Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Brad Kalbfeld visit

Brad Kalbfeld

Brad Kalbfeld, former AP broadcast editor, visited class to speak about how technology has changed from the past to the present. He showed the typewriter he used and old school tape recorder he first used when he traveled with the Pope.

He then showed the first laptop he used, which looked like a keyboard and calculator screen combined.

In the past 30 years, we have gone from using heavy, analog devices such as those typewriters and tape recorders to using the smartphones and laptops we use today. And it allows fewer people to do more jobs.

The model of having a reporter, copy editor, section editor/show producer and managing editor working together to produce content for readers/viewers being threatened by a citizen with technology is unfiltered and scary.

Now, there is a race to get citizens to send the information to the copy editor, to filter it.

Readers/viewers are now empowered because they know what they are getting and missing from the filters in between the reporters and the editors.

A citizen journalist presents a tremendous advantage to our ability to consume news: they are present.

If you have a strong, credible brand, people will go to you more often, in part because people are lazy.

News used to be a one-way proposition; today, news has to interact with the consumer.

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

B.J. Koubaroulis visit

Like most up-and-coming sports journalists, B.J. wanted to cover the biggest and best pro sports teams. But after covering high school sports, he fell in love with it because HS sports offers “the most access and the most real people.”

B.J. Koubaroulis

Video has been a life-changing experience for him; one guy wih a camera can make a difference and produce quality content. Individuals can harness the power of video now as compared to when you used to need a crew.

Prior to his ability of working with video, B.J. said he didn’t think the editorial staff at the Washington Post found him as attractive.

The unique thing that B.J’s company, Synthesis Multimedia Productions,  provides is that when they do game story video packages, the stories are usually turned in around 2 hours after the game.

B.J. has done a lot of things: radio, television, web, writing, video. And he recommends trying different things to learn what you’re good at. Invest in yourself.

You’re not just a writer or broadcaster or radio host. You are a media person. Don’t peg yourself into doing one thing. Do all of it and you’ll be able to do what you want to do. If you’re not going to change you’re going to get left behind and if you only do one thing, you are easily replaceable.

The most important thing for someone that works for him, is for them to be, at heart, a journalist.

The four things you need to do the kind of backpack journalism that B.J. talks about:

  • A computer
  • A camera
  • A microphone
  • Being ready to work hard

The #1 thing for B.J. is that you learn things by doing it.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Mark Potts visit

Mark Potts started out by stating that Wikipedia is a sort of new site. It’s useful because it’s built by the crowd and articles can be built instantly.

The Washington Post implemented Facebook to tell a story about a mother who gave birth and then got sick a couple months ago. Potts said this story was hard to tell without including the medium in which it happened.

Potts said Storify is the flavor of the month; but when it’s used, it needs transitions between bits. Otherwise the reader can get lost.

Potts said people who blog about their community do it out of passion not for the money. They want the pride of being recognized by their community. Bloggers have passion. You want people who care.

Computational journalism: the application of computation to the activities of journalism. Potts recommended Five Thirty Eight, a blog that excels at computational journalism and “is devoted to rigorous analysis of politics, polling, public affairs, sports, science and culture, largely through statistical means.” Nate Silver from being a zero to a top 20 blogger in six months.

Potts considers WikiLeaks journalism. Journalism isn’t necessarily about writing something, but disseminating information. Not affording the same protections to the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, as other journalists is damaging to journalism, according to Potts.

Tubeify is an example of a web site that excelled at data visualization by showing which songs were tops on the Billboard 100 throughout the years.

According to Potts, Twitter is worthless as a professional tool; it’s too much noise for him. RSS feeds are much more valuable to him. But Twitter is a must-use tool for professional journalists to increase publicity.

The most important tool in the last five years for journalists is the smartphone.

Potts says journalism is better than ever been before. The problem is the gutting of newsrooms, having fewer people to cover things. Those people are shifting to other places.

The river of news today is overwhelming, so people need to be their own filter of news.

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Ch. 11 ‘Building a digital audience for news’

Image representing Google Analytics as depicte...

Image via CrunchBase

The traditional business model for journalism is in disarray.

That’s for damn sure true, with everyone having the ability to  write what they want on the Internet thanks to technology.

To increase an online audience, a journalist needs to:

  • Analyze what is published
  • Determine what readers like and don’t like
  • Do more of what readers like

Here are the fundamentals of building an online audience:

  • Tracking your content
  • Web analytics
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Effective headline writing for the Web
  • Distribution through social media

Track what you publish, such as blog posts, video stories per week, podcasts, Twitter and other social network posts and total stories per day.

Set benchmarks. Determine what you want to accomplish so you have something to measure against.

Track your audience. Use tools like Omniture and Google Analytics to measure who is viewing your stuff.

Determine what is going to be your key data. Typically it is going to be pageviews, visits vs. unique visitors, and engagement and referrers.

Understand SEO and use it to your benefit. Many news sites receive as much as one-third of their traffic from search engines, so it’s very important to get yourself near  or in the first 10 of results shown.

The best way to take advantage of SEO? Make sure your content is top-notch and link as much as possible as long as it’s relevant. Make good headlines better.

And above all else, use social media to push your stuff. Provide links of yourself on Twitter and Facebook. Contribute to blogs that deal with the same content as you. Put your name out there as much as possible.

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Ch. 10 ‘Managing news as a conversation’

The socialization of news is clearly the right direction for journalism.

This statement holds particularly true with the increasing developments in technology day-by-day. The only problem is, how do journalists continue to do their job while remaining as objective as possible?

It’s a lot like what Jon DeNunzio spoke about when he visited our class. News organizations want and need to interact with their consumers. They want to interact to get feedback on what they’re doing right and what needs improvement. They need to interact because it keeps them honest to their consumers’ needs and it makes journalists’ jobs easier.

By making news more social, news organizations can crowdsource and collect tips from citizens through tools like Twitter, and work with bloggers to gather more information.

Interaction also allows journalists to become transparent to their needs. Readers can comment and provide feedback to what they perceive as biases or inaccuracies by the journalist. As Doug Feaver, former editor of washingtonpost.com, said, online comments are a “terrific addition to the conversation” and “journalists need to take them seriously.”

The best way to become better journalists? Collaborate with your community.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Ch. 7 ‘Making Audio Journalism Visible’

When you view a news story online, you typically expect to see either pictures or video accompanying the story. But you don’t typically find audio accompanying those stories.

“Somehow audio has been considered the ‘invisible’ medium,” said Karin Hogh, a podcast expert. “However, if done right, audio can be as powerful in journalism as written articles or even TV and video.”

NPR's Sound Reporting

I think the reason for this is that people are more willing to take time to watch a video or look at photos than listen to audio, because when you listen to audio you have the ability to do something else, and then your focus isn’t 100 percent on the audio.

Here’s why audio journalism is important, according to Hogh:

  • Presence: Being on the scene can bring readers to the story.
  • Emotions: Tone, expressions, etc can enhance the story.
  • Atmosphere: Natural sound helps pull the listener closer to the scene.

Most audio journalism has these basic ingredients:

  • Interviews and voice-overs
  • Natural or environmental sound
  • Imported sound clips, including music

Here’s NPR’s Guide to Audio Journalism and Production.

Here’s how audio can be used:

  • Recording interviews
  • Doing voice-overs

“Audio journalism is important because it is the dominant form of information distribution on The Next Big Thing in Journalism: mobile journalism,” said Jim Stovall, author of JPROF.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Ch. 5 ‘Going mobile’

Being prepared by having some kind of mobile technology with you at all times is key to being a successful journalist and capturing news right as it happens.

Because of the development in technology over the past few years, all a journalist needs at bare minimum is a cell phone. But that cell phone needs to have a good quality camera and access to the Internet. With those tools, a journalist can capture breaking news and at least flesh out their story while on the scene and then refine when they get back to their desk or computer.

Using mobile technology is critical to almost every kind of reporting:

  • Criminal and civil trials
  • Important speeches or announcements by public officials, celebrities, sports figures and business leaders
  • Breaking news events, including fires, shootings, natural disasters, plane crash crashes and car accidents that back up traffic
  • Public gatherings like protests and political rallies
  • Sporting events
  • Grand openings

If you want to be a hardcore, mobile journalist, Briggs recommends a combination of these tools:

  • A laptop (preferably a netbook)
  • A camera
  • A video camera
  • A tripod
  • An audio recorder
  • Headphones
  • A microphone
  • A cell phone

When I cover high school sports, I carry my digital camera to take plenty of pictures, my voice recorder to gather quotes and my cell phone to post updates on Twitter.

No longer is it OK to just carry a notepad and record notes. As journalists in this new era, we have to get accustomed to using new technology every day and progress with its new developments.

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Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Ch. 6 ‘Visual Storytelling with Photographs’

Nikkor 50mm f /1.8 lens for the Nikon F-mount.

Image via Wikipedia

“A picture’s worth 1,000 words.”

That’s the cliché that you’ve probably heard plenty of times through your life, but at times a picture is more effective at telling a story than words. Or as Briggs puts it, “journalism without photographs is like writing without verbs.”

Briggs starts the chapter by outlining the technical side of digital photography:

  • A megapixel is 1 million pixels, which is the visual representation of data in a digital image or graphic
  • Pictures are stored as digital files on a memory card
  • Resolution is a measurement of pixels that are available to the human eye

The two types of cameras are point-and-shoot cameras and DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras. Point-and-shoot are easier to use, cheaper and smaller, but the quality of picture isn’t going to be nearly as good. DSLR cameras are more expensive, larger and take more time to get used to, but the quality of pictures is much better and a DSLR can do so much more because of the customization that comes along with buying different lenses.

The most important thing when it comes to taking pictures is lighting. Having covered high school football games, I can definitely attest to this. I have a decent DSLR, but if the lighting on the field is poor, my pictures won’t turn out well. And the flash won’t help at all because the standard flash isn’t nearly strong enough to light up the field.

Some other tips within the chapter from Craig Sailor:

  • Hold the camera steady. Do anything to keep your body still while shooting.
  • Fill the frame. Don’t leave a lot of empty space in the photo.
  • Focus on one thing. Literally, when using the auto focus feature, make sure to focus one thing to make the picture sharper.
  • Get closer, change angles.
  • Go vertical, meaning turn the camera vertically if the subject is vertical.
  • Shoot action.

When shooting, the more pictures taken the better. It’s common sense really, the more pictures you take, the higher chance you have that you have some quality pictures. When I cover a basketball game, I usually take at least 100-150 pictures, in part because of the fact that the pictures are in motion but also so that I get better pictures. Of all those pictures, I usually only use about 14-20 that I think are worthy of publishing.

After learning the basics, taking pictures is just like writing. The more practice the better you’ll get at taking pictures, although you’ll also need better technology for better pictures.

That and being in the right place at the right time helps in capturing good pictures.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Dan Rather and Tucker Carlson C-Span

In the GSFC Science Studio. Waleed Abdalati an...

Image via Wikipedia

Dan Rather and Tucker Carlson spoke with George Mason students through video conference on Feb. 24, 2011 to speak about the state of journalism and where it’s headed.

Rather, who was the news anchor for the CBS Evening News from 1981 to 2005 and is now the anchor of Dan Rather Reports on HDNet and Carlson, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller and former co-host of Crossfire on CNN, joined students participating from the George Mason University Studio along with Steve Scully, the political editor for the C-SPAN networks, and students from the University of Denver, Purdue University and Georgetown University.

The distance learning course, which is produced by C-SPAN, is a unique opportunity for students to interview guests via video conference. The course airs on C-SPAN3 on Fridays at 5 p.m. and also streams online.

So according to Dan Rather, what makes a good reporter?

Curiosity and determination makes a good reporter,” Rather said. “Writing is a bedrock of the craft.” Even if you want to get into television or radio, you have to be a good writer to be a good reporter.

Rather has been working in news since 1950 and was there to report about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, one of the hardest events to work through. He reported what he saw from the Zapruder film directly from memory and was remarkably calm through the live telecast.

“As a professional you are hit with the same emotions everyone else has, but you have to seal out those emotions,” Rather said. Sealing out those emotions were what allowed Rather to report how JFK died in such a calm manner.

When Kennedy’s assassination occurred, the television was the national hearth according to Rather, replacing radio. After 9/11, the Internet was becoming the national hearth.

“Now here in 2011, we’re in the Internet age,” Rather said. “President Obama is our first Internet president.”

Rather has often spoken out about the lack of courage amongst journalists in today’s media to ask tough questions. Tucker Carlson weighed in along with rather about what journalism needs now.

“Basically what journalism needs is more guts and a sense of independence,” Rather said.

“The best journalism is tough and it pays no regard to authority and it doesn’t suck up to power,” Carlson said. “A central problem is the unwillingness to take on central authority.

“Journalism’s not complicated, it’s a matter of finding out what happened and reporting it to the people.”

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Ch. 4 ‘Microblogging: write small, think big’

Tweeting bird, derived from the initial 't' of...

Image via Wikipedia

Microblogging. Most of us know what it is, we just don’t know it.

Microblogging “allows users to publish brief text messages, usually no more than 140 characters, with links to other Web sites, photos or videos. Messages can be submitted in a variety of ways, including text messaging, instant messaging, e-mail, digital audio or simply posting to the Web. In other words, you can go to the microblog, or you can have it come to you.”

Recognize it? Sounds a lot like Twitter.

As Professor Klein and our guest speakers have talked about, Twitter is absolutely essential to being a journalist or reporter in today’s world. It may change eventually or re-invent itself, but Twitter isn’t going away.

And that’s a good thing, because Twitter is probably the most efficient way to receive news and definitely the fastest. When Twitter is used in the right manner, it can be the best tool for a journalist. You can break news. You can let people know what you’ve just had published. You can use it to get tips or feedback from citizens in the area you cover. You can gain a larger audience, which is always great. You can interact with your audience.

“One great thing about Twitter–and this is why it is so useful for student journalists–is that after a while it trains you to look for interesting things around you (and think how you can communicate that in 140 characters). Those who write off the minutiae of Twitter need to realize: it’s the writer who makes it interesting.” — Paul Bradshaw

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