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’m just catching up to blogging about this video I shot and produced a couple weeks back.
It’s a sweet story about two long-time pen pals meeting for the first time here in Spokane. They started corresponding in the 1930s.
I tagged along with the reporter to document the magic moment. I hadn’t shot any live events for months, so I was kind of rusty on sequencing my shots and other imperatives that I’ve been taught.
I taped while the reporter did his interview with one of the women, but there wasn’t much there I could use. She didn’t provide much when I asked some follow ups.
In the end, I was able to capture the moment they met with some OK sequencing, and when I sat the two of them down together I got some usable audio to create a simple, one-minute short.
More important than the finished product, I think, was the experience of getting back into live shooting and producing on deadline.
I’m playing catchup with life right now after going to Chicago last week for the Pitchfork Music Festival.
While I was gone, Angela Grant posted about our newsroom restructuring report. (I noticed this via Spokesman-Review multimedia coordinator Colin Mulvany’s blog.) She gave us some kudos — thanks! — but also raised some questions and suggested we could go further in encouraging multimedia and online journalism under the new structure.
I started to post a response on her blog, but when it grew longer than three paragraphs, I decided to post here instead.
Before I get to that, I should re-emphasize that our report contained suggestions only. Some of them might advance, but many will not. And I should note that we’re expecting a second task force report this week, this time looking specifically at what kind of content The Spokesman-Review should be producing in print, online, on the radio and beyond.
Big changes await our newsroom on the near horizon, and when those come, it’s hard to say how much attention either of these reports will get. For the time being, here are those clarifications.
Re: reporters voluntarily shooting video.
Angela suggests we shouldn’t just encourage this but require it. In interviews with senior editors, we heard that the voluntary adoption of multimedia has been seen as crucial for the success we’ve had. We wanted to continue this approach with the idea that the bug to shoot would spread. Also, we were trying to be realistic about equipment. We just don’t have that many cameras and laptops yet. The idea is that we could gradually build up those reserves.
Re: online producers having enough time
Angela wonders whether we’re asking too much of these staff members. I’m an online producer, and I authored the section of the report that discusses this position. Right now, I assist reporters and editors in a bit of a haphazard manner. In the report, we suggest assigning producers to set groups of editors and reporters. With a clearer definition of who I work with, I think I could significantly increase my productivity.
Re: combining the photography and multimedia departments.
Two questions here:
- Will we require photographers to shoot video?
We’ve got a fast-growing corps of photographers who also do video, which is fantastic. We’ve also got three people, including Colin Mulvany, who can throw all their effort at video. With those resources, we didn’t see the need to require video of the entire department. Although I’d love to see the day when that is the case.
- What the heck did we mean about removing redundancy among video and still shooters? Angela wrote:
“I’d be cool with that if it means this: A photog is covering an event, they decide the event is good for video too, and so the photog is assigned to do both stills and video. I won’t be cool with it if it means this: A photog is covering an event, which would be good for video, but they don’t want to send an additional video producer so it just doesn’t get done.”
We meant the former. And if the assigned photog hasn’t yet trained in video, we send somebody along who is. Of course, I’d expect the video potential to be tremendous to warrant such doubling up on an event.
Re: requiring page designers and graphic artists to do interactives
It’d be great if these staff members had the time and training to design projects in Flash. But we have one graphic artist for all platforms, our day designers are already working at capacity to produce the print sections, and we don’t really have dedicated designers at night.
I hate to sound like I’m making excuses, but absent new hires, we could only throw interactive design into the mix if we came up with the ultimate model of universal copy/design desk efficiency.
I previously posted about being a part of a group of eight young Spokesman-Review journalists charged with recommending a reorganization plan for the newsroom.
We turned in our report Thursday and met with senior editors Friday, and Editor Steve Smith posted our report on his blog later that evening. My colleague and fellow group member Nick Eaton has also blogged about our findings. Kate Martin is also following the process on her blog.
Download the report here (PDF). There’s a flow chart at the end.
A few of our major recommendations:
- Move to a early deadline akin to an afternoon daily but continue publishing in the mornings. The idea: Start the editing process earlier; relieve bottlenecks on the city and copy desks; foster more enterprise reporting while leaving room to accommodate breaking stories.
- Bring all section editors into a central pod in the downtown offices. The idea:Improve communication and planning; encourage decisions on where stories will run based on content, not default categories of sports, features, business, zoned neighborhood news, etc.; reduce after-the-fact regrets about missing a good front-page opportunity.
- Create a universal copy desk with shifts staggered throughout the day. The idea: Help our highly overworked copy editors, day and night; free up those delegated to do design on a given night to focus entirely on design, not copy editing as well; have more copy editors around in the day to copy edit stories going onto the Web, thus improving our reputation for accuracy and clean prose online as well as in print.
There are more, along with a more radical set of suggestions toward the end.
I think we issued a highly pragmatic set of recommendations. That may be our report’s greatest strength. A lot of this could be tried without risking revenue streams or requiring huge technical overhauls.
Some might see that pragmatism as these ideas’ biggest weakness. We were picked to investigate this, after all, because we were young and less invested in the existing structure. Aren’t we the Internet generation? Don’t we know that the MSM is a relic industry?
But with the limitations we had, such as not adding staff or completely shaking up content, most of us didn’t see the point in advocating more beats, or going to Web only, or cutting the print paper down to three days a week, or hiring an army of videographers. We didn’t want to waste our time on ideas that stood no chance of advancing.
If you have an opinion, please weigh in, but keep in mind these are only ideas and that we were asked to suggest them. We are not some young Turks aimed at pulling ourselves up at others’ expense. Furthermore, this report doesn’t represent what’s going to happen. Many of these ideas might die at this stage. And please be civil and refrain from saying we are naive; that’s not a constructive response.
What: A tour of Zola, a new downtown Spokane nightclub, with owner/developer/artist Dan Spalding. He created the interior with almost completely salvaged and recycled materials.
High hopes: I got to use a much nicer camera than I had before, so I was expecting to create greatness. I don’t know if I got that, but I’m pretty happy about what I was able to do in about two minutes.
Areas for improvement: This could be sharper technically. I wish I’d taken the time to set up a tripod for several shots. But I liked the flexibility of working without. I also debated going back to the bar at night to get some crowd shots to round out the B roll. In the end, time and energy constraints kept me from doing so. Low-light conditions affected several shots, which I included anyway for the sake of variety.
Conclusion: I have to remind myself that this was only my fourth video effort, and I can’t expect to nail it all at this point.
For more: Visit spokane7.com.