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Archives: February 2008

Crappy newsrooms and crappier editors: Journalists vent their frustrations

Journalists are angry about a number of things and the transition to new media is one of them. In the tradition of Overheard in New York and True Office Confessions, journalists are having their say at Here are what some of them are saying (Warning: NSFW language.)

Angry Journalist #271: We are doing great things in multimedia online at our small newspaper. And it’s being done by those of us with no real journalism training whatsoever because our actual journalists turn up their noses at the web, and can’t seem to grasp the concept of adaptation and change.

Angry Journalist #276: The fact that papers look to hire journalists with online and multimedia skills, but only take paper packet applications. The fact we have to write the same amount of stories we always have AND do more multimedia on top of it.

Angry Journalist #257: We make multimedia projects, sure. But let’s make them only because we want to enter contests. Forget about storytelling, our journalistic responsibility to the public, our tools/resources and throw it all away for a CHANCE to win a contest.

Angry Journalist #126: I’m angry that my journalism department at a mid-level public university is staffed with tenured, unmovable dinosaur professors who haven’t sniffed a newsroom or written an article on deadline in more than 15 years. They don’t surf the Web for news, don’t know what an RSS feed is, have never handled a video camera and aren’t prepared to teach youngsters what they need to enter the very tight job market competitively.

Angry Journalist #277: I’m angry because on Saturday I was shooting video with my left hand and stills with my right. That, and our three-person staff is expected to produce over 700 pointless, wretched videos this year. I love multimedia, but why do we think the public will just love the crap we churn out in a couple of hours?

Angry Journalist #457: I hate hearing about new media. I don’t care.

Angry Journalist #663: The web is constantly misused by journalists. The managers think it’s a dumping ground (“oh, let’s just put it on the web”). The reporters don’t care about it. The photographers don’t know what to do with it. Promotions doesn’t know how to promote it. And when a few people try to do the right thing the right way (ie: my news manager, two of my reporters), it gets buried under the ignorance of everyone else….The web is NOT television. Just because huge fonts and bright colors work on TV doesn’t mean you should screw up my design by turning my thin lines fat and my understated fonts ginormous.

Angry Journalist #612: Why do older “managers” insist on including CLICK HERE on fucking everything on the web? If people are that fucking stupid, they shouldn’t be online. Most of the web users logging on to media sites are pretty tech savvy… is it really necessary to insult their intelligence by having a big CLICK HERE on an otherwise AWESOME graphic?

Angry Journalist #143: I am angry that the field of journalism is virtually becoming a joke because nowadays everyone with access to a blog fancies themselves a viable one.

Angry Journalist #444: People who think web sites are dumping grounds for stuff that can’t get in the paper. Also, people who have no idea how to read or interpret traffic reports but make it seem like 10 extra visits represent a huge spike.

Angry Journalist #273: I’m angry at our no talent staff of help desk workers who are recent college graduates. They’re idea of journalism is asking the online department for a blog about something very random and then they don’t treat it like a blog, because no one took the time to teach them how to blog. Then, when they do post, It’s not about their “blog topic” instead it’s about how much beer they went and consumed on the previous night.

Angry Journalist #468: I’m angry that in a paltry concession to “the new media” we have opened our online edition to anonymous reader comments, which has led inevitably to the lowest form of human communication-flamewars-and has had a chilling effect on our ability as reporters to gather sources, who say in response to our inquiries “I don’t want to end up on your website.”

Angry Journalist #53: Seeing that within the circle of my 100 or so J-school friends on facebook, there is only one – count it: ONE – newspaper-related application in widespread use. Furthermore, that single application is the political compass. Where is the local-newspaper-sponsored “my street’s news” app? Where is the local-newspaper-sponsored “my high school team” app? Where’s the local-newspaper-sponsored “local movies” app? Where’s the local-newspaper-sponsored “my local blog” app?

Oh yeah – they’re in the empty seats at what should be the Web development desk, thanks to a hiring freeze that’s also crippled the reporting staff. They’re in the pocket of the publisher who’s still blindly grasping for the fantastic, elusive, 30-percent profit margins of the late nineties. They’re in the brain of some guy at a dot com who’s actually willing to take a risk for the next big thing.

Angry Journalist #290: I’m angry at all the old-time journalists willing to let journalism die. We need change, and the time for change is now.

Google Street View adds more cities

Congratulations to Albany and Schenectady, New York; Boise, Idaho; Juneau, Alaska; Kansas City, Missouri; Manchester, New Hampshire; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina; San Antonio, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah. You are the latest additions to Google Street View! These locales join the more than 20 other cities to be invaded by the Google street team.

Google Street View provides 360° panoramic, street-level views with just a click, but it isn’t the only service on the block. Gigapan users can upload panoramic images using pricey equipment or just an ordinary digital camera and a whole lot of patience. There is some exceptional photography on the site, including this photo of Burning Man and this one of the Sonoma County, Calif. coast.

Liebenthal, Kansas photographed by Gigapan user Ron Schott.

Immersive Media is proving panorama doesn’t always mean long, flat images. The combination of video and 360° lets users experience a ski race from every possible angle, join a whale watching expedition, or experience the big game as the players see it.

For tips on creating panoramic images, check out this previous post.

25 Things I've Learned About Journalism

Today is my big day. To commemorate the birthday festivities here are 25 things I’ve learned about journalism.

1. There is no such thing as a small story, only small thinking.

2. Sources always call back well after the story has run.

3. A cop is harder to interview than a criminal.

4. Someone somewhere will always be upset about any given story I’ve written.

5. Behind every good reporter is a good editor (or three).

6. Good headphones are a great investment. Unless you let someone borrow them.

7. Breaking news will always happen 20 minutes before shift is over.

8. White balancing is my friend.

9. Business and sports reporting are the hardest beats to cover unless you have a passion for them.

10. Journalists plagiarize each other more than they do outside sources.

11. Never stand downwind from a fire.

12. The small market television news reporter is the original backpack journalist.

13. Beat reporting is cyclical.

14. Nothing beats an old fashioned pen and notepad.

15. There is a 75 percent chance that I will have recorded bad audio.

16. Most journalists aren’t the heartless bloodsuckers the public thinks we are.

17. You can’t always fix it in post.


19. Scientists and journalists speak two different languages.

20. Make it to the scene before the TV reporter.

21. There is no such thing as “unbiased.”

22. It’s better to get off the phone and out of the office.

23. A deadline web project will always take two hours longer than I think it will.

24. If journalism becomes a chore, find a new profession.

25. Always keep a spare battery.

My favorite multimedia: What I've been working on this year

In honor of my birthday tomorrow, I am taking a look back at the most interesting multimedia projects I have created or contributed to this year.

Best in Song

By now most people have seen a tag cloud like the one in the rail of this blog, but I believed that the concept could be taken further. While brainstorming for ideas for coverage of the Academy Awards for Entertainment Weekly, I realized that many of the Best Song lyrics contained similar themes. To find if this was true, I tracked down the lyrics to 40 years worth of best song lyrics, put them all in one document and uploaded the results to TagCrowd, an online tag cloud creator. Love, of course, was number one with 75 occurrences.

I then took the results and manually weighted and arranged them into the shape of an Oscar statuette. The process required the painstaking creation of more than 200 buttons in Flash, but the results were both stunning and satisfying.

Exploring the Kanye-verse

The idea for a graphic of rapper Kanye West’s influences and production credits came from this print graphic by Andrew Saeger of the Times-Union. I had saved the graphic in my inspiration files and pulled it up when the opportunity to do a story on West arose. The print graphic itself is amazing and well-researched and lent itself to creating a very visual online piece.

Landmark Moments in Gay Hollywood

Entertainment Weekly’s gay Hollywood cover story got an online punch with a couple of YouTube videos and a whole lot of research. The examination of pivotal films that explored gay content required endless movie watching, several trips to the bookstore and a couple of days combing YouTube for supporting videos. The subject matter took me out of my box and required several readings of the NLGJA Stylebook Supplement on LGBT Terminology, but like many reporters I became an expert (in my mind) on the subject after writing the story. The piece was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for digital journalism.

Fighting Wildfires: An Uphill Battle

Creating this graphic about California wildfires for the L.A. Times was itself an uphill battle. The Flash project is a fully animated version of a static, full-page graphic that had ran in the paper some time before. The project took weeks to create and required the conversion of an Illustrator file into Flash vector graphics. It was further complicated by the addition of animated elements like spinning helicopter blades, moving fire, spraying water, moving embers and rolling fire trucks. In short it was a nightmare, but became one of the go-to graphics during wildfire season.

Los Angeles Times’ Homicide Map

After a traumatizing event several years ago involving a day care van flipped over on a freeway, I vowed to steer clear of cop reporting. So I was dismayed when I was asked to organize the data from Jill Leovy’s homicide blog so it could be made into a searchable database of facts and figures. I was horrified at one of the hundreds of murders I had to read through and cursed ever accepting the assignment.

The outcome was well worth the psychological damage. The team who built the database did an excellent job and I commend Jill for taking on such as arduous task.

Black & Gold

I previously mentioned my thoughts on Black History Month, yet I created this piece on black Oscar winners and nominees not as a tie-in to the observance, but because it was an untold story. It also happens that Black History Month and awards season happen at the same time. There are (mostly incomplete) lists of said honorees circulating the Internet, but I believed adding the stories behind the trophies, in addition to pictures and video, would make for a stronger multimedia piece. My favorite part of this project was watching the video of actors like Halle Berry, Hattie McDaniel and Cuba Gooding, Jr. accepting the Academy Award and the deep meaning it had for them.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I have a pair of dirty, ripped, worn out shoes that were brand new when I bought them, but after two weeks walking on dirt roads under the heat of the African sun became the disheveled pair I own today. I refuse to discard them because of what they represent: my time in spent in Ghana researching the lives of gay men and women for whom simply living is a struggle. Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana and those accused of the “crime” face public ostracism and jail time. So it wasn’t easy for an American to waltz into the country and start interviewing people. Like many of the aforementioned stories, the project required untold amounts of research to track down the hidden enclaves where gay men congregated, the beaches where men sold their bodies to male tourists and the gay leaders fighting for rights in a country that refused to recognize them.

The project, which was funded through a grant from UC Berkeley School of Journalism, ultimately consisted of three detailed print stories and three multimedia pieces. The multimedia components were belabored by last minute design flaws, but ultimately went on to win the NLGJA award for Student Journalism. The people I met and the lessons I learned while reporting the project will stay with me forever, kind of like those shoes.

Around the blogosphere: Valentine's Day edition

In the spirit of love, here are some recent blog posts from around the web.