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Archives: July 2008

12 Things to tell your tech-impaired editor


1. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is any good multimedia project worth its salt.

2. You want to do video? You’re gonna have to pay for a decent video camera.

3. Every story doesn’t require an elaborate Flash project.

4. No, Twitter is not a bird, it’s the next wave of journalism.

5. Waiting until a story has run in the paper first isn’t just ridiculous; it’s a recipe for failure.

6. If you’re going to triple my workload, you’re eventually going to have to pay me more.

7. Sure, the local blogger posted the story five minutes before we did, but we’d rather be accurate than fast.

8. The web is not a dumping ground for stories.

9. Time to wise up to the internets buddy, before you’re laid off too.

10. Being an “online news director” requires a thorough understanding of online news.

11. Multimedia skills don’t just appear; you gotta pony up the dough for training.

12. I’m not surfing the internet, I’m doing research.

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10 Essential iPhone apps for bloggers and reporters

The recent launch of Apple’s App Store means millions of iPhone users will have hundreds of handy applications available at their fingertips. Many of these apps make it easier bloggers and reporters to work on the go. For those that don’t have an iPhone, perhaps it’s time to considering purchasing one.

1. SpeakEasy Voice Recorder

Average Rating: 3 Stars Price: $4.99

From the developer: Record and playback notes, reminders, or just about anything from your iPhone’s built-in microphone. SpeakEasy gives you a recording studio that fits into your pocket. Intuitive and fun, SpeakEasy is the premier voice recorder for your iPhone.

  • Record voice memos, reminders, lectures, meetings, or anything you wish.
  • Add a title, comments, or even a photo from your photo library or camera while recording.
  • Group and organize your recordings by category.
  • Interruption protection lets you pick up and continue your recording after a phone call interruption.
  • Pause and continue recording with a single touch.
  • Playback and quickly scan your recordings with the touch slider.

2. Writing Pad

Average Rating: 4 Stars Price: Free

From the developer: Store notes and send email using ShapeWriter on your iPhone. ShapeWriter is a revolutionary text input technology that enables you to enter text into the iPhone by tracing word shapes rather than typing letters. Each shape traced on the soft keyboard with your finger is recognized as a word. Error correction is fast and easy. For rare names and acronyms, type only once and you will be able to shape write the next time. Shape writing is many times more efficient than letter-based handwriting recognition.

3. WordPress

Average Rating: 3½ Stars Price: Free

From the developer: Robust but simple to use, the WordPress for iPhone Open Source application allows you to create and edit content on your WordPress blog(s) with support for offline use. The app includes the following features:

  • Support for WordPress.com blogs and self-installed WordPress blogs (version 2.5.1 and higher)
  • Embedded Safari for true previews of posts
  • Full support for tags and categories
  • Photo support for both camera pics and library photos
  • Support for multiple blogs
  • Ability to password protect a post, save as draft, or mark for later review
  • Auto-recovery feature recovers posts interrupted by phone calls

4. TypePad

Average Rating: 3½ Stars Price: $4.99

From the developer: Update your blog and share pictures with the world from wherever you are with TypePad. Built to connect with the award-winning TypePad blogging service, TypePad for iPhone and iPod touch enables you to…

  • Write new posts for your blog in just a few seconds.
  • Post photos to your blog from your iPhone’s camera or photo albums.
  • Alert your friends when you post to your blog by automatically updating Twitter.

With TypePad on your iPhone or iPod touch, you can share your ideas and photos as they happen, from wherever you are. And since it integrates with TypePad on your desktop, you get all the great features of the world’s premier blogging service.

5. Twitterific

Average Rating: 3½ Stars Price: Free

From the developer: A fun application that lets you read and publish posts (called “tweets”) on the Twitter social network. Stay connected with friends, family, and co-workers through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

6. Kyte Producer

Average Rating: 3½ Stars Price: Free

From the developer: Use your iPhone to instantly share photos and slideshows with your friends on Myspace, Facebook, or any website, blog or mobile phone.
Instantly broadcast pictures as you take them, or create slideshows from your iPhone’s picture gallery. You can even chat with your audience in real-time!

7. EverNote

Average Rating: 3½ Stars Price: Free

From the developer: Evernote helps you remember everything from your real and digital life using whatever device or platform you find most convenient.

Evernote for iPhone is part of the Evernote service. With it, you can take notes, snap photos, create to-do lists. and record audio. Everything is seamlessly synchronized with the web, and made available across all the devices and platforms you use, including iPhone, Evernote for Mac, Evernote Web, and Evernote for Windows.
Snap photos of any thing from whiteboards to business cards to wine labels, and Evemote will make the text within those images searchable.

Need something from last week or last year? Evernote instantly connects to the Evernote web service so you can get what you need. Find what you’re looking for by searching or filtering by tag, date, location. and more.

8. NetNewsWire

Average Rating: 3 Stars Price: Free

From the developer: NetNewsWire is an RSS reader for iPhone — you can read news from the millions of weblogs and sites that publish RSS feeds.
Because NetNewsWire syncs with all of NewsGator’s free RSS readers, if you read an item on your iPhone, you don’t have to read it again on your Macintosh or other computer. It’s automatically marked as read everywhere.
You can also save items for later via the Clippings feature, and any item you clip is available on your other computers. It’s an easy way to save something to read when you have more time.

9. Jott for iPhone

Average Rating: 3 Stars Price: Free

From the developer: Jott for iPhone is the ultimate mobile notepad that turns your voice into notes. Capture your to-dos as quickly as you can say” Get strawberries for dessert. “We transcribe your voice into text and place the resulting notes in your lists. When you complete items, just cross them off with a swipe of your finger.

All of your lists are backed up on Jott.com, where you can manage them when you are at your computer. For existing Jott customers, your lists and notes will load after you’ve d
ownloaded the app (may take a minute if you have a lot).

10. Lonely Planet

Average Rating: 2½ Stars (Spanish) to 4½ Stars (Vietnamese) Price: $4.99

From the developer: Want to never be at a loss for words, no matter where you are in the world? With your iPhone, and a little help from Lonely Planet, you’ll have the local lingo licked.

Lonely Planet, the world’s leading travel company, now offers its 10 most popular phrasebooks in downloadable audio format, specially tailored to make the most of your iPhone. Don’t just skim the surface on your next trip; with 530 spoken (and phonetically written) phrases in each guide, you can shop, socialise and shout like a native.

And a few worth copying by other news organizations…

Fox News UReport

Average Rating: 3 Stars Price: Free

From the developer: FOX News wants you to report the news. The uReport Application for iPhone allows you to do just that. You can easily take or select pictures of news happening around you and send them directly to FOX News Channel from your iPhone. If we determine your submission is newsworthy, your photo could appear online or even on air!

MLB.com At Bat

Average Rating: 3 Stars Price: $4.99

From the developer: MLB.com At Bat from MLB.com, the official site of Major League Baseball, delivers real-time scores and in-game video highlights of every game directly to your iPhone.

You’ll get each highlight moments after the play happens so you never miss the important action. The application will automatically detect your network and play video encoded for either EDGE/3G or Wi-Fi bitrates. MLB.com At Bat will provide this breakthrough service for the remainder of the 2008 season – including playoffs and World Series. It’s a whole new ballgame!

Now Local

Average Rating: 3 Stars Price: Free

From the developer: NowLocal is the best way to find news that’s happening around you. Using the iPhone’s location services, NowLocal automatically delivers you news from the best local sources, wherever you are. So as you move from place to place, it’s easy to quickly check what’s going on around you.

For more news iPhone news apps, click over to Mindy McAdams.

Multimedia: Chicago, in Color

As part of the “Multimedia Shootout” held at this week’s UNITY conference, I created a project called “Chicago, in Color” aimed at celebrating diversity in Chicago. I knew the obvious story would be to go to Chinatown and barbershops to interview local residents, but I wanted to give a voice to those who couldn’t speak for themselves: the monuments and statues of the Windy City. The entire project was created in a span of 48 hours.


Here’s how I did it. There was no easily accessible existing resource on Chicago public art so I went to Flickr and searched for “Chicago statues” and “Chicago monuments.” I whittled down the list to four: The Chicago Mural, The Spearman/The Bowman, Benito Juárez and Willie Dixon’s Blues Garden. All four are mapped on an interactive Flash map (download FLA here). The accuracy of the map was created by using Photoshop to trace over an existing Google Map which was created in 5 minutes with MapBuilder (download PSD here). The icons were also silhouetted in Photoshop.

1. Chicago Mural

All the photos for the project were taken with an iPhone. Although the mural seems like one seamless photo it is actually several stitched together in Photoshop using layers and the cloning tool. The sliding element was created in Flash (download FLA here) using one of my favorite tutorials from kirupa.com on interactive image panning.

2. The Spearman/Bowman

The rotating effect used in this interactive image was created by taking one photo at a time with the iPhone and taking a step to the left or right to create the intervals. Because the photos didn’t line up accurately, all of them were layered on top of each other in Photoshop (download PSD here) and resized and color corrected to ensure continuity. All the photos were then imported into Flash and distributed over several keyframes (download FLA here).

3. Benito Juárez

The Flash slideshow of the Mexican leader was perhaps the easiest facet of the project. The photos were taken with the iPhone, only one of which was (badly) color corrected, and uploaded into Flash (download FLA here). The audio was recorded with a $450 Olympus recorder in an empty room in my hotel, but could have just as easily been done with an El Cheapo recorder. The track was edited for pauses, ums and ahs in about ten minutes using Adobe Audition.

4. Willie Dixon’s Blues Garden

The backlighting in this photo project could have been corrected with a more high end camera, but one was not available so I simply used the same technique I had used for The Spearman…click, step, click, step. The photos were also aligned in Photoshop and imported into a simple Flash slideshow (download FLA here). The music (and this is a big NO NO) was stripped from YouTube using online file converter Zamzar. It was then edited in Audition and uploaded into Flash. This is a likely violation of copyright law (even though the clip is less than 30 seconds), but in this case was only used for demonstration and will likely be pulled some time in the very near future.

Design

The design was created in Photoshop and exported as one big background image with a hole for the Flash projects (a big design no no, but less time-consuming than coding the necessary CSS). The menu on the right is actually a Flash project with transparent buttons overlaid on top of the Photoshopped background (download FLA here). The whole thing was cobbled together in Dreamweaver.

Needless to say, this was the only project of its kind submitted for the Multimedia Shootout which was both a blessing and a curse. The project, which mirrors what a mainstream news outlet is likely to produce, stood out from the other 20 entries that were simply slideshows or video. I acknowledge that everyone doesn’t have such a varied skilled set, but this type of project can be put together with the right team and the right tools.

Multimedia Journalism: Theory v. Practicality

This post is one in a series covering the multimedia sessions at the 2008 UNITY Journalists conference

A few minutes ago, I walked out of a session I intended to cover called “Adventures in Multimedia.” When asked why by a colleague, I responded that I can’t stand multimedia journalism theory. One can hear said theory when media professionals discuss the state of the industry and its decline and that multimedia is its savior. They discuss how we need to bridge the gap between print and online through video, Flash and other multimedia elements.

But what the panelists and some talking heads fail to impart is the practical tools to make this happen. Often newsrooms talk about convergence without equipping their reporters with the proper knowledge of online tools, either through training or workshops. The best multimedia journalists are sometimes those who take it upon themselves to learn the various tools in a multimedia journalist’s arsenal, without prompting from a supervisor or employer.

The online revolution in journalism will never happen unless news organizations make a financial commitment to training their existing staff and making an investment in the future of the company.

15 Tips for shooting online video

This post is one in a series covering the multimedia sessions at the 2008 UNITY Journalists conference


1. Remember the rule of thirds.

2. Use a tripod every time.

3. Same goes for headphones.

4. Use a wide shot to set the scene.

5. White balance before every setup.

6. Lay off the fancy transitions.

7. If you can get closer without zooming, do it.

8. Always shoot B-roll.

9. And pre-roll.

10. Rock and roll.

11. Use an external microphone whenever possible.

12. Remember video on the web is seen on relatively small screens.

13. Lose the auto focus.

14. Experiment with your camera’s features…before you shoot. Be sure to restore settings after.

15. Bring extra batteries.

For more video shooting tips, check out this previous post.

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