Friday, April 30, 2010

Bookmark This: Good Weekend Reading

A roundup of excerpts from topical articles, reports and essays relating to visual journalism. Click on each title to read the original in its entirety:

Thoughts on Flash
By Steve Jobs

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven – they say we want to protect our App Store – but in reality it is based on technology issues....

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.


Nokia exec: phones to make system cameras obsolete
By Reuters

Fast developing cameraphone technology will shortly make SLR system cameras and even professional cameras obsolete, the sales chief of the world's top cellphone maker Nokia said. "They will in the very near future revolutionise the market for system cameras," Anssi Vanjoki said in a speech in Helsinki.

"There will be no need to carry around those heavy lenses," Vanjoki said, pointing to a professional photographer taking pictures of him.

The proliferation of smartphones with picture quality comparable to most pocket cameras has boosted photography around the world, but they have so far not challenged real system cameras due to phones' smaller size and weaker technology.

Vanjoki said high-definition (HD) quality video recording was also coming to cellphones within the next 12 months.

"It will not take long, less than a year, when phones can record HD quality video and you can transfer it directly to your HD television set," Vanjoki said.


Dorothea Lange: Drawing Beauty Out Of Desolation (pictured)
By NPR Staff

Many of us have an image of what the Great Depression looked like — even if we weren't there. One reason is because of Dorothea Lange's photographs.

Linda Gordon, who wrote a book on the renowned photographer called Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, recalls one of Lange's favorite sayings: A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.

"She really understood that the ability to see does not come from your eye; it comes from your brain," Gordon tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.


NAB 2010: JVC Snags Hearst Deal
To provide handheld camcorders for backpack journalists
By Glen Dickson (Broadcasting & Cable)

JVC announced that station group Hearst Television will be buying its handheld GY-HM100 ProHD camcorders for its take on the "backpack journalism" journalist concept, which Hearst calls the "Next Generation Newsroom Project."

Hearst piloted the Next Generation project in three stations last year, and has launched it this year at WPBF West Palm Beach and KETV Omaha, Neb. Six more stations are now using the GY-HM100 camcorders, which records natively in the .mov format on SDHC media cards and lists for $3,495.


Hearst Television going SoloVJ
By Cliff Etzel (Solo Videojournalist)

The interesting thing is that although the camera is squarly marketed at Final Cut Pro users due to the instant support of the files from the camera file format ingesting quickly into Final Cut Pro, the stations are using Dell Laptops and using Adobe CS5 as the editing application.

Soap box moment here: That’s dumber than a box of rocks people.

Why use a camera whose native file format is squarely meant for Apple Final Cut Pro users and kludge it to work with what has become known within the community as Adobe Bloatware.

Hearst would be much better off using Edius Pro or Avid Media Composer.


Reporters Look to Expand Horizons with Backpack Journalism
By Leah Betancourt (Old Media, New Tricks)

Journalists are increasingly looking to expand their skill set or even reinvent themselves during this challenging time for the news industry. Some are doing it on their own terms.

Former newspaper reporters Alexis Grant and Adam Jadhav have a lot in common. They both quit their full-time reporting jobs they loved to travel abroad while blogging and shooting photos and video along the way.


The Future of VJs
By Deborah Potter (

We’ve all read the stories about the sea change in television news. From the ABC network news division to local stations from coast to coast, VJs are taking over, the stories say. The “one man band” reporter who shoots and edits once was found primarily in small markets but is now common in the top 10. Right? Maybe not.

Research by RTDNA and Hofstra University finds the use of VJs has indeed gone up for the past several years but it hasn’t skyrocketed. About a third of local stations now say they mostly use VJs. Three years ago, it was a little over one in five. And the number of stations that don’t use any VJs has gone down sharply, from 29% in 2006 to 18% today.

But researcher Bob Papper says the real surprise came in answer to this question: Did you use VJs more or less in the past year? Only 12% of news directors said they used them more, while 29% said less. Those numbers aren’t at all what you’d expect in current economic conditions, and even less so given that the survey was in the field during the depths of the recession. Yes, almost half of the news directors who responded said they expected to use VJs more in 2010, but that’s what they always say. “Every year, expected use of more goes up way faster than the actual use,” said Papper.


Ethics for the new investigative newsroom:
A Roundtable Report on best practices for nonprofit journalism (.pdf)

A collaboration of:
• Center for Journalism Ethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison
• Knight Chair in Investigative & Enterprise Reporting, University of Illinois
• Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism


Non-profit journalism ethics
By Deborah Potter (

The more I read about how non-profit funding is going to save journalism, the more I wonder about the cost. As grant-supported news operations like Pro Publica and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Reporting proliferate, they’re not just changing journalism’s business model but also raising questions about conflict of interest.

The ad-supported model has its own issues, of course. Advertisers have been known to pressure newsrooms for favorable coverage and some newsrooms have been all too willing to blend news and sales. But the old business model kept any one “buyer” from having too much influence. Can newsrooms really maintain editorial independence if they have just a handful of powerful funders?

A new report from the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests the answer is yes, but only if the news organization works at it. The report summarizes the results of a conference held earlier this year and it’s full of useful nuggets from nonprofit journalism experts.

One area of agreement was on the need to decide early on who you will and won’t take money from. Many but not all of the journalism centers represented at the conference drew the line at government funds. How would they rate other potential donors?

More commentary:

Ethics for the Investigators
A new report seeks standards for nonprofit newsrooms
By Alexandra Fenwick (Columbia Journalism Review)

As journalism’s economic base has been irrevocably altered, so have the relationships between journalists, funders, and audiences. While it remains to be seen just how large a share of the media environment nonprofits and their supporters will eventually account for, they are clearly playing an increasing role—one that beleaguered journalists are grateful for. But one of the things that hasn’t changed is a truism noted at a January roundtable discussion with nonprofit newsroom leaders, which was the foundation for today’s report: “All funding bugs journalists.” All the more reason, then, to try to create standards for this new frontier in journalism.


• Nonprofit journalists should turn their investigative instincts on their donors and themselves. By vetting funders and striving to be as transparent as possible about where the money comes from, news organizations can mitigate the sort of accusations of conflicts of interest they would aim to expose in any other arena. As the report says, “It is better to reveal one’s funding sources and be criticized, than not to reveal and have the information surface elsewhere.”

• Following up on the concept that is better to report on yourself than to have others do it for you, Toronto Star deputy investigations editor Robert Cribb predicted that the ethics of nonprofit newsrooms will come under heightened scrutiny from mainstream news organizations as nonprofits grow and compete with legacy media. “These questions are going to be not just a matter of debate at a roundtable at a university, but these are going to be on the front pages of newspapers.”

• On the issue of transparency, it’s not enough to just list funders’ names. Nonprofits should make their funding information prominent and easily accessible, said Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity. As Christa Westerberg, an attorney for the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, says, 501(c)(3) organizations must provide a copy of their application for nonprofit status and IRS Form 990 immediately to anyone who asks in person and within 30 days to any written request. May as well be proactive and put it out there for all to see.

• Nonprofits should maintain walls between journalists and donors the way for-profit papers have established walls between editorial staff and advertisers. “Working staff should, relatively speaking, be free of close interaction with funding sources,” Lewis said.


Z on TV
By David Zurewik (Baltimore Sun)

It hasn't received much publicity, but there's a documentary HBO is showing though May 12 that is absolutely worth going out of your way to see. And while it takes place in Burma, it connects directly to recent events in such places as College Park (Maryland) and the Baltimore Sun newsroom.

"Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country" is not just a gut-wrenching account of the protests in 2007 that saw thousands of Buddhist monks and more than 100,000 Burmese citizens take to the streets, it is also the most powerful statement I have seen in years as to why journalism still matters and where some of our most heroic reporting is being done today.

The film by Anders Ostergaard captures the soaring hopes of the early days of the uprising as the monks started parading in protest against one of the most repressive military regimes in the world. It also shows the brutal blowback that followed with images of the bodies of dead monks floating in the river in Ragoon. And if not for a band of video journalists -- many of them students willing to risk their lives -- the world would never have known the story....

I hope some of my colleagues who are not feeling so great about the profession these days will check out the film. It's a reminder of the risk, greatness and power of honest reporting. You will not only feel great admiration for the members fo the Democratic Voice of Burma. It will make you proud to be part of this profession.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cinematic Videojournalism?

Have you been following the fuss over "cinematic journalism"? It started when Khalid Mohtaseb went to Haiti and produced a video montage of the earthquake's aftermath. As you can see, it's visually stunning...

... and therein lies the controversy. Although it's not clear what exactly the dispute is.

First, some objected to the idea of shooting pretty pictures of people in misery, claiming irresponsible ethical breaches. Then, when Mohtaseb shared his aesthetic secrets on a popular DSLR blog (color-grading with Apple Color and Magic Bullet), others objected to "glamorizing" reality in the name of journalism. Others found it vile that he used a Kessler Crane Pocket Dolly to create motion in otherwise stagnant shots, arguing that the technique belonged in fictional Hollywood films, not in real-life disaster zones.

Mohtaseb and his defenders counterclaimed that visual journalism need not consist solely of gritty images, and that shooters should take advantage of the ubiquity of high-definition technology to produce something that will grab attention by deliberately looking different from the typical TV news footage we're all too accustomed to seeing. Many applauded the simple fact that it looked new and fresh and stylish.

Others objected to the fact that, without interviews or narration, the images alone presented no context or understanding of the situation. We get to know the subjects only by their faces, not their hearts, minds or souls.

You can follow the debate here and here and here.

Vincent Laforet, an award-winning former New York Times photojournalist, chimes in, adding perspective about using DSLR for news and documentary video:

Here's Mohtaseb himself hashing it out with veteran TV news cameraman Philip Bloom:

From our perspective, the wrong questions are being asked. The controversy shouldn't be over whether videojournalism can consist of gorgeous images -- visual journalists of every generation have always taken advantage of the latest optical advances. Isn't that the point of owning a HD-DSLR? Color correction and enhancement has been with us a long time, and is fair game -- provided, of course, it doesn't alter reality.

As for employing cinematic style, we're not sure why there should be a problem with enriching one's visual vocabulary by looking towards Hollywood for inspiration. While we draw the line at "special effects" that distort what the naked eye would see at that same location, it's always been the job of the visual journalist to employ an arsenal of legitimate techniques to draw our eye to the subject, and see it in a novel and unexpected way.

Ultimately, what was Mohtaseb trying to achieve? In a Huffington Post interview, he said:
My intent when creating this piece was to cover the disaster in a non-traditional manner as well as create a piece that can be viewed as a series of moving photographs... I wanted the visuals to do the talking rather than have sound bites or interviews. Most of the footage coming out at the time was of the devastation and destruction. I wanted to show that life continued despite incomprehensible odds.
The visuals are admirable, and unquestionably light years beyond the oft-numbing pedestrian B-roll we've grown accustomed to seeing on TV newscasts. But we would argue that the piece falls short of telling its intended story, and not necessarily just because it substitutes a maudlin strings soundtrack for human voices.

Ironically, what's called for is more Hollywood influence, not less. Like an array of beautiful words in search of sentences and paragraphs, Mohtaseb's beautiful footage needs to be arranged into scenes and sequences to tell a compelling story. We need to get to know the characters, up close and personal, to empathize with their plight.

The video might serve a useful purpose as a companion to a fleshed-out text article, but to qualify as journalism on its own merits, it needs to show us more than well-lit, well-composed colorful images. It also needs to enhance our comprehension of the situation and inform us of the basic W's: who, what, when, where, and most of all, why.

Not all shooters can be great interviewers, and vice versa. Very few have all the requisite skills to find, plan and execute a multi-dimensional story that engages, entertains and enlightens.

While solo artists gravitate toward videojournalism -- or are pushed in that direction by budgetary considerations -- they also need to candidly assess their strengths and weaknesses, and compensate accordingly by recruiting collaborators to assist in areas where they are deficient.

So can "cinema" and "videojournalism" coexist? Of course! However, what we are seeing in this Haiti montage may be great cinema, but it's not quite journalism.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Concentra Award Nominees Announced

The nominations for this year’s Concentra Award for Outstanding Video Journalism have been announced.

The Concentra awards an annual prize to a journalist who, in terms of both substance and production, produced an interesting news item which was broadcast on a news program of a television station. By awarding this prize, Concentra aims to stimulate journalists to film and edit their own pieces, so they master the entire production process themselves. Established in 2004, the award comes with 10,000 euros (approx. $14,000 US) in prize money.
    Final judging of the 10 nominated entries will take place on May 6th in Antwerp. The Concentra jury is chaired by Michael Rosenblum, CEO of Rosenblum TV.

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    New Business Strategies for Photojournalists

    Photojournalism, first pronounced dead in 1972 with the closure of the weekly edition of Life magazine, has been like a cat with nine lives. It is undoubtedly going through turbulent times, but has the cat reached the end of its natural life or is it just morphing into a new beast?

    In an article published last year entitled, ‘Lament for a Dying Field: Photojournalism’, the New York Times reported on one of the most recent signs of the field’s weakening pulse, the bankruptcy of the venerable French picture agency, Gamma. In America there was the closure of the Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the bankruptcy of The Chicago Tribune Company. Even Associated Press (AP) laid off some staffers.

    Against this bleak backdrop, I undertook an informal survey among participants and attendees at the 2009 Visa pour l’Image International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France. I learned how photographers are adapting to the extraordinary changes talking place in the field. Yes, many professionals lamented the passing of the various ‘golden eras’ of photojournalism — from the Forties through to the Nineties – but at the same time many others are changing their business strategies...

    Read more here.

    (Versions of the essay originally appeared in Canon Professional Network (CPN) magazine, published in Europe, and in NPPA's News Photographer magazine.)

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    5 YouTube Reporters Win $10,000

    YouTube's Project: Report videojournalism contest, produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center, has announced its five grand-prize winners. Each receives a $10,000 grant "to report on an under-reported story outside of the United States."

    Here are the winning entries. Let us know what you think:

    Mark Jeevaratnam tells the story of a group addressing prescription drug abuse in an Appalachian coal-mining town in southeast Kentucky:


    Paul Franz follows the story of Joseph Dieune, a Haitian migrant worker who sends money to his family back home:


    Samantha Danis explores the challenges facing the deaf community in America:


    Alex Rozier reports on an organization in Missouri trying to help the world’s immobile people:


    Elan Gepner documents how the Philadelphia Student Union is trying to combat violence through community-building efforts:


    For other honorees, visit the Project: Report center, where you can also see the semifinalists' submissions and their video blogs.

    We hope their work inspires you to think about ways you can use your video camera and YouTube to share important stories with the rest of the world.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    BBC Multimedia: The Long Way Home

    Volcano-induced air-travel paralysis has been splendidly captured in a BBC audioslideshow, The Long Way Home, ingeniously produced by Paul Kerley.

    The blend of stunning images and soundbites are cleverly set to the beat of REM, Sinatra, Pat Benatar, Dwight Yoakam, and more, underscoring the comic preposterousness of the whole messy situation.

    Watch it here.

    (Cyberhat tip to Guy Kawasaki's Alltop.)

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Only the Good Die Young

    FLYP magazine ( has been nominated for a prestigious Webby Award for its smart, resourceful pioneering of online multimedia, under the direction of former Time Inc. editor extraordinaire Jim Gaines.

    The other four nominees are The Economist, National Geographic, the The New Yorker and Wired -- putting us in the company of titles with substantially more financial and journalistic resources, but not necessarily better ideas about how to tell stories on the web.
    Alas, lacking those financial resources, after only two years, Flyp will publish no more. The investment capital has dried up, and until more is found, the revolutionary online mag will stand as a bold testament to what could and should be. (Editor Jim Gaines recently left to start his own interactive company.)

    Flyp combines text, graphics, stills, animation, audio and video like no other online magazine, no doubt because it was created specifically for the Web and not just a Web adaptation of a previously existing print publication. Its navigation alone provides a different experience from merely flipping/clicking through pages.

    So all at once we offer congrats, thanks, and hopeful wishes for a cavalry rescue and a speedy rebound.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Webby Nominees for Video Documentary

    The 14th Annual Webby Award nominees have been announced, in a broad array of categories, incorporating fiction, non-fiction and everything in between. The ones that most closely resemble videojournalism can be found in the DOCUMENTARY and NEWS & POLITICS subcategories of the ONLINE FILM & VIDEO category.

    The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. Established in 1996 during the Web's infancy, the Webbys are presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which includes an Executive 750-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities, and Associate Members who are former Webby Award Winners and Nominees and other Internet professionals.
    As always, many of the nominees have previously been showcased on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism.


    A Schoolgirl's Odyssey (New York Times)

    Driftless: Stories from Iowa (MediaStorm)
    (On KobreGuide: )

    In Silence: Maternal Mortality in India (Human Rights Watch)

    Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining (Yale Environment 360)
    (On KobreGuide: )

    Waterlife (National Film Board of Canada)


    Alabama's Homeboys (Los Angeles Times)
    (On KobreGuide:

    Gun Markets of Pakistan (VBS.TV)

    Silverton Saves Its Paper (AARP Bulletin Today)
    (On KobreGuide: )

    Toxic Waters (NY Times)
    (On KobreGuide: )

    Will This Man Be Able To Keep His Home? (Huffington Post Investigative Fund)

    The Webby Awards presents two honors in every category -- The Webby Award and The People's Voice Award -- in each of its four entry types: Websites, Interactive Advertising, Online Film & Video and Mobile Web. Members of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences select the nominees for both awards in each category, as well as the winners of the Webby Awards. However, you, the online community, determine the winners of The People's Voice by voting for the nominated work that you believe to be the best in each category.
    You can vote for your favorites in the People's Voice awards at .

    Congrats to all nominees. Webby Awards will be presented during Internet Week in New York, June 7-14, 2010.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Good Storytelling Is Always in Style

    Dirck Halstead and PF Bentley's 10-day Platypus workshops are celebrated for their intensive hands-on instruction in videojournalism. Gail Mooney (pictured) attended their bootcamp ten years ago, and returned this year as an instructor. As she reports, a lot has changed technologically in those intervening years .

    However, we're glad that one underlying lesson endures, and that's the eternal quest for high-quality storytelling. Yes, it's important to master cameras, mics and editing software. But the prettiest pictures and loveliest scenes don't mean diddly if the viewer is not engaged by a compelling narrative.
    If I had to make one distinction that separates the Platypus Workshop from so many of the other DSLR workshops that have sprung up of late, it’s the workshop’s emphasis on telling the story – and the story is everything. Before you even set out to start shooting your final project, you need to get your “commitment” approved by PF or Dirck. You need to present to them in a concise sentence or two what your story is about. If you can’t articulate what your story is about – you ‘re sent back to the drawing table to refine or define what your message is. That’s a pretty big distinction if you think about it because without a solid story, even the most technically proficient videos will fall short with a viewer and end up being an unmemorable piece of fluff....

    Good story telling never goes out of fashion , no matter what tools one chooses to use to tell their story. A good story is a good story....

    The tools may have changed since my days at the Platypus Workshop but the fundamentals of video journalism are pretty much the same. I’m grateful for that foundation because telling the story is what it’s all about and that never goes out of style.
    Gail Mooney's blog, Journeys of a Hybrid, is chockablock with excellent insight into straddling the worlds of photojournalism and videojournalism.

    Upcoming Platypus workshops:
    Prague, Czech Republic: July 9–18.
    Rockport, Maine: July 25–August 3.

    More info here.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    'I Am a Journalist... and I Play One on Web Video'

    Anyone who's worked in a newsroom knows that real reporters and editors talk as elliptically, offhandedly and, um, colorfully as the rest of us. In casual conversation, real journalists in real life are as prone to misstatements, unintentional errors, and faux pas as the people they report and write about.

    The trouble is, most people haven't worked in a newsroom. So any civilian who "spies" on the morning editorial meeting that kicks off the New York Times' daily TimesCast video might understandably surmise that journalists are a different breed of human, who speak fully formed crisp thoughts in complete grammatically correct sentences -- or what those in the trade call "quotes" (print) or "soundbites" (broadcast). It's almost as though we're watching scripted actors. They even dress more like spiffy TV and movie versions of newspaper staffs.

    And therein lies the rub. It's always been an interesting ethical conundrum as to whether videojournalists (and this includes shooters for TV news and feature-length documentaries) should allow their subjects a "retake." Remember, most people are not comfortable nor accustomed to being in front of a camera, so they often stumble and bumble while trying to form a coherent response to an interviewer's question. They don't want to look bad, so they'll sometimes ask for a second chance, now that they have the answer formulated and ready to articulate.

    On the one hand, it can be argued that it's the journalist's job to document reality on the first take; on the other, everyone deserves to be depicted fairly. But there is no simple solution, and only a hornet's nest of ancillary conundrums (e.g. what happens if the response changes on the second take?) Ultimately it's a question of whether the audience is getting a correct and truthful picture of the subject and the situation, and the reporter has to be the arbiter of that.

    Now let's see what happens when the reporter is the subject. And not just the subject of an interview (which can be re-shot and/or edited to his advantage), but of a documentary-style scene (i.e. the editorial meeting). Compound that by the fact that what they are saying is relied upon for being factual. What if an editor misspeaks in an editorial meeting? Does he get a re-take (and should the audience be alerted to that)?

    That's exactly what happened in one of the first TimesCasts -- and at the time, it wasn't much of a dilemma, because nobody noticed the gaffe until it was too late. Once caught, executive editor Bill Keller (pictured) remarked, “Agh. This is why I went into print rather than TV.”

    As the Times itself reported:
    Because “TimesCast” is taped and edited, Keller said he should have said, “cut,” and given a more careful summary of the story then in progress. Ann Derry, the editor in charge of the paper’s video operations, said, “Several pairs of eyes view every segment — and the entire show — before it goes up.” She said they all missed Keller’s errors and will “‘button up’ our procedures going forward.”
    But what exactly does that entail? It seems that, no matter what, we will be treated to a Hollywoodization of an editorial meeting -- with real journalists, real stories, real situations... but ultimately a fake experience. Since everyone is camera-conscious to begin with, and subject to editing, it can never actually be a true fly-on-the-wall depiction.

    Does it matter? Should it matter? What are your thoughts?

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Pulitzer Photography Honorees on KobreGuide

    Congratulations to all 94th annual Pulitzer Prizewinners in Journalism, announced today by Columbia University. The winner of the Feature Photography award, and the two finalists in that category, had previously been showcased on KobreGuide as stellar multimedia presentations .

    Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post won the Pulitzer "for his intimate portrait of a teenager who joins the Army at the height of insurgent violence in Iraq, poignantly searching for meaning and manhood. "

    See it here: Ian Fisher: American Soldier

    Nominated as finalists in this category:

    * Mary F. Calvert (my former student!) "for her courageous work published in The Washington Times that vividly documents how rapes, by the tens of thousands, have become a weapon of war in Congo."

    See it here: Rape and Recovery in the Congo

    * Robert Cohen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch "for his sensitive portrayal of homeless suburban families camping in motels during the recession, often recording memorable emotional moments. "

    See it here: Motel Manor: Suburban Homelessness

    All three visual stories represent a significant investment of time, talent and resources by not only the visual journalists, but also the news organizations they worked for. As we originally reported on
    The Denver Post spent two years following Fisher on this journey from high school graduation through boot camp, deployment in Iraq and his eventual return home. Through a series of 8 videos, this exhaustive multimedia project chronicles Fisher’s life as it is shaped by his experiences of young adulthood.

    The project intersperses still photographs and videos interviews with Fisher, his parents and Army colleagues, capturing his day-to-day experiences as a recruit, soldier, son and friend.

    The project was published over three days and includes photo galleries, in-depth stories and a unique collection of multimedia extras including a glossary of military terms, snapshots through Humvee windows and messages from soldiers to their loved ones back home.
    Well deserved kudos to all.

    SEE ALSO: New York Times' Lens blog

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Video Bio of a Photojournalism Teacher

    A note from Francis Gardler about a video bio series he produced about his photojournalism teacher, Dave LaBelle:
    I recently finished my masters project as a graduate student in Ohio University's Visual Communications program. My project, Dave LaBelle | The Lesson, is a biography on my teacher from Western Kentucky University. As I told my masters committee, my intended audience for the project are the photojournalism students and teachers who I believe can benefit from the advice and life experience of Dave LaBelle.

    Feel free to use the weblinks below in your classrooms. Hopefully they'll inspire discussions between you and your students.

    * Dave LaBelle | The Lesson
    * Dave LaBelle | A Storytelling Lesson
    * Connecting The Eye and The Heart
    * Beginnings
    * A Sense of Community
    * Western Kentucky University
    * On Storytelling
    * Memphis
    * The Great Picture Hunt
    * Final Thoughts

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    How to Turn a Blah Event into a Video Story

    Here's a simple technique for turning a bland video report about an event into a compelling video story.

    Instead of simply shooting the event itself,  capture footage of the story's subject before and after the event -- preferably at a variety of locales.

    That way, viewers get a fuller perspective of the central protagonist of the story, and are also more likely to experience an emotionally charged transition or change created by the event.

    Too often, videojournalists treat an assignment like a photojournalist would -- they show up and shoot.  But whereas a still photographer needs to only capture a critical moment (e.g. receiving an award), it's the videojournalist's job to create a dramatic narrative by showing a sequence of activities (e.g. events leading up to and following the award.)

    Too many attempts at videojournalism fail because they incorporate only one time and place setting -- the here and now.  What they desperately need is "before" and "after" coverage, and a variety of venues.

    Obviously, that makes for a more time-consuming assignment, and requires more planning. But the results will be worth it.  Rather than just show the ending of the story, you show events that build to the climactic action, instilling anticipation and suspense into your storytelling.

    KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism is filled with excellent examples of stories whose narrative arc is improved simply by getting the camera to the action before and after the central activity -- and following the central character to his other habitats.


    Here are three stories about performers that would have been OK if all we had seen was their performance. But in all three instances, we're treated to scenes leading up to and following their performances that not only exponentially enhance the story's entertainment value, but also  add up to an infinitely better understanding and appreciation of the artists themselves.

    Start with  Day With a Tap Legend -- imagine how much less satisfying it would have been if the day began with the school performance. Instead, we get to meet the "legend" at home, with his protege, as they prepare for their show. And we follow them after the show, to catch their revealing post-performance banter.

    Similarly, whereas most videojournalists would have been content to shoot the iconic Naked Cowboy performing in Times Square,  what makes One Man Brand stand out is how cleverly the narrative builds to that performance, and also how the camera follows him home to reveal previously unknown dimensions  of his life and personality.

    Think how pedestrian An Apollo Legend (pictured) would have been if all we had seen was the climactic audition, and not the contestants' preparation before and their reactions afterwards.

    The next time you go on assignment, ask yourself, "What footage can I capture before and after the main event? Where else can I observe my subject in action, and interacting with other people in his life?"

    Check out KobreGuide's "Hall of Fame" for more examples of videojournalism that benefits from following a subject over a period of time,  in a variety of settings.

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    First Prize for Excellent Advice

    Videojournalist Colin Mulvany was elated to find that he won an "honorable mention" for one of his Spokesman-Review video stories (pictured) in this year's NPPA Best of Photojournalism contest in the multimedia category.

    Until he realized that his was the only award in that category. There was no first, second or third prize. As he blogged:
    What gives? This is the second year in a row I’ve placed in this News Video category. Last year I received a 2nd place, but no third was given. This troubles me. Not because I didn’t place higher, but because the judges didn’t see a video that reached a high enough level of excellence to place.
    Rather than stew, he sought to figure out what was missing. During an online chat with the contest judges afterwards, he asked forthrightly why they chose to withhold those awards. Their response, as we previously reported, was illuminating:
    "This was a real struggle for us. Many were full of technical errors and ignored the basic principles of photojournalism. We saw lots of evidence of urgency, however we really couldn’t award anything that had technical or fundamental errors."
    Then as fate would have it, Colin subsequently helped judge the NPPA’s Monthly Multimedia Contest ... and saw for himself what the other judges were seeing.

    "Video at newspapers," he concluded, "needs to improve. Dramatically."

    Here is the gist of his prescriptive advice, but we advise you to soak up the specifics. Based on what we see every day at KobreGuide, in our quest to discover excellent videojournalism, when it comes to what's missing in 99 percent of the videojournalism stories out there, Colin has really hit the nail on the head.

    Among the recurring problems he finds:

    * Storytelling (making the transition from still images to video sequences)

    * Bland Videos (no surprising revelations or engaging hooks)

    * Structure (lack of dramatic narrative)

    * Technical flaws (jarringly distracting audio and/or video glitches)

    * Editing (lack of pacing, transitions, sequencing, layering, orchestration, audio mixing)

    * Journalism (lack of basic reporting principles, the most frequent offense being the absence of multiple sources)

    Colin recommends that videojournalists not be shy about collaborating with whoever can strengthen the story -- a print reporter, a video editor, even a script writer and narrator. He concludes, as we have, that newspaper videojournalists shouldn't strive to emulate TV news crews, but at the same time need to acknowledge that we have much to learn from them. We should embrace opportunities to partner with them, and even immerse ourselves in video workshops so that we can get better acquainted with the basic fundamentals of producing solid video stories. (He recommends a few that are worthy of your attention.)

    "Until you know what you are doing wrong," he writes, "you can’t improve your video storytelling."

    Go follow Colin's prizeworthy advice, and before long you will be winning those awards!

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Is Your Website Ready for the iPad?

    What do CNN, Reuters, New York Times, Vimeo, Time, Major League Baseball, the White House, Virgin America, Sports Illustrated, Flickr, People Magazine, and TED have in common?

    These are some of the leading Websites that will work seamlessly on the iPad, or what Apple calls "iPad ready."

    "iPad features Safari, a mobile web browser that supports the latest web standards — including HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript."

    Translation: If you're using Adobe Flash, you're screwed. As we've previously noted, Steve Jobs refuses to support Flash, so on Apple's mobile devices (iPhones, iPods, iPads), ubiquitous Flash videos and animations appear as broken icons or empty spaces.

    Given the iPad's enthusiastic reception by influential reviewers, and pre-release customer demand, we suspect most savvy Websites will start marching to Apple's drumbeat and customize their Websites accordingly, using native HTML5 tags instead of third-party software plug-ins.

    Learn how to test and prepare your Website content for iPad readiness here.

    Meanwhile, take an early look at iPad's top newspaper apps (pictured), courtesy of Nieman Lab. See the variety of ways that USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Associated Press, and other major media organizations are taking advantage of iPad's screen size and touch-screen functionality. Note that these paid apps are different than their respective Websites.

    Any more questions about the iPad? New York Times tech guru David Pogue is here to answer them for you.

    And strictly for your weekend amusement, here's David Letterman playing with his new iPad:

    Be sure to let us know what you think of your iPad ... and, more importantly, its customized content.

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    First iPad Reviews: All Thumbs Up!

    The top tech reviewers were given an iPad to fool around with days before the rest of us will have to wait in long lines to procure one. And even the most ardent Mac enthusiasts absolutely hated it.

    OK, that's a lame April Fool's joke. So far, their verdicts are unanimously glowing, with the anticipated reservations about the lack of Flash support, absence of earbuds, inability to multitask or to take photos or video. All are pleasantly surprised that the battery life is actually longer than advertised.

    But those are minor details compared to the collective zeitgeist-rocking hyperbole that abounds in their critiques, which are so notably asbent of criticism that one wonders if Apple even needs to invest in its own advertising campaign. (New York Times tech guru David Pogue offers a two-in-one review -- one for the notoriously cynical hardcore techies, and one for the rest of us.)

    If the iPad is even half as good as they say, you'll want one -- not just for what it can do, but for what it's destined to deliver. We imagine a day in the not too distant future when journalists and visual artists will take full advantage of the iPad's multimedia potential and bring us new hybrid forms of visual storytelling that we have yet to dream of. Like the blossoming TV sets in the 1940s, it's a big fancy box waiting to be filled. Or, more accurately, a conduit for transmitting and sharing news, information, stories, visions, ideas, emotions ... in new and exciting ways.

    So here's a quick roundup of professional first impressions. While you're queueing up at your local Apple Store on Saturday, you can look at these on your tiny handheld device... for the last time. (Except for those Flash videos below, which won't show up on iPods or iPads!)

    Apple iPad Review: Laptop Killer? Pretty Close
    by Walter S. Mossberg (pictured)
    Wall Street Journal

    Love It or Not? Looking at iPad From 2 Angles
    By David Pogue
    New York Times

    iPad is pure innovation - one of best computers ever
    By Andy Ihnatko
    Chicago Sun Times

    Apple's iPad is a touch of genius
    By Xeni Jardin

    Verdict is in on Apple iPad: It's a winner
    By Edward C. Baig
    USA Today


    "Talking Tech"
    By Jefferson Graham

    Apple iPad Review
    By Tim Gideon
    PC Magazine

    Save us a place in line!