I’ve spent the past couple of days checking out the nominees for this year’s Emmy Awards, especially those in the “New Approaches to News and Documentary” categories. Wow, what a group! These nominees have provided a pretty clear vision for the future of visual journalism – a future where storytelling meets interactivity – and it is awesome!
After looking through the projects, I found some very impressive photographers, videographers and multimedia producers that I hadn’t discovered before. I posted a few Twitter handles at the end of each project to help follow some of their latest work. A lot of these projects involved large teams and I couldn’t mention everyone. Let me know if there’s anyone that I missed and I’ll add them to the list.
The first five entries were nominated in the “Current News Coverage” category. According to the entry requirements, the judges were looking for “creative and innovative approaches to the practice, presentation and delivery of news & documentary programming.” Enjoy!
Globe and Mail – A six-part multimedia series that talks with women from all walks of life about their lives in one of the most dangerous cities in Afghanistan.
Reuters – In-depth multimedia charting the year of global upheaval following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. See how lives everywhere have changed as a divergent world embarks on a new era of historic uncertainty.
Produced by MediaStorm’s Brian Storm (@BrianStorm), Alba Mora Roca (@albamoraroca), Bob Sacha (@bobsacha), Tim Klimowicz, Jacky Myint (@jmyint) and Jason Burfield (@jburfield). Also produced by Reuters VP of Pictures Ayperi Karabuda Ecer and Head of Visual Projects Jassim Ahmad (@JassimA). Reuters is on Twitter at @reuterspictures.
San Jose Mercury News – Disabled students in Vietnam find hope in an IT Training Program.
Produced by LiPo Ching.
Reuters, Red Cross and Media Storm – Combining imagery by Reuters photojournalists with eyewitness testimony and interactive graphics, Surviving the Tsunami reveals the strength of the human spirit in the face of catastrophe. These are stories of compassion and hope. The project marks the fifth anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Produced by MediaStorm’s Brian Storm (@BrianStorm), Eric Maierson (@gboy) and Tim Klimowicz. Also produced by Reuters VP of Pictures Ayperi Karabuda Ecer and Head of Visual Projects Jassim Ahmad (@JassimA). Reuters is on Twitter at @reuterspictures.
The next six projects were nominated in the documentary category. They’re all pretty awesome…
LA Times – For three years, L.A.’s Homeboy Industries, a nationally recognized gang intervention organization, has sent a select few of its members on an extraordinary pilgrimage to work with impoverished kids in Alabama Village, Prichard, Ala. Tucked away in the southwest corner of the state, the small community is rural, largely segregated, oppressed by violence and ignored by the surrounding community. Its young people have come to know their enclave as “Death Valley.”
The poverty of the children of Alabama Village is shocking — even for the Homeboys, who come from the tough inner-city streets of Los Angeles. But there is also much the Homeboys recognized; drug dealers, shootings, dead-end choices and the desperate situation of youth facing no way out.
It is in these children 2,000 miles away that the visitors from L.A.find their calling.
MediaStorm – The thriving Midwestern family farm is no longer, having been choked by industrialized agriculture and replanted with subdivisions. A shifting economy, combined with an old-fashioned lifestyle that doesn’t translate from generation to generation, is forever altering the landscape.
Carrying one camera and one lens, Danny Wilcox Frazier walks Iowa’s gravel roads, gets his feet wet in the milking barn, pulls up a stool in the small-town bar. Through black-and-white photographs, he makes a record of his own emotions as he travels through the state. What results is a complex portrait of a well-loved American landscape at a time of enormous cultural change.
NOVA – Welcome to “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers,” a web-only series that shows what happens when the lab coats come off. Meet intriguing scientists and engineers. Watch their videos. Ask them questions. Find out how their surprising secret lives fuel their work, and vice versa.
New York Times – New York is a city of characters. The Green Thumb, whose community garden in a Brooklyn housing project shows children that eggs don’t come from eggplant. The Dictaphone Doctor, last of a dying breed. The Jury Clerk, who says ‘Good morning’ 200 times a day, and means it. The Teenage Mother. The Singing Waitress. The Blind Wine-Taster. The Tabloid Photographer. The Iraq Veteran. The Walking Miracle.
Each week in 2009, The New York Times introduced such individuals in sound and images, inviting ordinary people to tell their extraordinary stories — their passions and problems, relationships and routines, vocations and obsessions.
Soul of Athens – Farmer, husband, father and now widower. For 63 years, Tom Rose and his wife, Mary, built a life together on his family farm on Canaanville Road. Then last year Mary passed away, leaving Rose to face the future alone, surrounded by a lifetime of memories. Impressive work by Maisie Crow.
The Boston Globe – Affectionately called Ted or Teddy by voters and those closest to him, he was known to the public for a booming voice and occasionally boisterous — and some notoriously reckless — behavior.
If you haven’t had enough yet, here are a couple more posts that are worth checking out. Both are great blogs and filled with a lot of awesome projects!
Forty of the country’s top college journalists traveled to the Poynter Institute in May 2009 for an intensive multimedia bootcamp. During the fellowship, Greg Linch, Nic Barajas and I asked the group why they’re pursuing careers in journalism and what the future holds.
We have collected their responses and built them into a Web site to give voice to the future of journalism. The project includes perspectives from young journalists around the country who continue to pursue careers in journalism despite the industry’s struggles.
As part of the site, I also created an audio slideshow with young journalists from around the country to share their perspectives on the future of journalism. The interviews were recorded during Poynter’s 2009 College Fellowship, which I was very fortunate to attend.
Here’s an excerpt from my essay on the future of journalism:
The journalism profession is facing its own struggle for survival. Many mainstream news organizations are now counting page views in place of meaningful impressions. In better times, I would have graduated and applied for an entry-level reporting position. I could have started in a small market and worked my way through the system, but many of those opportunities are no longer available.
In August, 2009, I founded Ewen Media, a multimedia production company that uses interactive multimedia to share meaningful stories. I am definitely taking a risk by branching out on my own. In three months, my student loans will arrive in the mail and I will likely be crushed by financial burden. However, I am prepared to move forward knowing that I am a fighter, willing to take big risks and make bold decisions, in a desperate attempt to protect the profession that I love.
The future of journalism will be strong because thousands of young journalists are willing to follow their hearts and pursue a profession much greater than themselves. 20 years from now, I am proud to know that my colleagues and I will be the ones who ran toward the industry while all others were running out. Together, we will form a “profession of the passionate” and forever change the world.
May 30, 2010 – A local soldier lost his leg in a roadside bomb near Fallujah, Iraq, but he has since been denied the $50,000 insurance benefit for his loss. A link to the full story is available here.
©2010 Star Tribune – Republished with permission.
The Minnesota News Photographers Association held their 2010 convention this weekend highlighting some of the best in photojournalism. The convention has always been an interesting place to reflect on some of the changes in visual journalism with many of the attendees coming from a traditional newspaper background.
For the final presentation at this year’s conference, the organization hosted a panel with three of the finest storytellers in their respective forms. I wanted to share some of their collective thoughts on the future of storytelling as the various mediums converge into one.
Creating an ‘audio illusion’
Sasha Aslanian, Youth Radio Series and special projects producer for Minnesota Public Radio, represented the radio producers on the panel. Aslanian argued that radio was the most visual medium because of the elements that you cannot see in a story. She used a couple examples to demonstrate how effective audio can create stronger visual stories.
Aslanian described the two most important elements of storytelling to be the story’s scene and characters, which were highlighted by the previous two clips. The biggest takeaway was making sure that audio does not take your listener away from the experience. Every bad edit reminds the audience that they are listening to the radio, rather than becoming part of the illusion.
Strong audio is about creating an illusion, she said, and one bad edit can pull listeners out of the illusion. If you limit those mistakes, it will help carry people to the end of your story and make audio storytelling a much more visual experience.
Building the story
Kare11’s Jonathan Malat, who is one of the most talented news videographers in the country, represented the TV perspective on the panel. Malat focused on the importance of storytelling to engage users with a particular story.
“TV used to be the only place where you could get this visual news and we were very spoiled for many years. Whatever crap we would put in the box for you – you would watch. There’s a lot of people putting crap in a box now… so we’ve had to up our game.” – Jonathan Malat
Malat stressed the importance of “staying in the moment” with news stories. That means using material from the scene to help limit distractions and allow viewers to feel like they are there. To highlight his point, Malat showed the piece he produced with Kare11 reporter Boyd Huppert during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
(Also, here’s a link to the live interview with Jonathan Malat shortly after he was released from police custody.)
Rather than using sound from public officials and breaking up the story, the sound bytes reacted to the current situation. Adding interviews from police officers after the fact would have broken up the story. By keeping the story active, it kept viewers in the moment and provided a much more rewarding experience.
Second, Malat emphasized the importance of keeping stories the appropriate length. Most television packages are under two minutes, but he said having longer stories doesn’t necessarily make them better stories. He used this as a criticism for all video, not just online video, which could be shortened to make for stronger stories.
“You have all this stuff and you feel like you need to use it… but sometimes less is more,” he said.
Malat helps produce the 10,000 Stories series, which is consistently some of the best feature reporting in the country. To do so, he stressed the importance of vision and focus with his work, rather than collecting a “bunch of stuff,” and how he constantly thinks about story structure to make for a complete story.
“We talk about the public’s right to know, but as storytellers, it’s the public’s right to know when I tell you so.”
Lastly, Malat highlighted the importance of rewarding viewers by adding surprises along the way. He described a lot of video stories as having “Fred Flintstone feet” because the subject keeps running and story doesn’t go anywhere. “You say the same thing 20 different ways and that isn’t rewarding to the viewer,” he said.
One of my favorite examples of story structure was “Crash for Clunkers” by Joe Fryer, which won the feature category for NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism. Malat didn’t show this story, but I wanted to include it because it’s full of awesome and exciting surprises. When I watched this story, I immediately thought about how other mediums would try to tell this story. It’s simply not the same story without the narration setting it up.
Waiting for the moment
Star Tribune photographer Jim Gehrz has a unique ability to capture human emotion. He was previously named NPPA’s Photographer of the Year and was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Gehrz showed three audio slideshows during his presentation, including The Wonder of Flight, Locked in Limbo and A Prayer for Father Tim (pictured below). I have worked with Gehrz at the Star Tribune and always admired his ability to photograph intimate moments in people’s lives.
There were several notable things about Gehrz’s presentation that can be applied directly to other mediums. To begin with, Gehrz said this is one of the most exciting times of his career because of the new opportunities to tell stronger stories. He can use new storytelling tools, such as the Canon 5D, to experiment with new storytelling techniques that he had never tried before.
“After being in still photography all of my life, it’s now like I’ve opened the window,” – Jim Gehrz.
Gehrz said the new technology has also led to an added level of intimation for journalists and their subjects. He recalled a story earlier in his career where he put a wireless mic on a subject and asked for permission to visit a different part of the exhibit. When the subject asked permission from her supervisor, she added, “He doesn’t know what he’s doing.” She was right, Gehrz said. The added technology destroyed his rapport and ability to work with them. As a still photographer, he would never have had a problem, he said.
Gehrz had one comment that I found particularly interesting:
“As we get more and more into these new mediums, these stories are really a process of discovery. I don’t know what the story’s going to be. [The story] is kind of telling itself. If you leave yourself open and try not to go in with preconceived notions, some pretty amazing things can happen.”
I found the comment interesting in contrast to Malat’s comments from earlier in the presentation where he was always thinking about story structure as a means to focus the story in a particular direction. It was a very subtle difference, but I think it leads to an interesting discussion about the direction of visual journalism.
To produce packages like Kare11′s Crash for Clunkers, there is a certain level of involvement from the reporter and photographer that is necessary to shape the story. Certain questions have to be asked to push the piece in a particular direction. That involvement can be great for storytelling as long as the journalist does not shape the story into something it is not.
On the other hand, the multimedia from newspaper photographers often has a raw feel like there was no journalist involvement at all. Subjects can take the story in any direction, but it becomes much more difficult to advance the story without the narrative track. If the story is not moving forward, especially online, then viewers are not going to stay.
The three panelists helped highlight some very significant differences between the mediums. However, at the core, everyone appeared to agree on the importance of basic elements of storytelling. Stories need a beginning, middle and end. They need characters, conflict and surprises. Most importantly, they need to move forward and reward the viewer along the way. These elements, regardless of their format, can turn any medium into a powerful story.
1) Target Field opening day time lapse
2) World Series time lapse
Robert Caplin – Freelance Photographer
This is a time-lapse compilation of over 5,000 images taken from dozens of locations inside and outside of Yankees Stadium during Game 6 of the 2009 World Series between The New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies. Read more about this time lapse on Caplin’s blog.
3) Target Field: Opening day in 3 minutes
4) Baseball game, fireworks time-lapse
Minneapolis, MN – Denard Span goes deep with the first home run at Target Field.
WCCO-TV started building a local news network on Thursday with its launch of The Wire, an interactive Web application that allows users to follow news stories as they develop throughout the day.
The Wire includes a linear timeline of local news that tracks breaking news in real time. The timeline drives traffic to wcco.com using posts from WCCO reporters and aggregates content from social networks. Users can sort the timeline by news, buzz (the “fun” stuff) and events. Most importantly, the application also aggregates the best local news coverage and allows users to submit their own content as well.
Here’s an introduction to the application by WCCO Web producer Karna Bergstrom:
Also, check out Jason DeRusha’s video on the site’s launch. Pretty funny stuff.
By developing the site, WCCO has created a local news network that provides fresh coverage throughout the day. The site uses existing WCCO content and aggregates feeds from other organizations, including MinnPost, Minnesota Public Radio, Kare 11, Fox 9, WCCO Radio and the Pioneer Press. The Star Tribune and KSTP didn’t make the cut because their feeds are run by robots.
The Wire includes some impressive multimedia integration. The video player is embedded within the individual posts and can pull feeds from YouTube or wcco.com (users still cannot share or embed the video). The multimedia content is connected to each post and does a nice job highlighting the station’s strong video content.
The linear timeline seems like a weird way to access local news. There’s a lot of information condensed into a small space and most developing stories require some previous understanding to make them work. This problem is not unique to The Wire and it will be interesting to see how this tool will be used in the future. It does include a search function to follow specific topics and that could be a great tool to follow stories over time. For example, a search of “health care” could help follow the health care debate, even though stories are currently limited to a three-day window.
The most promising part of the project comes from the “list view.” Does it look familiar? It’s pretty much a mini Twitter feed. By doing this, WCCO becomes a much more attractive source for local news because of its willingness filter local content and link to outside sources. In addition, the live feed allows users to access information in real time, but without the human filter of Bring Me The News to recommend related content or the strongest stories.
The Wire is not currently sending updates through Twitter or RSS. WCCO’s digital media director, John Daenzer, said those updates will be coming soon. In addition, WCCO also plans to roll out a mobile site (sometime next week) that will include a layout similar to the “list view.”
The most promising part of the application is its development of a local news network. WCCO is the first news organization to start aggregating coverage in real time and this could have some very interesting implications. Right now, the list view is pretty much a fire hose of local content. However, if The Wire could become a filter of local content and update users based on their individual interests, then I think it could become a very powerful tool. For example, I could use the application to request information about local politics, Gophers basketball and health care, and receive those updates through a Facebook application or RSS feed. In addition, I could use an advanced search to track a local story, such as R.T. Rybak’s run for governor, to provide context for an on-going event.
The first local news organization who can find a way to aggregate and filter local coverage based on user preferences is going to be very successful. After WCCO’s development of The Wire, it’s only a matter of time.
In fourth grade, I had a brilliant idea that would completely revolutionize the future of elementary education. Okay, maybe not, but it was awesome! I decided to reinvent the “hand raise” using an ice-fishing flag and some suction cups.
This invention would solve a serious problem. Teachers wanted to encourage class participation, but young students struggled to withstand the dreaded wait required to ask their questions. Thousands of critical questions would remain unasked because of a simple, physical limitation.
My solution… the “Easy Raise.”
That’s right, the Easy Raise was an attention-getting device that could rise for hours without wavering. More importantly, this brilliant piece of innovation was going to win me the fourth grade inventor’s fair.
Long story short… I lost! To what? The most ridiculous invention of all time.
I lost to a doggie backpack that allowed every dog to wear its poop. Not only that, but the same invention had won the previous year. How can you win an inventor’s fair using last year’s invention!? The future of education had lost to a poop pack.
It took me a few months to get over the loss. Then, three years later, I watched the Tonight Show with Jay Leno as five elementary students presented their winning inventions from the national inventors fair. Care to guess the winner?! It was the Easy Raise! Some dude, three years later, came up with the exact same concept and won it all.
I discovered something important as a young inventor. I was in the process of building something great, but I failed to understand its significance and find a way to make it work. I continued using the Easy Raise for the rest of the school year and quickly became my teacher’s new favorite student to answer questions. However, one more year of fine-tuning and my purple “participant” ribbon would have been gold.
What’s the point?
I feel like I’m performing at the fourth grade inventor’s fair once again. I recently started a company, Ewen Media, and have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. The panel, which is pretty much everyone, would rightfully assume that I am crazy and consider it time to move on. However, just like the Easy Raise, I think there’s something to it, which means this is no time to quit and join team “poop pack” before next year’s fair.
The most innovative ideas are usually met with the most resistance. Think about it. It’s hard to be inventive when there is another trusted alternative that has shown promise in the past. In today’s environment, re-inventing the “poop pack” isn’t going to cut it and it’s time to start moving toward true innovation. Most importantly, it’s time for the entrepreneurs to believe in their ideas strongly enough to carry them through.
I firmly believe that passion is the single greatest asset for any young journalist.
My generation is going to redefine the future of journalism. We are all applicants at the fourth grade inventor’s fair and presenting ideas to a panel of experienced professionals. Many of the ideas sound pretty terrible, but some of them will work and someone will succeed. So, the question is, will it be you or the poop pack?