Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New iPhone App Makes You a CNN iReporter

You can already get iPhone apps that deliver the New York Times, USA Today and NPR. Now CNN has joined the mobile news fraternity, with a $1.99 app that delivers not just text but also live streaming video and video on demand.

Most signficantly, the CNN app makes potential "citizen videojournalists" out of the 50 million users of Apple's iPhone 3Gs and iPod Touch, which are already equipped with vidcams.

Now all that amateur video can be instantly uploaded with a touch of a button to CNN's iReport site, which has already received a half-million photos and video in its first two years of operation. (Only clips used on TV are verified by CNN staffers.)

Right now the site is awash in footage of the American Samoa tsunami.

The San Francisco Chronicle's "Tech Chronicles" is impressed. Mashable loves it. Grab the app here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Want a Wide Angle Lens for Your Flip?

One common complaint about Flip camcorders is that they don't have jacks for external mikes, so you have to hold them extremely close to your subjects if you want to get good audio. Other common quibbles are that they have limited 2x digital zoom, and that without image stablization, most handheld shots can look wobbly.

You don't often hear Flip shooters yearn for a wider angle lens, but that's what Russ Roca wanted, and that's what he got -- by figuring out how to attach one himself.

Southern California-based Roca, who combines his passions for bicycling and photography, reports:

The lens on the Flip is about 38mm by most reports. It’s a pretty boring/normal focal length. Not quite the length for narrow depth of field and not wide enough to make dynamic feeling wide shots. I’m a photojournalist at heart and I see everything wide. If I could live with one lens it would probably be a 24mm.
So Roca hacked the Flip to better accommodate his needs.

I bought a cheapie Sunpak wide-angle lens adapter kit made for more sophisticated camcorders. It came with a series of step-down rings. I took one of the rings and roughed it up with sandpaper (from a patch kit) and superglued it to the front of the Flip. (Be sure to glue it so you can still remove the battery cover!). This gave the front element some threads so I could screw on the wide angle lens!

Now you have a Flip Ultra that can shoot a “normal” focal length that you can convert into a wide-angle action machine. It gives your footage a bit more dynamic feel and it also mitigates the small camera shake quite a bit! I used this setup for my recent trip and it worked great.
Here's his demonstration of the difference between the lenses:

And here's a cycling video he shot with his self-designed Flip wide angle:

UPDATE: Roca is on an extended bike tour of the U.S. with his girlfriend, "with the goal of connecting with, and collecting the stories of, people who followed a calling to live their lives in unique ways."

Through photos, interviews, sketches, hand-bound books, and an extensive web presence, Laura (an art jewelry maker) and Russ (a photographer) will compile example after example of lives less ordinary – independent artisans and makers, small business proprietors, community activists and more.
Roca's ingenuity and curiosity should carry him far. You can follow his adventures on his multimedia blog, The Path Less Pedaled.

(Tip of the cyberhat to "Advancing the Story" for the link to this story.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bookmark This: Journalism About Journalism

If you're looking for journalism about journalism, Alltop's "Journalism" page is your one-stop destination, with links to the top 5 daily stories at nearly 100 top online publications and blogs that cover every aspect of journalism.

From the Columbia Journalism Review to Editor & Publisher and Poynter, they're all here.

Mouse over each link, and an internal popup provides the first few sentences of what awaits at the destination, enabling you to better decide if it's worth clicking.

If that selection is still too overwhelming you can slim it down for your own use, by creating your own MyAlltop page. That, in fact, is Alltop's strength -- selectively aggregating quality content, and providing a self-controlled filter to prevent information overload.

MyAlltop enables you to create a “personal, online magazine rack” of your favorite websites and blogs. You can create a personal collection from over 32,000 information sources—if you’re interested in something, we probably have it covered.
You'll even get your own customized URL -- -- that you can share with others.

We’ve subscribed to thousands of sources to provide “aggregation without aggravation.” To be clear, Alltop pages are starting points -- they are not destinations per se. Ultimately, our goal is to enhance your online reading by displaying stories from sources that you’re already visiting plus helping you discover sources that you didn’t know existed. In a nutshell, Alltop is an information filter to help you find your nuggets of gold.

If you're looking for the Web's best videojournalism, then of course KobreGuide is still your single best online destination.

Sign of the Times: AP Stylebook on iPhone

The AP Stylebook, a mainstay of newsrooms everywhere, is now an iPhone app.

Unlike most apps, it's not free or 99 cents. It's a whopping $28.99 (compared to the paper version, which is only $18.95).

Today's Poynter article notes that, though that's in the same price range as popular reference works apps, "given that newsrooms and journalists are being slammed by pay cuts, layoffs and furloughs, there's reason to wonder if they'll pay for such an expensive app."
The app features all of the more than 3,000 A to Z Stylebook entries. Similar to the AP Stylebook Web site, users can create their own customized listings if the AP does not have a particular style on something. In the future, the app will likely be more interactive and better integrated with the AP Stylebook's Web site.



Just for Fun: One Long Tracking Shot

Some directors, and film enthusiasts, revel in long single-take tracking shots that are a miracle of choreography. Because nearly all visual storytelling relies on a series of short shots that are edited together to create scenes, the long single take is a rare occurance. First, audience eyeballs are conditioned to expect a variety of quick cuts and angles; second, the filmmaking process itself diminishes the possibility of an unflawed sequence of substantial duration.

Add to the mix the notion of a moving camera -- and subjects perfectly darting into and out of frame (and speaking) on cue -- and even with the advent of Steadicams, you end up with not so much a cinematic feat as an acrobatic triumph.

Still, drawn to the inevitable gidiness of being able to pull off such a stunt -- compounded by the audience's delight in experiencing it -- directors as revered as Orson Welles ("Touch of Evil"), Jean-Luc Godard ("Week End"), Martin Scorcese ("Goodfellas") and Robert Altman ("The Player") have successfully toyed with it. Paul Thomas Anderson has used long tracking shots in "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia," and "There Will Be Blood."

More recently, we've seen it in Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" and Joe Wright's "Atonement," in which a WWII British soldier encounters Dunkirk beach in an astonishing 5 1/2-minute shot that involved 1,000 extras, plus horses, vehicles and ships -- and was shot in one day.

Sometimes it's used to build tension. Often it's intended to put us in the protagonist's shoes and fully immerse us in his experience, from his perspective. Occasionally it's used for comic effect. Nearly always it's a way of showing off -- look what I can do! -- which on the one hand can be intrinsically delightful, but can also backfire if it calls so much attention to itself that it detracts from the flow of the film, as it's often criticized for doing.

What you're about to see is an exercise that's just pure fun -- a music video pulled off recently by 172 communications students at the University of Quebec in Montreal, hip-hopping and bopping to the Black Eyed Peas' joyous "I Gotta Feeling." Up and down hallways, stairs, escalators -- the camera zigs and zags to the beat, with clusters of students sequentially "singing" and dancing up a storm, for four solid minutes without a single edit.

They slammed this together in a little over two hours, and it's understandably become a YouTube sensation. (Search "LipDub" on YouTube, and you'll find that this lip-syncing single-track exercise is a recurring student phenomenon, but this latest is the greatest.)

Here's CNN's enthused explanation of how it was all accomplished:

Long tracking shots are generally not a commonly used tool in a videojournalist's toolbox, and in fact it's important to think in terms of shooting and editing a series of shorter shots that can be constructed into sequences in scenes. But we call your attention to it here as a reminder that we all need to be familiar with, and openminded about using, whatever techniques are at our disposal, as inevitably there's a proper time and place for everything ... And sometimes you just gotta have fun!

To those U of Q students, we say "Thanks"... and "Mazel Tov!" ...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

10 Tips for Still Photogs Who Shoot Video

Scott Bourne offers 10 tips for still photographers who are making the transition to video, on his Photofocus blog. He admits he's a relative novice himself to moving images.

Ever since I got my hands on the Panasonic GH1 I’ve been shooting more and more video. It’s fun! But I’m also reminded that I am NOT a seasoned pro when it comes to shooting video. I have some advantages over the guy/gal who’s just starting out, but I still need lots of practice.

I’ve been studying some books, watching some training videos and listening to lectures at my local college. I’ve developed a few tips that I use to get better video and I’ve started a checklist that I will use to help improve my video capture skills. Maybe it will be helpful to you too.
It's all good basic common-sense advice -- use a tripod, make sure you capture good audio, shoot a variety of closeups and wide shots, etc. -- but of course there's a good reason we need to hear those basic lessons over and over, since they're the ones that are most frequently ignored.

Hie thee to Photofocus and pick up your 10 free tips.

How a Photojournalist Captured that Moment of 'Lie!'

For those who've wondered how a photographer managed to snap that iconic image of Rep. Joe Wilson disrupting Pres. Obama's speech, we now have the answer.

Why was his camera trained on that particular Congressman at that particular instant? Did he have psychic foreknowledge that Wilson would yell, "You lie!" at that juncture?

The British Journal of Photography blog interviewed the photojournalist, and his answer amounts to this -- for professionals, it takes years of preparation to know how and when to capture that moment of truth.

Sure, luck was involved. But a "citizen journalist" in the same circumstance, without experience or training, would have missed it completely. Or, at best, produced a less memorable image.

The pro was Getty Images photographer Chip Somodevilla, and he reveals his secrets of how he did it here. There are lessons there for all visual journalists.

Food for thought: Would the moment have been better captured from a videojournalist's frame grab? Would a video of that episode, with lens trained on Wilson (instead of Obama, as we have seen), have had more or less impact than this still image that circled the globe?

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario Wins MacArthur Fellowship

Congratulations to photojournalist Lynsey Addario, based in Istanbul, Turkey, who has received a coveted $500,000 "no strings attached" MacArthur fellowship for "creating a powerful visual record of the most pressing conflicts and humanitarian crises of the 21st century."

According to Photo District News, "Addario is the only photographer among the 24 grant winners announced Tuesday. Fewer than ten photographers have been awarded MacArthur Fellowships since the program started in 1981."

Addario's work for the Council on Foreign Relations' Darfur Crisis Guide, produced by MediaStorm, is featured in the sixth edition of our "Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach" textbook.

The MacArthur program notes:

Lynsey Addario is a photojournalist whose powerful images are visual testimony to the most pressing conflicts and humanitarian crises of the 21st century. In a time when many readers are becoming numb to the constant flow of images of war, death, and suffering, Addario combines a rigorous journalistic approach with a keen artistic eye to render events in Afghanistan, Darfur, Iraq, and elsewhere in startling and unexpected ways.

Her vibrant color photographs of refugee camps in Darfur reveal both the cruelties that have been perpetrated as well as the dignity and humanity of the victims. Relentless in her pursuit of images that evoke an overall narrative, she has gained access to regions and peoples often closed to outsiders.

Free of a singular didactic perspective, her photographic essays from Afghanistan and Iraq depict the underlying realities of war: the pain, confusion, and exhilaration of being a soldier; the daily struggles for civilians, especially children, living in a war zone; and the lives of Taliban leaders.

A regular theme in Addario’s work is capturing the lives of women in male-dominated societies. Her most recent project involves photographing survivors of gender-based violence in the Congo and is part of a traveling exhibition intended to increase awareness of the ongoing human rights abuses taking place there. Addario’s dedication to demystifying foreign cultures and exposing the tragic consequences of human conflict is drawing much-needed attention to conflict zones around the world and providing a valuable historical record for future generations.

Her work has been exhibited at numerous national and international venues... and has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, and Harpers, among many other publications.
Addario has been based in Istanbul since 2003 and covers the Middle East for the New York Times. She won a 2008 Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography and contributed to the New York Times staff portfolio that won a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. While on assignment in Pakistan, she survived a car crash earlier this year.

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work."


* Lynsey Addario's Website

* Darfur Crisis Guide

* MacArthur Foundation Website

* National Press Photographers Association story

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Michael Rosenblum's New Online Video School & Video Wall Project

Videojournalism pioneer Michael Rosenblum, who has produced TV and video documentaries -- and trained aspiring visual journalists -- around the globe for decades, is now bringing his school online.

So if you don't have the concentrated time or tuition for one of his $2000 weekend bootcamps, you can study at your own pace for $9.95 per month (or $99.95 per year) via his online video tutorials at his New York Video School, now in beta. It is patterned after's all-you-can-eat monthly subscription fee model.

While you won't get the hands-on personal instruction that comes with joining one of Rosenblum's real-world group sessions, you will get access to training materials and lessons, forums and member groups. Students will be able to upload and share their work with others, receive comments and critiques, and then re-shoot and/or re-edit their assignments accordingly. From Rosenblum's perspective, it makes more sense to learn about video from video, as opposed to reading books about it.

In a recent interview, he told that, despite the name, the school's reach will be global -- and, in fact, not even limited to professional training:

"The school's target audience is not just journalists, he said: "We live in a world that is increasingly going to be dominated by video. You will use video to sell your car, to file a resume, to get a date.

"We think video literacy is going to be essential for survival in the 21st century. Our audience thus, is everyone."
While most of the material is tech-related tutorials about shooting and editing, we were gratified to see that visual storytelling was among the curricula offered.

In the Basic Video Storytelling class, students will learn "how to find a compelling story, shoot it with great coverage on the topic, and put it together in a exciting and interesting way that audiences will love." The Intermediate Video Storytelling class offers further instruction on sound bites, procuring and conducting interviews, and script writing.


On his blog, Rosenblum reveals that he has applied for a Knight Foundation grant for an unusual video project.

He is proposing to give 1,000 Flip cameras to 1,000 people in Newark, NJ, teach them how to shoot and edit their own stories, and then "create a gigantic video wall in a public space where we will show those videos, 100 at a time, simultaneously, while editing the sound to move your attention from square to square."

(He is separately trying to launch a similar project with 100 Flip cams in Gaza.)

Both ideas, he says, constitute "an attempt to change the shape and architecture of journalism for the 21st century."

The video wall I wish to construct, is both journalism and it is art.

We have, in the past few decades, dessicated journalism. We have removed the art from it. It has, from time to time, tried to sneak back, in the form of great photography, for example. But we have failed to embrace the art side of journalism, much to our detriment.

[The video wall] is a kind of impressionism brought to video. Instead of getting one linear video story, we are going to deliver a pointillism of video, if you will, in which the viewer of the work will be bathed in the ’sense’ of what Newark is really like.
Rosenblum's Knight proposal can be found here, and makes for provocative reading.

What do you think of Rosenblum's video wall concept? Is it art? Is it journalism? Please share your thoughts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ed Kashi: Why You Must Diversify & Collaborate

Visual journalist extraordinaire Ed Kashi shares excellent advice on the LiveBooks Photojournalism Blog today: "To create change, storytellers must conquer multiple media platforms."

It’s not enough anymore to create work for one media platform, especially if you intend to raise awareness about issues or are trying to effect change. Now when I create a new project as a photojournalist or with Talking Eyes Media, the non-profit production company I founded with my wife, Julie Winokur, we have our eyes on expanded opportunities for distribution: the web, social media, books, exhibitions, T.V., lectures, workshops, academic applications, and NGO collaborations. There are undoubtedly even more I haven’t thought, of and we’re always looking for new options.
Kashi emphasizes the necessity for photographers to master the various aspects of multimedia:

To work in this multi-platform landscape, you must develop skills beyond still photography. You should at least be proficient at gathering and editing audio, and preferably you’d also understand video and be able to handle post production to produce a finished piece.
Another advantage of interactivity is that you not only get instant feedback and contributions from your audience (which includes the people whose lives you are reporting about), but also an extra audience boost from the audience itself, who can be eager to share your work, and thus help with its distribution.

This is an important aspect of multi-platform storytelling: It can easily be disseminated to a wide variety of audiences. It also provides the means for those audiences to talk back with the photographer/producer about the work. It is exciting to being able to create a groundswell of interest in this way, by building a feedback loop between the documentarian, their subject, and the audience.
Multimedia requires more collaboration, and Kashi touts the advantages of teamwork -- not only during the creative process....

And what was once a solitary process, working as a still photographer, now takes on dimensions of collaboration, visual explorations, and deeper engagement with my subjects through audio capture.
... but also for disseminating your work...

I recommend that photographers have a vision for not only the the issue you’re reporting on, but also what larger impact you want to achieve and how you see it being distributed and utilized. One key is to work with a great editor who shares your vision and purpose. Editing for a book or editorial essay is vastly different than producing a short multimedia piece. As is curating an exhibition or lecture or teaching tool.

My experience has taught me that collaborating with like-minded people who share my vision and — most importantly — my sense of purpose for the issue at hand is the easiest path to making my vision a reality. I cannot do this alone. Luckily the the working relationships I’ve learned to develop with writers, editors, producers, audio people, and videographers not only help make our projects happen, they also provide creative collaboration that is exciting and deeply rewarding.
Read Ed Kashi's essay here, and be sure to visit his Talking Eyes Media Website.

Also, check out some of Kashi's remarkably diverse work that has been showcased on KobreGuide:

* The Sandwich Generation
See the challenges faced by an estimated 20 million Americans who have to take care of aging relatives.

* Curse of the Black Gold
The Niger Delta is rich in oil, yet Nigerians living there are poorer than ever, violence is rampant, and the land and water are fouled.

* A Meaningful New Mission
Retired Navy officer Rick Koca founded Stand Up for Kids to help homeless teens. In the process of changing their lives, he reinvented his own.

* India's Fast Lane to the Future
A new superhighway linking its four major cities is bringing old and new India into jarring proximity... for better and worse.

* Friends for Life
Timeless tale of two seniors who meet by chance and provide mutual support and affection for each other as they age.

* Arab Christians: The Forgotten Faithful
Followers of Jesus for 2,000 years are disappearing from the volatile land where their faith was born.

Detroit Free Press Wins 4th Emmy

Big congrats to the Detroit Free Press ( for winning a national Emmy Award last night for its multimedia package documenting Christ Child House, a foster home for boys in Detroit, that was previously showcased on KobreGuide.

(Other nominees in the category that honors new approaches to news and documentary reporting included MediaStorm's "Intended Consequences," also spotlighted on KobreGuide.)

Special kudos to project leader Kathy Kieliszewski and her team of videographers, photographers, and reporters. In addition to "one man band" videojournalism projects, the Detroit Free Press devotes staff and resources to large-scale productions, involving many contributors over long periods of time. As their multiple Emmys indicate, it's an investment that pays off.

The Free Press has now won four national Emmys, more than any other newspaper, all of which have appeared on KobreGuide's Emmy channel.

* Christ Child House: Where Children Find Hope

* Forty Years of R-E-S-P-E-C-T

* Pit Bulls: Companions or Killers?

* Michigan Marines Band of Brothers

See more top-quality videojournalism on KobreGuide's Detroit Free Press channel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Attention Newspapers: Video Improves Your Google Ranking

If you don't have video on your Website, you jeopardize your chances of getting a top Google search ranking.

That's a lesson that newspapers should take to heart, judging from the advice of Bruce Clay, a veteran of the search engine optimization (SEO) industry.

In an interview with ReelSEO, Clay discusses what is known as "Engagement Objects" -- multimedia components such as MP3 audio files or videos that Web page visitors can interact with.

Whereas Google once used 120 variables to rank Websites, thanks to "engagement objects" its algorithms now incorporate 200.

In the case of video, we believe that as one of the more important engagement objects, Google has actually started to build it into the algorithm. That means if your Website has video on it, it is going to be received by the algorithm better and your site will actually have an opportunity to rank better.

A year from now, we are going to be sitting here saying, "If you don’t have video, if you don’t have engagement objects on your website, you are just not going to rank. It will make you last among equals if you don’t have it.”
This corroborates the findings of Nate Elliot at Forrester Research earlier this year, in his study, “The Easiest Way to a First-Page Ranking on Google.” He concludes:

“Not only are video results increasingly common in Google’s search results, but your videos stand a 50 times greater chance than your text pages of being shown on the first results page.”
Forrester's tips for optimizing video for best search results:

* Insert keywords into your video filenames.

* Host your videos on YouTube, and embed those YouTube videos into your own site. Google says its algorithms consider how many times a video is viewed, and any views embedded videos receive on your own site get added to the 'views' tally on YouTube. (And yes, nearly every video we saw Google blend into its results came from YouTube.)

* Optimize your YouTube videos by writing keywords into your videos' titles, descriptions, and tags.

* Embed videos into relevant text pages on your site. The context provided by the text on those pages (which is hopefully already optimized for search as well) will help the search engines figure out what your videos are about.

* Also create a video library on your site, so Google knows where to find your video content. (Google Video Sitemaps can help with this too.) Write keyword-rich annotations for each video in the library.

Many newspaper Websites bury their video, poorly annotate it, and make it impossible to navigate (from text story to video and back, or from one video to another). They would do well to heed the advice from marketing pros, and start affording their potentially most valuable asset better care and treatment!

Watch the video interview with Bruce Clay here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Assignment: You Are a Video Camera

One of the most difficult concepts for videojournalists to learn and master is the use of shots and sequences to tell a visual story.

When you watch some of the best video stories on KobreGuide, you'll notice that, just like a good Hollywood movie, the narrative is composed of individual scenes (e.g. mom and baby playing in the living room; mom and baby at the pediatrician's office). So step one is to find a variety of appropriate locations and situations where you're likely to catch the interactions that will enliven your tale.

Each of those sequences is composed of individual shots. And that is often where videojournalists run into trouble, judging from the overwhelming number of stagnant scenes we see on newspaper Websites. A good sequence should be shot from a variety of positions and angles -- long, medium, close up. Zooming and panning should generally be avoided. Instead, short individual shots should be stitched together during the editing process.

Our video tutorials on how to shoot and edit sequences are a good place to start understanding these concepts and techniques. Notice how important it is for you and your camera to move around between shots, and not just stand in one spot and aim at one thing.

Essentially, the camera acts as a substitute for the human eyeball, enabling viewers to see what you are seeing -- and, by extension, what they would have seen if they had been standing in your shoes. The closer the shooter gets to re-creating that, the more successful he will be in re-creating the overall sensory and emotional experience of "being there."

To that end, we've devised an "invisible camera exercise" that should help videojournalists at all levels of experience and expertise.

The next time you go out to shoot a self-assigned video story, leave your camera at home. Instead take a pen and notebook... and your eyeballs. Instead of recording the event through a lens, observe the scene with your naked eyes, and write down specifically what you see. Make a "shot" list that includes not just the big picture (or long shot), but also each detail that your eyes naturally focus on, near and far -- a hand fiddling with a lock of hair, the framed family portraits on the piano.

As you walk around, be conscious of each angle and point of view your eyes are capturing. Write them all down.

In short, imagine what your finished video would look like if your eyeballs were cameras. And detail it, shot by shot.

At an outdoor rally, you see a big crowd of people, many carrying signs. Your eyes take in big chunks of audience, and soon focus on individuals. The speaker standing up front is wearing a jacket and tie, though his mostly seated audience is dressed for a picnic. A man in the crowd stands up. He shakes his fist. He starts chanting a slogan, trying to get those around him to join in. Another crowd member turns toward him and starts to clap in rhythmic accompaniment. The annoyed speaker at the microphone reacts in exasperation to the disruption. He crosses his arms. A little baby starts to cry. Its mother rocks it in her arms... And so on...

Notice that your eyes aren't panning and zooming, but rather capturing and registering a series of details that collectively follow a story line -- a frustrated speaker gradually being drowned out and overwhelmed by an antagonistic crowd. When you read your list of details, you should get a better idea of what each individual shot should look like.

Try this assignment, even if it's just the next time you're walking around a mall or sitting in a restaurant waiting for your order to arrive. Look around. Pretend you're a camera. Make a shot list of what you see. We think you'll find that the experience will be literally and figuratively an eye opener! As always, please let us know what you discover.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coming Soon: The Ethics of War Videojournalism

We salute editor Dirck Halstead and the staff of The Digital Journalist, the monthly online magazine for visual journalism, on the occasion of its 12th anniversary -- that's 143 issues of high-quality reporting and commentary on photojournalism, a remarkable accomplishment.

As with other recent installments, the Sept. '09 issue includes another elegy to the commercially beleagured industry, and yet another remedy for rescuing it: How to Start to Save Photojournalism. "Is there a way to turn this situation around?" it asks. "In our view, there is only one way: Philanthropists must come to the rescue."

While we're not sure we agree that's the only way, we're always glad that the publication adds more voices, and solutions, to the mix.

What especially caught our attention in this issue was the number of thoughtful pieces devoted to AP photojournalist Julie Jacobson's controversial photo of a dying soldier in Afghanistan. (See her narrated audio-slideshow, Death of a Marine, on KobreGuide):

As it happens, Jacobson is a 2006 alum of Halstead's pioneering Platypus Workshops, that train still photographers to embrace multimedia and videojournalism. This issue carries her journal entries while she was embedded with the Marines in Afghanistan, a must read.

Columnist Beverly Spicer contributes a comprehensive report on the brouhaha surrounding the decision to publish the disturbing photo, and ponders:

As Jacobson says in her notes, "It is necessary to be bothered from time to time. It is too easy to sit at Starbucks far away across the sea and read about the casualty and then move on without much of another thought about it. It is not as easy to see an image of that casualty and NOT think about it."

With the current crisis in journalism, most U.S. news organizations have greatly reduced their conflict coverage out of economic necessity, and many are consolidating with others for information gathering.

How will the same debate and struggles evolve in the future? As forms of media and access to information shift and change, as print media collapses and professional journalism is threatened, how will the equation change between the press's efforts to release information and countervailing efforts to control it?
In their ethics column, Karen Slattery and Mark Doremus conclude:

The Associated Press made the correct decision in not caving to the pressure. Critics will argue that the photo is tasteless and adds no value to the story. Not so. If everyone knew what the actual horror of war looked like, the image would not shock or appall.

For those who don't want to think about what the picture genuinely represents, the criticism affords a convenient excuse to look hard the other way. As a nation, this conflict belongs to all of us, not only to the military or the government. The image of the injured Marine forces us, as citizens, to ask ourselves what we are going to do about our war.

Those discussions are as urgent as they are necessary. They must be responsible, thoughtful and honest. We owe that much to Cpl. Bernard and his parents, and all of the soldiers who have been and will be sent to the Middle East.

It is common decency.
As we survey developments in the evolving sphere of ethics pertaining to moving images with audio, we have to ask:

What's going to happen when a videojournalist captures a soldier dying -- which will be even much more graphic and "real" than Jacobson's still image that shocked and upset so many?

What will happen when we are able to not just see a bloody soldier, but are able to watch one bleed? When we will be able to hear a soldier's agony, as he suffers and cries for help?

We've all seen and heard this in movie theaters -- how long before we see the real thing on newspaper Websites?

Will videojournalists shoot it? Will editors allow it? Will the public accept it?

Is it the right thing to do?

Who will have to make those hard decisions, and what criteria will they use? And what impact will those powerful video stories have on all of us?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey, Google Labs, How About a 'Fast Peek'?

Google Labs just launched Fast Flip, which is an ingenious way of quickly browsing entire pages of online publications that enables the publications themselves to better share in ad revenues. Everyone benefits!

You can currently access about three dozen titles, using a variety of criteria, but even Google's own description doesn't do it justice: "Blindingly fast overviews of headline pages of top newspapers." So just go play with it for yourself.

Since Google owns YouTube, we'd like to propose a video version of this. How about a 'Fast Peek' of the top news videos? Or for the less hurried, a 'Slow Look' at some quality videojournalism. Just sayin'!

Meanwhile, if you want to see the other two dozen cool apps Google has been cooking up for you, check out Google Labs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sound Advice: Shoot With Your Ears

In her report, "Shoot With Your Ears," NewsLab's Deborah Potter addresses the importance of audio in online video, sharing invaluable tips from pros:

Every picture should have a sound to convey the full experience of what it was like to be there. That’s what visual storytelling does best. But if you don’t capture crisp, clear natural sound, you can’t share that experience with the audience.
But Potter goes beyond the usual admonishments about good mikes and headphones, and offers examples of when and why you should put audio in the foreground. She shares examples of award-winning visual journalists who actually prioritized capturing their stories' sounds, and then shot the video afterwards to go along with it.

One reporter advocates timing your questions so that your subject's response will be accompanied by appropriate natural sounds (e.g. the crack of a baseball bat). In some instances she cites, the stories were actually edited and built around the sounds, not the images. The audio becomes the glue that holds the story together.

In short, good videojournalists know to listen for a good story, not just watch for one.

Deborah Potter is a veteran journalism trainer, reporter and writer. She founded NewsLab, a non-profit journalism resource center, in 1998, and is co-author of "Advancing the Story: Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World."

Lots more "sound advice" here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

3 Missing Elements of Most Videojournalism

This mini-interview (below) was recently shot by Marcia Chandra with her Flip videocamera in Perpignan, France at Visa Pour L'Image, the annual gathering of photojournalists, picture agencies and magazine editors that we recently attended.

Videojournalism was represented for the first time this year, if minimally. Lots of media organizations seemed to recognize that this was the future, and they all yearned to get there, but they weren't yet quite sure how -- or hadn't yet rationalized allocating the necessary resources of money and manpower.

Marcia wanted a two-minute interview. We said that professors are more accustomed to talking in 50-minute bursts... but that we would try and limit our comments for her. So we talked for less than ninety seconds. She said we could talk about anything, so we spontaneously tried to address the three main problems with most of the videojournalism that we see everyday, while we're searching for gems to showcase on KobreGuide.

By the way, the visual aesthetes among you will no doubt notice how deftly the background complements the shirt. Coincidence?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Newsday Explores Documentary Filmmaking

Excellent interview today on Knight Digital Media Center's Online Journalism Review.

Robert Niles (pictured) talks to Newsday's Thomas Maier about the paper's ambitious multimedia investigation into the aftermath of U.S. nuclear testing in the Pacific.

The topic: Can the Web forge a marriage between newspaper investigations and documentary filmmaking?

I asked Thomas if he'd answer some questions for OJR readers about the project. His responses got me thinking about the ways that newspaper investigations are naturally evolving into the same space as documentary filmmaking, thanks to multimedia convergence on the Web.

Having sat through so many PBS shows and pledge drives where hosts offer up copies of the network's documentaries on DVD for $20 a pop and up, Newsday's initial steps into documentary production suggest, to me at least, a possible alternate medium for newspapers to pursue their so-far elusive paid-content dreams. Forget about reading text on the Web for a moment. How about getting folks to pay for newspaper-produced investigative documentaries on Blu-Ray and DVD? Or pay-per-view or short-term rental via cable, satellite or movie distribution networks such as Netflix? What are the possibilities for long-form video news storytelling?
The in-depth interview explores Newsday's ambitious pioneering efforts, and is well worth your attention. It concludes:

Robert: How do you would justify future multimedia of this magnitude to a skeptical, cost-conscious management? (And if your management loves you now and is willing to fund future projects, how would you advise journalists in other newsrooms to elicit that kind of support?)

Thomas: The future for smart literate newspapers and magazines is clearly in multimedia presentations, showcased in ways that reflect who you're trying to attract as an audience. The old style of newspaper editors who prefer simply car accidents and cop arrests, turning the Web into a police blotter, are quickly fading. The challenge for newspapers will be in translating the "brain" of the newsroom – all those reporters working beats and developing sources and able to write print stories on deadline – into compelling and complementary video that can be quickly produced, scripted, narrated and edited with the quite efficient technology already available today like Final Cut Pro and Avid. Developing video and print stories together – under the same newsroom umbrella and not as separate units wary of one another – is the only way to go. That's especially so if your idea is to extend and capitalize on the affluent, well-educated audience of a suburban paper like Newsday and bring it profitably into the video age. This is no easy task, but it should be embraced by any journalist who wants to bring their stories to the widest audience possible. I do believe any print reporter – armed with a small HD camera and after some quick training on Final Cut Pro – can produce a five-minute video to accompany the next important print story you do. ... Documentary-making is the natural video expression of the newspaper investigation series. It's only a matter of time until newsrooms and their audience realize this.

* Interview here.
* Robert Niles bio here.
* Robert Niles Website here.
* Newsday multimedia investigation here.

TV News vs. Videojournalism: A Case Study

It's often tough to describe the difference between a TV news report and a videojournalism story. Because of the different demands of each medium -- both the way that the video is shot and edited, and the way that it's experienced by their respective audiences -- it's rare that they even cover the same subjects.

However, when a TV reporter and a videojournalist do happen to cross paths, it's illuminating to watch how they each handle their assignments.

Such is the case with this story about a retreat for wounded war veterans, which was covered both by Spokesman-Review multimedia staffers and a TV news reporter for Spokane's KXLY TV news. The videos appear on their respective Websites. The newspaper version is a bit more than twice as long. videojournalist Colin Mulvany noted other differences on his Mastering Multimedia blog:

My most recent project “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon,” is yet another collaboration with Spokesman-Review reporter Kevin Graman. We spent a couple of days at a retreat for local wounded war veterans.

Local TV news (KXLY) showed up just after we did. They grabbed a few interviews, shot some b-roll and were gone in 30 minutes. We stayed 48 hours and shot a dozen interviews. When I watched the TV version of the story, I was actually impressed.

They defined the story quickly, gave viewers the pertinent information with context from the injured soldiers. The writing was brisk, and snappy. But as I sit here seven days later, I have not much recollection of their story. It didn’t really stick with me.

I think the narrative, from both the veterans and the reporter voiceover in my video, go much deeper. I tried to keep the pace moving by editing in strong sequences of action between the talking heads. In the end, I can’t say my edit is any better. It’s just a different way to tell the same story.
Tell us, what differences do you perceive between the two styles? Which do you prefer?

The TV News version:

"Local veterans getting much needed retreat: The transition back from the battlefield for veterans is by no means a walk in the park, but for one week some local veterans are given a chance to try and put their bad thoughts behind them. KXLY4's Dave Erickson reports." (1:58)

The Videojournalism version:

"Beyond the Yellow Ribbon: The Veterans Outreach Center and the Spokane Valley Fire Department bring 20 severely wounded combat veterans together to share their experiences during four days of healing at the Pinelow Retreat Center in Deer Lake, Washington." (4:15)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New iPod Nano: World's Smallest Camcorder

The new iPod Nano is out and, yep, it's really got a videocamera crammed into its 3.6 x 1.5 x 0.2 inch little body -- sharing space with a mike, speaker, FM radio, voice recorder, pedometer... and, oh yeah, music player.

As the illustrious New York Times tech columnist David Pogue reports:

Yes, on the back of the new Nano, there’s a tiny lens and a microphone the size of a pinhole. If this isn’t the smallest camcorder in the world, I don’t know what is.

The video quality turns out to be exactly like the iPhone’s: nowhere near as good as a camcorder’s video, but better than a typical cellphone’s. You can see some sample footage on Apple’s demo page. Keep in mind, of course, that (a) Apple’s samples are all shot in bright sunlight, and (b) they appear on Apple’s page smaller than they really are, which makes them look sharper.

You can record for 8 or 16 hours on this little thing. There are 15 video effects you can add for fun (Black and White, X-Ray, Thermal, Security Cam, Cyborg, and so on). You ache for an image stabilizer—this wisp of metal truly isn’t an ideal shape for holding steady. In fact, filming with it feels awkward in general, at least at first.

The sound is crisp but mono; the video is only standard definition. The Nano does not shoot still photos; Apple says that kind of sensor wouldn’t fit in a case this small.

I want to whine about these things, I really do. But you know what? You’ve got video in a machine that can hide between two fingers, for Pete’s sake. There’s something to be said about having a video recorder in a gadget that’s so small, you always have it with you. What good is hi-def if you didn’t have the camcorder when the moment arose?

Also, don’t be surprised if this thing triggers a whole social wave of spy-filming. It’s totally easy to conceal.
Implications for videojournalists? Flip vidcams, and its burgeoning one-button copycats, are still better quality for on-the-fly HD shooting (if you don't need audio), and none of these hobbyist toys comes close to emulating professional gear. But anybody who bets against them soon becoming serious tools for journalists forgets that it was only 5 minutes ago that Final Cut made its way from Hollywood studios to laptops.

9 Weddings in 9 Minutes, 9/09/09, 9 Guests Each, at a 99 Cents Store

Sure, it's a publicity stunt for the 99 Cents Only store in Hollywood -- inviting nine couples to get married in consecutive ceremonies that each lasted nine minutes, on September 9, 2009.

But the Los Angeles Times took the opportunity to create an upbeat, if slightly surreal, audio slideshow of the event. It gives new meaning to "walking down the aisle."

The images are cleverly accompanied by only the voice of the non-denominational minister conducting the ceremonies. All other info must be gleaned from the accompanying text:

Each couple was allowed to bring nine guests. The couples were supplied with a wedding cake, drinks and fruit after the morning ceremonies. A limousine was provided for the couples and their guests, taking them to the Griffith Park Observatory. The couples were also given a $100 bill in exchange for a penny, and a one-night stay with dinner and breakfast at a hotel in Brentwood.
We would have liked to hear more from the couples themselves -- how they got wrangled into this, what their friends and family think about it, whether they registered at the store. Perhaps the Times will be industrious enough to revisit the couples and see how their marriages are progressing -- next July 11 at a 7-Eleven!

Watch it here.

Photography and audio by Mel Melcon, produced by Bryan Chan.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

'Honest Truths' Studies Ethical Issues for VJs

Videojournalists face a slew of moral and ethical quandaries in every stage of shooting and editing their stories. A new study intelligently and engagingly addresses some of the most prevalent.

It's called Honest Truths: Documentary Filmmakers on Ethical Challenges in Their Work, published by American University School of Communication's Center for Social Media.

This study provides a map of perceived ethical challenges that documentary filmmakers—directors and producer-directors—in the United States identify in the practice of their craft. It summarizes the results of 45 long-form interviews in which filmmakers were asked simply to describe recent ethical challenges that surfaced in their work.

The interview pool consisted of 41 directors or producer-directors who had released at least two productions at a national level and who have authorial control. Most of those makers had experience both with nonprofit outlets, such as public TV, and with cable or commercial network television. Also included were four executive producers in national television programming organizations. The population spanned three generations.

Documentary filmmakers identified themselves as creative artists for whom ethical behavior is at the core of their projects. At a time when there is unprecedented financial pressure on makers to lower costs and increase productivity, filmmakers reported that they routinely found themselves in situations where they needed to balance ethical responsibilities against practical considerations. Their comments can be grouped into three conflicting sets of responsibilities: to their subjects, their viewers, and their own artistic vision and production exigencies.

Filmmakers resolved these conflicts on an ad-hoc basis and argued routinely for situational, case-by-case ethical decisions. At the same time, they shared unarticulated general principles and limitations. They commonly shared such principles as, in relation to subjects, “Do no harm” and “Protect the vulnerable,” and, in relation to viewers, “Honor the viewer’s trust.”
Among the topics discussed:

* Staging, restaging, and effects

* Framing and editing

* Paying subjects

* Sharing decision-making and/or control of final cut

* Protecting vulnerable or endangered subjects

* Reselling or distributing images in other contexts

* Deliberate deception to achieve a greater good

The report concludes:

When filmmakers face ethical conflicts, they often resolve them in an ad-hoc way, keeping their deep face-to-face relationship with subjects and their more abstract relationship with the viewers in balance with practical concerns about cost, time, and ease of production.

The ethical conflicts put in motion by these features of a filmmaker’s embattled-truth-teller identity are, ironically for a truth-telling community, unable to be widely shared or even publicly discussed in most individual cases. Sometimes filmmakers are constrained by contract, but far more often they are constrained by the fear that openly discussing ethical issues will expose them to risk of censure or may jeopardize the next job.

Filmmakers thus find themselves without community norms or standards. Institutional standards and practices remain proprietary to the companies for which the filmmakers may be working and do not always reflect the terms they believe are appropriate to their craft. Their communities are far-flung, virtual, and sporadically rallied at film festivals and on listservs. Filmmakers need to share both experience and vocabulary and to be able to question their own and others’ decision-making processes without encountering prohibitive risk.

Documentary filmmakers need a larger, more sustained and public discussion of ethics, and they also need safe zones to share questions and to report concerns. Any documentary code of ethics that has credibility for a field with a wide range of practices must develop from a shared understanding of values, standards, and practices. A more extended and vigorous conversation is needed in order to cultivate such understanding in this field of creative practice.
Download the study here (PDF file).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Poynter Seminar for Visual Journalists

For journalists who appreciate the need to work visuals into their storytelling vocabulary, Poynter is offering a course in Essentials for the Versatile Visual Journalist

Your newsroom is changing everyday. How can your skills as a visual journalist help you excel in print or online? In this hands-on seminar, we provide practical experience and insight to help develop your knowledge of multimedia tools and new story forms. Learn to identify your own strengths and gain a better understanding of how collaboration can enhance storytelling.
You'll learn:

* The best uses of audio, video, still image, informational graphics, interactivity and Web and print design

* How the right tools can facilitate better journalism

* Ways to develop your personal skills and interests toward the most focused career path

To apply, or for more info, go here, or contact

Instructor: Sara Dickenson Quinn (pictured)

Seminar dates: 11/30 - 12/4

Application deadline: 10/19

Tuition: $995

Saturday, September 5, 2009

'Buy One Anyway' -- Rescue This Newspaperman

The Buy One Anyway foundation encourages folks to purchase newspapers everyday, even if no one wants to read them anymore.

As this heart-tugging Slate video (below) indicates, for mere pennies a day, you can help clothe, feed and shelter a mid-career, award-winning journalist who is trapped in a dying industry.

And just because you don't get your news from it, doesn't mean newspapers aren't useful -- for packing dishes, lighting BBQs, even drying windshields!

These overtaxed, underappreciated professionals need your help. For the price of a latte, you can buy them just a few more weeks to polish their resumes.

A "laughing through the tears" thanks to writer/director Scott Blaszak, executive producers Andy Bowers and Bill Smee, host Alissa Ford.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stop the Presses! Start the Presses!

The bad news is that, on Sept. 8, yet another newspaper is stopping its presses. The good news is that it's starting them up again the next day -- at a new location, with new state-of-the-art equipment, for its redesigned print edition.

Appropriately straddling the eras of print and Web, the Naples (Florida) Daily News produced a behind-the-scenes video story, The Final Run, about the process. It gives us one last look at the old press, and the people who operate it.

Before we collectively forget what a printing press even looks like -- majestic for those hailing back to the Woodward/Bernstein era and beyond -- take a look at their video documenting the transition, lovingly produced by Manuel Martinez & Lexey Swall.

"The black-and-white sections of this video were created with a series of still photographs to simulate motion," they reveal.

NPPA Virtual Video Workshop at Poynter

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) is conducting a "Virtual Video Workshop" on Sept. 19 at 10:15 a.m. (ET). It is hosted by the Poynter Institute.

Learn new video skills, improve your techniques and... join the winners of NPPA's Best of Photojournalism video contest in this innovative online workshop. You'll get detailed accounts on the creation of their videos. You'll learn their methods, listen to their insights, watch their work and ask them questions in this daylong online event.
Speakers will include:

* Darren Durlach, WBFF-TV in Baltimore, NPPA's 2009 Ernie Crisp Television News Photographer of the Year
* Boyd Huppert, KARE in Minneapolis, a three-time winner of the NPPA Special Award for Reporting
* Greg T. Johnson, WFAA-TV in Dallas, NPPA's 2009 Video Editor of the Year
* Pierre Katta,, Emmy Award-winning video producer

If you can't attend the live event, or can't commit to the entire day, we'll have an archived replay available soon after the live workshop. Your registration for the live event will also give you access to the replay plus our bonus resources.
More info here.

More News University Webinars here.

Have Vidcam, Will Travel ... Need $$$ ?

You want to travel to exotic lands where you can create videojournalism projects ... but you don't have the dough.

SalaamGarage, which leads small groups of visual journalists on worthwhile expeditions around the globe, is an expert at figuring out how to finance them.

SalaamGarage is a citizen journalist organization that partners with International NGOs and local non-profits. Participants (photographers, writers, videographers, etc.) create and share independent media projects that raise awareness and cause positive change in their online and offline social communities.
Now they've published a guide to funding your project, via social media -- including Facebook and WordPress.

The two methods for raising awareness and money documented here each have their advantages. Facebook is quicker, easier and does not require any technical background. Hosting your own site and blogging with WordPress is more technical, but it provides more customization options.
SalaamGarage's upcoming India trip is full, but they still have a few spaces left for their 2010 excursions to Vietnam and Guatemala.

Sign up now -- and start searching for your financial underwriting.