The approach for photojournalists might be different, and the approach for the news graphics artists different again. But what about the reporters? What should they learn now?
Over the past couple of years everyone has told me that I need to learn how to do multi-media if I want to stay competitive in the newspaper market. But, editors seem resistant to writers doing anything other than writing.
The first thing I would put out there is NO Flash and NO video editing.
Why? The reporter must be primarily a gatherer, a person who digs up information, goes to see people, unearths records and supporting materials. Producing Flash packages and editing video are at the opposite end of that, and both processes are quite time consuming. So there’s little logic in tying up the reporters when you need them on other tasks.
When I think about the reporter as the person ON THE SCENE, then it makes perfect sense that the reporter must gather audio and, if necessary, shoot photos. If a photojournalist is out there too, then fine, that’s who should shoot. But are we willing to say, “Oh, well, we have no pictures,” because the reporter did not have a camera, or did not know how to use one? That would be too stupid.
I’ve warmed up to the idea of reporters shooting video, but I think it’s not smart for every story. People have to learn when something makes sense and when to forgo the technology and just do their main job, which is get the story. What I mean by that might be best illustrated by a photojournalist who slings the camera around back and goes forward with notebook and pen in hand at a certain point.
How do we learn? Well, it’s really great to get critiques after the fact. That gives us a good foundation for doing it better next time. But before you get that critique, of course, you must produce something. You have to bring back some video, audio or photos. And you have to show them to someone who can give you some suggestions.
In some newsrooms, there’s bound to be a lot of the blind leading the blind. But reporters who are really interested in staying in journalism for the long haul need to look outside their own newsrooms and see what others are doing too. There are all these blogs available now (look at the right-hand column of this blog!) where the journalists blazing the new trails are posting their work, their post-mortems and even tutorials.
There’s no excuse for not learning new things now. All you need to do is get started.
And hey — you won’t be an expert overnight. No one is! Be nice to yourself and just keep plugging away at it, little by little. It will get easier, and you will get better.
Maybe your computer is too old and slow to handle video editing, Or maybe you don’t even HAVE a computer. You can always go to the local cyber café, plug in your cell phone (which shoots video, of course) and edit and post to the Internet for all the world to see. All the cool kids are doing it.
Many of the new video creators are entering the video blogging world without any investment, as their phone comes equipped with a camcorder and they can find the basic editing tools for free on Web sites such as Jumpcut.com and Eyespot.com.
Free online editing software was born out of frustration with pricey packaged software.
“The reason we started was that we had DV (digital video) phones and DV cameras and were trying to edit video, but it was really hard. Packaged software is like a freaking space shuttle, it’s so difficult to use,” said Eyespot co-founder David Dudas.
The story, from Reuters, was written by Lucas van Grinsven, European Technology Correspondent, and posted Feb. 2, 2007. (Found via Lost Remote.)
For anyone who is poking around in search of a good editing program for video, Andy Dickinson has done your homework for you. In Part 3 of his series on video editing software, he covers super-cheap or free software for Windows, Mac and Linux. Educators, take note! Do-it-yourselfers too!
I have to say there isn’t much out there that can beat iMovie or Windows Movie Maker as a flexible free editor. There certainly isn’t anything out there that can beat Avid Free DV, for all its problems.
Earlier, Dickinson wrote Part 1 about video editing basics (VERY informative) and the big names in the business and Part 2 about less-famous software that will get the job done.
If you’re wondering who Andy Dickinson is to tell you the real deal, well, he edits TV programs when he’s not busy teaching digital and online journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, in England.
Thanks, Andy — this is a very nice package of posts.
The folks in the video are Dvorak, the host; Lisa Stone, co-founder of BlogHer; and Sebastian Rupley, an editor for PC Magazine. The show is Episode No. 48/49 of “Cranky Geeks with John C. Dvorak” (via Jeff Ooi’s blog, Screenshots).
Is it really such a bad thing to take a flat print graphic straight out of the newspaper and stick it on your Web site? Meranda Watling thinks so. She rips Ohio.com — the Web site of the Akron Beacon Journal — for doing just that with a long, skinny, extremely text-heavy graphic.
I have discussed this practice with very savvy Flash designers at major news Web sites. The gist of their answer: You cannot adapt or animate every single graphic the newspaper publishes.
Fair enough. There are practical constraints related to time and manpower.
But when I look at the graphic from the Journal, I see a missed opportunity. The information is both highly local and of immediate interest (the Akron area is experiencing record cold temperatures). On top of that, some of the information can be re-used again and again, so once you built the package and tagged it appropriately, you could haul it out again in March (if the bitter cold strikes again) and even next year and the next.
It would get a lot of pageviews off the Web front if you played it right. People always care about the weather. The executive editor of The Washington Post is known in his newsroom for loving weather stories — you’ve got to run a big snow photo on Page One if there was snow yesterday in D.C. You might laugh at this, but think about one of our culture’s oldest adages: It’s always safe (and polite) to talk about the weather.
Information graphics represent a key area where news organizations need to get smarter to help themselves improve online.
Here are five things to consider right now:
How many Flash designers do you have? How many artists on the news graphics desk? I’m willing to bet there are more of the latter. So why aren’t they working in Flash already? Why haven’t you trained them? One part of the solution is to stop replicating labor. Don’t make the Flash person re-create the work already done at the graphics desk. Re-train your news artists now!
Are your graphics unique and relevant to your audience? Florida Today has good reasons to create space graphics: NASA is in their backyard. What’s your excuse? Make your graphics distinctly relevant to your audience. Why? It adds value. Your goal is to serve that audience — so do things that really matter to them.
Is your news graphics desk involved in all the editorial discussions — and is the involvement early enough? These folks can help you if you invite them in. They can tell you what assets must be gathered to create a great graphic online. They know stuff that you will never think of — so bring them in early, on every local story that’s bigger than a crime blotter item.
Keep the graphics online, at the same URL. A link to a great graphic should never do this. If you’ve invested the time and the manpower, why shouldn’t you reap the full benefits from that graphic over time? Graphics attract pageviews (IF people can FIND them). The Web does not end up in the bottom of the birdcage tomorrow! It’s time to recognize that.
Akin to No. 4: Tag and index all of your graphics. You want to be able to find them again when they become relevant again, yes? You also want them to be easily findable when users SEARCH for them. The most illogical thing in the world is to spend two days creating something and then fail to take two minutes to add tags, keywords and indexing aids to it.
It’s time to get smart about news graphics. Find out what your staff and colleagues have done lately — and make a plan today to do it better!
I give a lot of thought to training the next generation of journalists. The current generation too (I guess that might be called re-training), but the ones in the classroom get my immediate attention.
So I have been thinking about some hardware requirements for journalism students. First, these are only ideas, not policies at my university. Second, I am thinking maybe they would work better for graduate students than for undergraduates.
Require them to own a good-quality small point-and-shoot camera that can be used for video (see previous post).
Require them to buy a decent microphone and a decent digital audio recorder (I’m talking about a kit that comes to about $200 U.S., total).
Require them to have a relatively new laptop computer, either Windows or Mac.
I think perhaps we have come to the point when a journalist should have the kind of relationship with his or her computer that a photojournalist has with the camera. It is always with you. It is always ready.
I’m interested to hear what others think about these ideas.
I do not mind teaching students how to use software, but I think my role is really to teach them how to report and how to tell stories, how to exercise news judgment and be responsible. When they get stuck with software, I’m there to help them. To me, this connects to requiring them to buy their own tools. My cousin was a machinist, and he was expected to buy his own tools. He treated them well and looked after them because they were his.
I think if the students owned their tools, they would learn more about using them effectively. This is especially true for the laptop — if you carry it with you, it’s easy to ask others for help, advice, critiques. You can say “Look what I made!” at lunch or sitting on a bench at the bus stop. I think this showing and sharing helps people adapt to technology and integrate it into their working life.