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The CIR Is On It: Telling the Story of Solitary Confinement for Teens Over, and Over, and Over Again

CIR the boxThis week, the Center for Investigative Reporting released a print story, a short animation, and a photo essay about solitary confinement for adolescents in the U.S. prison system. That’s in addition to a NewsHour and a public radio piece released last month and to a yet unreleased half hour documentary and graphic novel. By the end of the month, there will be around 10 pieces of the adolescent solitary confinement story circling you on one form of media or another.

It’s enough to make you rethink what you’ve been reporting on all year. CIR reporters Daffodil Altan and Trey Bundy started over a year ago trying to gain access into prisons and report on conditions for teens. Altan says that the access issues surrounding the story seemed “almost insurmountable” at a certain point. Instead of being deterred, they pressed on and worked on thinking of different ways to handle the content. Says Altan:

We started of thinking of ways to tell the story even though we were dealing with essentially invisible sights. That’s  where the idea for the animation came up. We had met this very compelling young man in New York who told us about his experience at Rikers very powerfully and we had all this tape of him…we decided to try to take 3 hours of interview and see if we could carve that into something smaller and with a narrative arc.

And so the reporting team of two or three turned into a team of somewhere around 15-20, according to Bundy. Bundy says that as they are reporting they’re “always having conversations about what else we can do besides what we’ve already settled on.” In this case, there was a written story in mind, with photos to boot. But a colleague who acts as a liaison between the CIR and KQED “heard radio all over this,” says Bundy. When New York State started talking about banning the practice of solitary confinement for teenagers, NewsHour suddenly wanted the story sooner. “That wasn’t always supposed to be the first piece that was released on this,” Bundy adds. Having the story told across platforms means you reach more people. Says Bundy, “There’s some overlap between people who listen to public radio or watch NewsHour, or read Medium, but it’s not total overlap. The benefit of having multiple platforms is that you are going to catch multiple, different types of audiences, hopefully.”

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How to Take the Perfect Photo or Video

photo videoMuch like “proficiency in Microsoft Word,” writing alone isn’t going to cut it anymore in the Internet era; successful journalists need real technical chops — starting with quality picture-taking.  And no, that doesn’t mean buying a $3,000 camera.

If anything is to be taken away from the time the Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff, it’s that journos can work with what they’ve got.

In the latest Mediabistro feature, media pros share their tips for taking a good picture or video:

1. Pay Attention to Lighting
“Lighting is everything,” says Charlie Castleman, in-house videographer for esd & associates, a full-service marketing and PR firm based in San Antonio, Texas. As a general rule, if you’re having trouble seeing the subject’s face while you’re shooting, the viewer definitely won’t be able to, either. That said, lighting isn’t as difficult as it seems and, says Castleman, “You don’t have to be an expert cinematographer that spends three hours [on] lighting.”

For more on wielding a camera like a pro, read 6 Tips to Help You Take the Perfect Perfect Photo or Video.

Sherry Yuan

The full version of this article is exclusively available to Mediabistro AvantGuild subscribers. If you’re not a member yet, register now for as little as $55 a year for access to hundreds of articles like this one, discounts on Mediabistro seminars and workshops, and all sorts of other bonuses.

Enhanced News: When Does Photo Editing Go Too Far?

A week ago, the World Press Photo of the year award went to a digitally enhanced photo taken by Paul Hansen. It’s a really compelling photo, one that SpeigelOnline writers Matthias Krug and Stefan Niggemeier write “conveys a beauty that seems almost innappropriate.”

The fact, though, is that every digital photographer enhances their pictures. Even just adjusting the colors to make it pop on screen is changing the story, altering reality. Of course, in a newsroom, any blatant manipulation of a picture — even one of the protagonisst of Krug and Niggenmeier’s article, Claudio Palmisano of 10b Photography in Rome, notes that they never ‘alter pixels’ — is a violation of journalistic ethics akin to making up quotes or sources. 

But in a digital landscape, where catchy headlines and niche journalism seem to be key components of profitability, it’s hard to distinguish between what’s bias and what’s best practice. 

Is adding a dramatic light just an attention grabber or an opinion? I’m not so sure. The nature of storytelling through words or images is such that just by picking a subject, it becomes interesting or ‘newsworthy.’ The only underlined sentence in my undergrad copy of Susan Sontag’s On Photography is this:  Read more

Want to Use Photos Fairly? Try Imgembed.

Alex Goh and the team at Imgembed are onto something. They launched this year at SXSW and already have one million images loaded into their platform for sharing, using, and, most importantly, monetizing photos online.

It goes something like this: if you are a professional or amateur photographer, you can upload your photos via Instagram, Flickr, or any other social photo sharing platform. If you’re a journalist, you can search images for free for your blog posts. You copy the embed link, and the photographer’s name comes embedded with the photo.

If the footer bar with the creator’s name doesn’t work for your layout, you go premium. Each photo comes with a price, set by the creator, for each impression. The image is always free for up to 10,000 impressions, and after that, you pay the price. And if you’re article with a picture gets more than 10,000 you should know how to monetize that anyway.

Every time a photo is embedded, the platform generates a unique jpeg with the creator’s name attached, so the photos are easier to track. You can ‘steal’ an Imgembed photo, but it has the artist’s name on it. Win – win.

It gets to the heart of digital copyright and Creative Commons licensing. Goh believes that people want to use creative works ethically, but aren’t very good at it. He says:

There’s a big misunderstanding about Creative Commons licensing. CC licenses mean that you can use the image, but you have to attribute the work to the creator. People often don’t do that or they forget to link back…So they’re stealing because it’s free and it’s easy. We’ve made it so easy, that there’s no excuse to do it the wrong way.

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How New Instagram Changes Your Journalism

Instagram has become an unlikely, yet important, online tool for journalists, bloggers and citizens. Not only is it a great way to shoot stylized photos and on-the-go location shots, but it’s also a smart outlet to turn to when looking for eyewitness accounts of major news — people often turn to Instagram thanks to its quick sharing with social media networks like Twitter and Facebook.

However, these past few weeks have changed the service in a radical way, and now is the time to determine whether it’s the right tool for your photos and your personal use.

1. You Won’t See it On Twitter

This season has been a rocky one for Instagram and one of its biggest propagators, Twitter. Two weeks ago, the companies had effectively “broken up,” with Instagram no longer hosting images through Twitter’s API. Twitter snapped back, effectively distributing its own Instagram clone (with filters to boot) right in its native TwitPic system. Read more

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