Last week the Westboro Baptist Church came to town. Although we were reticent about giving any more attention to Fred Phelps and his message of hate than absolutely necessary, we had to acknowledge that the Spokane community was planning to turn out in numbers to protest. We had to be there. And in the end, we produced out some solid coverage.
With Westboro’s well-publicized schedule of appearances, it seemed an easy opportunity to try something new with our live coverage at spokesman.com. Drawing from advice I got from Danny Gawlowski at the Northwest Video Workshop, I decided to try Ustream to shoot some live video.
For a trial effort, it went well. I shot live feeds of the counterprotests at Gonzaga University, Whitworth University and Eastern Washington University. Below you can check out the (choppy) replay of the EWU counter demonstration, easily the biggest of the day, then read on for some specs, tips and observations about using Ustream with an iPhone.
We’ve been hard at work these past few months on an ambitious series about the 1910 forest fires that consumed huge swaths of the Inland Northwest. The series, titled Flame and Ruin: The fires of 1910, launched Sunday, and I encourage you to explore it. It’s a treat for history buffs and lovers of the outdoors.
My favorite parts of the online package are the above video scripted by Jim Kershner and produced by Colin Mulvany and a then-and-now presentation inspired by the New York Times featuring photographs by Christopher Anderson and a Django+jQuery app by Ryan Pitts and Mike Tigas.
But I certainly don’t want to overlook the reporting and writing that went into this package. I especially recommend Jim Kershner’s opening narrative and Becky Kramer’s story about Ed Pulaski, the tunnel in which he saved his fire crew, and that tunnel’s discovery in 1979. It runs Tuesday and will be found on the main page of the special series.
It’s not my best video work, but it’s serviceable, and the talent was top-notch.
What moved me about this story was the barely spoken relationship between Lucky the Belgian Malinois and his handlers. Just listen to the way Staff Sgt. Gerald Martinez talks to Lucky as he’s running him through the obstacle course. The way Tech. Sgt. Levi Wilson wishes he could adopt Lucky. This dog has seen far scarier situations than I ever will, but he’s had good people taking care of him.
What follows is a simple roundup of the various things I do in a day as an online producer at spokesman.com. I’ve been thinking of posting something like this for a long time. Say, maybe the two years I’ve been at it. Not to brag but to illustrate what someone in my position, at a regional newspaper in 2010, can expect to do. Maybe it will be useful for those thinking of entering the field and vying for a job at a newspaper.
Here’s my take from Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010:
- Rewrote headlines for the web and tagged stories that exported from our print edition.
- Posted breaking news to Twitter ahead of local competitors.
- Edited and uploaded audio clips for a story that runs next week.
- Created a slide show for a story running Friday: Operation Lake Pend Oreille Trout Catcher.
- Posted breaking news about Bill Clinton’s arteries.
- Brainstormed a strategy for news expected to break in the next couple days.
- Posted more stories to the Web with excellent headlines.
- Added addresses to approximately 100 stories from the past two weeks to feed a great new feature on the The Spokesman-Review’s mobile site.
That filled more than eight hours, especially the last one. Things not included that I regularly do: shooting and editing video; coding and visualizing data; posting content to our Facebook page; training colleagues in our content management system and other online tools.
Hope this was illustrative.
I popped down to Washington State University on Tuesday to lead a multimedia workshop with former colleague Ben Shors’ journalism students. The class is working on a reporting project that will appear in The Spokesman-Review, and this time they wanted to add an online component. (Check out the first story generated by the class.)
Despite their interest in producing video, I suggested the students start with an audio slide show. So I set out to show them how to do two things: 1) Create a multitrack audio file in Audacity. 2) Combine this audio with photos in the irresistibly simple Soundslides program.
Finally, a couple useful links for anybody interested in mastering audio slide shows from Colin Mulvany.
Last week I found the time and inspiration to produce a new video. The National Veterans Wheelchair Games were coming to Spokane, and I decided I’d find an angle.
Here’s where media relations people are your friends. At the official games site, somebody had helpfully prepared bios of Spokane-area athletes who would be competing.
A lot of these guys – and they were all guys – were competing for the first time. But I noticed one who had been to the games before and seemed to be pretty active in the veterans community. When I called up Brent King, of Cheney, he was happy to work with me.
Check out the almost-finished* product below, then keep reading for why I’m not happy with it.
July 1, 2009 update: I’m aware that the spokesman.com videos I’ve embedded aren’t playing. I’m in touch with the admin to see what’s happening.
We (as co-workers other than me) debuted a new feature on spokesman.com videos today: video embedding.
To grab the code on any Spokesman-Review video, just click the <> button in the lower right of the player, click “copy code,” then paste on your blog or elsewhere.
This is a great step forward in sharing the multimedia talents of Spokesman-Review photographers and videographers. We get our content out there, and we get the clicks. But why should you care? Well…
A panel discussion Saturday taught me a few things about the Spokane media audience. Those who attended are concerned and a little frustrated with the major players, intrigued by the journalism experiments cropping up and healthily skeptical of the information they consume.
The event was at Auntie’s Bookstore as part of the Get Lit! festival. Here’s a link to the official description. (Full disclosure: The panel was moderated by Ryan Pitts, my supervisor at The Spokesman-Review.)
I listened but didn’t speak, and I was rapt for the entire 90 minutes, not all of them comfortably. Almost nobody seemed to think the region’s media ecosystem was healthy, but panelists and audience members took pains to point out what is succeeding. The Spokesman-Review wasn’t mentioned often in this portion.
I guess it was the itch to shoot something fun that made me volunteer to work Saturday. In exchange I got a chance to cover the demolition of a duplex that had been cramping the style of a historic mansion in my neighborhood.
The video is below. Here’s a link to Shawn Vestal’s story on the event. Continue past the video for a couple observations on the assignment.
I confess. I only watched President Obama’s address to Congress with half my attention Tuesday night.
I posted this tag cloud to spokesman.com, but later at home I went back and played some more. This time, I created a word tree showing the context in which Obama used the pronoun “I”. Below you will see Obama’s promises and most personal of statements stand out in stark relief. Recognizing that these events are heavy on rhetoric and light on accountability, I look forward to rereading these in a few months.