The Future of News

Ryan Thornburg

Archive for the ‘Multimedia Journalism’ Category

How to Cover Live Events: Create an Experience

Whenever I’m trying to figure out a new way to tell a story, there’s a quote from one of the inventors of virtual reality that always pops into my brain: “Information is alienated experience.” Or, like my middle school English teacher used to say, “Show, don’t tell.”

So when you go out to cover an event, don’t bring back a product, a widget, a good, a 10-inch inverted-pyramid story. Use multimedia and interactivity to bring your audience along for the ride. Make them feel like they’re in the room with you. Cover the event live, and then repackage your live coverage to attract the search engine audience.

For these types of stories you should consider:

  • Live tweeting.
  • Streaming video via UStream.
  • Capturing/publishing audio via SoundCloud.
  • Publishing full or editing video on YouTube.
  • Re-using in a regularly scheduled weekly podcast.
  • Posting to the website using Storify.

Live Tweeting Tips

Before the event:

  • Do background research so you have some idea of what you can expect to happen. Because news is when the world doesn’t behave as you’d expect. So first you have to know what to expect. Know the players and the rules. Look at old stories, get a copy of the meeting agenda or the speech text if possible. Check out the group’s website and social media accounts. Check out national press, too, if warranted.
  • Make a Twitter list of everyone you expect to be in attendance at the event — that includes “official” event participants as well as observers.
  • Make another list of anyone you think might be interested in the topic. You might find these are folks who already follow you on Twitter, or folks that have re-tweeted similar stories, or just people who’ve been talking about similar topics.
  • Make sure you know any hashtags related to the event. If there isn’t one, make one up and tell your followers to use it during the event. For the most important hashtags you expect to be used during the event, create a saved search on Twitter.
  • Prepare a few tweets in advance of the event. For example, if you know that someone is going to reference a particular news article or book, have a link to that article ready to send out when the person mentions it. If you use HootSuite, you can save drafts of your tweets. Twitter just added native pre-scheduling of tweets to its clients.

During the Event

  • Get there early. You never know what might go wrong — you can’t find parking, there’s no WiFi, no place to put your camera, room is full, flock of rabid seagulls attacks…
  • Tell people that you’re getting ready to start live tweeting an event. Tell them where you are. Tell them about how long you’ll be at it. You’ll be using your personal account for credibility and intimacy.
  • Listen for key quotes, and either paraphrase them or attribute them: – “Obama: ‘My role here is done.’” or “Obama says he is resigning from office.”
  • Listen for key facts that provide context: -”27% of new students hail from Antarctica.” or “Construction on Gryffindor began in 2011 and was scheduled to cost $3.1B.”
  • Listen for news: “Board voting now on whether to oppose Amendment One.” or “Board’s vote on Amendment One unanimous. Everyone’s opposed.”
  • Provide both “play-by-play” coverage as well as analysis: – “Somewhat unexpected to hear all sides agree on that issue. Where was the opposition?”
  • Use hashtags. Hashtags can be used to help your audience find other tweets on the topic, but they can also help your tweets find an audience that cares about the topic but doesn’t yet know you’re covering it. Finally, you can use hastags for commentary (but be careful with that.)
  • Ask questions of your audience during the event. Questions can either seek information: “Dept. of Labor says it’s still interviewing witnesses. I’d like to interview you, too. Did you see the Vortex collapse?” … or they can seek opinion. “Rides inspected 3x/day. Fairgoers- Is the Dept. of Labor doing enough to keep you safe?”
  • When you receive responses, re-tweet the interesting ones. Think of yourself as the host of a call-in talk show. Re-tweeting adds interesting voices to the live event and puts yourself in the position to mediate a conversation between your followers. That’s creating an experience rather than just a story.
  • Invite your readers to ask you questions: -”Petraeus taking questions now. What do y’all want me to ask him?”
  • If you make a mistake, correct it. If it’s an egregious fact error — “Thornburg found guilty of murder!” — delete the original tweet and send out a correction: “CORRECTION: Thornburg found NOT guilty of murder!” Correct anything that alters your audience’s clear understanding of the event. Misspellings and things like that probably don’t merit corrections. If someone has re-tweeted a fact error that you made, be sure to @mention them in your correction so they’ll be more likely to see it and pass it along, too.
  • Tweet photos and (brief) video. Give people a sense that they are going “behind the scenes” with you — that you’re taking them to a place they can’t go.
  • Interview participants and observers. Tweet a photo and a quote of the person. Be sure to @mention them.
  • When you end your live coverage, tell your audience that you’re wrapping up… and they they can go to your website or print publication soon to see your full wrap-up of the event.

After the Event

  • Use Storify to pull together your quotes. Embed the Storify on your site.
  • Follow-up the next day with a moderated live online discussion with one of the event’s participants. Or just allow your readers to ask you questions. Two good tools to use for live discussions on your site are CoverItLive and ScribbleLive.

Live Audio & Video

With UStream, you can turn your iPhone into a broadcast truck. It doesn’t matter whether the event has a huge following or not, imagine that suddenly you don’t just work for the newspaper of record for in your community but also the CSPAN.

If you want to host your own video talk show, try Google Hangouts On Air like Investigative Reporters & Editors has done.

You know you can use your phone as a camera, but you can also use it to record audio interviews and use SoundCloud to publish the audio on The Chronicle or to a podcast. If you want to dramatically improve the quality of your audio, try one of these little microphones that plug into your iPhone. You can also use this free iPhone app to do some pretty nice audio editing right on the phone.

None of these audio and video tools are going to win you an Oscar. They’re the tools you use when the story doesn’t merit a trained videographer.

Examples

General Tutorials

Tips for Speeches

Tips for Meetings

Tips for Festivals/Celebrations

Tips for Live Q&A Events on Twitter

The Credit Economy?

I just gave the students in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class their first quiz. Overall, not bad. But I have to report this piece of breaking news:

Only 1 out of 16 students said that it was UNethical to “download a photo from the Web server of a blogger, upload it to your server, using it on your site along with credit to the original creator.”

I’m dying to talk with them about this on Thursday to hear more about their rationale. Maybe it says something about how they see bloggers. Maybe it says something about the way they see ownership of content.

What do you think?

Written by Ryan Thornburg

January 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm

U2′s Bono Sings the Battle Cry for Online News

“You didn’t come all the way out here to watch TV, now didya!?”

Standing in the outfield of a giant baseball stadium under the glow of more than 40 video walls and monitors, the lead singer of the rock group U2 aimed his remote up at the screens and flipped from station to station while tens of thousands of concert-goers screamed and cheered. It was the fall of 1992. CNN had just made history with the first live video coverage of a war, and somewhere in a computer lab at the University of Illinois – in a town that could have comfortably fit its entire population in the sports stadium – researchers were about six months away from launching the first graphical Web browser.

The hundreds of channels on cable TV were about to be dwarfed by millions of Web pages. The mass media that was able to send one message to an entire planet all at the same time and had defined a shared American experience for more than a half century was about to be replaced by communication technology that would blend the telephone with the television and the postal service and the printing press to form a decentralized network of news and information that would allow every – or everyone with a computer and Internet access – to talk to everyone else all at the same time.

The online news audience doesn’t spend an average of 35 minutes every day because they need another glowing box. News organizations that aren’t committed to giving their audience something fundamentally different should quit throwing money at their Web site and start re-investing in legacy media.

They didn’t come all the way out here to watch TV. Stop giving them a news product. Let them visit news experience. They’ll pay for that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ryan Thornburg

June 25, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Advice to Future Magazine Editors

Contrary to what seems to be popular opinion, magazines have a strong future online, I think. But their future depends completely on the leadership and innovation of publishers and editors, as I told the Carolina Association of Future Magazine Editors last night.

The audio of the talk is after the jump.

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Written by Ryan Thornburg

April 16, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Innovative Student Journalism in the Works

The students in JOMC 491: “Public Affairs Reporting for New Media” are developing some bang-up stories and tools. For anyone interested in the future of news, in North Carolina civic life or in education policy, their projects are worth reading … and engaging.

More here.

Written by Ryan Thornburg

March 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

How to Report for New Media

Written by Ryan Thornburg

February 10, 2009 at 8:04 am

How to Plan an Online News Project

If I had to pick only one difference between the mindset of print and online journalists, it’s the way they plan. Online journalists are more likely to have to collaborate with a large group, they are often working on longer time horizons on products that has longer shelf-lives. They are dealing with lots of smaller moving pieces and have to try to get management approval using static words and images to represent a project that will have a lot of animation and user-driven customization.

So, if you want to work online doing something other than breaking news you have to learn how to plan. In my experience, any online project — from an election returns database to a deadline explainer on the capture of Saddam Hussein — needs six things:

  1. A product concept
  2. A storyboard
  3. Asset management
  4. A clear workflow
  5. A financial budget
  6. A testing and quality assurance procedure

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