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.

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