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Archive for the 'Video' Category

A new camera needs a new project

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

So, I haven’t updated. In a really long time. It’s not that I’ve been busy, because, I’ve been working far more normal hours than I ever did at the newspaper. It’s that, I haven’t had my pulse on the news biz. I don’t know what my place is right now. So I’m not sure what to say. I’m still writing and editing on a daily basis. Yes, I’m still reporting and talking to strangers daily, but in a far different and slower way. For the first time since I started college, I’m not out reporting in the field every day.

I’ve been thinking about what that means and how I feel about it. The truth? I miss it a bit. Maybe a lot. (I’m still healing, I think, from the years of breakneck speed as a cub reporter.) But I really like my new job and company, and I love the balance and stability it’s given my life. But I keep thinking, surely, there must be fun and interesting things I can do to get back some of the things I liked about that beat reporting role. I’m creative and outgoing and enterprising. I just haven’t been able to decide where I want to productively expend my after-work hours energy. However, I’ve had an inkling it should be something that allows me to keep two feet in digital media, because although its never been the primary role of my day job, it’s always been and going to be a passion of mine.

So, today, I got the kick in the butt I think I need to start formulating something that will keep me in both places. Otherwise, I’ll have a quite expensive paperweight hanging around my apartment.

Each year, my company collects the swag companies send along and holds a raffle/trivia competition on the half-day of work on Christmas Eve. (This year, everyone gets Christmas Eve and the half-day before Christmas Eve off to make-up for a weekend Christmas. That’s why this event happened today instead of tomorrow.) Well, at the event today, the top prizes included a Nintendo Wii, an iPad, and a Flip HD video camera. I wasn’t expecting to take home anything — because I suck at trivia and because my luck is never good. BUT, they drew my name for the Flip. So I’m the new proud owner of a 16GB Flip Slide HD video camera. (I should put a few exclamation points there, because I’m super excited about this! So !!)

Many of you probably already own a Flip, I know. But I don’t didn’t. I’ve ogled them and toyed with them and envied you all for having them. I’ve thought, that would be really sweet to own one. But I’ve never been able to justify paying $150-$250 for a device (it’s $199 on Amazon) that does one thing, and something that is a function already included on multiple other devices that I already own. I am a young journalist after all, and that’s a fair chunk of change that I could put to better use buying food or paying off student loans.

Also, I’m in the business of consolidating my technology to a single piece I carry daily — not adding. In my home office now, I have a digital camera (that records video), a USB audio recorder and an iPod Nano — none of which I’ve used in more than a month. (I haven’t used the audio recorder since I left the newspaper, and I haven’t used the digital camera since spring, when I realized my phone’s camera was more than adequate for snapshots.) I consolidated those former daily carry-on items into a single cell phone that fits in my pocket and decently does everything those single-function pieces can.

But here’s the thing: If I were going to deliberately record audio for a slideshow, I would go to the audio recorder to get the best quality. If I wanted to take a picture to blow up to a large size or to use in a specific situation, I’d go to my digital camera. And when I’m taking a road trip or (if I were inclined to go for) a run, I’d grab the iPod for a more in-depth soundtrack than I carry on my phone, where music competes with photos, audio and apps for space.

So, I’ve got this new camera. I wouldn’t have paid for it, but I’m super super excited to have it. And I don’t want it to be wasted on me. I consider it serendipitous. Now, I just need to think of a project that will allow it to shine and give me a reason to learn, use and carry it. I’m also hoping it will help me hone my video editing skills, which have grown rusty.

YOUR TURN: So, what’s your favorite video project done by an independent person? It can be journalism-related or not. I don’t see myself as much of a talk-show type of person, nor an artsy filmmaker. But I’m thinking something where I can showcase the place I live or places I visit and the people and animals I encounter. I have the other tools/skills needed: I recently purchased a new external harddrive, I know how to tell a story and what makes a good story, and I’m handy enough to build a new website or video channel to showcase my work. I just need to figure out what I want to capture and why.

I’m off work now until after the new year (did I mention how fabulous it is to not work newspaper hours/holidays?!). So I’ll be spending the next 10 days thinking about and formulating a use for this camera. Otherwise, I may as well list it on eBay today. I’m going to give it some time, though.

J&C speller, FTW!

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Spelling bees were not a big thing where I came from. I suppose they’re probably like that in most places. The closest I ever came to caring was when my older sister won our elementary school spelling bee, but she never made it past the local competition.

When I came to Lafayette, however, I began to care about the spelling bee. First, the Journal & Courier sponsors the local bee. Also, I cover education, so it’s a big story for my schools. But the real reason is our spellers usually do well beyond the local competitions. But never before this well:

spelling bee winner leads Indy Star

That’s a screen grab from the front of today’s Indy Star, where Sameer was the lead story. — I’d have grabbed the J&C’s front where he dominated, but someone forgot to post it last night so I can’t. It’s probably cooler he got such prominent play in the state’s largest paper anyway.

Cool side note, he also got a photo mention on the front of the Washington Post! He garnered quite a few other front page photo mentions; in a quick birds-eye scan of Today’s Front Pages:

(Note: After today, those pages will be different.)

Now, I’ve written before about good news stories, and the public’s hunger for them. This is one of those stories.

I did a Q&A earlier this week with Sameer Mishra, the four-time winner of the J&C sponsored spelling bee whose older sister had won it in the years preceding him. This was his fourth and final time heading to the national bee, and he said he just wanted to beat his personal best — 14th place two years ago.

He’s obviously very smart, but beyond that, he’s hard-working. He spent 4-5 hours a night studying words to prepare. Not that other kids didn’t spend as much time, but you have to be dedicated to do that. The world could use more dedicated people.

Everyone was rooting for him around here. Each time he went up to spell, our newsroom gathered around the local desk TV to watch and cross our fingers. It wasn’t that we were the sponsors, it was that this was a local kid on the national stage and he was totally kicking butt. It was exciting. How can you not root for the local?

I monitored and wrote quick updates throughout the day for our Web site, but we had a Gannett reporter in D.C. writing the story itself, so I was hands-off there. When I left last night, I went out to dinner and out to the movies, so I only got to track him through the 10th round. When I got a call while at dinner from the night editor telling me he had won and they needed me to give them his parents cell phone number so the reporter today can call for a follow, I was elated. I mean, I had a huge smile on my face for at least 10 minutes. I was just so happy for him that all his hard-work had paid off. I honestly am not sure I’ve ever been that genuinely and unselfishly happy for someone else before in my life. It felt good.

Sameer wasn’t just a local favorite, he had audiences everywhere cracking up. Earlier in the semifinals, he would crack jokes, like the fact that the word he received was a dessert that “sounds good now” or when he was told one of his words had five languages of origin and he quipped “That’s wonderful.” But the funniest moment was when he — and most people as you can tell by the audience’s laughter — misheard the announcer saying “numbnut” instead of “numnah.” For your belly-laughing pleasure, that moment’s preserved on YouTube:

Midday media traffic spike?

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

The NYTimes has a story today about how media outlets are dealing with a new trend: People “video snacking” at their desks at lunch.

It’s an interesting phenomenon I haven’t heard of before. Though, apparently several newspapers and TV stations, as well as big online ventures like Yahoo/AOL, are responding to this increased noontime demand for fresh video.

The midday spike in Web traffic is not a new phenomenon, but media companies have started responding in a meaningful way over the last year. They are creating new shows, timing the posts to coincide with hunger pangs. And they are rejiggering the way they sell advertising online, recognizing that noontime programs can command a premium.

In 2007, a growing number of local television stations, including WNCN in Raleigh, N.C., and WCMH in Columbus, Ohio, began producing noon programming exclusively for the Web. Among newspapers, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., and The Ventura County Star in California started posting videos at lunchtime that have young journalists as hosts and are meant to appeal to 18- to 34-year-old audiences.

The trend has swept across large as well as small independent sites. Yahoo’s daily best-of-the-Web segment, called The 9 and sponsored by Pepsi, is produced every morning in time for lunch. At MyDamnChannel.com, a showcase for offbeat videos, programmers have been instructed to promote new videos around noon, right when the two-hour traffic spike starts.

I was unaware of this jump. Granted, reporters/newsroom staff here are only sent the basic stats report e-mail for each day. So I don’t know the exact numbers for each hour. But our traffic very clearly seems to spike around 8/9 and then again at the end of the work day. I’ll have to look back through a few days when I’m at work again to see if this midday trend holds true here. If it does though, it begs the question of whether we should and how we should cater to that demand? And if it doesn’t, it still leaves open the question of whether we could compete for this attention, and of course, how.

The first reporter at my paper starts posting around 6 a.m. daily (8 a.m. weekends — but both shifts seem ungodly early when you’re the one on them), and throughout the day local and state, and sometimes big national, stories are posted. On bigger news, the No. 1 slot or the No. 5 slot (that is the top slot w/a photo or the top slot sans photo) will get swapped out or updated and timestamped breaking news. Often, those stories are among the most read. After the 4 o’clock meeting each night, they post a PM Update with four or five teasers for the top stories in tomorrow’s paper. That is also usually well read.

But if there’s a group of people or even a growing appetite for a noontime video/news bite, it’s worth considering what type of demand that is (seems from the NYTimes story that lighter fare is popular) and then how to cater to it. (Wow, so many food cliches.) Here’s some very preliminary ideas I have off the top of my head, or as Carl (former prof/Stater adviser) used to say: I’m thinking out loud here…

  • A noontime round up of odd news off the wire. These are generally short, and pulling out three or so each day would probably be a cinch. People like weird stories. If you want this to be video, grab one of your more camera friendly staffers and get him or her to quickly tell the stories. Throw in a few stock photos/screen grabs/whatever for effect if you want.

  • A midday news synopsis with very brief (think news tickerish) bits about the stories we’re working on or even the biggest national stories — with links to more details for any stories that are already posted, of course, even if it’s a link to CNN. This could easily be paired with a noon-time 2-minute newscast. I don’t think you need glitzy here, down and dirty headlines could suffice.
  • Maybe like our PM Update a Midday Update. Promote the top stories, video, galleries, forums, whatever on your site to let other people know what their peers are reading. Kind of, “Here’s what’s generating the biggest buzz on (your site).”
  • Get an employee who’s always finding cool stuff online (there has to be at least one) to do a round-up of stories, videos, Web sites, whatever people are talking about online today. Maybe it’s just a quick round-up of the top stories on other sites, like YouTube’s most popular item or whatever is out there on Digg or just whatever cool or crazy news/fun item he or she stumbles on that day. This would probably work best as a blog that you promote or cross-post at noon each day. I’m thinking kind of an “in case you missed it” blog. Something along the lines of Clicked over at MSNBC, with a dash of USA Today’s On Deadline or a more focused version of Pop URLs. I could spend hours following all those links. The benefit of doing this locally (instead of Clicked, etc.) would be it would focus the local audience on the same items. Fostering that communal experience, “Did you see…?”, and community conversation on the comments.

I’m sure there are plenty of other more innovative and effective ways to capture that noontime media consumer. Those are just some initial thoughts. I’ll have to look around to see if anyone out there has come up with some cool ideas. If you know of one, pass it my way.

YouTube: Here Comes Another Bubble

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Too funny not to share with you guys. Newspapers and friendship bracelets? lol.

Apparently from an a cappella group of techies called The Richter Scales.

Slam Poetry: Scratch & Dent Dreams

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

I love slam poetry.

There’s something about the economy of words and the emotional performances that just make it an amazing art form.

I know this has nothing to do with journalism, but this piece seemed worth sharing. FYI, if you’re interested his name is Eric Darby.

A step in the right direction at Ohio.com

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

OK, so I rant about the Beacon Journal Web site a lot.

I’ve discussed some of the practices that annoy me on every site, but especially Ohio.com because I frequent it.

But tonight, I popped over there and noticed something positive I wanted to note.

Beacon Journal wises up

Did you notice it? I did immediately. And I had a hunch from the headline, which was confirmed when I clicked through, this story was actually a follow-up to the subject of my previous rant about the Beacon Journal’s video practices.

In fact, in that rant I specifically made this suggestion about the video: “There was no indication on the story list. Come on, guys, you should advertise this to entice me to click!”

Tonight, they made a note about the video, in the headline, right out on front! I literally smiled and said “yay!” to myself about that. I wouldn’t have even clicked on the link had I not seen that note. Instead, I wanted to watch the video, whatever it was. That’s why pointing out there’s a video is a good idea. People love video.

UNFORTUNATELY, it’s the same video I ranted about before. :( I watched about a minute hoping maybe they had re-cut it or edited it down some.

Not a total win, but this is a definite step in the right direction.

(And just to drive the point home I’m not picking on the beacon and this really is a pet peeve of mine… I actually made the SAME comment about noting video in the headline of stories to my own managing editor last week about our site. It just makes sense.)

Beer Pong and the WSJ

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Only the Wall Street Journal could take beer pong and make it this classy.

It’s been awhile since I’ve actually sat down with a print edition of WSJ (except the occasional items pointed out by the county reporter whose father bought him a print subscription for his birthday — hey my parents aren’t that thoughtful!). But I do get the CollegeJournal e-mails every day. Mostly it’s recent stories or Q&As from the WSJ. But it’s free and targeted pretty much to my demographic: soon-to-be grads and recent grads setting out in their jobs as new young professionals. I dig that.

My favorite part of the story — other than reading about young people capitalizing on the interests of other young people, (hey why not?) — is the accompanying graphic. I imagine a CEO sitting behind his desk, reading the paper and studying the inner workings of beer pong. That thought makes me smile.

They also have a video (though the audio on it is really wonky, at least it came across that way for me?). I had to watch the video because I wanted to see how you could create a video about beer pong that wasn’t like made for YouTube/Facebook. But, again, there they go making the drinking game classy.