When I shifted to the online producer’s seat last month, I had to get up to speed on a lot of stuff. Fortunately, the Web is brimming with resources that helped me do just that. Whether you need inspiration for a video project or just need to look up an HTML tag, here are a few good places to begin. I plan to keep adding to this list, so check back.
HTML and other coding
• Google’s tutorial: How use the various WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) functions available in MyMaps. Thanks to Brea at breajones.com for this one (via Wired Journalists groups — see below).
• 100 Things to do with Google Maps Mashups: I have barely begun to scratch the surface of mashups yet, and this puts me way behind the curve. But this site is full of ideas; link back to the originating blog, Google Maps Mania, for more.
• Google Maps API tutorial: OK, this is way above my head right now: a guide to making your own interactive maps using Google Maps. This requires knowledge of scripting and databases that I’m only beginning to flirt with. But I include it here for anybody who’s far beyond me.
Video and multimedia
• Mastering Multimedia blog: I had the luck of learning the basics of video shooting and editing with Final Cut from one of the best in the business (who also happens to be one of my supervisors), Colin Mulvany. This is his blog, where he passes on great advice.
• Multimedia Shooter: Check out the tutorials, gear guide and examples of great multimedia journalism.
• Journerdism/94 career-related links: This will help you be a better networker and job hunter. Will Sullivan’s site is definitely worth adding to your RSS feed for all the great tidbits he finds across the Web.
• Wiredjournalists.com: A social networking site for multimedia/online journalists. Fight the revulsion at the thought of joining one more such network: This one will put you in touch with like-employed people for ideas and feedback. Feel free to look me up.
I had two opportunities this week to speak to students about this journalism thing, first to high schoolers and then to undergraduates. I think I was invited because I’m still reasonably close to students in age, and I remember what it was like to be in their position. And there’s the thing: they’re in the position of wanting to go into journalism (possibly newspapers) at a nervous and exciting time for the field. The challenge I faced was speaking candidly without scaring them off.
This was most acute yesterday, when I went out to Eastern Washington University in Cheney with a former co-worker from the copy desk. I guessed correctly that this group would want to hear about the nuts and bolts of getting a job. So I tried to pair my insights about copy editing with tips that could be applicable in other newsroom jobs — and, for that matter, journalism jobs outside the newsroom.At the end, the instructor (a former Spokesman-Review colleague) lobbed up a question about what students and new journalists can do to be ready for change. Here’s what I told them:
- Learn some html, even if it’s not quite enough to build an entire website.
- Learn as many software programs as you can stand. Specifically, I mentioned Flash and Photoshop, especially for the students interested in design.
- Be ready move around, geographically and professionally. Don’t turn up your nose at first jobs at smaller papers in places you have never heard of. My first copy editing internship was in Stockton, Calif., a city I feel no compulsion to visit again anytime soon.
- Hone your writing and editing skills, because no matter the platform, good journalism depends on them.
- Most importantly, keep the faith. The business model for newspapers is hurting. We hear news such as hundreds of layoffs or newspaper chains offering buyouts to 1,100 employees increasingly often. But there will continue to be a need for people who can use words and strong news judgment to convey important information about our world. The platform just might be different, and there may be fewer jobs.
That last point has been rattling in my brain since I spoke it. Am I being overly optimistic or even naive? Was I telling these students what I thought they wanted to hear or what I believe? And if it’s the latter, how strong is the conviction?
The answers I’ve landed on are “no,” “what I believe” and “strongly.” I didn’t (and couldn’t) guarantee that every student in there would find a long and sustaining career in the news. But I did try to emphasize that there will be opportunities for the journalists who are hungry to grow and flexible enough to ride the increasingly seismic waves in the industry. You can call me Pollyannaish if you wish. You can point out that I’ve only been doing this a couple years. And you might note that I was not among the dozen-plus staffers laid off from my own newsroom in November. But I didn’t stand by this belief, I would be looking for a new profession instead of typing this.
What: The finished video I promoted in a previous post. I shot it Monday night, edited it Wednesday and Thursday morning and posted it Thursday afternoon.
Why so slow: Partly, this was because the video pairs with a story in the Spokesman-Review’s 7 section (read it here), and I didn’t want be finished too far in advance. But this also proved a more complicated edit for me. I had shot a lot of b roll — part inexperience, part justified assumption that bad lighting would make some of it unusable. Scrubbing through the footage took time, and so did forming my narrative and sequencing my shots around it.
What worked: More variety of wide, medium, and medium-tight shots in this second effort. Fun subject matter. Incorporation of natural sound to help form the narrative.
Gained wisdom: Interview more people than you think you will need; I really wished I had talked to the third competitor. Film my talking heads even tighter. Beware (again!) of echoes; it probably would have been better to interview my subjects outside. Turn tight shots into super-tight shots. In low-light situations, my little Sony doesn’t quite cut it.
The Spokesman-Review ran a front-page tribute today to Spokane’s Charlie Ryan, a rockabilly icon who penned the song “Hot Rod Lincoln” and died Saturday.
It’s a good read, but it’s an even better read online, where we were able to link to a MP3 of the song, thanks to the generosity of Ryan’s family and the efforts of columnist Doug Clark.
Odds are most of our readers have already heard the song. But even then, what better testament to the qualities that make Ryan worthy of a tribute than a creation that embodies them and gets your toes tapping?
I’m learning that pairing multimedia with local news can take imagination, planning and doggedness. But luck also plays a role, and it sure is sweet when a perfect multimedia opportunity practically falls into your lap.
I was going to post tonight about my fledgling efforts to learn php programming and try to find some way of making that interesting. Well, I’ve been spared that indignity.
A video assignment for tonight has fallen into my lap, and it promises to be fun: I’m shooting the Iron Bartender competition at Raw Sushi and Island Grill (map). Advance thanks to my co-worker Tom for asking me to come.
This promises to be challenging on a couple fronts. I’ll be trying to condense a lot of action into a short period of time, and the event takes place in a bar, which means lighting and noise levels might not be great. And I’ll need to maintain an extra steady hand, which should be easier for me than the bystanders and those judging the bartenders.
I hope to have a short clip up by late Tuesday; the final cut will probably go live Thursday night at spokesmanreview.com along with Tom’s story, which runs in print Friday.
I was talking to a photog at work last night about video. He’s been in the business for a while, and his experience producing a few videos in the past year made him a huge help Saturday night while I was editing my caucus piece.
We were sort of marveling at what a challenge it is to move into this new medium; the fundamentals boggle the mind when you start to think about everything that goes into producing video that’s technically solid, visually compelling and narrative rich.
I remarked that I had it especially rough coming from my background as a word editor. My colleague came back with the rebuttal that photogs have to go from working with a single frame to thousands. Moreover, he said, the entire concept of storytelling is not something most newspaper photogs get much practice in, whereas the word smiths spend all their time honing narratives.
We dropped the debate, seeing it was going nowhere and my colleague had to get going. Which is probably good; the question isn’t especially useful for improving our videography. But in analyzing our weaknesses, we also saw our strengths.
So I raise another question for any videohounds out there: How was your background slowed or aided your move to making video?
What: A video of Spokane voters going to Saturday’s Republican and Democratic Party caucuses
Objective: To get some genuine voices and see what people thought of the process. The primary races this year are attracting record turnout in some states, so I expected an influx of new caucus participants. I wasn’t disappointed, and most of them were a little confused.
Gained wisdom: Watch out for bad echoes. Going without a tripod can allow you to blend in a little better and get people talking before they’ve had a chance to get nervous. However, I’m going to need to practice steady hands. Get more close shots.
If you paid attention to political news over the weekend, you likely read or heard about another round of caucuses and primaries. In Washington state, Obama carried the day among Democrats and McCain squeaked out a victory.
I visited two caucus sites to talk to attendees and produce a video for The Spokesman-Review’s election coverage.
Prior to this effort, I’d had a couple failures that I’ll chalk up to audio problems and user error. So it felt great to pull one off. Let me know what you think.
Welcome. You’ve stumbled upon my fourth stab at blogging. This time, the purpose is twofold:
- I want to record my experience learning to produce multimedia and other online journalistic content for a daily newspaper website.
- And I want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for anybody else thinking of or already going down the same path.
If you are interested in how members of the press are adapting to online technology, you’ll likely find something to read here. Same goes if you are into video, audio and journalism-related tools on the Web. You may even catch me sharing a few thoughts about news judgment.
But let me make this clear: I may link to content on the site I help produce, but this blog is completely independent of my employers, and the opinions are mine. Anybody with a bone to pick about the newspaper I work for or journalistic bias in general will probably walk away disappointed.
For the rest, I hope we all get something out of this endeavor. Cheers.