Archive for the ‘New Technology’ Category


Snapchat Live, Citizen Journalism

You know what social media I purposefully held out on?  Snapchat.

I’d seen one too many of my peers get burned by that pesky little instant-messaging system –– either by sending the right snap to the wrong person, or getting that ugly selfie screen-shotted (I’m sure that’s a verb by now, right?).

No way, I scolded myself. Sending unattractive pictures of my face in different discrete locations is not the kind of social media I want to engage in.

And here we are.  I’ve succumbed to the inevitability of Snapchat, much to the delight of my closest Millennial friends.

Though I still haven’t figured out all the quirks and mechanics of the app itself, (like what really happens when you swipe left instead of right?), I’ve embraced Snapchat as a tool for news, like the nosey little journalist I am.

Not only is my favorite news organization, National Geographic, highlighted in Snapchat’s Discover section every morning, but there’s now a new feature I can’t stop clicking on: Snapchat Live.

Live is essentially a city spotlight, where one city from –– get this –– around the entire world is selected every few days.  Snaps sent with the city’s geotag (a marker identifying the city, swipe right a few times to see yours) are collected and sorted into a story by Snapchat support gurus.  The result is a curated, 100-some-second photo-story told from a handful of the city’s denizens, from almost every location (and angle) possible.

As a wanderlust soul stuck in suburban Ohio, I can’t help but smile and laugh along with those Snappers (a new term for Snapchat users, perhaps?) waving and yelling “Hello, from Cairo!” on my tiny little screen.  In the past few weeks, I’ve been transported to São Paulo, Brazil, and a dazzling city in the United Arab Emirates.  I’ve been taken on intimate boat rides, shown the pyramids of Giza from a lofty rooftop, and seen the sun set on different continents –– without having left my bedroom.

The world is truly a wonderfully small world, after all.

Now, I’ve seen many of these breathtaking sites from textbook stock photos and glossy banners in magazines.  But there’s something about this utterly raw, perfectly imperfect footage on Snapchat Live that keeps me coming back for more.

It’s real.  It isn’t some doctored postcard sent to seem luxurious, remote, or exclusive to us relatively affluent Americans.  Snapchat Live showcases young people, like me, using social media as a tool, a guide, to make our world feel more like a community instead of divided countries.  And I admire this emerging form of citizen journalism, for all of its genuine humanness, if you will.

Because when I’m driving around Columbus, I see more of Fifth Avenue traffic and corn-shucking at my local farmer’s market, a crowded movie theater parking lot and an even more crowded Jeni’s ice cream stand than I do the picturesque skyline of downtown plastered onto every travelogue in history.  And that’s the kind of story I want to tell, to show to others: the bright, beautiful, undiscovered world in which I live.

Snapchat Live is also being used to capture historic moments and live entertainment events happening around the world; I watched the U.S. Open of Surfing this afternoon.  So, don’t be like me –– see what Snapchat is all about today.  I believe it’s redefining citizen journalism in the 21st century as we know it.

Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Environmental Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Data, Data Everywhere

My eyes and thumbs comb through medium after medium, prowling the Internet for the next sensational story, the latest updates from my friends, and the most cutting-edge scientific research.

TwitterTumblrFacebookPinterestInstagramSnapchatGoogle … Repeat.

It’s hard to imagine living in such an age where we don’t know about the forthcoming announcement of (yet another) Republican presidential nominee, or the release of Apple’s latest music makeover.  Even the things we don’t really want to know, we know –– just who was Hillary Clinton emailing during her Secretary of State term?  What Harry Potter house were all 486 of your friends on Facebook sorted into, according to BuzzFeed’s evaluation of your taste in Getty Images?

In an information age as overwhelming as our own, the amount of data at our fingertips can seem just as mind-numbing.  What do we do with all of this information, present-day journalists ask themselves?  How can we tell these stories, with so much info on, often, so little a scope?

‘Data journalism’ seems to be the term savvy storytellers are throwing around these days to combat our fear of information overload.  Their jobs are to mine the spreadsheets of the latest census in search of interesting data sets, or track down the frequency of drivers running a red light in Los Angeles, California –– and make it into something an audience wants to look at.

Digesting data, and how to showcase that data for consumers, is a booming business right now.  Even the New York Times published a letter on their Upshot blog this week, called “Death to ‘Data Journalism.’”

Why death to data journalism, you ask?

Because ‘data journalism’ is, really, a false reality.  A new-fangled term coined for another face of modern storytelling.

Just because journalists are administering newly compiled and accessible data to a public hungry for news doesn’t mean the objective changes.  The game is still the same: create engaging, intellectually stimulating content for readers and viewers everywhere.

The interviewees in this short video on data journalism have it right: data journalism will soon (and hopefully) become just plain, old journalism again, once readers have gotten accustomed to writers with this much access to information.

We will soon come to expect that our country’s journalists have the tenacity to sort through piles of records requests, along with getting that saucy quote from the mayor and the damning image of his ex-wife.  It’s all part of the package, and that makes the stakes that much higher.

It’s an exciting new age of journalism.  Higher expectations, but a higher reward from the public you serve.

So don’t be confused by terms like ‘data journalism,’ ‘print journalism,’ even ‘photojournalism.’  Because in the end, it’s all part of the story.

Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Environmental Studies and Sustainability Policy at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The New Mobile: News For the Next Gen

The art of storytelling and the consumption of news are both timeless human habits, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the journalist’s craft disappearing into the ether, just yet.

What journalists should be monitoring (and monitoring very closely) is the method of news consumption and how that news is translated to a mass audience on a day-to-day basis.

Before the printed word, oral declarations and one-to-one conversations were the only mediums for audiences to internalize the news.  And after newspapers and pamphlets came about, the print method didn’t last forever, either – it was overcome by online news and the proliferation of the Internet at the end of the last century.  Now, mobile is to web as web was once to print.

News organizations have been scrambling to jump aboard the mobile train, for fear of losing yet another audience population practically programmed to tap-tap-tap away on their smartphones all the livelong day.

But will the mobile fever last, or will it disintegrate before companies like Apple and Samsung have a chance to engineer smartphones large enough to comfortably read articles online, while also allowing for other mobile transactions like phone calls and text messaging to take place? (Is such an invention even humanly possible?)

I had an interesting conversation about this mobile trend with Meghan Louttit, a multimedia editor at The New York Times, this past week at the Online News Association at Ohio University student group meeting.

Meghan suggested that her peer group is actually taking this trend in reverse – that the print editions of books and newspapers have become a novelty item, a vintage collectible of sorts that shouldn’t be counted out of the market so soon.

I was genuinely surprised.  Who would have thought that millennials in their twenties and thirties are starting to subscribe to the Sunday Times, when they should (in theory) be exclusively devoted to digital updates and alerts?

Maybe this is a small trend that will eventually fade into the LED-screen sunset, but it was an interesting trend to consider, nonetheless. (I believe one of my journalism professors in attendance assured me that I would have to pry his Kindle away from his cold, dead hands).

I’d like to issue a response on this notion: Will print news make a rebound, or will mobile phones and tablets continue to issue a new wave of technological news consumption?  Are you a devoted Apple consumer (iPad, iPad Mini), or have you branched out with a Windows or Kindle Fire tablet?  Have you transitioned to reading the news only on your phone, or do you prefer reading articles on the web (or the old-fashioned print way)?  Does this method of consumption change when you read fiction?

Email me responses at bethanynbella@yahoo.com or tweet them to me @bethanynbella.  I’m curious to know if I should (finally) invest in a tablet, and if so, which one.  Or should I stick it out and wait to subscribe to my local newspaper – when I start making an income of my own, that is.

I look forward to your replies.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Strategic Communications and Environmental Political Science at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Tablet or Traditional? News Consumption

One afternoon in my second semester at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, I grabbed a copy of the morning’s The New York Times, more on an impulse than as a conscious, consumer choice.

When you attend one of the top-ranked journalism schools in the country, reading and consuming news in the traditional sense (think thick, inky newspapers and ever-present CNN coverage) is standard – and addicting.

I was never a read-the-newspaper-every-day kind of person until I started rubbing elbows with other collegiate academics, most of whom keep a copy of the Times under their suit jackets, like an essential accessory.

Resorting to a classic case of peer pressure, I soon began plucking a Times from the shelf every day, skimming the headlines over morning coffee – you know, what ‘smart, news-engaged people’ do.

But then one morning, after having watched the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011) in my journalism class, I stared incredulously at my Times and thought, “Who have I become? A digital-age person caught in the mentality of a traditional news junkie, living in the past?”

It’s no secret: Print journalism is undergoing a massive revolution.

Some critics claim it’s dying. Either way, print journalism has suffered incredible losses in the past five years alone, thanks to a surge in online news consumption and mobile compatible content.

Page One took The New York Times as a case study in this traditional journalism dilemma – one of those elite print models that’s grappled with financial hardship and a rapidly evolving audience, all while the American technological age keeps plowing ahead.

I’ve been conditioned to think that a newspaper – real, heavy, ink-blotted paper – is the only respected or sophisticated method to consume daily news.

And yet, what was I getting out of this old model that my digital subscription to the Times couldn’t have provided as easily, or more conveniently?  Perceived intelligence or blind optimism?

I thought, if I only consume news through traditional mediums, and ignore digital media, I’m championing a sputtering art form.  Like supporting the Cleveland Browns, instead of finding another, more promising team to root for (my dad’s an ever-hopeful Browns fan, but I gave up on them years ago).

It’s time to face the facts: Newspapers aren’t the sole providers of news, anymore.

And I’m choosing to live in the future, and support the next wave of journalism distribution, with my smartphone, my laptop, and my thumbs.

For those who think (or desperately choose to believe) that the printed newspaper will ever dominate as the primary method of news consumption in the future? Join the digital wave, while you still can.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Twitter confirms acquisition of Periscope

Twitter officially confirmed today its acquisition of the live streaming app Periscope, which had closed in January for $100 million. Twitter’s Vice President for product, Kevin Weil, made the announcement via the social networking site.

As mentioned in Wednesday’s blog post, Twitter made the acquisition as Periscope continues testing in beta mode. It is unclear when it would be released to the public, but it could have implications on news organizations and their interaction with audiences on social media, as audience feedback is a strong component of the app, according to this report from the technology news web site TechCrunch. Comments can be posted on a stream, which would be seen by viewers of the stream and the broadcaster itself, the report adds.

The TechCrunch report adds that Periscope will be launched as a separate app from Twitter, with the ability to watch live and previously broadcast streams.

Alex Veeneman is a Chicago based SPJ member who is chairman of SPJ Digital and the community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer to Kettle Magazine, an online publication based in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

This post was amended at 5:26 pm Central time to correct the date of the mentioned blog post.

Twitter just became a better tool for journalists

Twitter logo and magnifying glassDo you remember your initial tweet?

How about the 20 or 40 tweets that followed?

The first question may be easy to answer. The second, not so much.

But Twitter just announced a way to change that. The 284-million member microblogging platform now has full indexing as well as a search service that can sift for any public tweet ever posted.

So now you can easily dig up the first-ever tweets by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey in 2006, the tweets from the hundreds of people who launched a social media maelstrom this summer in Ferguson, Mo., and about half a trillion other tweets from around the globe.

Before this, only portions of Twitter’s massive archive were available, and those only since 2012.

“Our search engine excelled at surfacing breaking news and events in real time, and our search index infrastructure reflected this strong emphasis on recency,” said Yi Zhuang, search engineer at Twitter, in a blog post Tuesday. “But our long-standing goal has been to let people search through every tweet ever published.”

This opens a door for journalists to find and understand more of the dialog generated online — dialog now considered crucial to our understanding of events and our place in them.

“This new infrastructure … (provides) comprehensive results for entire TV and sports seasons, conferences, industry discussions, places, businesses and long-lived hashtag conversations across topics such as #JapanEarthquake, #Election2012, #ScotlandDecides, #HongKong, #Ferguson, and many more,” Yi wrote.

He noted that the new search is rolling out over several days and is limited to scouring keywords, though other search elements will be added in time. Only viable tweets marked as public are searchable. Deleted tweets won’t appear, but assorted third-party tools are available to uncover those.

For now, search results appear in the “All” tab of the Twitter Web client, as well as the iOS and Android mobile apps. The interface will change as the index evolves, Yi said.

Digital Journalism takes a big step forward

SPJ DigitalFrom typewriters to Twitter, technology has shaped and reshaped journalism. Only now, the technology is coming faster than we can master it.

In the span of a lifetime, hot type gave way to cold type, which in turn sank beneath a wave of websites and blogs and social media apps. Today, we have come to think that two-year-old tech is obsolete, and that new news can become old news before readers reach the last sentence.

Moreover, we’ve entered an age when, thanks to rapidly evolving technology, the practice of journalism is no longer restricted to journalists.

All of this is why the Society of Professional Journalists has tried to evolve as well — it’s casting a wider net for freelance news gatherers and non-affiliated journalists, and revising its Code of Ethics to meet the needs of the new age.

And it’s expanding the Digital Journalism committee into a digital journalism community.

The new community, SPJ Digital, began unofficially last week but already has a Twitter account (@SPJDigital) and a presence on Google+. It debuts officially in September at EIJ in Nashville under the shrewd guidance of student journalist and editor Alex Veeneman.

Incoming SPJ president Dana Neuts says SPJ Digital’s mission is to “examine and raise awareness of current trends in social media, as well as digital innovations and the digital culture and their affect on the culture, craft and practice of journalism.”

In committee form, Digital Journalism has been chiefly a conduit for information on digital culture. Members met at SPJ’s annual convocation to discuss potential topics for Net Worked, as well as the Digital Media Toolbox and occasional features in Quill, and report on hot tech and trends worthy of special consideration by SPJ leadership.

As a community, SPJ Digital will keep the discussion going year round, encourage input and participation from digitally savvy citizens both inside and outside journalism, and help everyone see the blur of onrushing technology a little more clearly.

The mission is to “serve all members interested in the digital future of the industry as well as the profession,” Neuts said.

A new landing site for SPJ Digital on SPJ.org is in the works. Neuts and Veeneman invite those who are interested in joining the community to stay tuned for updates and registration information at @SPJDigital, Google+, and right here at Net Worked.

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David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Supreme Court paints a bull’s-eye on the ‘cloud’

U.S. Supreme CourtA high court ruling this week that sent a renegade over-the-air TV provider reeling could leave a scar that stretches into the digital ‘cloud.’

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court cinched shut a legal loophole that let upstart Aereo tap the prime-time broadcast signals of the major networks and stream them directly to customers, bypassing cable and satellite providers altogether and skirting the systems and agreements networks created to charge for their broadcasts. Those charges created a revenue stream worth about $4.3 billion in 2013.

A legal challenge arose almost the moment Aereo started two years ago intercepting the network signals relayed from the antennas atop the Empire State Building in New York City and sending those signals straight to subscribers’ computers or mobile devices. Aereo grew to serve 11 metro areas.

The networks said what Aereo was doing amounted to copyright infringement. Last year, a federal appeals court disagreed.

But the Supremes ruled 6-3 on Thursday that Aereo resembles a cable TV service and so should comply with federal rules cable and satellite providers follow in distributing copyrighted material. The rules were first laid in place in 1984, when home VCR recording was popular, and were extended in 2008 to cover remote storage and DVR usage.

Aereo is not expected to survive. However, Thursday’s ruling likely will ripple out much further.

Aereo logoDuring the case’s oral arguments, held before the Supreme Court in April, a point arose that widely available cloud storage services managed by Apple, Dropbox and Google are not held to the same standard as Aereo though they offer similar remote data access. Currently, the onus of copyright violation involving files stored in the cloud falls on users and not the services themselves.

In other words, if a pirated broadcast is discovered in someone’s Dropbox account it’s the account’s owner who suffers, not Dropbox.

The Supremes stepped gingerly away from the door they opened by saying, “We cannot now answer more precisely how (copyright provisions) will apply to technologies not before us.” Analysts of the ruling say this just opens a path for data providers to squeeze usage fees out of cloud storage providers.

“The court is sending a very clear signal that you can’t design a system to be the functional equivalent of cable,” University of Maryland legal scholar James Grimmelmann told Vox. “The court also emphasizes very strongly that cloud services are different. But when asked how, it says, ‘They’re just different, trust us.’”

If it ever comes down to making a legal distinction, cloud users may also suffer, says Mark McKenna, associate dean and professor of law at Notre Dame.

“That’s the cloud companies’ concern — do they have to now make sure all of their users are only making available things they own?” he told Forbes.com.

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David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

Snapchat snafu serves as an important reminder

Snapchat logoToday, many Snapchat users are no doubt gnawing their nails over the clothing-sparse selfies and booze-infused party pics they shared on assumptions of privacy. They’re wondering whether insulting memes and embarrassing explanations will result.

They’re probably kicking themselves over believing Snapchat was different from other social sites, and kicking themselves again for ignoring the reality of digital secrecy — that there really is no such thing.

On Thursday, Snapchat, the mobile messaging service that distinguished itself by guaranteeing all of its clients’ sharing was time-limited and disposable, agreed to settle Federal Communications Commission charges that it could not deliver on that guarantee. The settlement comes despite insinuations and accusations that the guarantee lacked legitimacy from the start.

As punishment, Snapchat must restate its privacy goals and live up to them while under federal surveillance for the next 10 years. No monetary penalty was announced, but in our fast-moving digital world the surveillance period is tantamount to living with a parole officer for two lifetimes, and trying to sneak past the guard could invite a fatal smack in the wallet.

Snapchat apologized in brief on its blog, alleging that some of the FTC’s charges were addressed well before Thursday’s announcement and concluding its mea culpa by saying, “We are devoted to promoting user privacy and giving Snapchatters control over how and with whom they communicate. That’s something we’ve always taken seriously and always will.”

But promises are made to be broken, and a tech startup’s erstwhile intent lacks armor against those who merely feign concern for anyone’s social well-being. The Snapchat snafu thus serves as yet another piquant reminder that a person’s secrets are best protected by their owners and not by anyone who’s capable of putting a dollar value on indiscretion.

And so, the reminders go out again, to journalists and non-journalists alike:

  • Don’t trust your privacy to anything digital.
  • Don’t consider any kind of social networking to be a secret conversation. Your first clue? It has the word “social” is its name.
  • Don’t talk to people online in ways you wouldn’t talk to them in person.
  • Don’t share digital data unsecured or unencoded.
  • Don’t think Snapchat’s apology amounts to an epilogue on this story.

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David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Making videos on the go just got much easier

Software developer Adobe has simplified video production and editing for any journalist on the go who’s armed with an Apple iPad. The company officially unveiled today its new Adobe Voice app, a kind of PowerPoint on steroids now available for free at Apple’s iTunes Store.

Quite simply, Voice makes video possible without actually filming any video.

Through a simple step-by-step process, users simply insert their own photos or animation clips or download images from rights-free sources into a kind of storyboard template, then add text from a selection of more than two dozen preinstalled themes and 25,000 icons.

The app gets its name from the feature that allows users to then record narration by tapping the microphone icon at the bottom of each page as they assemble a scene. Voice also includes a music list to lay down an audio foundation.

Once complete, each video can be shared on social media, blogs, and websites, or uploaded for display on Adobe’s own servers, by tapping another icon.

Adobe predicts Voice could make the most noise at schools, where students and teachers can make quick videos without the hassle of complicated equipment or software. Net Worked however predicts a faster adoption by the public — and certainly by street journalists looking for yet an even quicker way to make a good first impression.

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David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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