Archive for February, 2008

Student questions I’m still pondering today

A couple of questions asked by Randy Brown’s class last night still have me thinking today.

Both related to quality and ethics.

What happens to quality, one young man asked, when you’re covering breaking news in this immediate on-line world, and all you have is, say the camera on your cell phone?

I told him about the debates raging in our industry over high-end vs. low-end equipment, best illustrated in hilarious and insightful videos by Andy Dickinson and Cyndy Green.

But I told them that the demand for quality sometimes overlooks the news value.

Arguably, the most notable news video of my generation was shot with an 8mm home movie camera by a dressmaker named Abraham Zapruder. He captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It launched thousands of arguments and decades of controversy.

It’s shaky, not great quality even by the standards of the day.  But Life magazine beat the television networks in getting the rights to it and publishing stills of the movie.   This same Life magazine had a reputation for carrying the best of photojournalism, also raced to buy Zapruder’s home movie.  It had news value.

Today, CNN’s I-Report wants your cell phone video

News value has a way of trumping pixel counts or, back in the day, the quality of film.

It really should be about the news.

Which is closely related to a young woman’s question about what I thought was the single most important lesson for journalists.  That was a tough one.  There are so many.

It took me about three seconds to say that the more the business changes, the more it stays the same.

Journalism ethics, I hope, will survive all the changes.

Without high ethics to seek the truth, minimize harm and act independently, we are no better than some of the silly videos uploaded to You Tube or idol chatter on Twitter, or MySpace or Facebook.

There needs to be somewhere in every community where people know they can get information they trust – no matter how it’s delivered, or how that delivery changes over the years.

Class Act

If you want to revive your enthusiasm for the future of journalism, spend an hour in a college J-class.

Not only have I met some really brilliant students online through social networking and SPJ, the occasional invite to speak to a class by prof friends renews my faith.  The students are engaged.  They asked good questions.  They at least fake not falling asleep really well.

Of course, prepping for the class and actually worrying over whether I will really interest them enhances my respect for journalism teachers such as Mindy McAdams, Andy Dickinson, Mark Hamilton, Charles Davis and Randy Brown, who asks me to come speak to his classes a couple of times a year.  These folks do this every day, and God love ‘em for it.

I told the students I would post the links we talked about in class on this blog, so they could continue to explore the changing face of journalism.

The new stuff

As I said in class, there are plenty of tutorials on the web to help people learn how to do it all.  All it takes is time.  Here are some helpful links to learning and cool tools:

The BCC offers some great tips on audio and video

Make your slideshows with Sound SlidesAnd learn how to use it – easy.

Don’t want to spend the money on that program, no matter how inexpensive? Then make your slideshows with the free MovieMaker already on your computer.

Learn to gather and edit audio

Explore Google Earth and Google Maps


We we also looked at both national examples and what we’re doing locally:

Flight Delays – Las Vegas Sun

Crime Map –

Kansas Democrat Caucus –

Hidden Poor – Chicago Tribune

WSU Shiftspace

Video & Map Mashup

I’ve got to thank Ryan Sholin and Andy Dickinson for help with some of these links.  And Andy’s link to the video/map mashup was a hit.  Nothing holds attention like a sports car racing through a metropolitan area.

Cool stuff

I’ve arisen from the sick bed, gone back to work and excited about the the multimedia finds this week in my RSS reader.  Three notable links:

First, repeat after me: “Data can be cool.”

Say it together now …

User Interface Engineering (UIE), gave some good examples this week of how the New York Times makes data fun.

“All this data could be presented in a multi-column chart. However, because of the interactive nature, there’s a game play aspect to the exercise, making it instantly more engaging for the user.”


No. 2: Make better slide shows

Colin Mulvany gives great tips on improving the quality of slideshows.

No. 3:  Blog on

Old-school journalists like to put down bloggers, but now we have to ask, which one is going to be kicking our butts next? The Polk Award for Legal Reporting has gone in the past to traditional journalists.  But year: for the first time, it went to a blogger, Joshua Michah Marshal, author of Talking Points Memo.

(Via CyberJournalist)

Post from the sick bed

The blog has been lagging, as I’ve been dragging with the flu now for several days.  But I’ve pulled myself out from under the weather to post links to a couple of articles that caught my attention in my medicated haze.

First is from the New York Times on so-called “off-air reporters” shooting video and blogging with the presidential campaigns.  Itt points to why every reporter should carry a point-and-shoot video camera and know how to use it.

The other is blogger Robert Patterson’s two-part series on how an NPR station in San Diego used Google Maps and Twitter to cover the California fire last year.  Patterson also uses this example to explain how campus newsrooms could cover breaking news, like a campus shooting, to alert students and even help keep them safe. (Via Amy Gahran on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits)

Enjoy the reads. I’m crawling back under the covers, drinking more juice and hope to emerge in a few days.


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