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June 14, 2006

Multimedia Stylebooks: Gotta have it!

The U.K.-based Telegraph is set to launch a stylebook for bloggers. Makes me wonder why more news outlets here aren't doing the same...

Dragonfire uses AP style and does have an in-house stylebook, but we've now decided to implement a multimedia stylebook as well. It'll be written by our interactive team and will include all elements of our digital production. What size should that Flash animation be? What will be our standard template for photo essays? What's the bitrate for audio? How are we tagging stories? This, we'll ponder the next few weeks... We're open to collaboration, too. Have any thoughts on what a multimedia stylebook should include?

Question now is, do we make the guide itself interactive? Guess we'll have to...

May 22, 2006

How To Report For the Web

You'll notice that I talk about 360-degree reporting fairly often. This is what we do at Dragonfire, and as more publications place emphasis on reporting for the web, the more you'll have to start doing the same.

The first real change you'll need to make is attitudinal. Don't think of yourself as a newspaperwoman or a magazine features writer. All journalists should start thinking of themselves as what I'll call "Information Brokers." Your job is no different than it has always been: You're in charge of talking to people, reading through sources, filtering information, judging for accuracy, and then ultimately presenting that information in a way that the public can understand and use it.

Information Brokers use lots of different techniques to report a single story. For example, lets say you're a city hall reporter, and you're off to a council meeting. Within the course of that session, you should be able to gather sound for a Podcast or audio archive, shoot a few digital pictures (if you're not there with a photog) and record some video clips for use on the website. If you're on your toes, you'll have lots of leftover color that won't make it into the paltry 10" you've been given to write - and that's information that could easily go into a city hall blog. While you're there, get whatever records you can in electronic format - budgets, agendas, whatever.

Yes, those council meetings can be horribly boring. But a creative Information Broker can come back with a handful of viable projects. And what editor is going to refuse a reporter who can write a story and have enough stuff left over to file an online story, start a Digital City Hall project and add audio clips/ transcripts to the newsroom's intranet for other reporters to use later??

All fantastic ideas, Amy. But all this requires equipment, training and deals with the reporters' union.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

What's required is an open mind and a few extra bucks.

To start, here's an equipment list. I'm recommending products that you should have in your possession at all times. This is what I use - keep in mind I'm not getting paid by any of these companies to endorse anything below.

Audio
minidisc recorder (I prefer Sony products)
digital XLR cable
microphone
headphones
spare minidiscs

Video
Sony handycam
microphone

Photos
These days, most digicams are pretty decent. If your newsroom is intent on great photographs, they'll send a professional. Otherwise, my recommendation is to visit an electronics store and spend about an hour playing with the different models. See which one you like, and make sure to go through all the functions. I've used Nikon CoolPix cameras since the late 90s, but I recently bought my sister a Canon and I actually like the interface better.

Editing Software
I recommend ProTools to edit audio - it's really easy to use and fairly cheap. I've been editing video using iMovie on my PowerBook, but there are a host of applications available for PC.

Ideas for multimedia projects:
...blog...
The mention of a blog will send some reporters into a tizzy, but I think they can be very effective tools. (If you report a story and don't have information left over, you're not doing a good enough job.) Why not take that extra reporting - especially the color - and flex your writing muscles in a blog? Your editor can put a refer at the end of your print or broadcast story, and the rest can go online. If your media organization doesn't have a website (GASP!) or allow for blogs, you can easily create one of your own, FOR FREE, on blogger. If I were you, I'd check it out with your editors first.

...audio archive...
How cool would it be for you to type in Hillary Clinton and a subject, such as election, and be able to pull up a 5-10 second quote? It'd be great to have a newsroom intranet audio database for use in future stories, wouldn't it? And from a news consumer's perspective, this would be a great addition to any media organization's website.

...video archive...
See above. Insert "video" where you see "audio."

...rich media template...
How's about combining citizen journalism with a little reporting and a snazzy rich media template? Have a look at one of our previous Dragonfire projects for an example. This wasn't hard to do - took us about an hour to put together the graphics - and I'd be happy to talk to you about how you can create one of your own. Rich media templates should work within most content management systems.

...web-only audio content...
This will take a little training and more equipment, but you could start a series of Podcasts for your beat. They could be sections of interviews plus some narration, or just outtakes from your story. Podcasting is fairly easy to start doing on your own, as long as you have a recording device, some editing software and a lot of patience.


May 18, 2006

Convergence: Inane discussion, same result as before

I'm listening to a discussion about convergence, but this time we're not talking about how to pool broadcast and print resources. Greg Mitchell (E&P; Editor), Rajiv Chandrasekaran (AME/ WP) and Jim Brady (VP & Exec. Ed., washingtonpost.com) are talking about convergence between print-side and online.

Take notebook computer. Thrust against forehead. Repeat.

Why in the hell are we still talking in terms of separate departments? There should be no distinction between online and print-site reporting, and the longer that we perpetuate the notion that newspaper and online versions should remain separate entities, the longer we're going to suffer.

Once again, the change will need to be abrupt, and it will require a serious attitudinal change. News organizations should no longer speak in terms of print-side and online. They should consider themselves news gathering and disseminating groups that bring information to users via newspapers and the web.

This discussion is bad, bad, bad for journalism.

PS: Still no women talking or pontificating. The lady at the reception table was really nice, though.