A Modern Photographer

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Johnny Andrews , staff photographer for The Post-Dispatch  spoke to journalism students at Lindenwood University on March 22. He gave advice on finding stories and using multimedia to captivate an audience.

Be a Platypus

As I’ve learned in my Writing for Converged Media class, modern journalists need to wear many hats and have a diverse range of media skills. Andrews is no exception to this rule. He not only takes still photos for The Post-Dispatch, he also shoots and edits video. Andrews called having multiple skills being a “platypus.” Just like a platypus is a hybrid of different kinds of animals, a modern journalist must be a technological hybrid.

Andrews said that adapting to new technology was the key to staying in business. He knew photographers and reporters who got laid off because they refused to shoot video. According to Andrews, 80 percent of news outlets require reporters and photographers to have multiple skills.

Find Your Own Stories

Like some reporters who are reluctant to embrace new technology and new skills, Andrews said he was unhappy about doing video at first. Much of his reluctance came from the stories he got assigned. He gave the example of his boss telling him to film a preview story for an upcoming car show. Since the cars had not arrived yet, all he could film was an empty show room.

Andrews became more interested in video after he got a chance to look for his own stories. He encouraged the class to do the same by searching for topics we’re interested in. Andrews showed several videos he made spotlighting local bands. This was a project he wanted to do. Because he did it so well, The Post-Dispatch sponsored the projects.

Andrews also finds many of his stories by simply driving around and seeing what he can find. Some of his best feature stories have come from unexpected encounters. He shared another story about driving down the street and seeing a group of kids playing instruments on the sidewalk. That chance sighting turned into a valuable feature story about a music group for inner-city children.

Embrace Social Media

social media links

The ability to share media via social sites is how content becomes popular.

The importance of social media has been stressed in my Writing for Converged Media class. Though it has many uses, Andrews focused on social media’s ability to spread content and gain popularity. On his personal site, he allows his content to be shared and embedded on other sites which gives his work many more views. He said The Post-Dispatch is more “protective” of its media and does not allow its videos to be embedded on other sites. This prevents the story from becoming popular online.

Be Curious

Curiosity, Andrews said, is one of the most important qualities of a professional journalist.

If you’re not curious, you will be a general assignment reporter.

Andrews gets his best stories from curiosity. If he had not stopped his car and investigated the children playing music on the sidewalk, he would have missed out on a great story.

Good reporters follow what their editors tell them, but great reporters go out and find their own stories.

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Adventures in Microblogging

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I Phone with TwitterOn Sunday, March 19, I attended an improv show presented by Lindenwood University’s Nick of Time Players. I live blogged the event using my cell phone and Twitter.

Technical Problems

I’m a little behind on technology. My family has never been tech-savy, and while I would love to have the latest gadgets, I have not job to pay for them. My cell phone does have basic mobile internet but when I tried tweeting from it the day before, it crashed and I had to remove the battery to be able to get my phone to work again.

I brought my 5-year-old laptop to the event instead but it’s performance has been degrading over the years. I had forgotten that for some reason my computer no longer can read JavaScript, so I was unable to log onto Twitter. With the show starting in five minutes, I desperately tried my cell phone again and was able to find a way to get Twitter on my phone without causing problems. (My phone did crash a couple of times during the show, but I was able to fix it.)

So my first lesson concerning live blogging is it’s important to have the latest technology for things to go smoothly.

My Experience

Though I think live blogging has its place as an effective breaking news reporting tool, it is not appropriate for all events.

First of all, I felt disrespectful throughout the entire performance. Though I cleared it with one of the members first, I still got several dirty looks from fellow audience members. I tried to be discrete by sitting in the far back corner, but I still drew attention to myself by being the only one not looking at the stage most of the time. People probably thought I was texting which has long been considered rude during performances.

Secondly, I’m fairly sure I missed at least a third of the performance. I hardly had time to even look at the stage. Many times I would be composing a tweet when the audience would explode with laughter. I’d look up from my phone and have no idea what was going on. Since I was the only one not laughing, it furthered people’s opinion that I was not paying attention (which I wasn’t entirely.)

That made me think about reporters and congressmen who tweet during a speech. If I missed funny phrases while tweeting during the improv show, surely reporters miss out on things said during a speech that could add context to what is being said. The reporter could finish a tweet, hear the last part of a sentence and tweet that, but if the meaning of that sentence is changed by the first part that the reporter didn’t hear while he was tweeting, the quote can be taken out of context.

Like I said before, some events call for a person’s undivided attention. Getting the whole story is important before making the information public. Though live blogging can be useful in certain situations, sometimes it’s best to keep your phone in your pocket.

Security for Ron Paul’s LU Visit

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While Lindenwood prepares for the visit of Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul on Saturday, the security department will be working behind the scenes to make sure everything goes according to plan.

With the event open to the public and Ron Paul such a prominent figure, Director of Security Kurt Smith said he expects a large crowd.

“Parking can be limited, especially with students still being here,” Smith said. “The biggest challenge will be making sure the guests can come in safely and find a place to park.”

Smith said he has been working with Lindenwood Student Government (LSGA) President Dan Bedell to find volunteers who are willing to help direct traffic. In addition to student volunteers, St. Charles police officers will be on the scene.

“Lindenwood has hired six off-duty officers to coordinate with their personnel,” Lieutenant David Senter of the St. Charles police department said.

Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate without Secret Service protection. Republican Newt Gingrich just recently acquired protection on Wednesday. According to secretservice.gov, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is responsible for determining what candidates receive Secret Service. She must consult with an advisory committee made up of the speaker of the house, the house majority whip, the senate majority leader, the senate minority leader, and one additional member chosen by the committee.

The committee has not declared Ron Paul a “major candidate.” This decision could possibly be a result of Ron Paul’s not winning any state primaries in 2012.

LU security and the St. Charles police department have plans in place to ensure a safe environment. Officers will be standing by at the entrances to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.

“We’re making sure [Congressman] Paul can get in safely and get out afterward,” Smith said.

The political system can cause heated debates and the arrival of a controversial politician can sometimes draw protestors to the scene. Smith said he doesn’t expect any to come out, but is still prepared just in case.

“Ideally we will find a staging area for them away from the entrances where they won’t interfere with anything, but will still be able to exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said.

Anyone who is disruptive during the speech will be escorted out of the building.

Ron Paul will be speaking at 3 p.m. this Saturday. The doors to the Hyland Arena will open to Lindenwood students at 2 p.m. and general admittance will begin at 2:20.

The congressman’s arrival is likely to draw people from the area as well as attract the attention of the media. Smith believes the security team and volunteers will keep things running smoothly.

“We should have plenty of people to get everything coordinated,” he said.

Photos that tell a story

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This article from the Huffington Post allows users to scrub over photographs to see Japan before and after the 2011 tsunami.

To mark the one-year anniversary of the tsunami that changed the landscape of the Japanese shoreline, The Huffington Post posted an article comprised mostly of interactive photographs. The site not only provided a slideshow of powerful images, it promoted interactive technology that allows users to look at before and after images by scrubbing the cursor over the photo.

This is a unique way to tell a story by showing the dramatic change from one image to the next. Words cannot capture how devastating the powerful wave was to the cities and countryside of Japan. The photos say it all with the simple action of sliding a cursor back and forth.

Darren Rowse describes the process of telling stories with photos with his article on his blog, Digital Photography School. Photos can add much to a story, but they can also tell a story in themselves.

Time-lapse makes for cool content

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Photojojo » The Ultimate Guide to Time-Lapse Photography” on multimediashooter.com links to an article on time-lapse photography. Time-lapse photography is a process of compiling multiple images over a series of time to create a video showing change during that time period.

Multimediashooter.com linked to this article about time-lapse photography by Photojojo.

Why did I choose this article?

  • The title of this article caught my attention because I’m fascinated by the progression of time and time-lapse video.
  • I was interested to learn how such a technique is achieved.

What is great about the article?

  • The article gave a detailed description of the process.
  • It includes products that are useful in achieving the best results.
  • A video example is included that is a cool demonstration of how it can be used.
  • Near the bottom of the page are links for extra things possible with time-lapse photography such as making a flip book or photo montage.

Why should journalism and communications students care?

  • People like time-lapse videos.
  • Time-lapse videos go viral online.
  • Some feature stories could be illustrated or accompanied by a time-lapse video. (Examples: construction site for a new building, crowd gathering for a major event, snail race mentioned in article.)
  • Time-lapse videos aren’t used in many journalism websites but as they are becoming more popular on YouTube, perhaps journalists can jump on the bandwagon and start experimenting.

This video of a girl growing up went viral on YouTube. It currently has over 7 million views.

What can we learn about becoming better content creators from reading this piece?

  • First of all, this article teaches users how to shoot time-lapse videos in an easy-to-follow step by step instruction format. It can teach anyone how to make such content.
  • This illustrates that content extends beyond still pictures and video.
  • Media can be combined. Time-lapse photography is a mix of still photography and video.
  • As content creators, we have more tools available to us than just a camera.
  • Content involves editing and sometimes manipulation.
  • Content creators must be skilled not just in taking pictures and video, but organizing it and knowing editing skills including Photoshop and video editing.

Modern Journalism (Content Review)

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Evolution of Journalism

Linotype machine

The linotype revolutionized journalism in the late 1800s just as the internet is changing journalism today.

Journalism has evolved through the ages. New technology has revolutionized news gathering and journalistic techniques.

In the 1890s, it was the telephone and the linotype machine that made newspaper sales increase by 123 percent in just 20 years. Today, the newest journalism tool that has been developing in the last few decades is the internet. Without it, a reporter will get no where in this world.

Though the basic goal of journalism (providing readers with informative and entertaining content) remains the same, how it is achieved has taken some recent turns.

Modern journalism:

  • Is more collaborative than it was in the past.
  • Involves more audience participation.
  • Requires immediacy.
  • Makes news gathering and finding sources easier.
  • Breaks down the walls between the audience and the reporter.

Real-time Web

The internet has made society an impatient group of people. They don’t want to read about a plane crash the next day in the paper; they want to know about it as it is happening. With internet journalism, reporters need to get their stories out to the public as soon as they can. The “real-time web” allows people to know about events as they are happening.

Having a constant deadline may seem like added stress to a busy reporter, but new technology makes the process less overwhelming.

Tools

Reporters have a wide array of tools at their disposal when doing live coverage.iPhone

Perhaps the most important tool is a smart phone. With this simple device, reporters can shoot video, take pictures, write text, and upload it online all without leaving the scene. The picture may not be as clear or professional as one from a traditional camera, but in breaking news situations when a photographer is not available, the content of the picture becomes more important than the technical aspects.

Another tool available to reporters is Twitter and other microblogging sites. Reporters don’t have to file a full story right as an event is happening. Instead, they can send tweets, or updates to their followers. These 140-character messages have enough room to give out the most important information as it happens. Reporters can use Twitter as a note-taking device. After an even happens they can refer to their tweets when writing a full-coverage story.

Newsgathering is much easier with the internet. Whereas reporters used to have to search for information themselves, the internet has the power to deliver it straight to the reporter. Twitter is used to post updates and information, but it is a two-way street. The modern journalist utilizes the Twitter feed to keep up with what is being discussed by other Twitter users, what topics are trending, as well as to discover breaking news events. Some news stories, such as the 2009 plane crash into the Hudson River, broke first on Twitter because people at the scene tweeted about it before the media could arrive.

Besides following Twitter, reporters can receive information using an RSS feed. This allows anyone to create a personalized reader that will deliver information from favorite websites or information about specific news topics. Browsing a reader is much easier than scouring the internet by visiting each page individually.

Collaboration                                                                 

In the early days of competing newspapers, reporters wouldn’t dare refer readers to another news source. Today reporters are much more open to working with each other and with their audience to produce a story. Bloggers now link to other bloggers and journalists to provide readers with multiple views and more information. Link journalists completely refer readers to what used to be competitors.

In addition to working with other journalists, reporters often seek the help of their audience. Readers are encouraged to form relationships with reporters by commenting on their blogs or following them on Twitter. Reporters are encouraged to foster such relationships by responding to comments, following readers on Twitter, or participating in online discussions. The connection between readers and journalists has benefits for both parties. Readers feel more involved with the news process, and reporters often receive tips for potential story ideas or advice on how to better connect with their audience.

The power of the crowd

Modern reporters have tapped into the power of the masses using several techniques:

  • Crowdsourcing
  • Open source reporting
  • Pro-am journalism

With the internet, journalists have the ability to reach millions of people instantly. With crowdsourcing they can gather information from said people. They can post questions or ask citizens to help with a task, such as scanning documents. Using crowdsourcing, reporters can find new topics or details they may have missed. They can also find new sources to interview for stories.

In open source reporting, reporters share the whole journalistic process with their audience. Before, most readers would only see the finished product. Now, more and more reporters are making notes and rough drafts available to the public. This allows them to get feedback on how to improve the story from the very people they want to captivate.

Pro-am journalism completely gives the power to the people. Many major media websites provide a platform for ordinary citizens to upload stories and media. This allows full coverage from many different viewpoints. Citizen journalists may also cover stories that most media outlets would not have picked up such as hyperlocal stories. Eye-witness accounts often add flavor to a news story already being covered by the mainstream media. Citizen journalism was utilized in covering the recent string of tornadoes that killed over 30 people across the Midwest and Southeast. In between interviews and listing data, many cable news outlets also showed home video survivors shot of the storms while they were happening.

The new journalism

The internet has given traditional journalism a make-over. Old techniques are being integrated into new technology. Reporting is more timely than it has ever been. Events are being reported as they are happening. The journalistic process is also more open and the audience is no longer passive. The phrase “Journalism is dead” couldn’t be further from the truth. As technology evolves, journalism will continue to evolve with it.

Missouri Caucus Preview

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With each passing week, the Republican Party grows closer to choosing a candidate to run against Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race. The Missouri Caucus on March 17 could bring any candidate one step closer to victory.

In the caucus system, voters in a specific county gather for a meeting to choose delegates to send to the Congressional District Convention. It is the first step in a multi-step process that will lead to the State Convention on June 2, and the National Convention which will begin on Aug. 27.

“It sounds like a cumbersome process,” said J. Richman, Republican committeeman of the Northwest Township in St. Louis County. “You think, ‘How can it work together?’ But, it does.”

While most caucuses in Missouri are split into separate counties, the St. Louis area divides itself even further into townships.

“That was a request that came in through the state committee,” said Jonathon Prouty, Missouri Republican Party Communications Director. “It has to do with the significant population of St. Louis County. Traditionally, it has been split into townships for the caucus.”

St. Louis County is made up of 28 townships. The district lines are redrawn every ten years based on census data.

“The townships are the roots of the grass roots,” Richman said.

The voting process varies as do the rules for each individual caucus.

“The counties have wide latitude on how to proceed with the votes,” Prouty said.

Having the Missouri Caucus on St. Patrick’s Day has caused some committee members to be concerned about turnout. Jackson County and St. Louis City moved their caucus date to March 24 so as not to interfere with St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

DeAnn Deimeke, Republican committeewoman from Northwest Township, doesn’t believe voter turnout will be affected by the holiday.

“[The caucus] is in the morning. It only takes about an hour to an hour and a half to run the caucus,” she said.

The doors open at 9:00 a.m. at most caucus locations and close at 10:00 a.m. No one is admitted after that.

To be able to participate in the caucus, each person must be a registered voter who resides in the county or township of the caucus. He or she must present a voter ID card and a photo ID. The person must also be registered as a member of the Republican Party.

Before delegates can be selected, the voters must first elect a chairman and secretary for the caucus.

“Most of the time, it’s the committeeman and committeewoman, but it can be anybody,” Deimeke said.

The caucus chairman has the responsibility to conduct the meeting according to the agenda set by the State Republican Committee. Voting can be done either vocally with a “Yea” or “Nay” or by a show of hands.

Richman said about 30 people attended the last caucus in the Northwest Township but he has higher hopes for this year.

“We’re expecting possibly 60 people,” he said. “With the seriousness of this election, it should be bigger.”