund will be presented in a variety of media, including text, audio and video."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

HD Platypus Workshop: May 1-10 in Portland

Dirck Halstead says there are still a few spots open in his upcoming Platypus Workshop in Portland, OR, May 1-10, a comprehensive boot camp for staff and freelance photographers, picture editors and media producers making the transition to high-definition digital video storytelling. You can attend as a "Shooter" or as a "Producer."
As a Shooter you are the storyteller. You get to use a new Canon XHA-1 HD camera, wireless and on-camera mikes from Sennheiser, tripods from Libec and an Apple laptop MacBook Pro with the latest version of Final Cut Pro for editing. You may work alone, or with a Producer, to create the class exercises and a final 8-minute documentary or news story. Tuition for Shooter = $1,995

Producers are an integral part of the process and the course. They attend all classes and team up with shooters as they research stories, make arrangements, conduct the interviews, go out on the field exercises and co-produce the final project . . . as a team. The Producer and the Shooter both come back to the edit bay and cut the projects together. Tuition for Producer = $995

Participants will learn about the newest HD digital cameras, field sound recording, cinematic storytelling, the use of lenses, tripods, and Apple's latest Final Cut Pro editing software.
Register here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NPPA's Convergence '09: June 6-13

The National Press Photographers Association's week-long annual meeting in Las Vegas -- Convergence '09 -- will be devoted to multimedia and visual journalism.

The Multimedia Immersion Workshop (June 6-10) will be "an intense, five-day, hands-on training experience for visual journalists looking to expand and grow their multimedia skillsets."

What you will learn:
  • Effectively planning and developing your story to save time on your workflow and increase the quality of your pieces
  • Professional audio recording techniques in the field from audio documentary experts
  • Hands-on explanations and experiences on how to use audio, video and photo gear -- along with recommendations on gear
  • Training on how to shoot visuals for multimedia storytelling including techniques for documentaries and working as a one-man-band or mobile journalist
  • Hands-on video production editing training and experience on Final Cut Pro, including how to create your own custom composed music and how to integrate cutting edge motion graphics, titles and lower-third labels
  • Get inspired seeing some of the most cutting edge multimedia projects from industry leaders forging the new multimedia storytelling forms
  • Every student will produce their own finished, professional project – from capturing all the content to editing to compressing the final files.
Unlike other multimedia training workshops, we provide the most personalized training experience with the lowest student-to-teacher ratio (with about 25 coaches for 50 students). So students will be personally coached by industry leaders who work at media titans including The New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, MSNBC, and also from leading independent multimedia outlets, including MediaStorm and top academic institutions like Syracuse University.

The Visual Journalism Workshops (June 11–13) will offer "3 days of valuable, practical and inspiring education, focused on improving your skills, marketability, and ability to succeed in today’s competitive still, video and multimedia environment."

Workshop sessions include:

  • Basic and Alternative Storytelling Techniques using Still, Video and Audio
  • Interviewing from Research to Editing
  • Narratives, Script Writing and Production
  • Still and Video Editing Techniques
  • Editing Software Training and Equipment Demonstrations
  • Freelance Instruction and Business Models
  • One-Man-Bands
  • Lighting and Audio Training
  • Multimedia Production, Editing and Coaching
  • How to do Panoramas
  • The Edit Foundry (Avid)
  • Feature Presentations from Industry Leaders

Register here.

That Whole TV News Anchor Song & Dance

Ever wonder what TV news anchors do during commercial breaks? In the case of veteran WGN News weekend co-anchors Robert Jordan and Jackie Bange in Chicago, it's more entertaining than the news itself. Now, thanks to YouTube, you can see it for yourself.

CNN's Jeanne Moos puts it all in perspective, and explains the origin of the dance moves, in her interview with the longtime partners, which is pretty funny in its own right.

It'll probably be a long while before we get to see what videojournalists do during commercial breaks -- given that the video "commercial break" hasn't yet been invented!

Monday, March 23, 2009

4 New Strategies for Rescuing the News Business

As previously noted, RevenueTwoPointZero vowed to identify and propose four specific new strategies for funding journalism. Here are the new revenue models these enterprising newspaper employees have developed for media companies. See what you think:

* Display advertising solutions
(Converting homepages from digests to tables of content, and re-imagining story pages with one big bold 480x480 interactive ad, pictured)

* Classified solutions
(Beating Craigslist at its own game, and taking back classified ads)

* iPhone solutions
(Capturing an emerging audience on mobile platforms)

* Small-business solutions
(Re-thinking banner ads for small budgets)

Get the full report here.

How to Create, Distribute, Finance Video Stories

Nieman Reports editor Melissa Ludtke conducted an engrossing interview with MediaStorm founder Brian Storm, one of our favorite videojournalism gurus. It's a must read:
Ludtke: Can you describe where your optimism comes from at a time when we hear so much about the enormous challenges facing journalism and this despair being expressed by so many journalists?

Storm: The journalism industry is not in despair, it’s simply going through a redefinition. I feel like we’re living in such an epic moment, a transformational moment. Think about the big stories happening right now: climate change, new president, and an economy that is totally falling apart, and as journalists, these are big stories. It’s a great journalistic moment to be in this business. The big opportunity is that the tools are so powerful that anyone can create high production value content and distribute it globally. I don’t need to own a printing press or a television station, but I can be on television through new distribution devices like Apple TV or TiVo. It’s an absolutely revolutionary moment, and I feel incredibly empowered as a journalist. As a storyteller, I feel empowered to do the best work of my career right now, even though I don’t have the big mainstream media infrastructure sitting underneath me that I used to have. Now I can do the kind of stories that I’ve always wanted to do without any limitations.
Storm expresses his disdain for the "one-man band" videojournalism trend, noting that it's a byproduct of economic pressures, not a formula for excellence:
I don’t know one person operating at a high level who is an independent one-man band who is telling the kind of stories that you could tell in a collaborative environment. There’s just no way. In every project we do, several people collaborate to make that story happen: the designer, the producer, the executive producer, and the journalist who covered the story in the first place.
Much more here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Revenue 2.0 Seeks Online Ad Solutions

An ad-hoc group of more than two dozen newspaper journalists are meeting in Washington, D.C. to re-invent online advertising. Though they come from the ranks of the nation's top newspapers, they are embarking on this quest independently -- their efforts are self-subsidized and they are not representing their employers in this endeavour. They've dubbed their mission RevenueTwoPointZero.

Newspapers are in crisis. The old revenue model is no longer viable. If media companies want to produce journalism, they’ll need to find new ways to fund it — even if those ways are not explicitly tied to editorial content.

We have the means and the mission to deliver solutions, rather than merely talking about the challenge of preserving journalism. Our solutions will be based on a proven funding strategy — advertising revenue — rather than failed or unproven strategies like micropayments and philanthropy.

We will begin with these tasks:
  • Build an effective advertising model for news content delivered on smart phones, such as Apple’s iPhone.
  • Create a better CraigsList.
  • Show newspaper-centric companies how they can better meet the advertising needs of small- and medium-sized businesses.
  • Re-imagine the homepage and display advertising.
Unlike recent confabs of executives, editors and academics, we are hands-on professionals charged with delivering media solutions every day. And because we’re hands-on, we know how build to prototypes to demonstrate our ideas to the newspaper industry.

Despite the fact that most of us come from editorial, we pledge to focus 100 percent of our energy to developing advertising models. We will offer solutions on March 21 based on current technology, so they can be deployed immediately.
That was yesterday. We are avidly following their progress and eagerly awaiting their results!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hulu Expands Documentary Fare

KobreGuide gladly showcased Hulu's first hour-long documentary, Crawford, an illuminating look at the townsfolk in Pres. George W. Bush's adopted hometown, and how they were affected by his arrival.

We wondered whether viewers would have the time, patience and inclination to commit to spending an hour or more gazing at a movie on a computer monitor. But we also realized that this fare will soon appear on your TV set, among other screens. So, despite the fact that most of what's on KobreGuide is in the 2- to 7-minute range, we subsequently devoted an entire section of KobreGuide to longer video stories, in our "Got an Hour?" section.

Hulu is an NBC Universal-News Corp. joint venture that mostly streams primetime sitcoms online after they air on TV. When we recently checked in, we were amazed to find that, in the past few months, Hulu's feature-length documentary offerings have increased exponentially. They've even been given their own section.

Andy Forssell, Hulu's SVP of content acquisition and distribution, recently told Broadcasting & Cable magazine that its documentary section will feature films as well as short-form content. “It is really an exciting part of the industry. These filmmakers and their distributors are really looking at streaming carefully,” Forssell said, adding that the site is working with its major content partners to seed the section as well:

One of the opportunities in the movies [section] was to focus more on documentaries because the online availability provided them with a great chance to find and reach an audience. We focus on making a great platform but we love making connections between audience and content.

It is a great outlet for the content creators, because a very small percentage of their films may be in theaters; they are looking to be online.
According to B&C:

The section puts all of the documentary movies, TV shows and shorts in one place, making it easier for users to find. Plus it will help Hulu form relationships with independent filmmakers and studios, which could become a valuable source of content down the line.
Hulu's documentary channel features television programming from PBS, as well as the recently canceled FX show 30 Days. Newly added films include Super Size Me, which was the inspiration for the FX show, as well as Kicking It, which aired on ESPN last year, and Confessions of a Super Hero.

We'll be looking through their selections to find programming worthy of KobreGuide. Our feeling is that, if the material is meritorious and engaging, people will commit to it. We hope you agree.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Columbia J-School Panel: Future of Newspapers

Last week's panel discussion on journalism trends and the future of print media included Columbia J-School Prof. James B. Stewart; Steve Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers; and Norman Pearlstine, chief content officer of Bloomberg.

Stewart is the author of eight books, and writes "Common Sense," a column in SmartMoney and, which also appears in the Wall Street Journal. He contributes regularly to The New Yorker and was formerly Page One Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Stewart is the recipient of a 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Wall Street Journal articles on the 1987 stock market crash and the insider trading scandal. He is also the winner of the George Polk award and two Gerald Loeb awards.

Swartz is president of Hearst Newspapers. Under his leadership, SmartMoney won two National Magazine Awards and was named Magazine of the Year by Advertising Age. Under Swartz’s leadership, Hearst played a key role in founding the newspaper industry's consortium with Yahoo!, launching the industry's partnership with the online real estate company Zillow, and forming quadrantONE, a national online sales network co-owned by Hearst, The New York Times Company, Gannett and Tribune.

Pearlstine previously served as a senior advisor to Time Warner, following 11 years as editor in chief of the company's Time Inc. subsidiary. Before joining Time Inc., Pearlstine worked for the Wall Street Journal from 1968 to 1992, except for a two-year period from 1978-1980 when he worked as an executive editor of Forbes magazine. In 1992, Pearlstine resigned from the Journal to work at SmartMoney magazine. Pearlstine has been honored with the National Press Foundation's Editor of the Year Award; the Loeb Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism; the American Society of Magazine Editors Lifetime Achievement Award; and induction into the Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Will Newspaper Video Survive?

Colin Mulvany, multimedia producer at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, ponders the future of videojournalism in his Mastering Multimedia blog. He notes that there are ample reasons for pessimism, but then encourages a surprisingly optimistic outlook:

Newspaper produced video is at a crossroads. As many U.S. publications turn inward to focus on their traditional print products, many online producers are wondering if they should continue to invest the extra time it takes to shoot and edit video. It’s such a crazy time to be a visual journalist. Newspaper photo staffs are being slashed and devalued, as publishers try to protect what’s left of their bottom lines.

Video was hot a year ago, but now, as newspapers gut their newsrooms, the resources devoted to video storytelling are being scaled back. Many wonder if video storytelling has a future at newspapers.

I believe it does. ...
Read Colin's survival plan here.

The New Hard Times: Make Your Own NY Times Video

For its video series, "The New Hard Times," The New York Times invites you to pick up your video camera and capture the memories of the generation that lived through the Great Depression. Record your parents or grandparents discussing the current economic situation as it relates to previous downturns. Ask what lessons they learned. Edit the video highlights to less than three minutes, and upload it to the Times' Website.

The Times intends to start a "conversation between generations" that will enable those who lived through the hard times of the 1930s to help us get through these hard times today. Instructions can be found here.

It's a worthy experiment, and we look forward to seeing the results. We suspect that, in the near future, similar projects will involve producers (such as the Times) collecting raw footage from "civilian" contributors and professionally editing it into one cohesive mini-videostory. But this is a good start.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Student is Hanging in the White House

Kudos to my former SFSU student Andrew Craft, photojournalist extraordinaire at the Fayetteville (NC) Observer. His memorable photo of a soldier departing for Iraq was framed and presented by the city to Michelle Obama, who was touring the Fort Bragg area to investigate military family support services.

As you can see in the first minute of this C-Span video, the First Lady said: "This picture is moving... It says so much...It's going to go up in my office tomorrow..."

The photo, entitled "Tearful Departure," depicts Capt. Shelia Jenkins comforting her daughter, Khadyajah, 7, while holding the hand of her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Claude Jenkins, as he departs on a bus to his flight to Iraq.

Andrew was recently named the 2008 North Carolina Photographer of the Year by the North Carolina Press Photographers Association -- for the second year in a row. It makes a professor proud!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Next 10 Newspapers to Die?

After careful analysis, 24/7 Wall St. has created a list of the 10 major daily papers that are most likely to fold or shutter their print operations and only publish online.
The parent of the papers in Philadelphia declared bankruptcy as did the Journal Register chain. The Rocky Mountain News closed and the Seattle Post Intelligencer, owned by Hearst, will almost certainly close or only publish online. Hearst has said it will also close The San Francisco Chronicle if it cannot make massive cuts at the paper. The most recent rumor is that the company will fire half of the editorial staff. That action still may not be enough to make the property profitable.

It is possible that eight of the fifty largest daily newspapers in the United States could cease publication in the next eighteen months.
Here's their endangered list:

1. The Philadelphia Daily News
2. The Minneapolis Star Tribune
3. The Miami Herald
4. The Detroit News
5. The Boston Globe
6. The San Francisco Chronicle
7. The Chicago Sun-Times
8. The New York Daily News
9. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
10. The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Meanwhile, McClatchy announced it is cutting another 1,600 jobs at its 30 daily newspapers, in a cost-cutting spree that has clipped nearly one-third of its work force in less than a year.
The Kansas City Star is lopping 150 jobs. The flagship Sacramento Bee is trimming 128 jobs, and wringing other savings through wage cuts of up to 6 percent and possible unpaid furloughs of one week. Similar job-saving pay cuts are coming up for a vote at two other McClatchy newspapers in California, The Modesto Bee and The Fresno Bee. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas and The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, S.C. are among the other McClatchy newspapers that have already disclosed their job cuts.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Roanoke Times Wins Documentary Project of the Year

Congratulations to the Roanoke Times for winning the Documentary Project of the Year category of the Pictures of the Year International awards.

KobreGuide previously showcased their winning entry, "Age of Uncertainty," along with most of the POY runners-up and finalists -- as well as a majority of the prizewinners in all of the other categories as well.

"Age of Uncertainty" is an ambitious multimedia series that tackles issues affecting the rapidly growing elderly population ... and who will care for them.

KobreGuide salutes the winners, and is pleased that POY recognizes their merits. We will provide a complete list of links to all the prizewinners later this week.

VisualJournalist Joins Bombay Flying Club

Former L.A. Times videojournalist Brent Foster, now freelancing in New Delhi (website / blog) , announces that he is joining forces with Poul Madsen and Hendrik Kastenskov of Bombay Flying Club (website / blog), a blossoming KobreGuide channel:
I couldn’t be more excited to be working with two people who I feel share the same passion, and enthusiasm about photojournalism and multimedia storytelling. Together we plan to continue to produce compelling multimedia stories and to support and promote strong visual storytelling.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dad? What's a Newspaper?

The First Newspaper to Go Online-Only?

It looks like Hearst will soon stop publishing the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as a print newspaper, and reduce it to an online-only publication -- with a staff of 20.

The surviving staffers will have their salaries cut, and their benefits (accrued severance and vacation, health insurance) will be lost or diminished. This would be the first major metropolitan print daily to make the complete conversion to the Web. Presumably we'll see many more to follow this year. Details here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Twitter's Evan Williams Explains It All to Charlie Rose

Evan Williams, who founded Twitter (and, before that, Blogger), explains how 140-character micro-blogging is revolutionizing instant communications and information dissemination. Fast-forward to 15:10 for his discourse on how journalists are (and will be) Twittering.

Crowd-source editing? Collective intelligence algorithms? Charlie seems to be sold. Are you?

KobreGuide: February's Top 10 Video Stories

KobreGuide had a record amount of traffic in February. Here are our ten most popular video stories last month, reflecting the eclectic and sophisticated tastes of our rapidly growing community of videojournalism aficionados:
  1. Skateistan
  2. Nazi Doctor's Egyptian Escape
  3. Pit Bulls: Companions or Killers?
  4. Conjoined Twins
  5. Charles Darwin in Song
  6. Zora Neale Hurston's Hometown Legacy
  7. Photographing the President
  8. Bolivia's Women Wrestlers
  9. Air Guitar Champ
  10. Acid Attacks

Concentra: And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Washington Post videojournalist Alexandra Garcia, winner of the Concentra Award for Videojournalism for 2009. KobreGuide previously showcased her entry, "The Healing Fields," which chronicles three days when more than 800 volunteer health-care workers come to Wise County, Virginia, to provide free medical care to those who cannot afford it.

Jury chair Michael Rosenblum reports:
The 10,000 Euro prize, along with the statue will be awarded to her as soon as she returns from her current shooting assignment in Botswana. We were, however, able to Skype her live into the conference for the awards ceremony so she could directly address the audience.

The quality of the shooting, the reporting, the editing and the story telling were all outstanding. A stellar achievement for the VJ who until only a few years ago had never even touched a video camera. What made this particularly impressive is that she is a full time newspaper journalist.

View all 8 Concentra finalists here.

The Healing Fields - Alexandra Garcia, winner of the Concentra Award.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

KobreGuide Welcomes New AARP Channel

KobreGuide proudly welcomes a new channel: AARP, whose online bulletin has begun to produce high-quality video stories.

While most of what you see on KobreGuide has been created by newspaper staffs, we're finding that even non-media organizations and institutions are seizing the opportunity to communicate cost-effectively with online video. As with newspapers, they're forging a new hybrid medium that derives elements from TV news and film documentaries, but is distinguishable from each, both in purpose and style.

AARP's first KobreGuide entry is "A Day With Francisco," a video profile of a retired printer who got bored and decided to go back to work in a whole different capacity -- cheering up not only himself, but also his customers and fellow employees. We'll be showcasing more compelling video stories from AARP in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

NPR in Gaza: The Video

NPR photographer David Gilkey spent a month covering the recent hostilities between Israel and Gaza. He talks about the images he made and the stories behind them in this powerful video slideshow, produced by John Poole.

NPR in Gaza, A Photographer's Journal from NPR .