Spain will hold regional and municipal elections in 10 days, and the two major newspapers, El País and El Mundo, have pulled out all the stops in their online coverage. Be sure to compare these two comprehensive packages to appreciate their differences.
Guillermo López writes that the two news organizations make these three associated elements really shine:
Increased circulation (or even symbiosis) between the content generated for the Web and other information media. For example, El País includes, in the print version, articles sent by the citizens to its “I, journalist” online section; meanwhile, journalists who work for various regional editions hold forth online in numerous diverse blogs linked to the site, writing about the campaigns in the country’s autonomous communities.
Relevance conferred on the participation of the public. El País invites people to send SMS messages addressing complaints, proposals and initiatives to the new government of their municipality. Both news sites also invited people to speak out in a section titled “If I were mayor” (“Si yo fuera alcalde”; El País and El Mundo). El Mundo has also opened its site to free election publicity — which helps the minority candidates, López points out.
Participation from — and with — the public is evident throughout both sites’ coverage. Will we see the same in the 2008 U.S. election? (Or will the U.S. media continue to alienate the public by paying more attention to the horse race than to the issues?)
Two researchers who have conducted several studies about blog readers, Tom Johnson and Barbara Kaye, have launched a new survey on this topic. They are seeking survey participants who read blogs and who also seek out political information.
I finally got my hands on a copy of “Telling the Story: The National Public Radio Guide to Radio Journalism,” published in 1983.
In general, the more powerful the event, the easier it will be to do a story, because strong stories tell themselves. If you are working on a story about prison conditions and a riot breaks out, your only problems are getting to the riot, recording the right sounds, asking the right questions of the right people and getting out in one piece. But if the prison is quiet, you will have to look for the events that evoke prison life — perhaps the slow movement of a new prisoner through a tough entry procedure, or the sounds of the night lock-up, or the sermon at Sunday chapel, or the conversations of guards and prisoners about past events. (Chris Koch, p. 3)
It’s hard to teach this stuff. You can go out and interview one or two people, edit the audio nicely, and put it together with some photos — but have you told a story? I’m teaching a new course in the fall and I want to make sure we are continually reminding ourselves that the ultimate goal is to tell a story.
While we want to prepare students to cover real breaking news well, I think it’s important to admit that the bulk of daily journalism is NOT breaking news. If it’s breaking, like Koch says, you have to hustle your butt to the scene, try to see and hear everything, gather as much video, audio, photos and notes as possible, and get out in time to post to the Web, edit tape, write a story for tomorrow’s print edition.
But most stories are harder than that — even though they are easier in the sense that the reporter is not under the same pressure.
You can waste time trying to do news stories on vague ideas…. [P]ieces about poverty, poor education, crime in the streets, corruption, inflation, freedom of speech and other abstractions…. If journalists are interested in these things and want to do stories about them, then they will look for events. (Koch, p. 3)
In contrast to trying to tell a story without any events, sometimes we settle for relating events without telling a story.
I see this both with students’ work and in regular daily journalism. The subject might be interesting, but at the end, the reader or viewer is left with a kind of “So what?” feeling.
To combat that, we’ve got to be able to summarize the story and also why it matters. Okay, here’s a person who does an interesting job. You photograph, you gather audio, you have an interesting two minutes. About what? If all you can say is, “It’s about these two furniture makers and what they do,” I think you should admit that that’s not really a story. If it’s about how they quit their stockbroker jobs in the big city to move out to the countryside and pursue a dream — then THAT might make a story.
I say “might” and not “would” because it all depends how you tell it. If the heart and emotion can be seen and heard, then it’s a story. But if it’s flat and matter-of-fact, it may all come to nothing.
VGA-quality video (640 x 480) at 30 fps (frames per second); see an example, including clear audio
Optical viewfinder (although the excellent Lumix DMC-TZ1 lacks this feature, which makes your job easier in bright sunlight; the Lumix counters with a 10x optical zoom)
Batteries you can buy off the shelf, such as AAA’s (my own beloved Canon PowerShot SD700 IS lacks this feature, having a rechargeable lithium-ion battery)
USB 2.0 connection (no need to remove the memory card from the camera — just connect the camera directly to your computer and transfer all the photos)
If you’ve got one of these in your pocket (and they do fit nicely into a pocket), you can try shooting video informally when you’re out reporting a story and then experiment with the video when you’re not on deadline.
On Friday, I posted a shiny new tutorial (PDF, 236 KB) for Audacity — a free audio editing program that works on Windows, Mac and Linux. About 130 people have downloaded it so far. I’m very eager to hear if any of you tried it, and if you did, how was it?
Wouldn’t you like to make maps of your local restaurants and other favorite spots? I don’t mean you, the private citizen (but maybe you too), but rather you, the newspaper. I know, I know — updating is the thing that scares you. It would scare me. How are you ever going to be able to keep those maps up to date?
Well, what if you could just keep the data in a spreadsheet? An online spreadsheet that could be edited by several suitable people in your newsroom?