Friday, July 30, 2010

Lessons from Perpignan: What We Learned at Video Camp

For most of July we taught a videojournalism workshop in Perpignan, France, for eighteen American students. It was part of a study-abroad program co-sponsored by the Institute for Education in International Media (ieiMedia) and San Francisco State University.

Here are a few tips we can pass along, based on common student errors and problems we encountered.

A. Shooting Suggestions

1. Use the tripod whenever possible. Shaky camera work is hard to watch and screams "amateur."

2. Avoid zooms, pans and tilts. The top pros almost never use them, for good reason. They're distracting, tough to edit, and the sign of a novice.

3. Focus manually when shooting close-ups. On autofocus, the camera often locks in on something that is in the background.

4. Take lots of reverse shots of subjects’ faces as they carry out their activities. If you need to, hold the camera at arm’s length, in front of the subject, and record at least 10 seconds of video.

5. Also shoot across the subject’s shoulder, from their perspective, to see what he or she is seeing.

6. Shoot overalls. If the subject of the story is church bells, shoot not only inside and outside the church, but also position the camera on a hill near the town where you can still see the church, to let the viewer understand how the sound travels over the entire region.

7. If the subject talks about the past, ask if they have old photos from that time that you can use in b-roll or cutaway shots.

8. When using a simultaneous translator or interpreter, make sure they provide word-for-word English versions of whatever the subject says, and doesn't substitute the third-person or add "he said." If the subject says, "I went to the store..." then make sure the translator says, "I went to the store..." (and not, "He said he went to the store.") Make sure you aren't just capturing the translator’s interpretation and summary of the dialogue instead of what actually was said. If the translator’s voice is crystal clear, you can use it in the final story, over the actual subject's voice. Otherwise you will need to dub in a new voice or use subtitles.

9. When possible, avoid subtitles and on-screen narrative text. People don’t like to read movies.

10. Sometimes you can capture footage on a Flip or other small camera that is not super high quality but might be better than no footage at all.

Audio suggestions

1. What you hear on the audio track you need to see on the video track, and what you see you need to hear about. When someone says something in the story, viewers want to observe what is happening. If viewers are watching something, they want to hear about and understand what they are watching. Few video images are simple and obvious enough that they don’t need supporting dialogue or voiceover. This simple principle of correlating what you see and hear is very difficult to carry out. Often students had an interview section about an element of the story but no video to accompany it. Or they did not have enough video footage to go with extensive audio passages.

2. Here is where the wireless mic can come in handy. By wiring your subject, you can overhear what they say to everyone around them, as well as observe with the video camera what they doing at the same time. One student did a story about the problems of being an English speaker and playing on a French sports team. Viewers heard only the players talking about the difficulties. The audience never got to hear an actual dialogue demonstrating the problem. Wiring a coach during practice would have let the viewer hear the challenges of communicating across the two languages, and viewers could draw their own conclusions.

Editing  suggestions

1. You need to create a road map of what steps to take once you have collected your material -- i.e. what to do first, second and third.

2. We found that by having students transcribe all their interviews (a task they detest) and also all the spoken audio collected during candid moments (a task they overlooked), they could more easily and quickly create a paper script.

3. With a paper script, students could see if they needed to write voiceover to provide information missing from interviews or dialogue. With more time, they could have gone back and done more interviewing to fill in the missing pieces, but under their tight deadline restrictions, recording a VO with the missing information became the best alternative.

4. We also had them watch all the interviews as they listened to the spoken “natural sound.” How people say things can be as interesting as what they say. Voice inflection does not show up on the paper edit.

5. We had the students lay down the audio track (interview and spoken audio nat sound) before they started to add their visual sequences. They essentially produced a radio story before they turned it into a video story. This approach assured that the story flowed and made sense.

(Of course, this is not the only way to structure the process. We're interested in hearing about approaches others find effective and efficient.)

Storytelling suggestions

In the workshop, the greatest problem was the students’ inability to recognize the theme and/or nut graph of their video story – for instance, why this pastry chef was featured and not the one down the block.

Also, they had problems sticking to the central theme once they had identified it. They had a tendency to throw in all the cool shots and off-the-wall interview comments rather than stick to the heart and soul of their mini doc.

Though the students didn't always use it, we found the following approach is helpful in establishing a theme:

a. Write a title/theme before you shoot;
b. Rewrite the title/theme after you shoot;
c. Rewrite the title/theme after you draft a script;
d. Rewrite the title/theme after you edit.

In the end, see if all your images and sound conform to your title/theme and original agenda.

Here are some examples of students' work, below. (You can watch more here.)

Keeping up with Snails

A look at an escargot farm in Estoher, France, just outside of Perpignan.




Saving the Strays

Saint-Nazaire, France resident Helen Ferrieux takes care of stray cats in her village.

Is the Wall Street Journal the Future of Online News Video? Let's Hope Not!

The Wall Street Journal's online video efforts have frankly been disappointing. As often happens when print journalists attempt to emulate broadcast personalities, they look and feel amateurish. Often the reporters end up interviewing each other about their stories, rather than the actual subjects of their stories.

This is not the best use of videojournalism to report compelling news.

Slate's "The Big Money" tuned in this week and seemed to agree:

It’s not hard to mock the Wall Street Journal’s online video operation. The outlet’s daily broadcasts can feel a bit like the A.V. club at a tony school aping the nightly news. That impression isn’t helped by the fact that a host, Simon Constable, resembles the Muppets’ parody of a newscaster.
Still, "The Big Money" wondered whether whether this represented the future of online news video -- and if TV news would look like this in five years.

Lord, we hope not.

Mysteriously the Wall Street Journal's approach apparently draws eyeballs, but we can't help but think that their reported "10 million streams a month" has more to do with the sheer quantity of video it's producing (by a team of 23!), combined with its brand-name reputation.

By its own admission, its live Webcasts of its signature twice-daily NewsHub show perform miserably. What it generously calls "experimentation" is actually just a poor attempt to reinvent the broadcast wheel. Just because you're a talented print reporter doesn't guarantee that you're going to do well on camera, especially in an anchor's seat. And you can brag about your "air of informality" all you want, but ultimately audiences sense the difference between roughshod and slipshod.

We don't mean to pick on the Journal, but that's the formula we see popping up across the nation, as daily newspapers join forces with their city's local TV newscasts. Instead of a professional studio, they stick a makeshift camera and mic in the newsroom, and livestream print reporters, who have limited on-air presence, joshing and kibbitzing with each other about the day's events.

This is not a step forward.

As the gatekeepers of KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism, what we'd like to see, of course, are more thoughtfully planned, shot and edited video stories that represent the highest standards of the journalism profession. That would indicate that news outlets are respecting their audience's intelligence, not pandering to it. It's OK to be informal -- but why not jettison the whole anchor/correspondent TV shtick, which doesn't work so well on the Web anyway? Produce feature videos that speak for themselves.

"As information converges on a digital platform, news organizations are starting to see that video is replacing photography as the attention-getting feature that differentiates their take on the news," concludes The Big Money. But there are smarter and more useful ways to get attention with video.

UPDATE: Slate pulled the plug on the money-losing "The Big Money" just days after publishing its report on the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Protect Your Photos & Videos from Cops

There's some bad blood brewing between law enforcement agents and photographers -- both professional and amateur. Though the law is generally on the side of the photographers, it's obviously difficult for them to press the issue in the heat of the moment when a burly security official is overstepping his bounds and trying to prevent him from shooting pictures or video.

As the Washington Post recently noted:

The First Amendment protects the right of citizens to take photographs in public places. Even after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, law enforcement agencies have reiterated that right in official policies.

But in practice, those rules don't always filter down to police officers and security guards who continue to restrict photographers, often citing authority they don't have. Almost nine years after the terrorist attacks, which ratcheted up security at government properties and transportation hubs, anyone photographing federal buildings, bridges, trains or airports runs the risk of being seen as a potential terrorist.

Reliable statistics on detentions and arrests of photographers are hard to come by, but photographers, their advocates and even police agree that confrontations still occur frequently. Photographers had run-ins with police before the 2001 attacks, but constitutional lawyers say the combination of heightened security concerns and the spread of digital cameras has made such incidents more common.
The situation has reached a boiling point.

The National Press Photographers Association this week announced its support for a House resolution to protect photographers from police interference. Read about it here.

NPPA's leadership was pleased to see that U.S. Representative Edolphus Towns of New York's 10th District introduced House Congressional Resolution 298, which recognizes that the videotaping or photographing of police who are engaged in potentially abusive activity in a public place should not be prosecuted in state or federal courts.

NPPA's leadership asked Rep. Towns to take the next step in protecting photographers' First Amendment rights by changing his Resolution, suggesting that Towns instead introduce his proposal as a Congressional Bill.
What's clearly needed is better education of rank-and-file officers on the street by the law enforcement agencies that hire and train them. Often well-intentioned police overstep their bounds and harass innocent shooters simply because of their own ignorance of the law, and some vague notion that anyone taking a picture is somehow a security threat.

Further, police are inappropriately citing wiretapping laws, wrongly claiming that shooting pictures constitutes illegal electronic surveillance. NPPA's general counsel, photojournalist Mickey H. Osterreicher, wrote about this issue this week for the Media Law Resource Center: "Photography Restrictions Run Rampant."

Although the First Amendment has been under constant attack since its ratification, incidents occurring over the past few months might lead one to believe that the War on Terror is taking its toll on a mistaken enemy. In Houston, a homeowner filed a civil rights complaint because he was arrested for "illegal photography" after a taking pictures of a police sergeant who followed him into his own home. A student photographer at Ohio State University was handcuffed and charged with criminal trespass by university police after attempting to photograph two cows that were roaming the campus. School employees and police told him he was not allowed to take pictures of the incident, despite the fact that he was a student photojournalist working for the school paper and he was on public property.

In Miami two photojournalists were told by private security for the transit system and Miami-Dade police officers that they were not allowed to photograph in and around the metro stop. Police also barred the pair from entering the station although they had metro tickets and threatened them with arrest if they did not comply. Another similar incident occurred in Atlanta where a person was ordered off a train and off MARTA property by a transit employee for taking pictures. Almost as disturbing was a subsequent post by a MARTA customer service representative who justified the action as a result of “the 9/11 attack and the subway bombings in Spain and the UK.”

Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts are just three states where police are using obscure wiretap laws to prosecute people for recording the activities of police officers on public streets and roadways. In Boston one man was arrested for “illegal electronic surveillance” after he recorded audio of police officers making a drug arrest. In Baltimore, several people face felony charges for recording their own arrests. All of these incidents happened in public.
Osterreicher goes on to cite, in devastating detail, the numerous reports of government interference with press coverage of BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

While these incidents only create anecdotal evidence, they do seem to point to a shift in how free speech is viewed by both law enforcement and the public. In many cases police officers make up new laws. In other incidents the police and the public seem to truly believe that they are enforcing or articulating laws or unwritten policies that do not actually exist. Still other cases appear to be an abuse of discretion as authorities ignore well founded constitutional principles. It is therefore incumbent upon the legal community to directly address these cases as soon as possible.
Educating the public, and its sworn protectors, seems to be the most feasible solution, he argues.
While assaults on the First Amendment continue it also appears that a commonsense approach in individually redressing even the most egregious of these abridgements has yielded some positive results. Continuing vigilance against this uninformed attitude along with efforts to make the general public and law enforcement aware of the dangers that accompany such infringements will help protect these precious freedoms.
Meanwhile, ABC reports on the "Growing Number of Prosecutions for Videotaping the Police," offering as evidence this video that motorcyclist Anthony Graber shot with his helmet-cam -- of him being stopped for speeding by a plainclothes state trooper with a drawn pistol. He was arrested for posting the video on YouTube, an "offense" for which he faces 16 years in jail.



State police officers raided Graber's parents' home in Abingdon, Md. They confiscated his camera, computers and external hard drives. Graber was indicted for allegedly violating state wiretap laws by recording the trooper without his consent.

Arrests such as Graber's are becoming more common along with the proliferation of portable video cameras and cell-phone recorders. Videos of alleged police misconduct have become hot items on the Internet. YouTube still features Graber's encounter along with numerous other witness videos. "The message is clearly, 'Don't criticize the police,'" said David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland who is part of Graber's defense team. "With these charges, anyone who would even think to record the police is now justifiably in fear that they will also be criminally charged."

Carlos Miller, a Miami journalist who runs the blog "Photography Is Not a Crime," said he has documented about 10 arrests since he started keeping track in 2007. Miller himself has been arrested twice for photographing the police. He won one case on appeal, he said, while the other was thrown out after the officer twice failed to appear in court.

"They're just regular citizens with a cell-phone camera who happen to come upon a situation," Miller said. "If cops are doing their jobs, they shouldn't worry."

Read the rest of ABC's in-depth report here.

This week the Washington Post similarly published an investigative look at the hot-button issue: "Freedom of photography: Police, security often clamp down despite public right," complete with examples of photos that got innocent people in trouble with the police.

Again, the conclusion is that the friction between camera-wielders and cops is getting worse, mainly because of a widespread misunderstanding of the law.

Law enforcement officials have a hard time explaining the gap between policy and practice. The disconnect, legal experts say, may stem from a dearth of guidelines about how to balance security concerns with civil liberties.

"Security guards are often given few rules to follow, but they have clearly gotten the message that they need to be extra vigilant," said Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. "In the end, it seems you never know how a particular security guard is going to react."

Last year, New York City police sought to clarify the rules on photography with a directive to all officers. It said that photography is "rarely unlawful" and that officers have no right to demand to see photos or to delete them. Like Washington, New York is a potential terrorist target but also a major tourist destination, and as a result, the directive said, "practically all such photography will have no connection to terrorism or unlawful conduct."

Police officials say officers who seek to stop photography are driven by safety concerns and the fact that the presence of a camera can spike emotions.
Now photographers are fighting back en masse.

Photographers are challenging unwarranted restrictions by collecting hundreds of photos that prompted police questioning, detention or arrest; the pictures are posted on online photo sharing sites such as Flickr.

Local photographers are also testing trouble spots, especially outside federal buildings, many of which are guarded by the Federal Protective Service, an agency in the Department of Homeland Security that has 1,225 officers and 15,000 contract guards to secure more than 9,000 buildings nationwide.

Photographers say police need to be told explicitly not to prohibit photography, because officers often don't respond well to impromptu citizen lectures on constitutional law.
The Washington Post details 10 local incidents where photographers were erroneously asked to stop taking pictures, including this one:
A Union Station security guard interrupts the taping of a TV news segment with an Amtrak official. The official was trying to explain that photography is allowed at Union Station. The incident illustrates the problems photographers encounter at the station, which is controlled by multiple entities. Amtrak controls only the ticketing area and waiting area. A parking management firm has jurisdiction over the parking garage. The guard who interrupted the interview worked for a real estate firm that oversees the retail and dining areas. (Photographs inside a store or restaurant require permission from its proprietor.) All three entities say they allow photography in public areas, but photographers are often told inconsistent information.

See KobreChannel's previous entries:

* Taking Photos in Public Places is Legal

* Journalists vs. Law Enforcement: Know Your Rights

Have you had an unpleasant encounter with law enforcement officers while you were legally shooting photos or video? Please share it with us.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Digital Future: More Bad News for Newspapers

The news for newspapers is getting worse, according to the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School.

In its ninth annual "Digital Future Project" report, the Center continues to track reading and viewing trends, "watching as people move on-line and then move from modems to broadband. The project also carefully tracks those who drop off the net each year and whether they return and, if so, when and what brings them back. At the end of nine years, we also have an unparalleled view of the non-users who do not go on-line. We carefully examine why they are not users and whether they are likely to ever go on-line."

Among many other findings, its data illustrates the Web's contribution to the continuing free-fall decline of American daily print newspapers:

* The study found that as sources of information – their primary function – newspapers rank below the Internet or television. Only 56 percent of Internet users ranked newspapers as important or very important sources of information for them – a decrease from 60 percent in 2008 and below the Internet (78 percent), and television (68 percent).

* Even lower are the percentages of users who consider newspapers important as sources of entertainment for them, now considered important by 29 percent of Internet users, and down from 32 percent in 2008 – also last among principal media.

* Eighteen percent of Internet users said they stopped a subscription to a newspaper or magazine because they now get the same or related content online – down slightly from 22 percent in 2008, but nevertheless a strong indication that print newspapers can be sacrificed by a significant percentage of Internet users.

* Internet users were asked where they would go for information provided by their newspaper if the print edition ceased, 59 percent said they would read the online edition of the publication; only 37 percent said they would instead read the print edition of another newspaper.

* Twenty-two percent of users who read newspapers said they would not miss the print edition of their newspaper.
As they become more practical and affordable, e-readers and other handheld electronic devices (Kindles, iPads, etc.) are also spelling tragedy for print newspaper circulation.

Here's what Editor and Publisher has to say about it: "Newspapers Sink Below Internet and TV as Information Sources."

View highlights of the Digital Future report here (PDF).

The full Digital Future report is available for purchase here.

Guardian Media Academy Offers Video Training

VJ guru Michael Rosenblum, in partnership with The Guardian, is offering video training courses in the U.K. for both amateurs and professionals. It's called the The Guardian Media Academy, and its initial offerings include:

* How to Shoot Great Video (1 Day)

* Video Editing for Beginners (1 Day)

* Two-day Video Training

Do you want to be able to produce high quality videos for your business or your website or do you just want to be able to make great home movies that people will actually want to watch?

In this two-day intensive class we will teach you everything you need to get started: how to shoot, how to tell a compelling story and how to edit using Final Cut software. By the end of the two days you will have produced your own short film and will understand what it takes to make a really good video.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your own camera and laptop; you can rent them from us and no experience is required.
* Four-day Professional Video Producers Boot Camp

Designed for people who want to earn money or make a living from creating video content. Whether you’re a journalist who needs to re-skill or someone who wants to produce their own videos to sell to online and broadcast clients then this is the training you need to be successful.

The course covers everything from basic and advanced shooting to advanced storytelling techniques and non-linear editing. Each delegate will produce at least two high quality videos during the course which will be critiqued by professionals who have produced thousands of hours of video content for clients like The BBC, Conde Nast and The New York Times.
Emphasis will be on both technology and aesthetics. "Over the past 20 years," notes Rosenblum, "RosenblumTV has created a simple method that gets people up to broadcast quality in only a few days. And the emphasis isn’t just on the button pushing, but rather on how to produce compelling video stories. No matter how well shot something is, if it’s not a great story, no one will watch it."

Course dates are in October, and 10% early-bird tuition discounts are available through August 30. Register here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to Make Millions in Photography

Simple.

Follow old-fashioned advice:

1) Buy low ($45).

2) Sell high ($200 million)

NOTE: Of course, nobody has actually yet paid $200 million -- or even a penny, for that matter. But why let a silly detail like that stand in the way of a good story?

The Last Roll Of Kodachrome

Talk about pressure! What if YOU were handed the last roll of film ever made and told to go out and shoot pictures with it. What would you take?

OK, Steve McCurry (pictured) wasn't given the last roll of film, but the last roll of Kodachrome ... though in many ways that makes the assignment even tougher, given not only the reputation of the film but also the reputation of the photojournalist who took iconic images with that revered film for decades.

(SEE: "Mama, They Took Our Kodachrome Away!")

Listen to NPR's recent interview with McCurry, to help you appreciate the magnificence of both the artist and his now extinct tool.

The film, known for its rich saturation and archival durability of its slides, was discontinued last year to the dismay of photographers worldwide. But Kodak gave the last roll ever produced to McCurry. He has just processed that coveted roll at Dwayne's Photo Service in Parsons, Kan. — the last remaining location that processes the once-popular slide film.

What's on that landmark roll of film is still under wraps. What is known is that the first and last images are in New York City, McCurry's home base. And between those frames are photographs from India, where McCurry established his career as a master of color photography.

Although he has almost a million images spanning 35 years in his Kodachrome library, he still felt the pressure of this assignment. Every one of the 36 frames on that final roll was precious. "Am I getting the right moment?" he wonders. "Is it in focus? Is the exposure right?"
One advantage of digital cameras is that you can see the image immediately, eliminating the former need to guess at f-stops and bracket shots accordingly. Ironically, McCurry used a separate digital camera to determine the perfect exposure for each Kodachrome shot, removing the guesswork and doubts.

McCurry's final-roll-of-Kodachrome images will be seen for the first time in an upcoming National Geographic documentary.

Now ask yourself: If Kodak had given you that last roll of Kodachrome, how would you have used it?

Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Make Action Vacation Videos

Used to be a time that you'd dread being invited to someone's house to watch slideshows of their vacation. Nowadays we're subjected to uploads of up-to-the-minute stills and videos of the mundane day-to-day non-vacation whereabouts of our "friends." We've come a long way!

But there's no reason that vacation videos need to be boring.

Thanks to more ubiquitious and affordable videocamera technology and digital editing software, even amateurs now have access to tools that Hollywood moviemakers would have lusted for just a few short decades ago. In other words, you have the capability of turning your real-life adventure vacations into exhilarating movies.

A recent New York Times tutorial, in text and video, shows you how. Even professional videojournalists should pay attention here, since many of the precepts apply to their daily tasks.

In "Making the Video as Good as the Trip," Roy Furchgott set out to shoot his own motorbiking adventure in order to teach himself how to shoot action sequences. Through trial and error, after shooting 12 to 15 hours of video, he managed to stitch together a viable 45-second piece. Which, face it, is about all that most folks have patience to watch.

Lesson one is to plan ahead. "You’ll have to decide what to shoot, where and when, and learn to use your equipment."

After settling on motorcycling, Furchgott had to select an optimal route and time of day (for both photogenic and logistical reasons), and the proper equipment (including a helmet cam and mounts to affix videocams on the bike itself). Camera placement alone took hours of testing. He had to make sure he could capture both establishing shots of himself from remote cameras, but also point-of-view shots which put the audience in the driver's seat. For editing purposes, he also needed closeup cutaways.

It didn't take long to figure out that he needed an extra cameraperson (since, after all, he couldn't drive away from his own camera on a tripod). And of course that entails an extra camera. Which in turn leads to editing challenges when it comes to matching angles and shots.

As you might have surmised, this can really eat into your vacation time!

You should read about his step-by-step travails -- each setback another lesson learned. To maintain energy and pace, he edited each shot to less than three seconds. In order to use his best shots, he ended up cheating a bit on time sequencing, so that unintentionally you can actually see seasons change between shots. Never able to get clear audio because of the wind noise, he ultimately opted to replace natural sound with a high-energy Ventures-style music soundtrack.

In short, Furchgott spent many hours -- not just shooting but mercilessly editing -- to assure that, for 45 seconds, his audience won't get bored.

Have a look:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Shooting Pictures in Public Places Is Legal

Popular Mechanics, of all publications, offers a rational guide to when and where it's legal to take photographs and video. It's a timely topic, in light of BP's attempts to get local law enforcement agencies to scare away photojournalists, and video shooters who have had their equipment confiscated by cops who didn't want cameras pointing at them.

(See our recent blog post on this topic: "Journalists vs. Law Enforcement.")

University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds' (pictured) conclusion serves as the title of his essay: "Taking Photos in Public Places Is Not a Crime."

The ubiquity of pocket-sized cameras these days seems to correlate with the growing squeamishness of security officials who seem to think that they have the right to prevent people from taking pictures or video on public property. Reynolds sets them straight.

Here's the take away:

Shooting pictures in public places is perceived by guardians of public safety as a percursor to terrorism, but "having lots of cameras in the hands of citizens makes us more, rather than less, safe."

Legally, it's pretty much always okay to take photos in a public place as long as you're not physically interfering with traffic or police operations.

Neither the Patriot Act nor the Homeland Security Act restricts photography.

The bad news: Although hassling picture takers is generally illegal, "it's hard for the average citizen to get redress in court. How do you calculate the value of deleted snapshots or photos never taken in the first place?"

The solution? Better educate law enforcement and security workers, not just in the top ranks but also at the bottom of the chain of command, since those are the ones most likely to erroneously harass you.

"The officers who crack down on photographers no doubt believe they are protecting public safety. But evidence that photography might be useful to terrorists is slim. Terrorists don't typically photograph targets in advance."

In the case of police objecting to being filmed by citizens while doing their duties: "Though one can understand their skittishness, the fact is, our ability to document the actions of public officials is an important freedom, one that can serve as a check against abuses."

So what to do if a cop tries to prevent you from shooting stills or video?

First, be polite. Security people have tough jobs and probably mean well. Ask them what legal authority they have to make you stop. (If you're in a public place, like a street, a park, etc., they have none; if you're in a private place, such as a shopping mall, they may have a basis for banning pictures.) Those hassled by security guards [should] threaten to call law enforcement. If it's an actual police officer who's telling you to stop shooting, ask to speak to a superior. And remember--you never have a legal duty to delete pictures you've taken.
"We need better education among security guards and law enforcement," Reynolds concludes. "Trying to block photography in public places is not only heavy-handed and wrong but, thanks to technology, basically useless. With the proliferation of cameras in just about every device we carry, digital photography has become too ubiquitous to stop. Let's have a truce in the war on photography and set our sights on the real bad guys. Who, it seems, don't carry cameras anyway."

Multimedia Gear Guides for Every Budget

You know that a high-end video production company like MediaStorm -- that collaborates with top media organizations and can't go a month without getting tapped for more awards -- is bound to have some fancy equipment at its disposal.

Producer Rick Gershon (pictured) shares exactly what's in MediaStorm's  "current field production kit" in a recent blog entry.

There are a myriad of options out there right now when it comes to tools for multimedia storytelling. The combination of tools you use can be your greatest strength or your greatest weakness. The important thing is to find the right combination of gear that fits your style of shooting and allows you to tell the best story possible. Below is a list of tools that we may use a combination of on any given multimedia shoot. Again the importance is to find what combination works best for you.

Multimedia tools are constantly evolving. There are many options on the market from which you can mix and match to best suit your needs.
Go take a peek at what HDSLRs, HD videocameras, mics and accessories (from tripods and headphones to lights) the big boys use.

Can't quite afford that $4,000 Canon 5D Mark II?

Then Adam Westbrook to the rescue. From across the pond, the UK multimedia enthusiast comes to the rescue of those who are working on a student budget, or bootstrapping it as a fledgling solo practitioner.

In his "Multimedia Journalism Gear Guide (On the Cheap)," he notes that a Canon 7D can be every bit as functional for half the price, or even the new Canon 550D for half the price of that. But even if you don't have $1,000 handy, you can get a lot of mileage out of the pocket-size Kodak Zi8 for only $150.

Westbrook similarly offers more affordable, but still professionaly viable, alternatives to top-of-the-line lenses, mics and other accessories. Go see what might work for you.

NPR’s Schiller & AOL’s Armstrong Headline ONA10

The Online News Association today announced NPR's Vivian Schiller and AOL's Tim Armstrong will headline a “keynote conversation” moderated by WSJ.com’s Kara Swisher at its annual conference in Washington, D.C. in October.

Jump-starting the discussion on reinventing media companies will be Vivian Schiller, who joined NPR as President and CEO in 2009, coming from The New York Times Company where she served as Senior Vice President and General Manager of NYTimes.com....

Joining Schiller in conversation will be Tim Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of AOL, LLC. Armstrong is responsible for setting strategy and overseeing the businesses and day-to-day operations of the company. He joined AOL in March 2009 from Google, where he served as the President of The Americas Operations...

Moderating the pair will be Kara Swisher, Co-Executive Editor of the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital. A former reporter for the Washington Post, Swisher the author of “aol.com: How Steve Case Beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads and Made Millions in the War for the Web” and the sequel, “There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Debacle and the Quest for a Digital Future.”...
You can get more info on the 2010 ONA Conference and Online Journalism Awards Banquet, and register, here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Web Documentaries Nominated for Emmys

Congrats to News & Documentary Emmy® Awards nominees, announced this week by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), which remarkably now recognizes the achievements of Web documentaries.

As always, many of these have previously been showcased on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism, at the time of their original appearance on the Web. (Click links below.)

APPROACHES TO NEWS & DOCUMENTARY PROGRAMMING: CURRENT NEWS COVERAGE

Behind the Veil (GlobeAndMail.com)

Flipped: How Private Equity Dealmakers Can Win While Their Companies Lose (NYTimes.com)

Times of Crisis (Reuters.com / MediaStorm)

Disabled in Vietnam (San Jose Mercury News / MercuryNews.com)

Surviving the Tsunami: Stories of Hope (Tsunami.Trust.org / MediaStorm)

NEW APPROACHES TO NEWS & DOCUMENTARY PROGRAMMING: DOCUMENTARIES

Alabama's Homeboys (LATimes.com)

Driftless: Stories from Iowa (MediaStorm.org)

Secret Life of Scientists (NOVA / PBS)

One in 8 Million (NYTimes.com)

A Life Alone (SoulOfAthens.com)

Ted Kennedy: A Life in Politics (Boston Globe / Boston.com)

NEW APPROACHES TO NEWS & DOCUMENTARY PROGRAMMING: ARTS, LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Obsessives: Soda Pop (Chow.com)

The Iconic Photo Series (Time.com)

Your Shot (NationalGeographic.com)

The News & Documentary Emmy® Awards will be presented on Monday, September 27 in New York. Legendary documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Big Trouble for Image Doctoring

Photo District News reports that Getty Images dropped a freelance photographer for digitally altering a golf photo, even though the transgressing photo was apparently transmitted by mistake.

Dallas Morning News photo editor Guy Reynolds originally alerted Getty to the fact that he had received two near-identical images of golfer Matt Bettencourt, both by photographer Marc Feldman. One showed his caddy over his shoulder (above), but in the other the caddy is replaced by trees (below).

(Read Reynolds' account here.)

Getty immediately issued a "kill" command to subscribers, and in adherance to a zero-tolerance policy on photo manipulation, terminated its relationship with Feldman.

Feldman called Reynolds to explain:

He said he was in the press tent processing the images when Bettencourt and his caddie stopped by to see some of the pictures. Feldman said the caddie, looking at the image in question, said it would be better if he wasn't in it. "So I showed them how easy I could do that. I thought I just saved it to the desktop, not to the send folder," he said. "I certainly did not mean to send both of them to Getty."

"There was absolutely no intent to pass this off as a real image. Only a moron would have sent both," he said. "And I would've done it a lot better, too."

The fact that he sent both the original and the retouched photo is pretty solid evidence that he wasn't trying to pull a fast one. ...

Feldman, 61, certainly isn't the only photographer to make a gaffe and pay the price for it.

"I understand Getty has a reputation to uphold. I certainly don't blame them for letting me go," he said. "I know the ethical standards for editorial clients. I just wish my long relationship with them didn't have to end like this....I've been doing this for 26 years," he said. "Sometimes you make a mistake and it's fatal. I made a fatal mistake."
*****
Another digitally doctored photo is causing a stir, but because it wasn't committed by a journalism institution, the ethical breach isn't as cut-and-dried. However, because it was committed by BP, it has cast a shadow over the beleaguered oil company's claims of communications "transparency."

The snafu was caught by America Blog, and eventually came to the attention of the Washington Post.

The offending photo, of employees gathered in BP's Houston crisis room, is prominently displayed on the company's Website. Essentially, someone did a really lousy job of copying/pasting three underwater images onto a wall display. The blogger took BP to task for the sloppiness of its subterfuge as much as it did for the deceit itself.

BP blamed the photographer, though it's unclear whether the photographer was working at the company's behest, as is usually the case with corporate images. You can follow the brouhaha, in infinite detail, here.

As the Washington Post concluded: "Apparently BP is no more adept at doctoring photos than it is at plugging deep-sea oil leaks."

What is perhaps most startling about both the golf and BP incidents is that the online commenters are split over whether doctoring photos this way is acceptable practice -- even in journalism. Some cite the "slippery slope" warning, other vehemently claim it's no big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Given the technological capabilities of programs like Photoshop, many people apparently presume photos are somehow tidied up before publication anyway. Hardcore ethicists (and professional news guidelines), however, argue that a lie is a lie, and altering reality destroys credibility.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

25 New Faces of Independent Film

Filmmaker Magazine unveiled its “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in its latest issue. The 12th annual list spotlights “up-and-comers poised to shape the next generation of independent film.”

We were pleased to see how many are applying their talents and energies to non-fiction films.

Here's a sampling:

“War Don Don," a documentary by Harvard Law School grad Rebecca Richman Cohen (pictured), won a Special Jury prize at this year’s SXSW and will be broadcast September 29 on HBO.

CalArts graduate Jason Byrne‘s experimental documentary “Scrap Vessel” has played numerous festivals this year.

Photojournalist-turned-documentary film director Danfung Dennis is currently in post on his first feature, “Hell and Back Again,” which follows a Marines sergeant from the frontlines in Afghanistan home to North Carolina, where he tries to recover from his injuries and return to his unit.

With their collaborative project, “Sparrow Songs”, director and editor Alex Jablonski and D.P. Michael Totten have been making one short documentary film a month and premiering them on their website. They are currently planning their first documentary feature.

Co-founder of the True/False Film Festival, Missouri-based David Wilson directed this year the well-received short documentary, “Big Birding Day."
You can read full accounts of the 25 filmmakers and their work here.

SnagFilms Expands Documentary Offerings

The documentary film industry just got a big shot in the arm from SnagFilms, the online company founded two years ago by Ted Leonsis, best known for his role in boosting AOL's phenomenal growth.

Its online library of about 1,500 full-length documentaries can be viewed for free -- on about 90,000 Websites that stream them, ranging from the Miami Herald to Hulu -- thanks to ad revenue support (and an initial $10-million in investments from AOL founder Steve Case, and the Knight Foundation).

Now SnagFilms is branching into the paid video-on-demand arena, and forging partnerships with distributors such as Comcast, Apple and Netflix. Leonsis is looking to build an online library of 100,000 accessible non-fiction films.

And that's just part of his master plan to bring more documentaries into the mainstream with wider distribution, marketing and promotion -- especially those that espouse worthwhile social and political causes.

Read more details on SnagFilms Website, and on NYTimes.com.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Win $25,000 in Vimeo Contest

Here's a chance to win $25,000 for your short documentary video, in the first annual Vimeo Awards, but before you submit your entry, be sure to read the fine print.

First, "Documentary" is one of several categories, and the one and only cash prize goes only to what is judged the best video of all categories. The only other awards are exposure on Vimeo's website. Also, buried in the rules is the small matter of a $20 entry fee ($5 for Vimeo Plus paid subscribers). Many top awards charge entry fees -- usually quite higher than this, and often when no cash prizes are awarded. But those are usually established prestigious awards, and this is the "first annual" go-around for Vimeo.

Deadline for submissions is July 31. Winners will be announced by October 9.

The contest is accompanied by a "jam-packed two-day festival," Oct. 8-9 in New York. It will include panels, parties, and screenings of winning entries, but details so far are scarce.

Here are the guidelines for Documentary entries:

Short films/videos that seek to document compelling actuality or reality

Maximum Length: 20 minutes

Description: Short films/videos that seek to document compelling actuality or reality

Requirements: Your submission must be a short documentary piece that exemplifies the art of non- fiction storytelling.

Submissions may include a variety of storytelling methods: presenter led or narrated, fly on the wall, point of view, ambient or personal stories, etc.

Your Submission should be a complete idea that is presented in a clear, innovative and original way.

Judging criteria: We are looking for creative excellence in pieces that push the boundaries of documentary filmmaking.
Documentary judges include Doug Pray, Lucy Walker and Morgan Spurlock.

The grand-prize winner for all categories "will receive a grant from Vimeo to create a new, original work. The winner will be invited to premiere their work at the Vimeo Festival and Awards in 2011 as well as on the homepage of Vimeo.com."

Winners of individual categories "will be promoted heavily on Vimeo.com's homepage as well as on the Vimeo Festival and Awards Site."

Submit your video here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Clever Videoplayer Gimmick: Audio Fader

Here's a nifty videoplayer gimmick we like. It's a fader that enables you to shift between two audio tracks -- kind of like balancing your stereo speakers. You can hear one track or the other track -- or predominantly one with the other in the background.

It's used here by the New York Times, which (except for its stubborn refusal to allow embedding) is often in the vanguard when it comes to online video technology.

In its Anatomy of a Scene: 'Inception,' writer/director Christopher Nolan dissects a pivotal scene from the film, both technically and dramatically, in the manner of a DVD voiceover commentary. You can watch and listen to the scene without his narration, or you can listen to only his narration while you're watching the scene. Or you can listen to both simultaneously:  "Drag the slider to adjust the levels between commentary and the movie's original soundtrack." There's even a "radio dot" so you can position the slider at its optimal blending point -- narration loud and clear, with movie dialogue and sound effects in the background.

By contrast, the Times offers the more conventional approach to VO film commentary for this weekend's other big movie opening, The Sorcerer's Apprentice. In a separate video, The Wizardry of a New York Shoot, director Jon Turteltaub discusses shooting the film in New York City.

Both two-minute segments were produced by Mekado Murphy, and consist of interview segments accompanied by movie visuals. Inception uses a self-contained scene that's dissected both technically and dramatically. Sorcerer uses a series of behind-the-scenes production stills for a narrated slideshow to illuminate the movie's use of New York locations.

Both have their merits, but it's that audio fader that grabbed our attention, and made us wonder what other situations it can be used for... and when more videoplayers will start using more imaginative frills like this.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pullman Porter Video Update

Lee Wesley Gibson, 100, (pictured) is not the oldest surviving Pullman Porter. Ben Isaacs, 105, is.

That's the Los Angeles Times update to its touching video profile of Gibson, which was recently showcased on KobreGuide: Pullman Porter and Family Patriarch.

Mel Melcon's audio slideshow detailed how working for Union Pacific Railroad for 38 years enabled Gibson to create his most cherished legacy -- his multi-generational family.

But when that story appeared, it prompted Andrew Isaacs to call the newspaper's attention to his older brother Ben, whose railroad career spanned the years 1936 to 1968... and is now 105.

The 100-year-old Gibson said he was pleased to learn that Isaacs — a man he once knew — was still alive.

"I had no idea," he said. "I've had no contact with him since we retired."
You can read about Isaacs' story here ... but unfortunately there's no video to accompany it!

If you thought this blog update was a thinly veiled ruse to call your attention to the original terrific video about Gibson, you're right! So go look!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Free Webinar on HTML5 Video, 7/21

ReelSEO.com, the online video marketer's guide, is hosting a free online webinar on HTML 5 video next week.

Mark your calendars: Wednesday, July 21, 11am to noon (PT).

As we've previously discussed on this blog, all Apple mobile devices (iPhones, iPods, iPads) will not enable Flash video -- it's a personal pet peeve of Steve Jobs. That means that most Web video will not appear.

Jobs is prodding Web designers to adopt the still evolving HTML 5 standard, which incorporates a simple VIDEO tag that enables most video formats to automatically play without the need for an external player (the same way that an IMAGE tag currently displays all JPGs and GIFs within the browser itself).

Webinar instructors are:

* Jeroen Wijering, creator of the open-source JW video player
* Philip Jagenstedt, Opera browser core developer
* Mark Robertson, ReelSEO.com founder

Webinar topics include:

* Overview of HTML5 VIDEO tag
* Why HTML5 video is relevant
* Technical advantages / disadvantages of HTML5 vs. Flash
* Implications for video search engine optimization (SEO)
* Tips & best practices for HTML5
* Encoding for HTML5
* Browser support
* How to code HTML5 with Flash fallback

Go here to register.

Oh, and while you're there, check out ReelSEO's handy online glossary of technical video terms. Whether you're an old pro, or you don't know your DRM from your CPM, you'll find it's comprehensive and helpful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Recycle & Remix Videos with New Creative Commons Licenses

Intriguing announcement from Vimeo that should make it easier to create collaborative video projects, even remotely:

Sharing videos on Vimeo has always gone beyond passively viewing the clips our fellow Vimeans upload. Many of us have given permission for others to take what we've done and screen it at events or chop it up and make something completely new. For a long time, we have wanted to make these kinds of permissions easier to grant, and we're pleased to announce that after working together with the fine folks over at Creative Commons, we've done just that!

Today we are launching a new Settings option that allows you to add one of several Creative Commons licenses to your videos. What does this mean? It means that while you still retain the copyright for your work, you can allow other people to distribute it, remix it or use it for a new purpose, commercial or noncommercial. All of this while still requiring that they credit you for the original work.
Vimeo notes that this is not a free pass to upload and distribute others' work, but rather to build on the work someone else has created (and licensed) with your own original contribution.

Read more about it on Vimeo, and also on the Creative Commons website.

Screeners Needed for Online Journalism Awards


The Online News Association is looking for help to screen entries for the 2010 Online Journalism Awards, which recognizes excellence in digital journalism.

Participants are eligible for a drawing for free registration to ONA10 (the ONA Conference and Awards Banquet), Oct. 28-30, in Washington, D.C., worth $399 for members and $699 for non-members.

Screeners "provide an invaluable initial assessment for the final judges by grading entries from around the world on quality of journalism, interactivity and community tools, creative use of medium, and design and navigation. Screeners need not be ONA members, but do need to have experience in the online journalism industry."

Screening begins the week of July 19 and must be completed by Tuesday, Aug. 10, at 9 a.m. ET. Screeners often take a few hours over several days to complete their work. You’ll be guided through the process with the help of an easy-to-use web-based tool that allows you to log on anywhere you have an Internet connection.

As a thank-you to screeners who complete their assignments by Monday, Aug. 2, at 9 a.m. ET, we are offering an incentive: Your name will go into a digital hat to make you eligible for one of five free registrations to ONA10.
To sign up as a screener, fill out the application here.

Questions? Contact Sherry Skalko at awards@journalists.org.

*****
PBS NewsHour's Hari Sreenivasan has been recently announced as the emcee of the Online Journalism Awards banquet. Sreenivasan joined "PBS NewsHour” in December 2009 as an online and on-air correspondent. He worked previously as a correspondent with ABC News, CBS News and CNET.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Video Storytelling Workshop (NPPA & Poynter)

The Poynter Institute and the National Photographers Press Foundation are again teaming up to present a day-long event that will help you be a better videojournalist: Video Storytelling Workshop: 2010 Edition

Mark your calendar: Saturday, September 25, 2010, starting at 10:00am ET.

They're offering four hour-long presentations with a Q&A session, and you can take it on-site at Poynter's campus in St. Petersburg, Florida, or online in your own home or office.

"The online live event will be available to everyone who enrolls, even if you choose to join us on-site and at the last-minute can't make it. Everyone will have access to the live virtual presentations and posted replays, even if you stay the whole day with us or just join us for a session or two. Each presentation will be sold separately after the live event. Your registration will give you access to the replay plus our bonus resources."

Cost is $65, with discounts for NPPA members.

Learn how to be today's savvy video journalist. Produce creative stories while making immediate deadlines, multitasking as a solo reporter, covering the same-old-story assignments, and managing nonconventional devices to get the story done.

This is your opportunity to learn from veteran journalists who are successful at handling new technology and adapting to new reporting practices, all while staying creative.
A complete roster of presenters and topics will be posted soon on the NPPA and Poynter's News University Websites. So far, Darren Durlach has committed to returning as an instructor this year. Durlach is a photojournalist at WBFF-TV in Baltimore, Md., and winner of the 2009 Ernie Crisp Television News Photographer of the Year.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Journalists vs. Law Enforcement: Know Your Rights

Journalists have been complaining that BP officials and local law enforcement officials have been actively preventing them from shooting photos and video of the public beaches tarnished by the catastrophic oil spill.

Both credentialed journalists from major news organizations and independent journalists say they are being illegally bullied.

One example is Marguerite Cravatt (pictured), an L.A.-based indie producer who grew up on the Gulf Coast. She brought her producing partner and a cameraperson to the Gulf Coast to shoot documentary footage along the deserted coastline of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. She says she repeatedly witnessed the media being blocked and bullied. "In one incident, a local on-duty Police Officer tried to protect the interest of BP and prohibit us from filming a sick worker being taken way in an ambulance."

Outraged, she posted her experience on YouTube:



*****
We thoroughly address the subject of where photojournalists can legally take pictures in Chapter 16 of "Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach." Nearly all the time, public property (such as a public beach) is fair game. Know your rights! More importantly, know what to do, and how to behave, when a law enforcement officer mistakenly tries to prevent you from recording what you are entitled to.

Photographers who disregard police directives -- even if the shooters have the right to be where they are -- can be arrested for disorderly conduct or for interfering with the performance of a police officer's duty. Continuing to take pictures or failing to move after a policeman gives you a direct order could constitute a possible felony.

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and some of its chapters have for years worked to improve the situation, and reduce conflict, by educating police and fire personnel on the role of the news media in society. The NPPA is keeping a close eye on the BP situation as well.

The NPPA has asked President Obama to order the rescinding of a ban on members of the media speaking with clean-up workers, and to instruct the federal government to work with the press to create a more reasonable "safety zone" for journalists who are covering the Gulf oil spill and attempting to document the Deepwater Horizon booming efforts.

"NPPA is outraged at reports that the U.S. Coast Guard has created an extremely restrictive 'safety zone' surrounding all Deepwater Horizon booming operations, and at reports that the federal government has banned members of the news media from speaking with clean-up workers," NPPA president Bob Carey wrote to the president.

(Read more here.)

Carey appeared on KCRW's program "To The Point" to discuss with a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman and reporters from the Times-Picayune and Time magazine how the Coast Guard's 65-square foot "safety zone" has affected journalists' reporting on the impact of one of the biggest environmental disasters in U.S. history.

The 65 square-foot area effectively blocks reporters and photographers from getting close enough to do their jobs well. Off-duty police officers hired by BP to run security details have also been criticized for harassing journalists trying to cover the story. BP now says efforts to stop the spill may pay off in the next few weeks, but what’s happening to the flow of information about the disaster?
*****
On a similar note, NPR's "Talk of the Nation" program yesterday addressed the volatile issue of videotaping police in action.

The Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King resonated, in part, because it was caught on video. Now, most modern cell phones have video cameras. Many police departments struggle to draw the line between citizens' and journalists' rights to film arrests, and their officers' rights to privacy.
Incredibly, in some states you can get arrested for taking video of an arrest -- even if you're on public property and not interfering with the arrest.

In its half-hour segment, "The Rules and Your Rights for Recording Arrests," we hear from guests
Radley Balko, senior editor, Reason; Carlos Miller, arrested for photographing police making an arrest; and James Machado, executive director, Massachusetts Police Association.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Should Independent Journalists Join Forces and Model Themselves After Law Firms?

Instead of clamoring for one of the last remaining jobs at a conventional media organization -- for long hours and low pay -- should you collaborate with other out-of-work writers, reporters, editors, photojournalists and videojournalists, and form the journalism equivalent of a law firm?

That's the intriguing proposal on the table from Michael Rosenblum, continuing our online conversation regarding the financial future of journalism.

Though we admire Adam Westbrook's e-book, "Next Generation Journalist," we wondered outloud whether it's realistic to expect overloaded reporters -- who are already shouldering multiple tasks once performed by their exiled colleagues -- to re-fashion themselves as entrepreneurs.

Perhaps it's asking too much for someone who's talented at interviewing and crafting prose narratives to now shoot and edit video stories. Add to that a new requirement that they be able to independently promote, advertise, market and sell their services, and we wonder if there are enough hours in the day for these superhuman endeavours. Besides, the traits that make great journalists are not necessarily those that make great businesspeople.

(If you need to catch up on the conversation, start here and here.)

We postulated that the best bet for independent journalists is to form teams, partnerships, and collectives to pursue projects that enable each participant to play to his particular strength. That makes more sense to us than to expect them to absorb skills taught at business schools.

In his latest blog post, "Entrepreneurial Journalism: How To Make It Work," Rosenblum argues that, instead of contrasting J-school grads with MBAs, perhaps we should be comparing them, in personality and temperament, to law school grads. "In many ways it’s a similar career: research, investigations, analysis and presentation." Many journalists and lawyers, he notes, are similarly driven by a sense of social justice. It's just that lawyers have figured out how to make big bucks in the process.

The difference between lawyers and journalists is the way that they have elected to organize their own profession.

Journalists end up working as employees for someone else, and are thus forever victims of the vicissitudes of the marketplace and changing technologies.

Lawyers tend to organize themselves in partnerships in which they pool their skills and their business.

A law firm hires its talents out to many clients. A Journalism Firm (to craft an interesting idea) would do the same. A partnership of journalists would contract with various magazines, newspapers, television stations and websites to offer content, as a law firm offers work. In this way, they would also be insulated from the predictable disaster if one newspaper or one magazine went under.
Rosenblum fleshes out his "Journalism Firm" concept here. Go take a look and see what you think. Is this a sustainable career model? Might it work for you? We're eager to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Best iPhone Apps for Multimedia Journalists

Check out the terrific roundup of multimedia iPhone apps, over on Richard Koci Hernandez's Multimedia Shooter blog. (Most are also available on iPod Touch and iPad. Some are free!)

He gives you full descriptions, recommendations and links. Here's a sampler, with digested info:

Easy Release: Replaces inconvenient paper release forms for pros.

AutoStitch Panorama: Combines multiple images to produce wide-angle panoramas with no visible seams.

ReelDirector: Full-blown video editing suite.

Monle: Records, edits and manages WAV files.

ShowCase: Records and edits multimedia slideshows

Tcoder: Enables you to take notes during press conferences, presentations and speeches, perfectly synchronized with the time code of your recorder, miniDisc or TV camera.

Pano: Takes beautiful, seamless 360-degree panoramic photos.

CoverItLive: Publish photos, video, audio in real time -- integrated with moderated comments, email and Twitter.

AudioBoo: Records and shares annotated audio on social media.

Eye-Fi: Uploads/downloads and organizes photos from your Flickr account.

Photogene: Crops, rotates, and enhances photos with filters and multiple color adjustments (levels, exposure, contrast, saturation and RGB manipulation).

Qik and Ustream: Records audio files and streams them to the Web.

Gorillacam: Enables photo features such as anti-shake, self-timer, time-lapse, continuous rapid-fire, 3-shot burst, and more.

iTimeLapse Pro: Creates stunning time-lapse and stop-motion videos.

Want more info, and the direct links to each app? Visit Multimedia Shooter.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Do Journalists Really Want to Be Poor?

We're delighted that videojournalism pioneer Michael Rosenblum has taken the time to compose a thoughtful response to our question about whether modern-day journalists need to add "entrepreneur" to their growing list of required skills.

(See: "Now You Have to Be an Entrepreneur, Too?")

We encourage you to read his comment below our original post, and also his expanded essay on his own Rosenblum TV blog.

His title says it all: "Entrepreneurial Journalism: Do We Even Have to Ask?" He sees it as a self-esteem issue.

"The biggest mistake that journalists for the last 50 years have made," he writes, "was to wrap themselves in this glorification of poverty."

His argument is that lots of businesspeople have amassed extraordinary wealth from their Web pursuits, leaving in the dust the very people who excel at gathering, organizing and disseminating the information the Web is built upon -- journalists!

The Internet happened on our watch. It happened to our business, and it happened under our noses.

The Internet is the single biggest technologically driven transition of an industry since Gutenberg put ink to movable type. And billions have been made in the Internet Revolution – billions, but not by us.

Which is both strange and tragic because we were here first!

We should own Google and Craigslist and Facebook and a thousand other very successful sites.

But we don’t.

We don’t because we missed the entrepreneurial boat.

And why did we miss the entrepreneurial boat that sailed away right under our noses?

Because we have a love and a passion for poverty. We love to see ourselves as poor and struggling.
Personally we don't think it's quite that black and white. True, the image of the journalist as grizzled underdog had been overromanticized in books and movies (ranging from non-fiction "All the President's Men" to the fictitious "State of Play," pictured). But most journalists we know in real life aren't deliberately gravitating toward financial destitution. It's just that their passions tend in the direction of reporting and storytelling -- not spreadsheets and projections. Perhaps j-school grads aren't striving for their first billion with the same zeal as their MBA confreres, but at the same time they're not lusting after low-paying gigs for the sheer bohemian thrill of it.

More to the point, their motivation for pursuing journalism may not be the same as the motivation of a high-charging empire builder -- but, to our thinking, that doesn't necessarily translate to the presumption that journalists think "money is evil."

And, back to our original point, it can't be assumed that people who possess the skill sets required to become accomplished journalists should also be able to excel at entrepreneurial endeavours such as sales, marketing and promotion.

Ultimately, we believe the solution will lie in collaboration -- the formation of partnerships and collectives that consist of pros whose individual strengths and talents can be combined and leveraged for the benefit of the common good. Microcosms of lean, mean newsrooms -- but without the dead weight of middle-management layers... and rooms.

And while that may not make us all filthy rich, it will be a far cry from the "ink-stained wretch" image that understandably makes Rosenblum cringe.

The Big Cheese Doesn't Stand Alone

Another controversy is broiling over a digitally manipulated news image on a magazine cover.

This time it's a photograph of President Obama standing alone on a Louisiana beach, for The Economist's June 19 cover story on the BP oil spill catastrophe.

Except in the original unaltered image, by Reuters photographer Larry Downing, he's not alone. By cropping out Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard (routinely acceptable) and Photoshopping out Charlotte Randolph, a local parish president (highly questionable), it appears that he's "looking forlornly at the ground," as a New York Times blog item accurately describes it.

The Economist violated Reuters' own strict photo-editing policies. In its defense, deputy editor Emma Duncan declared (in an email to the N.Y. Times) that cropping Allen was justified, and that Randolph was "removed not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers. I wanted readers to focus on Mr. Obama, not because I wanted to make him look isolated. That wasn’t the point of the story."

Still, that was indubitably the net effect -- all the more proof that any photo editing that fudges reality is bound to create more problems than it solves.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Now You Have to Be an Entrepreneur, Too?

There's a growing expectation that videojournalists need to embrace and master a dizzying array of skill sets.

There used to be a time when newspapers and TV news teams would consist of at least a reporter/interviewer and someone behind the lens of a camera -- and each field unit would have the support and input of editors back at headquarters. Now all those duties -- finding and researching a story, conducting interviews and amassing facts, shooting and editing audio and visuals -- are expected to be accomplished by the same person.

The likelihood of that individual excelling at such a diverse set of journalistic and technical tasks is exceedingly slim.

Now add to that an entirely new expectation.

Given the miserable state of the economy, the downsizing and collapse of media institutions, nobody is hiring journalists. Those starting (or trying to piece together the shambles of) their careers are being advised to not even bother jobhunting. Instead, they're being instructed to redefine themselves as "journalism entrepreneurs" and create their own economic opportunities.

So in addition to being able to interview, report, write, shoot, and edit (text, audio, stills and video), you need to be able to master product development, sales, promotion, advertising, marketing -- and all in a digital context, which implies scaling the heights of social media, conquering search engine optimization, and slaying 'em in the aisles with your tutorials and seminars on the workshop/lecture circuit. Oh, and be sure you can write killer applications for foundation grants.

Any one of these pursuits had traditionally constituted a fulltime career unto itself. Now if you can't bat, catch, throw, run, and exude enough charisma to be a commercial spokesperson -- well, don't look back, because everyone else is gaining on you.

Understandably, journalism schools are in a funk trying to figure out what exactly to teach students to prepare them for the workplace. While it's always a good idea to get a well rounded education that acquaints you with multiple aspects of a profession, students and professors alike naturally wonder whether it's better to focus on mastering one thing well -- and worry whether that one thing will even exist in the future.

Our stance is that technology will always evolve -- and it's vitally important to stay abreast of those changes -- but the fundamentals of excellent journalism and great storytelling will remain as constant in the years ahead as they have for the centuries preceding us.

What we're less sure about is how critical it will be that reporters, writers, editors, photographers and videographers become entrepreneurs. Arguably, many of the "brand name" stars in each field have taken that route -- though it's unlikely they thought of themselves in those terms. Unfortunately, the skills and activities that make you shine in one arena don't necessarily translate to the other. Still, if your traditional jobhunting quest is not going well, it couldn't hurt to consider the advice of those who are successfully pursuing the entrepreneurial path.

In the vanguard is Adam Westbrook, a British videojournalist who last month published an ebook on that topic, Next Generation Journalist. He was recently interviewed by Andy Bull, UK author of Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide, for his Write, Edit, Blog blog. The topic: How to make money from a range of journalism activities and enterprises, by developing what Westbrook calls "a portfolio career."



We'd like to hear your thoughts. Do you think it's practical for most journalists to repackage and giftwrap themselves as entrepreneurs? Does this sound like something that would suit your skills and sensibilities? Does the prospect of being an entrepreneur enhance or diminish your enthusiasm for being a journalist?