“New” mobile technology

Cell phones, and particularly smart phones, have clearly done a lot for journalism. Smart phones are extremely useful for both reporting and consuming news. There are even some news outlets, like Newsy, that exist primarily on phones and tablets.

The technologies that may be possible “in the future” will apparently further revolutionize American journalism. Clyde Bentley mentioned geolocation and augmented reality as two new technologies that will be utilized by news outlets.

Although these technologies may seem brand-new and futuristic, news outlets in the U.S. and other countries are already using them. Süddeutsche Zeitung, which is based in Munich, has already developed augmented reality experiences for smart phones (iPhone and Android) that interact with their print magazine and with the streets of Munich, Berlin and Hamburg. Users just need to get a certain app and hold their phones over the pages of the magazine or in front of a building to see information pop up.

Geolocation is another tool that is already being used, but it has not caught on to the extent that other social media like Facebook and Twitter have. Foursquare is probably the most popular geolocation tool. Users “check in” to locations that they visit, and this information is viewable online or on the Foursquare app. Brian Manzullo discusses the pros and cons of geolocation in journalism. Some newsrooms, such as the Grand Rapids Press, already use geolocation as part of their Web presence. It’s interesting that geolocation has yet to catch on as more of a mainstream technique for news outlets.

Preparing for my convergence sequence

I woke up at 7 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2011, and swore I would never enroll in an 8 a.m. class again. Later that day, I walked into my J2150 lecture just in time to hear that the first class of my convergence sequence starts at 8 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2012. I then accepted that I would be sleep-deprived for the rest of my college career.

That was a bit dramatic. I’m actually very excited to delve into my sequence next semester. I’m also nervous. Amy Simons made J4804 sound like it would be the most difficult class ever. I imagine it must be challenging to alternate weeks of working in newsrooms and turning in major multimedia projects. But I will gladly accept that challenge if it means I am able to do interesting work.

In addition to working on the types of projects I want to be working on, I’m excited to go into my sequence because the people around me will also be excited. I’m sick of sitting in J2150 and hearing complaints from Strat Comm students who insist that the class is a complete bore and waste of time. I want to work with people who are interested in what we’re doing. I feel like that kind of enthusiasm and dedication will make the workload more tolerable.

What I love about 4804 is that I’ll get to work in several newsrooms, rather than slave away in one newsroom all semester. I am especially excited to work at Newsy.

Google+

KOMU’s Sarah Hill demonstrated how Google+ Hangout sessions can be used in a journalistic context. But will Google+ ever catch on? It’s nice to have a speedy, real-time video chat connection to people anywhere in the world, but those people need to have Google+ accounts to participate.

As an aspiring journalist, I should probably be bowing down to Google+ and all of its wonders. Instead, I’m dreading the moment when I will have to create a new account with a new brand of social media. Google+, to me, just represents a new username, a new password, a new tab constantly open in my Internet browser and a new venue in which to obsess over my cyber-popularity. The people I’ve talked to who have heard of Google+ don’t bother to open an account, or they open an account and promptly abandon it.

If journalists want to use Google+ effectively, people besides journalists need to be using Google+. It’s great to get the opinions of other journalists via Google+ Hangouts, but there needs to be more variation in sources and commentators contacted through this social media tool. That’s why Facebook and Twitter are such helpful tools for journalists: they both have millions of active users from every imaginable place and situation. If Google+ can eventually gain this kind of following, it will become much more useful for journalists.

In the meantime, Google+ is not doing so well, and one of Google’s own engineers offers an explanation.

Shine a light on the Beacon’s fan-base

I love the idea of the St. Louis Beacon. It’s a creative concept funded in creative ways. It provides a more in-depth look at the St. Louis region that can’t be found at larger news outlets, like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Beacon does a good amount of community outreach. Their barroom conversations encourage community members to discuss issues facing their neighborhoods and families. The Beacon can use these discussions to find story ideas and to gauge some regional public opinion on different issues. “Beacon and Eggs” is another event that allows people to talk about what’s going on in their areas.

These are all great ideas, but I can’t help wondering about the people who attend these events. Is it often the same people who come back to the events? I can’t imagine that each barroom conversation includes a fresh roster of random individuals. The people who attend these events are probably mostly donors and fans of the Beacon.

I would like to know if the Beacon actively tries to reach out to people of all different classes and ages and, if so, how they do this. What do the participant demographics look like at the Beacon’s barroom conversations? What kind of people and areas does the Beacon get most of its story ideas from?

It would be interesting if the Beacon kept track of this kind of information and presented it on the website. It could serve as a way to inform readers and to encourage readers from less-represented areas to attend events and speak up.

How Süddeutsche Zeitung makes bank

What I found most interesting about Wolfgang Krach’s presentation was his explanation of the way the website works for Süddeutsche Zeitung. Their Web content does not match the print newspaper. There are articles on the website, but there are also teasers that hint at the print copy’s content. This seems like a great strategy for the business realm of journalism.

The New York Times allows people to read 20 articles online, for free, each month. The reader can even click on the front page and read full versions of the front-page articles. This limit on articles is still enough to satisfy some readers. There are plenty of people who read news inconsistently. The Times does not gain revenue from these readers.

With the shaky state of the newspaper industry in the U.S., one would expect newspapers to do everything possible to increase revenue. Free online content that matches the print version strikes me as counterproductive. If newspapers used the Web to entice readers to buy the print version, newspapers could possibly increase revenues. There has been a lot of discussion about establishing paywalls for the use of online news articles, but there is disagreement over the possible methods that could be employed.

For people who want to read the news solely online, but who are willing to pay for full articles, there could be a separate subscription that allows online access to full articles. This would be similar to online research databases and encyclopedias, which allow non-registered users to view a portion of the article, but only registered, paying users have access to the full version.

It’s strange that Süddeutsche Zeitung does not have a full-access online option. From my experience traveling in Germany, people are much more environmentally conscious in Germany than in the U.S. An online subscription option might be more attractive to Germans who don’t want to throw paper away each day.

Although Süddeutsche Zeitung operates in a country with a more favorable attitude toward newspapers than the U.S., the German newspaper’s success is probably partly attributed to the supplementary relationship between their website and print version. Large newspapers in the U.S. should look into adopting that method.

Trial and error. And video.

After trying to shoot some video, I realized how many components I need to keep track of while recording. All of the things we talked about in class came into play, and I was completely overwhelmed. I felt clumsy and inexperienced toting my equipment through throngs of circus-goers at the opening party for the Citizen Jane Film Festival. I’ll describe some of the mistakes I made and problems I encountered, so that other wannabe journalists can learn from my experiences.

1. The tripod. Going into this project, I didn’t expect the tripod to cause problems for me. Compared to the video camera and microphone, the tripod seemed to be the least of my worries. I even practiced using it before I left for the event because the various knobs and screws were intimidating. When I got to the event, I was confident in my knowledge of the tripod, but no amount of tripod expertise can prevent the awkwardness of using a tripod in a crowded room. I tried extending the tripod legs and got in the way of a lot of people. I would suggest attaching the plate to the camera before going to the event, so you can just pop it onto the tripod when you’re ready to shoot. Find a spot with some space where you can extend the tripod legs, then fold up the legs and carry it to the place you want to shoot from. Try not to smack anyone with the tripod; it’s heavy.

2. The lighting. I was filming in a ballroom that was only lit by pink lights. Even after setting the custom white balance, there was still a pinkish tint on all of my footage. It was also pretty dark in the ballroom. I don’t have any advice for this one, because I still don’t know what to do in this situation. I couldn’t use the video light because the majority of my footage was shot from a far distance.

3. Shot composition. Paying attention to the composition of shots in video is much more difficult than in still photography. In still photography, you can capture a moment in less than a second. In video, it was recommended that you hold a shot for at least 10 seconds. However, I ran into a few situations in which random passerby ruined my shots. I would set up a shot, hold it for a couple of seconds, and then someone would stand in front of my camera and obstruct my view. It seems that nothing can really be done about this; it’s just something you have to watch out for. I tried moving to different spots to continue recording from a different angle, but it was often difficult to get the tripod through the crowd.

4. Focus. The tiny screen on the video camera can be deceiving. I took a few tight shots that looked like they were in focus on the screen. When I imported the clips on my computer, I saw that they were actually out of focus. Pay close attention to the screen while you’re recording, and definitely use the manual focus.

5. Sound. I recorded a video interview, and when I imported it, there was no sound. A few hours later, I realized the microphone was turned off. Classic rookie mistake. The first mistake I made was failing to test the sound before recording the full interview. I didn’t play back the video until I was back at my apartment. Test the sound, always!

Now that I’ve made all these mistakes, I hope that tonight’s recording will go more smoothly. Someday, I hope I will have the skills to produce something like Stephanie Sinclair’s film, Too Young to Wed: The Secret World of Child Brides. It’s a combination of audio, video and stills, and it shares the tragic stories of women who are forced into early marriages.

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