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Archives: February 2009

Which song describes the current state of journalism?


You were asked to submit your choice for the song that best describes the current state of the journalism industry and you returned some great submissions (including a lot of REM and Bob Dylan).

You voted and the song that describes the industry is: “Under Pressure,” by Queen and David Bowie. Congratulations to Andrew Huck who will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate for his winning submission!

And just in case you’re curious here are the top five vote-getters:

“Under Pressure,” Queen & David Bowie, 17%
“Bury Me With It,” Modest Mouse, 15%
“Video Killed the Radio Star,” The Buggles, 13%
“Death or Glory,” The Clash, 11%
“Live and Let Die,” Guns N’ Roses, 11%

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5 Common photo slideshow mistakes

Online photo slideshows are an increasing popular tool by online news sites to illustrate news stories and showcase their best photography. Photo slideshow creators like Soundslides and other online alternatives make creating them easier, but not necessarily better. Here are some of the common pitfalls to avoid:

1. Too many or too few photos

Too many photos crammed into one slideshow usually means each photo only appears for a second or two, barely enough time for the viewer to take each one in. Too few photos means each photo remains on screen way too long, making the slideshow feel drawn out and boring. Avoid either extreme by editing the narration or selecting only the most relevant and necessary photos. Two to three minutes in length is best. Any longer risks losing the viewers attention.

2. Unmatched photos

If the subject is discussing their cat, don’t show a duck. If they are describing a sad time in their life, don’t show a photo from their bachelor party. Like in broadcast news packages, the photos that appear should reflect what the subject is discussing. More commonly, some slideshows will use an interview as narration, but won’t visually identify the person who is speaking until midway through the slideshow, if at all. Whenever possible, include a photo of the speaker at the beginning of their talk so the viewer knows who is speaking.

3. No captions

A pretty picture is just that without identification of what is happening in the photo. Write clear and concise captions for each photo, including the people, places or things being shown and the photographers’ names, to take the guesswork out of viewing a slideshow.

4. Awkward transitions

The voice of the narrator is saying something poignant and yikes! the photo has changed mid-sentence or mid-thought. Soundslides and some other slideshow editors allow the user to adjust the length of each slide. If the slideshow has narration, tweak each slide to fade in or out during natural pauses and breaks to lessen the chance for awkward transitions.

5. Overpowering music

Many slideshow editors add royalty-free music to their projects to support the narration and heighten the drama. Unfortunately, because many forget to adjust audio levels, the music drowns out the narrator or interviewee. Use a sound editing program like Audacity or similar programs to edit the audio before it is added to the slideshow and ensure that what’s important — the human voice — isn’t being overshadowed.


Also on 10,000 Words:

Move over Soundslides: 4 Free online slideshow creators
9 Telltale signs of amateur video
30 Amazing photoblogs (and a few tips for creating one)
How to create, edit and embed audio for free

6 Creative approaches to photography

News photography at its core illustrates concepts that cannnot be conveyed through the written word. As such, some of the most basic but compelling stories can be told through a series of photos.

“Boxer” is an example of such a photo story: Photographer Nicolai Howalt captures adolescent pugilists before and after their bouts. In print, the story read something like “Little Johnny’s cropped blond locks were now wild and tussled,” but by comparing the two photos side by side, viewers can form their own reactions.

The same simplistic approach can be seen in AirlineMeals.net, a photo project that catalogs thousands of modern and historic food offerings. The site serves as a unique database for those who wish to know their culinary fate before they board the plane.

As technology enters into the picture, the possibilities for still-based photography become even more open. Photographer Nicole Young set up her Nikon D200 to take intermittent snapshots of her time cleaning her kitchen. While the resulting video sounds simple, it is evidence that time-lapse photography is a great way to document events as they happen over time. The same time lapse idea was applied by father Francis Vachon to capture his very active infant son, the results of which are humorous, yet enlightening.

Some of the best ideas are the most simple. Greg Peverill-Conti aims to photograph 1,000 faces and naturally uses Flickr as the place to host the collection. While there are few criteria of who gets photographed, the idea could easily translate into a news project that captures the faces of a particular community.

Simon Høgsberg, whose work was previously covered in this previous post, has created “We’re All Gonna Die – 100 meters of existence,” a 100-meter long panoramic photograph of 178 people shot in the same spot over the course of 20 days.


Also on 10,000 Words:

21 Free online photo editing tools
12 Creative uses of time-lapse photography (and 4 ways to create it)
Photojournalism: Where to find the best in news photography
Create brilliant multimedia projects from the mundane

Journalism-is-dead.com: A place for the naysayers

There are several kinds of posts you will never see on 10,000 Words, one of which is anything proclaiming the demise of journalism. There are a chorus of pundits and bloggers that have already proclaimed the death of journalism as we know it, but rarely offer solutions to help improve the industry.

Journalism-is-dead.com is a collection of the alarmist, bombastic and otherwise humorous quotes about why journalism is dead. The future of media may be grim, but according to some, you’d think it was a sign of the apocalypse.

Check it out, have a laugh, and keep in mind the medium may change but journalism is here to stay.

5 Reasons you should create a wiki now

The wiki may be the most flexible, yet underrated tool in modern newsrooms. A collaborative system for sharing news and information has an infinite number of uses, yet many fail to use wikis in a journalism context. No more excuses. Here are a few reasons you should create a wiki right now:

1. Share contacts

Gone are the days of the bulky Rolodex or the dusty clip files. The best way to keep track of sources is to create a wiki that anyone in the newsroom can access. The wiki can store simple information such as phone numbers or email addresses, but also can be a place to collect notes on each individual: what they know, who interviewed them before, what time they are usually available, etc. It’s either that or continue to get calls at 4 a.m. asking for your source’s telephone number.

2. Gather information from your audience

Because a reporter never knows everything about a subject, chances are there is a reader or viewer who knows something that could greatly enhance a story. Public wikis are a great way to aggregate information from the people who know the subject matter best and is perhaps the best use of a wiki in today’s modern era of journalism.

For example, The Globe and Mail uses its Public Policy Wiki to get suggestions from readers about public policy issues. Citizens of North East England can use Wiki North East, hosted by ncjMedia, to share news on the area.

Wikis don’t have to solely serve the newsgathering process either. Entertainment Weekly has its own Harry Potter and Heroes wikis where users can share details about the entertainment franchises.

3. Keep track of important dates

Never miss an important city council meeting or press conference when you add the event to a newsroom-wide wiki. A calendar wiki can also be used to remember recurring events such as festivals and holidays or to catalog awareness months such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month or International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Of course, a wiki isn’t the only way to keep track of upcoming events. Consider using collaborative calendar tools like Google Calendar.

4. Share multimedia tools and tutorials

Many news organizations are training their staff in the latest multimedia techniques, but it’s usually a one-shot deal. Reporters are then left to fend for themselves armed only with their notes. A wiki is a great one-stop destination for sharing notes on multimedia tutorials as well as general reporting tips.

If your newsroom doesn’t have such a collaborative resource, try the Digital Research Tools Wiki, The Society for News Design’s Tools for News and the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies’ Directory of Learning Tools. All of the aforementioned wikis are publicly available and list tools that journalists can use to enhance the presentation of news online.

5. Build the big story

You know the story: the one that requires months of research and several staff reporters to create. Make life easier by sharing notes and details in one place that those involved can access at any time. A wiki can cut down on overlap and show everyone what has been done and what is left to do.

Now that you know why you should create a wiki, here’s how to create one. Like most online technologies there are a number of free services for creating wikis. Some of the popular online solutions include PBWiki, WetPaint and Wikispaces. Those who wish to host a wiki on their own server should try MediaWiki (a comprehensive tutorial can be found here).

For more ways to create your own wiki, check out Mashable’s list of wiki solutions. If you’re still debating whether to create a wiki for your newsroom, read this post by Paul Bradshaw that weighs the pros and cons of creating a wiki.

Thanks to @robroc, @jenconnic, @StevenWalling and @starshine_diva for their help in creating this post.

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