Monday, November 29, 2010

You've Got to Learn How to Share

Mindy McAdams, who teaches online journalism at the University of Florida, makes some valid points about embedding, linking and downloading videos for increased viewership.

"It doesn’t take too much intelligence to conclude that it’s very important to make it very easy to share the videos that you produce."

Why don't more journalism publishers/producers get the message?

Read her blog post here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

President's Photographer: Tonight on PBS

Be sure to catch The President's Photographer: 50 Years in the Oval Office tonight on PBS. The National Geographic production features Pete Souza, an acclaimed photojournalist who previously served as President Reagan's official photographer, and now performs those same duties for President Obama.

Did we mention that Pete was one of our first photojournalism students, way back when? He's currently on leave of absence from his normal post as an assistant professor of photojournalism at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication.

The presidential photographer's job is two-fold: one, taking photographs of the president greeting dignitaries, visitors and guests; and two, perhaps more challenging and gratifying: documenting for history every possible aspect of the presidency, both official events, backstage happenings and "off-duty" private moments. "Creating a good photographic archive for history is the most important part of my job, creating this archive that will live on," says Souza. "This is not so much photojournalism as photo-history." Souza and his staff produce up to 20,000 pictures a week.

"The job of presidential photographer is all about access and trust, and if you have both of those you're going to make interesting, historic pictures," Souza says. He earned the President's trust by following Obama on his rise to the Presidency covering then Senator Obama as a photographer for the Chicago Tribune.

Watch the full episode. See more The Presidents Photographer.

Read the Washington Post's excellent review here. Excerpt:

Perhaps only Bo the Dog and personal aide Reggie Love have better access to Obama than Souza, who is a constant presence with a couple of cameras slung over his droopy shoulders. Both Bo and Love figure prominently in some of the memorable shots Souza has taken so far; the president, we learn, is particularly enamored of a photograph of himself blocking Love's shot on the basketball court....

Without hammering the point, and with some of the more interesting behind-the-scenes footage yet of the Obama White House, "The President's Photographer" makes clear the lasting power of the still photograph, even in this tech-savvy era. It's possible that Souza's perfect picture of Obama already exists; probably it has yet to be taken. Time has a way of editing all images down to the one that says it all.

Read our previous blog items about Pete Souza, here and here. And check out his online portfolio, which also showcases his "non-presidential" assignments.

Check your local PBS listings for air times.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Help Kickstart a Documentary About 10 People Who Are Making a Difference

We got a note from photographer/filmmaker Gail Mooney today, about an ambitious global video project she's undertaking with her 23-year-old daughter, Erin Kelly, a recent graduate from Northwestern University. It's called Opening Our Eyes.

We recently returned from a 99-day journey around the world, shooting a documentary about people who are making a difference in the world. We interviewed and filmed 10 individuals on 6 continents who are creating positive change. I know the power that we as visual communicators have in creating awareness with our cameras and our craft and how that can influence and move people. Our ultimate goal for our film is to inspire and motivate others to be change makers because we believe in the power that the individual has in making a difference, even through small acts in their own communities.
Gail still has to edit 150 hours of footage, and is trying to raise funds to hire a professional editor through a Website called Kickstarter, which "supports creative projects and provides a portal through which to raise funds via crowd funding."

In other words, you can pledge any amount of money to help Gail and Erin. So far, the project has 70 Kickstart "backers" who've pledged $4,035 towards their $7,500 fundraising goal -- with just 49 days to go to secure the rest of the financing (otherwise all pledges are forfeited). "Our clock is ticking."

Take a look at a ten-minute sample of their film and check out some of the rewards for various pledge levels here.

The women were inspired to make their film by Maggie Doyne, 23, who went to high school with Erin, and was the subject of a recent cover story in the New York Times Magazine.

Maggie has built a home in Nepal for over 30 children and herself, and has recently completed the construction of a primary school for over 200 students. I knew that there had to be thousands of people like Maggie around the world who were creating positive change, and my daughter and I set out to tell their stories through film and photographs. We made the trip financially possible by cashing in all our airline miles, hotel awards and Amex points, along with some bartering - accommodations for video services.

In total, we filmed ten extraordinary people in Uganda, Poland, Russia, Nepal, Thailand, Australia, Peru and Argentina. We have one more story to tell in North America. Our intent is to create short videos on each subject for their foundations' websites, as well as a feature length documentary that will include all ten of these incredible people.

Our trip was the journey of a lifetime. Not only did we witness the power of the individual and what one can do to "make a difference," but we experienced this together. In the process of making this film and this journey, we learned about each other as the people we are - not just as a mother or a daughter. We formed a bond that will last a lifetime, and that in itself was perhaps the most rewarding part of the journey.

Our ultimate goal for the film is that it is seen by as many people as possible in the hopes that they too will be inspired and motivated to create positive change in their own communities.

You can follow our 99-day journey through our blog posts at:
For more info, and to make your pledge, go here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heads Up, Journalists! Craigslist is Drinking Your Milkshake... Again!

Newspapers had plenty of opportunity to spiff up their clunky classified advertising sections and customize them for streamlined Web use. They had access to a marvelous new technology, a whole new medium, but they chose to ignore it. They failed to invest talent and resources. They were comfortable and entrenched in doing things the same old way. And while they sat back, while their advertising sections withered and died, Craigslist came along and ate their lunch.

Now the same thing is happening again, in another arena. Over the past couple years, newspapers have had the opportunity to double down on relatively inexpensive technology to shoot and edit video. Most dipped their toes in that river, but failing to see instant financial returns, they fell into that vicious cycle of blaming their disinterest in producing professional quality video stories on the audience's apparent disinterest in viewing them.

In reality, newspapers hid their video so well on their own Websites, that their own producers couldn't find them -- so how could they expect readers to locate them? And even then, newspapers were so reluctant to invest time and money in an unproven medium -- especially as budget cuts mandated staff reductions -- that the videos themselves were often slipshod affairs. They were not only aesthetically inferior, but frequently fell short of basic journalism standards.

Realistically, neither print reporters nor still photographers should be expected to magically master video storytelling -- and "training" a staff or department in how to use a Flip vidcam is hardly sufficient to create professional quality results. It's like grooming someone to be a reporter by teaching him how to use Microsoft Word.

This past year, Craigslist -- now synonymous with online classified and personal ads -- has gotten into the videojournalism business with Craigslist TV. Who knows why -- other than that founder Craig Newmark thought it would be a cool idea. Unquestionable it's a brilliant marketing and brand-promotion concept. Essentially, each 8- to 10-minute episode follows the ins-and-outs, and ups-and-downs, of one offbeat Craigslist transaction. As with all human interactions, the stories are often fun, quirky, and even poignant.

But here's the point. Are you listening, newspaper publishers? All you beleaguered journalists out there better wake up -- Craigslist is once again drinking your milkshake.

We already showed you the premiere episode of the second season of Craigslist TV : "Accordion Idol."

Since then there have been three more stories (one of them a two-part episode). They have strong and interesting protagonists, compelling story lines, and illuminate or put a bigger issue in context. And there's not one that any newspaper in America, with ambition and resourcefulness, could not have produced on their own. It's a matter of dedication to the tenets and principles of non-fiction video storytelling -- investing in hiring and/or training staffers not just in using cameras, mics and editing software, but also in the principles of visual nonfiction storytelling.

Here they are (below). "Drinking Buddy" is the funniest; "Getting Married" is the most poignant.

Superheroes Strike Back! (Part One)

"Superman" uses craigslist to unite all the costumed characters recently kicked off of Hollywood Boulevard by the Los Angeles police. His "Town Hall of In-Justice" attracts an interesting crowd and leads to unexpected consequences.


Superheroes Strike Back! (Part Two)

"Superman" and the other costumed characters were recently kicked off of Hollywood Boulevard by the Los Angeles police. After their "Town Hall of In-justice" became a shouting match, a dejected "Superman" decides to risk arrest by going to Hollywood Blvd. in full costume. And later, he and other characters stage what may be an even riskier public protest.


Drinking Buddy For Hire!

Daniel offers his services as a drinking buddy on Craigslist. The surprising folks who respond to his ad are more in need of cheap therapy than free drinks.


Getting Married

In 2008, Rev. Lorelei Starbuck married over 600 same-sex couples before Prop. 8 restricted marriage to only "a man and a woman." But in 2010, a federal judge concluded Prop. 8 was unconstitutional, so Lorelei again posts on craigslist offering her services to gay couples looking to wed.


And in case you missed Season One, here are some of the loglines:

Rent My Couch! - Must Love Dogs:) (6:30) Megan is strapped for cash and lists her couch for rent on craigslist. Folks soon learn that Megan already has a full house.

Wanna Join My 80's Cover Band? (9:51) Meg uses craigslist to assemble the most kick-ass 80's cover band in history.

Hip Hop Jaysin Wants a Hype Man (9:52) As Jaysin's big showcase approaches, tensions rise. Can Jaysin keep his cool and impress promoters? Jaysin, an aspiring hip hop artist, uses craigslist to find his very own Flava Flav - a "hype man" to whip up the crowds at his big show.

Ninja for Hire! (9:12) Ninja Nick offers his services as a ninja for hire on craigslist. Dog walking, car washing, pool cleaning and massage - all for free!

Michael Mullen & Sandra Bullock's Dress (6:45) Aspiring fashion designer, Michael Mullen, uses craigslist to reach Sandra Bullock in hopes of dressing her for the 2010 Oscars.

Trista and Tara's Missed Connection with a Hottie (8:11) BFF's Trista and Tara post an ad in Missed Connections on craigslist after spying a hottie at Subway. Will it lead to Trista finding her Mr. Right?

Charity's Casting Call for a Husband (9:00) Spunky and vivacious Charity is fed up with the dating scene and posts on craigslist

The series' mandate is to "follow weird and wild postings on craigslist in real time." New episodes of Craigslist TV appear every Thursday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Meet President Obama's Official Videographer

Arun Chaudhary, a former NYU film instructor, is the first person to hold the job of White House videographer. According to today's New York Times profile, he is "part documentarian, part White House-message-machine post. He travels with the president on roughly two-thirds of his trips, documenting the behind-the-scenes occasions and public theatrics."

Using only his handheld videocamera and laptop, Chaudhary compiles his video highlights into a weekly roundup, "West Wing Week," which appears on every Friday. (See this week's episode below.)

The profile depicts Chaudhary as a perpetually disheveled man on the go, scrambling to both keep up with President Obama and keep out of his way -- though the boss offers his personal documentarian the ultimate accolade: "a very cool guy."

Like official White House photographers, Chaudhary is part historian, part propagandist, searching for and releasing only the President's most flattering moments. But that is not without precedent.

Since at least the time of President Ronald Reagan, successive White Houses have understood the power of video, investing time and effort into creating images for television to record.

But Obama aides have gone a step further, creating imagery and then filming it themselves, knowing they can inject it into the media bloodstream because of video-sharing sites like YouTube and the increased appetite for new media and technology.
But Chaudhary claims he is taking the long view, and capturing history in the making for future generations to savor -- especially the largely unseen candid side of President Obama, even the awkward or unflattering moments. All those deleted scenes and outtakes are preserved on huge storage servers and will become part of the official record in the presidential library.

As with videojournalists, Chaudhary finds the best moments are the unanticipated ones -- the private interactions that occur between the official staged events. “Whether you are in the United Nations or a castle in Prague," he notes, "anything can happen, and probably will, in the hallway.”

Here's this week's episode of West Wing Week:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Media Innovation Contest Deadline is 12/1

We just received this invitation(below) from the Knight Foundation. Perhaps you can cook up and submit a worthy videojournalism concept.

If you have an innovative media technology idea, you might be able to get funding from the Knight News Challenge contest. Run by the Knight Foundation, the grant competition awards up to $5 million annually for innovative projects that use digital technology to transform the way communities send, receive and make use of news and information.

More info can be found here: The site includes application information, as well as details about past winners. This year's application deadline is December 1.

The News Challenge is looking for applications in four categories: mobile, authenticity, sustainability and community. All projects must make use of digital technology to distribute news in the public interest. The contest is open to anyone in the world. A simple description of the project is all you need to apply. Submit a brief pitch to If the reviewers like it, you'll be asked to submit a full proposal later.

If you have questions you can a) reference the FAQ: , or; b) check the archived chat transcript (another live chat will be held before the end of the contest period, time/date TBD). You can follow Knight Foundation on Twitter . The News Challenge Twitter hashtag is #knc .
Tell 'em @Kobre sent ya!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Rwanda Story You Don't Usually See on TV

Today's featured video is courtesy of Michael Rosenblum, who is spending the month in the UK teaching reporters at media organizations, such as the BBC, how to create solo videojournalism projects. In other words, how to interview, light, shoot, record audio, and edit video without benefit of a TV crew or postproduction facility.

On Rosenblum's New York Video School blog, he posted a sample by Victoria Holt, a reporter with a small BBC local station.

She was assigned to do a story on local immigrant issues.

For most local TV stations, that means finding a family and profiling them at home, sometimes with a few photos.

But not now.

Not when for $600 you can buy a plane ticket from London to Rwanda and spend a week going home with a Rwandan refugee who has not been home in 10 years.

Here's the piece that Victoria shot, reported, scripted and edited all on her own, using a small digital camera and a laptop to edit.
"You tell me," asks Rosenblum rhetorically. "Is it worth it?"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Real Political Journalists on the Beat

Want to see what real reporters look like when they're working? Pierre Kattar and Jill Drew followed three political journalists -- Don Gonyea of NPR News, Mark Leibovich of The New York Times, and Alexander Burns of Politico -- "as they scour the country for insights into Congressional candidates and their campaigns."

Here's their resulting video snapshot for Columbia Journalism Review: "The Buzz and Beyond: Reporting the 2010 Midterm Elections."

The Buzz and Beyond: Reporting the 2010 Midterm Elections from Pierre Kattar.

'51 Birch Street': Marriage Mysteries Revealed

We told you earlier this week about Doug Block's new documentary, "The Kids Grow Up," now arriving in theaters. For that feature film, Block turned the camera on his daughter Lucy -- from birth until she left home for college at 17. Block's 2006 film, "51 Birch Street" (pictured), intimately chronicles the 54-year marriage of his parents.

It's featured in its entirety this week for free on, and it's well worth your attention.

Filmmaker Doug Block had every reason to believe his parent’s 54-year marriage was a good one. So he isn’t prepared when, just a few months after his mothers’ unexpected death, his 83-year old father, Mike, phones to announce that he’s moving to Florida to live with “Kitty”, his secretary from 40 years before. Always close to his mother and equally distant from his father, he’s stunned and suspicious. When Mike and Kitty marry and sell the longtime family home, Doug returns to suburban Long Island with camera in hand for one last visit. And there, among the lifetime of memories being packed away forever, he discovers 3 large boxes filled with his moms’ daily diaries going back well over 35 years. Realizing he has only a few short weeks before the movers come and his dad will be gone for good, the veteran documentarian sticks around, determined to investigate the mystery of his parents’ marriage. Through increasingly candid conversations with family members and friends, and constantly surprising diary revelations, Doug finally comes to peace with two parents who are far more complex and troubled than he ever imagined.

Both unexpectedly funny and heartbreaking, 51 Birch Street is the first-person account of Block’s unpredictable journey through a whirlwind of dramatic life-changing events: the death of his mother, the uncovering of decades of family secrets, and the ensuing reconciliation with his father. What begins as his own intimate, autobiographical story, soon evolves into a broader meditation on the universal themes of love, marriage, fidelity and the mystery of family. 51 Birch Street spans 60 years and 3 generations, and weaves together hundreds of faded snapshots, 8mm home movies and two decades of verité footage. The result is a timeless tale of what can happen when our most fundamental assumptions about family are suddenly called into question.
You'll enjoy the surprises that unfold, and mysteries that are resolved, reminding us how little we really know about even our closest family members. At the same time we come to appreciate how much an intensely personal documentary approach can reveal -- not just about its subjects, but about universal truths that embrace us all.

Watch the entire 90-minute film for free on SnagFilms. Here's a preview:

Watch more free documentaries

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Female Drunk Drivers on the Rise

The Quincy (Mass.) Patriot Ledger has spent years investigating the impact of drunk driving.

In its longterm series, Driving to Endanger, the newspaper takes an in-depth look at the arrests of dozens of repeat drunken drivers, and the legal system that lackadaisically processes them, and concludes: "In Massachusetts, drunken driving is still considered a petty crime."

More recently the Ledger has looked at the significant rise in the number of female drunk drivers. "Nationwide, the FBI found that while male drunken driving arrests fell 8.8 percent from 1999 to 2009, the number of women similarly caught soared 41.8 percent."

Award-winning staff photographer Amelia Kunhardt explored the issue of women and drunken driving while on a six-month Kiplinger Fellowship on multimedia storytelling earlier this year at Ohio State University. Her efforts resulted in a series of seven videos that took first place in the NPPA monthly contest in the multimedia category for October 2010.

Kunhardt interviews a number of women who have been arrested for drunk driving. She focuses especially on the case of Marybeth Frisoli, who was sentenced to six months in jail for a drunk-driving accident that cost motorcyclist Mark Cronin his leg. The video follows the courtroom proceedings, introduces us to the victim, and shows the impact of Frisoli's misdeeds.

Watch the seven videos produced for this special report here. Introductory overview below:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Grandma's Tattoo: A Family Video

Sometimes the best video stories can be found in your own backyard. That's what Miranda Harple discovered when she and her sisters, and their mother -- scattered throughout the world -- all decided to get "a small tattoo of an anchor, each on different places of their bodies, to symbolize the family's deep connection to sailing."

The icing on the cake was when their grandmother decided to join them.

In this AARP video, the Harple clan explains their bond -- to each other and to the ocean -- and their delighted surprise at their grandmother's participation. Then we actually get to see granny get inked! Take a look:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

3 Noteworthy New Documentaries

Courtesy of Telegraph21, the online video magazine "featuring the best documentary films ... from around the world," we call your attention to three promising new feature-length documentaries.

"The Two Escobars," directed/produced by Jeff & Michael Zimbalist, examines the intersection of sports and crime through the lives of druglord Pablo Escobar and soccer player Andres Escobar. Though they weren't related, according to a Los Angeles Times review, "they led intertwined lives of glory and infamy in Colombia, and the full-throttle documentary dynamically chronicles their meshed fates." The Times says it's "one of the best sports docs in recent memory."

Read the L.A. Times review here.

"The Kids Grow Up" earned a "critic's pick" designation from the New York Times.

"One plausible if not necessarily generous reading of the film is that it’s about how difficult it can be to live with a documentary filmmaker. Or at least with Doug Block, the director of this one.

On the evidence presented here, Mr. Block, who lives in Manhattan, has turned his video camera from a domestic accessory (as it is for so many families) into a virtual family member."
The result? "A chronicle of ordinary life that is partly a scrapbook, partly a memoir and, most movingly, an essay on the passage of time and the mysterious connections between parents and children."

Filmed by her father from the moment of her birth, Lucy at age 17 is just months away from leaving home for college. Moving fluidly between past, present, and the fast-approaching future, Block uses a lifetime of footage to craft not only a loving portrait of a girl transitioning into womanhood, but also a candid look at modern-day parenting, marriage, and what it means to let go.
Read the N.Y. Times review here.


The Kids Grow Up Website

The Kids Grow Up on Facebook

The Kids Grow Up on Twitter

New York Times article

Director Jennifer Arnold has stitched together a powerful tale of "paying it forward" that makes you appreciate the far-reaching ripples that can be created by one seemingly insignificant pebble.

Her new documentary "A Small Act" has its genesis in a modest $15 scholarship awarded by a Swedish woman named Hilde Back to a Kenyan boy named Chris Mburu.

Her humble but steady sponsorship put Chris through school and eventually launched him into Harvard Law, paving the way to his job as a United Nations attorney.

Now in her eighties, Hilde meets Chris for the first time as he launches his own small act of benevolence: the Hilde Back Education Fund for the children of his village. Hilde's astonishment at the potency of her long-ago gift is matched in scale by Chris's surprising discovery that Hilde is not Swedish at all, but a German Jew who escaped the Holocaust.

Exploring the enduring challenges of achieving an education in the developing world, the documentary follows Kimani, Ruth and Caroline -- each at the top of their class at Mukubu primary -- who are pinning their hopes on winning one of Chris’s scholarships. Interweaving their stories with those of Hilde and Chris, the film reveals just how powerful a gesture of kindness and generosity can be, and that an education is perhaps the most generous gift of all.
In this featured clip below, Mburu explains how the Hilde Back Education Fund selects scholarship students:


A Small Act's Website

Hilde Back Education Fund's Website

A Small Act's Facebook Page

A Small Act's Twitter Page

Be sure to check out for illuminating Q&A interviews with each of the documentary directors!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Online Videojournalism Awards Presented

Congrats to all winners of Online Journalism Awards, presented this weekend at a banquet in D.C. by the Online News Association.

Per usual, all the videojournalism winners were showcased at the time of their original publication on KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism -- the place to catch award-winning work months before contest judges officially acclaim it!

Online Video Journalism, Large Site
The Toronto Star
William and the Windmill

Online Video Journalism, Medium Site
The Las Vegas Sun and the Greenspun Media Group
Bottoming Out

Online Video Journalism, Small Site
Yale Environment 360
Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining

Online Video Journalism, Student
Knight Center for International Media, School of Communication, University of Miami
My Story, My Goal

The student award went to fourteen University of Miami multimedia graduate students, who teamed with students from seven Knight Center for International Media partner schools in Africa and Asia "to tell stories that attempt to personalize the United Nations Millennium Development Goals."

Working with Tom Kennedy, Knight Center Professional-in-Residence, each team found personal local stories that shed light and insight on critical global issues, including poverty, maternal health, environmental sustainability, universal education, gender equality, HIV AIDS and children's health.
In addition to seven individual mini-documentaries on each of those topics, focusing on seven people from seven African and Asian countries, the project includes a 27-minute documentary, "This is My Goal" (pictured above).

We previously posted a salute to OJA finalists here (9/29).

To see all the OJA prizewinners in all categories, go here.