Posts Tagged ‘Multimedia’

Why Twitter’s changes are good for journalism

Twitter has unveiled changes to its 140 character format in response to investor concerns on user numbers. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Twitter has unveiled changes to its 140 character format in response to investor concerns on user numbers. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Recently, Twitter announced plans to revise its 140 character length. The changes come as chief executive Jack Dorsey continues to try to find ways to engage new audiences with the social network, amid a history of decline of the number of users.

The most notable changes come in embedding multimedia on the platform, as the photo, video, GIF, poll or quoted tweet (a retweet with added comments from a user) will no longer be counted in the 140 characters you would have available. Additionally, when tweeting a user, the @username will also not count against the 140 characters.

It is unclear as to when the changes will specifically be rolled out, but a blog post on Twitter’s corporate web site says these features would be rolled out within the next few months.

In an interview with the BBC last week, Dorsey said the focus was on ensuring that when people tweet, it makes sense.

The soon-to-be rolled out updates are good for journalism on the platform, as users look to Twitter to engage with journalists and news organizations, either through discussions on current issues, or to be informed about events on the go. Journalists and news organizations also can do crowd sourcing on the platform, and the changes would likely allow more context to be put into a request or verification of user generated content.

Yet, the big item will come from live tweeting a story, especially a breaking news story, and how multimedia elements can help tell that story on Twitter. Journalists will be able to tell a story better on the platform with more context, alongside the photos and videos, whether its a local piece, a sports event, or a story on the forthcoming elections.

These changes allow journalists, irrespective of beat, to truly have Twitter become another platform alongside conventional platforms, to expand the two-way conversation between journalist and user, and to practice accomplished and quality storytelling.

While there is a ways to go before Twitter’s problems are properly solved, this is a step in the right direction, and will allow journalism to flourish on the social network. It will benefit not only the engagement strategies for news organizations, but to the people that matter most — the audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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

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.


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, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Get familiar with Google Maps Engine Lite

Google Maps Engine LiteIf you haven’t tried it yet, try it now: Google’s Maps Engine Lite.

The stripped-down version of Google’s corporate-level Maps Engine, Lite, still in beta, lets you get geospatial without cost or high-level mapping skill. Lite debuted in late March, but the latest good example of its use can be found in a recent blog post by multimedia consultant Robb Montgomery.

“It’s a great tool for learning to build maps with data, making tailored maps without a lot of clutter and for adding database information to location and routing maps,” he writes.

Montgomery’s example was a small map he drew to show a travel route through downtown Berlin. But Maps Engine Lite also allows users to download small spreadsheets and up to three data sets for a much more nuanced presentation.

As Montgomery demonstrates, for most journalists, Maps Engine Lite is a great tool for devising simple locators that can fit neatly and effortlessly inside news sites, blogs and mobile apps, and best of all it doesn’t require a degree in cartography to master. Start with the tutorial, which takes newbies step-by-step through their first map.


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


Video grammar for journalists, “I shot video, now what?”

film_clapper-NetworkedBack with more video grammar for journalists!

Today’s topic: “I shot video, now what?” We’re talking video editing on the computer.

Armed with all of the correctly framed, exposed and in-focus shots you’ve acquired using your BYOC – and using the single camera shooting technique we talked about previously – you should now have 20-30 video shots recorded on your device… Now what?

Time to feed the beast – the computer beast. Next stop: visual storytelling!


**BUT WAIT!** To quote my man, Meatloaf, “STOP RIGHT THERE!” Before I go any further a technical warning is in order about the type of computer needed to accomplish what editing video requires – especially in today’s world of file-based, high bandwidth, high definition video.

Before we sink our teeth into the process, find the right software and export the correct output files required for video, here’s a question to ask: do I have the right computer for the job?

What are the right computer specs for editing video? Depends on whom you ask: Videomaker, the Video Guys or DIY and the type of videos you want to produce. To produce glorified Powerpoints disguised as videos for Grandma you can probably get by with “minimum specs.” To import and edit full 1080i or 720p HD video files from a DSLR, a video camera, even an iPhone you need to feed the beast I tell ya!

There’s nothing more taxing on the processor, RAM and graphics card than manipulating very large files. Just how big are the video files you’ll be manipulating? A wise old photo editor told me once that to efficiently edit and manipulate a still image in Photoshop, the computer needs ten times the size of the image in RAM. According to Adobe, by default Photoshop uses 70% of your available RAM. And that’s just for still images!


To give you an idea of the file sizes in video:

  • One minute of standard definition digital video (DV) = 187.5 megabytes, one hour = 10.99 gigabytes.
  • One minute of H.264 1080p HD (from a Canon 5D Mark II) = 355.89 megabytes, one hour = 20.85 gigabytes.

*Source: Digital Rebellion

DON’T SKIMP THE SPECS! (Don’t take my word for it…)

  • For Avid’s Media Composer, specs are here for Mac/PC.
  • Apple’s Final Cut Pro, here.
  • Apple’s Final Cut X, here.
  • Apple’s iMovie, here.
  • Adobe’s Premiere,  here.
  • Sony’s Vegas,  here.

Edit Software LogosWhile these six pieces of software are by no means the only video editing software out there, they all have one thing in common, they feed the beast. In our digital media department all of the 27″ iMac video editors sport i7 processors, 16GB of RAM, an HD capable graphics card with 2GB memory on the card and separate networked drives for media files. And yet, despite all that power, there’s many an evening I set up a machine to render a large video file and leave it to cook overnight!

Bottom line? Video editing is red meat for your computer, don’t send wimpy minimum specs to feed a hungry beast!

NEXT TIME: A look under the hood at video editing software!

Tim McCarty is a consultant, educator and Emmy award-winning Video Pro. A Professional Instructor and TV Advisor in the Journalism & Digital Media department at Ashland University, his department blogs at:

GlowTrend joins growing list of social networking sites

If you’ve noticed some nudging and elbowing lately in cyberspace, it may be due to the crowded social networking field making room for yet another potential player.

That player is called GlowTrend, and though it looks and feels like Facebook, founder Michael Wellman Jr. promises much more.

“I wanted a social site that would bring everything that’s good in other social media sites into one place and still be able to work with the other places,” Wellman said in a news release Tuesday. “That’s why we let you connect to GlowTrend through the other major social media sites.”

Yes, GlowTrend intends to be all things to all comers, Besides incorporating thumbs-up “likes,” friend suggestions, an instant messenger, company pages, and an interactive event calendar, a la Facebook, GlowTrend also intends to serve as an iTunes-type music storefront, where musicians can upload and sell their own works, a Google Plus-inspired video chat interface, and a Craigslist-kind-of classifieds section that ostensibly would help the site generate income, among other features.

Meanwhile, a mobile app is in development, Wellman says.

The site used to be called “MyFaceZone” until Wellman decided to put more distance between his site’s identity and that of his chief rival. Though the official launch came Tuesday, GlowTrend has been gaining fans since the domain name went live in June.

And despite the official launch, a few kinks remain. Wellman’s own GlowTrend page contained more troubleshooting announcements than social interactions. (The site’s servers nestle near Wichita, Kan.)

“Sorry for the delay everyone for the photo issue,” the Wasilla, Alaska, native wrote regarding a days-long glitch in uploading profile photos. “We are trying to get resolved. You can still import (other) photos.”

GlowTrend’s privacy policy promises little better than other social sites, saying no personal information will be sold, though allowing that member content will be seen as “aggregated demographic information” worth sharing with “business partners, trusted affiliates and advertisers.”

But this is Wellman’s third try at launching a social network, he says. Maybe now he has it all figured out.

David Sheets is a former content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a candidate for Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.



Digital Media Tools: One click away


As we near the SPJ convention in New Orleans; it’s a good time to remind you of all the digital media tools we have written about in the past year.   Just in case you’ve missed some of our past blogs, here is a list of topics we’ve covered.  

How to use Facebook in Journalism

Making Maps with UMappter 

Social media marketing tools for journalists

Getting started with quick, easy data visualization

Data Visualization and Infographic Sites to Bookmark

Build your website for free

Tablet or laptop? For some of us, the choice is obvious

Streamling your social media posting

Quora tries to answer all your questions

How to participate in a Twitter chat

Using Windows Movie Maker to edit audio clips

Google Charts Part 2 of 2: Motion charts

CuePrompter: No more memorizing scripts for your video blog

Digital media skills every young journalist needs 

Tools that help you get more from Twitter

Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award winning freelance reporter in Dallas, TX. She is the vice chairman of the SPJ Digital Media Committee, and a board member with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Fort Worth Chapter of SPJ.  She has 30 years of experience: television news, online news and video producing.  She can be contacted at

CuePrompter: No more memorizing scripts for your video blog

Cue PrompterSometimes television reporters make it look so easy when they’re out in the field doing a “live shot.” I know after 27 years in television—it took practice, practice, practice to make a live shot flawless.

I was always concerned that I would say “um, um, and um” too many times, or maybe lose my train of thought. I always thought news anchors had it so easy, because they had a teleprompter for their scripts.

Some of you may be video blogging and are trying to figure out how to make it look natural when you’re on camera recording your report.

Well I found this piece of free webware called CuePrompter. It’s an online teleprompter. It’s amazing because once you get the hang of using it, you’re going look and sound like all those television anchors you see on the nightly news.

All you need is your script, copy and paste into your computer and CuePrompter does the rest for you.

CBT Café produced this excellent video on how to use CuePrompter.

It’s free and easy to use, and more than anything no more fumbling or stumbling or even memorizing your script. Now you’re going to look flawless on camera.

Watch out Katie Couric and Brian Williams—here we come!

Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award winning reporter with 29 years of experience. Most of her years have been in television news, but now she is a multimedia freelance reporter based in Dallas, Texas. She is currently a board member with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Writeboard: A free web tool that makes it easy to collaborate on a project

Working on a project with another reporter in another part of the country or maybe on the other side of your city?  No need to get together at the coffee shop or exchange long emails. Check out

The writeboards are web based text documents that you can use when you’re collaborating on a journalism project with other reporters.   If you have to add more information or edit what you have; it’s all done in one place. 

Here’s the bonus; it’s free


Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award winning reporter with 29 years of experience.  Most of her years have been in television news, but now she is a multimedia freelance reporter based in Dallas, Texas.   She is currently a board member with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Keep learning with Scribd

As the 2009-2010 SPJs’ Digital Media Committee year comes to a close we are hard at work putting together Part II of The SPJ Digital Media Handbook. Many of our loyal readers have written in asking when the next section will be published. Our goal is to have Part II available before the SPJ 2010 Convention in Las Vegas.

As an homage to Scribd for housing our content and making it accessible to journalists around the globe, I thought I might recommend some other incredible resources that can be found for FREE on Scribd.

The Future Journalist, by Sree Sreenivasan and Vadim Lavrusik (posted by Scribd user api_user_5814_user82644)
Sree and Vadim explain why it’s critical that journalists learn to think digitally and why it’s important to have a strong grasp of how to use digital media tools BEFORE news breaks.

33 Sites Every Journalist Should Know, by Jeremy Caplan (posted by Scrib user silverboat, Jeremy)
Jeremy Caplan’s 3 part series handout has a great selection of sites that will help you distribute and publish your content.

Twitter, by Claire Wardle (posted by Scribd user cward1e, Dr. Claire Wardle)
Wardle takes you step by step on how to use Twitter, in case you don’t already know how. More importantly, she shows how journalists can use Twitter as a tool for reporting, in case you still need convincing (or know someone that does).

Google Guide making search even easier, by Nancy Blachman (posted by Scribd user rumisprite, Nancy A. Henry)
Learn how to perform a Patent Search, get Flight Tracking Information, set up Google Alerts…her document is so chock full of information on using the Google search engine that it’s exhausting. You’ll need to set aside a few hours to get through it all. Really.

Google Search tips for journalists, by David Paulson (posted by Scribd user Hastimal Shah)
A lighter alternative to the aforementioned document.  (Don’t forget that Google will be giving a presentation at the SPJ 2010 Convention – here was our recap of the Google 101 event in Chicago – Google 101 for Journalists: A Review)

Find any other must-reads for journalists on Scribd? Leave a link in the comment section below.

Hilary Fosdal is the associate new media editor at the Law Bulletin Publishing Company located in Chicago, Illinois. You can visit her site and follow her on Twitter @hilaryfosdal.

The Flip Camera: Small, Convenient, and Easy To Use

Last month, I was at the mall when I saw some security guards tackling a woman with a baby in one arm and a purse stuffed with clothing on her other arm.   At that moment, I wished I had my Sony Cybershot camera with me.  I never thought I’d see  a struggle in front of my eyes.

What I do know is two things; that video of the security guards and woman could have come in handy on a story on shoplifting, and I should have had a Flip camera in my purse.

Most of us will try to use the best video camera we can on a story, but in a pinch—a Flip camera is not a bad tool to have in your bag.  There are several versions of this small camera, including the Flip Ultra HD that costs about $200.

It’s easy to use, because you press a button and you’re recording.   It’s very convenient when you need to upload your video right away, because it has a flip out USB connector.  You can plug your Flip camera right into your laptop. Yes, it’s that easy. 

You can also buy an underwater case for your Flip camera.  This is great if you want to take shots in a pool.  I bet it would come in handy right now for those reporters covering the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.   

I found this video blog by a citizen journalist who uses a Flip camera for her reports.  It’s an excellent tutorial:FreeVlog

Here are some basics on the Flip:


-Fits in your pocket

-Records about 2 hours of video on 4GB

-Uses double A batteries

-Any standard tripod can be used with Flip

-Also has microphone


-Fits in your pocket

-Captures about 2 hours of HD video on 8GB built-in memory

-It comes with rechargeable AA battery pack

-Also has a microphone

-Any standard tripod can fit the tripod mount

Search YouTube for more tutorials on the Flip camera.  Good Luck!

Rebecca Aguilar is a freelance multimedia reporter in Dallas.  She has 29 years of news experience and has been awarded numerous awards, including several Emmy awards.  She’s also on the board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.  Rebecca conducts reporting workshops around the country (Finding Sources and Stories, Networking, Live Shots, Getting the Best Interview, Writing to Video, and The Basics Of Multimedia.) She can be contacted at


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