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Dispatch From Italy: Citizen Journalism and YouReporter Making Waves

imageDid you know that in Italy, to be a practicing journalist, you take exams and get certified? That’s what my Roman friend, a senior digital editor at one of the country’s largest publishing groups told me over lunch this week during my Italian holiday. It’s like being a lawyer, or an architect. And while the practice of certifying journos still stands, even over here where traditions are hard to break, the industry has been disrupted.

Italy is still a country in which practicing independent journalism is a political, and not just entrepreneurial, act. And still, YouReporter.it, a crowd sourced, video sharing news platform is widely used. Launched in 2008, the site has expanded with an app for both Android and iOS, and a text based news blog. Lots of “mainstream” news publishing organizations use videos or photos from the site, and all they have to do is use the logo and attribute the view to YouReporter.

When co-founder Angelo Cimarosti and his colleagues, Luca Bauccio and Stefano De Nicolo, started thinking about the site in 2006, bandwidth in Italy was weak, and hard to find. Smartphones had yet to saturate the market. So they started with a focus on photos, in addition to video. In fact, Cimarosti told me over the phone that when the earthquake in l’Aquilia hit in 2008, hundreds of photos were uploaded to the site; had it been just video based, YouReporter would have never gotten off the ground.

“You can start small,” Cimarosti told me over the phone. (All translations are mine)

“The success of YouReporter is about the small things, especially in a country like Italy, made up of small towns. People already have an outlet for the big news events — an earthquake, a cruise ship crash, even a big snow storm. What YouReporter users share and want to know about are the small things — suspended trash pick-up, the traffic sign on the corner that needs to be replaced.” Read more

The Texas Tribune Wants You to Help Fund Its Livestreaming Efforts

ttlivestreamingIt’s fair to say that before her marathon filibuster on the Texas Senate floor, not many citizens knew who Wendy Davis was.

But on the night of June 25, 2013, they learned. And nonprofit news organization, The Texas Tribune, which covers politics and policy across the state, is a big reason why Wendy Davis’ filibuster speech was broadcast worldwide via livestream. So, the Tribune wants to take its real-time video coverage efforts a step further and has launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to purchase the technology to livestream the 2014 Texas governor’s election (Davis is reportedly running for Gov. Rick Perry’s post).

That evening, the Tribune had enough forethought to recognize that Davis’ 11-hour appearance at the Capitol, pink running shoes and all, was important and potentially really impactful. The Democrat’s refusal to allow Texas Republicans to ban abortion in the Lone Star State earned her national attention, and the Trib says it provided more than 183,000 people with live, unfiltered coverage of what was going on in Austin.

Read more

How To Maintain a Work Appropriate Social Media Presence

It can be hard to separate the professional from the personal, especially when it comes to social media. Many journalists seem to have a hard time keeping their thoughts to themselves these days and the results are never pretty.

Remember when Shea Allen, the former investigative reporter for WAAY in Huntsville, Ala. got fired for her controversial blog (where she confessed to, among other things, going bra-less on live TV?) Or what about the NBC staffer who was fired for posting an embarrassing video of Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show from 1994, looking foolish and wondering aloud, “What is the Internet, anyway?”

There are so many examples of employees embarrassing themselves on social media platforms (and ultimately paying the price for it). After all, we live in a world where over-sharing is the norm, and privacy has become a thing of the past. Read more

Wibbitz: Turn Text into Video, ‘Readers into Watchers’

Video editors of the world, unite! Wibbitz is a new news application that turns text based articles into short videos using RSS feeds and smart algorithms, complete with natural voice narration and infographics. In five seconds. It’s either the next big thing or the next sign that we’re one step closer to ‘The Fifth Element.”

They’re backed by Horizon Ventures (Spotify, Siri, Summly, among others), so it’s probably both.

The idea behind the technology falls directly in line with the habits of “news snacking” on mobile devices. But don’t publishers have a problem with taking their content and aggregating it? Not really, Wibbitz co-founder Zohar Dayan told me over the phone this week:

Not once they understand our long term vision. Our consumer facing vision is to be a platform that allows third party content providers to produce their own videos out of their own content. It’s mobile friendly and generates higher CPMs, especially with mobile devices.

We all know that producing videos is expensive, and as Dayan notes, “there’s only a certain amount of videos you can produce on a daily basis.” He hypothesizes that on a medium sized website, about 15% of articles have videos, some produced in house, some grabbed from the internet. “We enable them to leverage their own existing content and turn that 15% into 80% percent. Once they understand that, they’re interested in using it on their own platform, and that’s we’re going to enable them to do in the coming months.” Read more

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

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