I was at dinner a couple of days ago with some friends when, apparently, there was some food blogger event or meetup happening the same time in the restaurant’s upstairs room.
As the bloggers walked into the restaurant, some stopped to take pictures. Myself, my girlfriend and several friends were in one of the pictures. (It’s the one above; if you click through, we’re in the picture at the top of the post.)
Don’t get me wrong: I am not mad that I’m in the picture. We saw this particular blogger kneeling down to take her picture, and based on her angle, it was clear that we would be in the picture. However, the blogger never approached us and asked if we would mind.
For bloggers, there are several reasons why they should approach people who may appear in their photos:
It’s a courtesy extended by many professional journalists and members of the media. (NOTE: I’m not trying to spark a journalist vs. blogger debate.) Not all professional news photographers ask permission of their subjects to take candid photos. In fact, since we were in public, we’re fair game. Still, blogger photogs may want check and see if it’s OK to use a person in their photo, even if you can’t see their face clearly. (Here’s a good read on the history of photojournalism ethics.) This leads me to my next point…
It’s a marketing opportunity. Let’s say I were asked if I minded being in the blogger’s photo. The conversation might’ve gone like this:
Blogger: Hey — I’m taking a quick photo of the restaurant for my blog; do you mind? You’ll be in it, but you’ll be totally small and unrecognizable, and your face won’t be in it. Me: Maybe. What’s the blog for? Blogger: Oh, I run a food blog called “Oh She Glows”; there’s a food blogger meetup going on tonight, and I’m documenting it. Me: That’s cool; I’d love to check it out later! Go ahead and take the picture. It’s also cool that this restaurant is doing blogger outreach; is it on Facebook and Twitter as well?
…or something like that. (Not as cheesy, of course.) This could have been a marketing opportunity for the blogger; chances are they would have drawn in a few new readers. (This particular blog is about healthy food and exercise; I’m looking to learn more about these things, which is one of the reasons I was dining at that restaurant.) In addition, she could have generated more buzz for the restaurant, which I now know is active within the social media space.
It’s just the courteous thing to do. Ya know?
What do you think? If you’re taking pictures for your blog — or for an article — do you ask the subject’s permission? Do you use it as an opportunity to tell others about your blog? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!
Journalists are increasingly looking to expand their skill set or even reinvent themselves during this challenging time for the news industry. Some are doing it on their own terms.
Former newspaper reporters Alexis Grant and Adam Jadhav have a lot in common. They both quit their full-time reporting jobs they loved to travel abroad while blogging and shooting photos and video along the way.
Blog Fixture of New Venture
Grant set a goal for herself that after she had been working at the Houston Chronicle for three years and if she had enough money saved, she would take a long-term trip. When she was 27, she left her job as a health reporter in 2008 and spent six months traveling to several French-speaking African countries.
Alexis documented her travels through a blog
Grant freelanced for newspapers and magazines, but stressed that it supplemented the trip costs, but didn’t pay for them completely. She also tried blogging for the first time and put most of her effort into that. She also blogged so her family would know where she was.
Grant said that in her reporting job, she didn’t want to add another thing to her job, such as blogging. During her trip she learned she loved blogging. “I discovered a love for blogging that I didn’t know I had,” she said.
Slow and unpredictable Internet connections made things difficult. She said her biggest mistake was not setting up her blog ahead of time so she would have as little work as possible to do when blogging on the road. When Grant did find a fast Internet connection, she’d upload photos to Flickr. That’s how editors she freelanced for were able to access them.
When Grant got back, she decided to write a book full-time about the trip. Having just turned 28, she moved in with her parents in suburban Albany, NY. The travel memoir is loosely based on the blog. “There’s an element of personal journey to it,” she said.
She attributes writing the book to helping her improve her writing and becoming a better journalist. “I think that’s going to help me in my next job,” she said. “This is a chance for me to see how I could write in a different way.”
Grant launched another blog and a YouTube channel and posted her travel videos. She also joined Twitter. “Through my blog and Twitter, I was able to find others who are writing travel memoirs,” she said. Then she started a Ning group for writers of travel memoirs.
Today, Grant is job searching while living in Washington DC.
Search for Meaningful Journalism
At 27, Adam Jadhav went to Kenya nearly eight months ago. Since then he has been to Madagascar and India. He’s now in southeast Asia.
Jadhav left his job as reporter at the St. Louis-Dispatch covering poverty issues in July 2009 to go abroad as an international reporter. He admitted that a one-week reporting trip to Cuba in March made his desire to do international reporting stronger. In 2007, he was the newspaper’s multimedia reporter. In the summer of 2008, he launched the Post-Dispatch’s political channel on YouTube.
“I figured I could afford to spend a year or two out on the road tilting at windmills and (I hope) producing some meaningful journalism along the way. And I’m incredibly lucky: I had the savings, the lack of commitments, a supportive mother, professors and editors, the multimedia training and a healthy dose of moxie to do it,” he wrote in an e-mail.
At the same time, he launched a blog, where he posts videos, audio slideshows and photos. He said the blog is a personal outlet to share his trip with his family and friends, but he also posts updates about the work he’s covering during his travels. He also uses Facebook and Twitter to share information.
Jadhav also struggles with slow Internet connection speeds. He said that in Africa it can take up to two hours to upload a video, which also requires a constant connection to achieve. He uses YouTube as his video content management system because it’s ubiquitous and it offers the best chance for his video clips to get picked up elsewhere.
“YouTube is the starting point for my videos; they automatically spread to Twitter and Facebook. I absolutely think cross posting is a good idea and when I have something more worthwhile, I fully intend to post elsewhere,” he said.
He tries to focus on stories that will connect with U.S. audiences. For example an HIV clinic in Kenya has a direct connection to the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Jadhav said he has spent far more time sending e-mails and looking up contacts as part of his business then doing actual journalism.
“The big, meaty stories are too expensive to really pursue without prior funding commitments. News feature and travel journalism is simply easier to sell,” he said.
He spent his first three months in India waiting for his residency and his work permit to get processed and approved, which was important because he eventually wants to work in India long-term.
Jadhav admits, however, his lifestyle isn’t for everyone. “I’m comfortable being marginally employed,” he said. “I’m not in a rush. I have savings to fall back on, and that I’m doing plenty of personal travel, adventure and language study.”
Jadhav doesn’t know when he plans on returning to the U.S. He’s moving to Ecuador in July for volunteer work and to pursue other stories. He tentatively plans to be in the U.S. in the fall to apply to an international development graduate school before returning to India early next year.
It isn’t just wanderlusts who want to do freelance journalism abroad. There are training programs for learning these skills and applying them professionally.
He said there’s a lot of spray and pray out there. In other words, shooting video and hope you’ve got something good. “That’s not what we’re talking about,” he said.
The project aims train people to speak a visual language. “The visual language really is a separate language. Too few people can really speak this language properly,” he said.
Program courses include photojournalism and social documentary, foreign correspondence and backpack documentary, according to its site. Workshops include “Storytelling: Backpack Journalism Style.” Gentile said they are working on certificate program.
The Backpack journalism methodology doesn’t work for every story, he said, but when it does, it’s much more intimate. Although Gentile fears that the methodology might be used as a cost-saving measure by news organizations.
He pointed out that no one is providing the platform, engaging the industry and practicing the craft of backpack journalism at the same time.
“We want to teach the real power of backpack journalism,” he said.
Freelance journalist travel tips:
From Alexis Grant:
Be flexible. It’s almost better not to have a plan.
Have your blog and social media tools set up and ready to use.
Consider having something else to do with your time. There will be downtime while waiting to hear back from an editor or a source.
Leah Betancourt is a journalist who has written about social media, emerging media and community engagement for Mashable, Poynter and elsewhere. This is her first post for Old Media, New Tricks, and we’re glad to have her!
Chicago-based Nate Silver, a baseball statistician and analyst with Baseball Prospectus, was ticked off about politics.
As a data-driven guy who appreciated precision, the sloppy use of political polling information drove him crazy. From his perspective, there didn’t seem to be a site that really dove into poll data analysis in a relatively balanced and knowledgeable fashion.
What do you do when you’re one smart person with a vision and enthusiasm? You launch your own butt-kicking Web site. Let’s talk about the power of his FiveThirtyEight.com site and the lessons that both old and new media can draw from its success in the 2008 elections (538 is the number of votes in the Electoral College.)
I’m not a political journalist, only a news junkie citizen, but FiveThirtyEight kept me enthralled during the election. I would stay up past one o’clock in the morning, repeatedly hitting Refresh on my laptop screen so that I wouldn’t miss a single thing that Nate and his team posted.
What was so compelling?
Quality and depth of Nate’s information. Almost all of the mainstream media US maps predicted individual state election outcomes simply by coloring the state red or blue. Only FiveThirtyEight had minute color gradations (light pink to dark red, for example, indicating how much a state was predicted to go for Senator McCain.) Only FiveThirtyEight maps accurately portrayed the two states that split their electoral votes: Maine and Nebraska. Silver even showed a blue box around Omaha (the Second Congressional District) surrounded by red-tinted Nebraska, because the Obama campaign worked that area very hard to try to win its one Electoral College vote (and they did win it.) I loved this sort of detail. Lesson: Don’t dumb down your information. We’d prefer the full story.
Human interest narratives that also predicted election outcomes. Only on FiveThirtyEight did a tiny team of guys travel to multiple states to interview and accompany ground workers in both the Obama and McCain headquarters. Over and over, from Troy, Ohio to Grand Junction, Colorado to a damning photo in Florida’s Panhandle, it was obvious from their digging and persistent reporting that the Big Mo was in the Obama camp and not with McCain. I never saw this sort of detailed ground campaign storytelling anywhere else. Lesson: Show us what’s going on by telling gripping stories, even when those stories are buried in relatively obscure towns that no one else is talking about. We want to know.
A lively, engaged community makes a Web site even more powerful. I rarely saw such interesting readers and commenters as I did on FiveThirtyEight. Sure, there were the usual trolls and yellers, but there were a lot more people who were thoughtful and impassioned about the unfolding political process. Some got pushy, wanting to know why the latest daily Rasmussen poll analysis wasn’t up by a certain time. Others were concerned that Nate was still posting information at 3 am as the election neared its end. I began to recognize certain commenter names and would smile or groan based on what I knew to expect from them.Lesson: It’s not only about detailed data, or interesting stories – it’s also about the people who come to the site, hang out and chat.
One baseball stats nut who loved well-presented polling data. One bare-bones Web site. A couple more people running around in a car doing interviews across the country. Insanely detailed analytical posts about voters with dense explanatory graphics (my math teacher husband told me that they were “rectangular coordinate system scatter plots.”) That was it…that’s all that FiveThirtyEight had going for it, but they kept me up nights with “just” that.
What can your media organization do to keep readers up at night, hitting “Refresh” and trying to figure out how to read a scatter plot? Which reporters have that kind of passion and drive, and what can the organization do to help fuel their fire?
Sheila Scarborough is a writer specializing in travel, the social Web and NHRA drag racing. She’s also the co-founder of Tourism Currents: social media training for tourism professionals.
I recently wrote a white paper on lifestreaming for Weber Shandwick. In it, I discuss what a lifestream is, how brands can take advantage of lifestreaming platforms, but also how journalists and editors can take advantage of storystreaming and eventstreaming, and what types of newsy content can be streamed.
In addition to the Austin American-Statesman’s recent storystreaming efforts, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has also been using Posterous in some recent crowdsourced journalism projects: “Minnesota Sports Heaven” and “Snow Shots.”
The journalism-related portion is on page 10 of the paper.
Whether you’re a freelancer looking to get your work out there, or whether you’re a blogger at a mainstream media publication looking for an easy way to get your video content on the web, you’ll probably want to create a YouTube account to start a branded channel.
Here are some quick YouTube how-tos:
How to sign up for YouTube
1. Go to http://youtube.com and click the “Create Account” link that appears in the top right corner of the page.
2. Enter your desired username, as well as the rest of the information on the page.
3. Once you receive the confirmation e-mail and are logged in, click on your new account name link that appears at the top right side.
4. Click “Profile Setup” and fill in your profile with a photo, your bio, a link to any other social media profile or your company Web site.
How to upload a video to YouTube
1. Click the yellow “Upload” button at the top right of the page. On the next page, click the yellow “Upload Video” button.
2. Find the video you want to upload. Click “Open” once you’ve found it.
3. While the file uploads, be sure to write out a proper, concise title and description for the video. Pick a couple of tags (e.g. “news,” “chicago,” or your publication’s name), and choose a category for your video.
4. To see the video after it’s been uploaded, go to your “My Videos” page and it should appear.
Customize your YouTube channel
A user’s YouTube profile content is presented in what’s called a YouTube channel, and if you’ve created a profile for your brand, you’ll want to customize the look and feel of your channel page.
2. Your default account type will be set as “Youtuber.” There are other types, such as “Reporter” or “Director,” but you’ll may just want to leave it as “YouTuber.”
3. Finally, you may want to customize the look and feel of your Channel. To do this, click the “Channel Design” link on the left side of your “My Profile” page.Once you click through, there are some preset themes you can use, or you can customize your page with special colors – you’ll need the specific color values – or you could upload a picture as your YouTube channel background.
If you’re looking for the Next Big Thing in blogging and social media, it’s already here in the form of lifestreaming. Thanks to really easy-to-use (and fun) software by Posterous, lifestreaming and storystreaming are going mainstream.
Inspired by Daniel’s enthusiasm, I have been noodling over what might be the best uses for this at a mainstream media operation. At statesman.com, we ran our first full storystreaming experiment this past weekend, with great success.
We’ve had 67 days over 100 degrees this year in Austin. That’s hot, even for us. As we zero in on breaking the all-time record of 69 days, we wanted to get the community involved. Posterous, which allows for easy collaboration and easy submission of content, seemed perfect for the job. (Note: Here’s a guide on how to use Posterous.)
When you create a new blog on Posterous, you are given the option to let “anyone” contribute. We checked that box. It gives you an e-mail address that anyone can use to submit a photo, text, audio, video, etc. When something is sent by an outside user, the owners of the lifestream can go in and see the entries and approve them before they appear on the blog.
At the Statesman, we had several people tasked on that Sunday with checking the queue for new submissions. We approved most of the 70 submissions we received, only ignoring ones that were off topic.
Promoting and syndicating content
We talked up our project as much as possible through social media, though prominent placement on the statesman.com home page and through a prominent solicitation in print. I personally DM’d several influencers on Twitter and was looking on Sunday for people posting Twitpics that fit our guidelines so I could ask them to send those into our project. We set up a Twitter account, @Austinheat, that used Posterous’ “auto post” functionality to tweet links to each entry. We also could have sent the content to Flickr, Facebook and dozens of other services using the “auto post.”
Rewarding the contributors
We showed off the submissions prominently online (it was the centerpiece of the statesman.com home page Monday morning) and in print (we chose some of the better pictures and ran them in our daily roundup in our Metro & State section).
The results for us
We put the photos into a gallery on statesman.com, and it was the top page-view driver for our site on Monday with more than 70,000 page views. We also gained some valuable experience using Posterous and proved the concept for future projects. We published the content we received several ways: Posterous, Twitter, in our photo gallery and in print. That type of cross-platform publishing is healthy.
The results for the community
The quality of the pictures were really good. Some were funny, some were artistic, and all were thoughtful. Through this project, Central Texans could all feel the pain of a hot summer and share a small slice of their lives.
Posterous is a really good platform. Everyone involved in the project on this end said so, and we didn’t get complaints from the public.
I wish we had used a Statesman e-mail address (that would forward to Posterous) because “firstname.lastname@example.org” is a lot to type on an iPhone.
We used this mainly as a way to gather user photos. Considering Posterous’ potential, we could have done much more. Besides photos, there’s no reason we couldn’t curate videos, audio, text, tweets, and other content in a future lifestream project. We will look to use it for a richer experience next time.
We didn’t syndicate the content out as much as we could have. Posterous allows you to push it out to dozens of platforms. We used a few. Why not a Flickr stream?
The only incentive we offered was a chance to participate (and perhaps get published in print). Although we pushed this pretty hard, we received only 70 submissions. To really take advantage of this community functionality in the future, we might offer a bigger incentive (a giveaway to the best entry, etc.)
Despite all the “I wishes”, I thought it was a success. We enjoyed the experiment.
I personally have some more ideas for using this in the future, from eventstreaming the Austin City Limits Music Festival and South by Southwest to storystreaming coverage of a sports season. I know some of my colleagues here were inspired by the platform’s potential as well.
Has any other mainstream media outlet used these techniques effectively yet? I’d love to hear how it went.
— Robert Quigley, social media editor at the Austin American-Statesman
Journalism and social media go together like peas and carrots. (Or, as I prefer, cinnamon ice cream and hot caramel.) You spread social media technologies, philosophies and practices in your newsroom, and as a result, your co-workers may have created Facebook accounts. They may dabble on Twitter. In fact, they may also blog in addition to producing content for print.
These tools are all great as far as information gathering, story distribution and digital brand-building, but they’re not really innovative as far as storytelling formats go. One question I hear a lot from journalists is, “Is this all there is to social media? From a journalistic perspective, what’s next?”
As you know, I’ve been on a bit of a lifestreaming kick over the last several months. Predictably, my short answer has been this: “Storystream your content.”
A storystream helps bring to light, through a chronological narrative, a particular issue, process or concept over a more significant period of time than an eventstream usually covers. Used journalistically, it turns into a collaborative stream of consciousness that tells a story.
Good stories have multiple characters, and a storystream should be no different. For your storystream to be successful, it must consist of multiple points of view. Think of your storystream as a collaborative or collective narrative, with multiple authors.
Storystreams are new. Storystreams are different. And, most importantly, a storystream can connect a publication to its readers like never before.
Here are some steps to creating a successful storystream:
1. Establish a theme/set parameters: Creating a stream to document the life of an entire city would be immensely difficult. Whether the framework is rigid or abstract, it’s imperative to create parameters for people to express themselves. Some examples:
Chicago at night (specific)
Hurricane Katrina cleanup (specific)
The color blue (abstract)
In addition, you’ll need to set rules. Be very specific on the types of submissions you’ll accept, its guidelines — character count, photo resolution, video length, etc. — and, if applicable, content rights.
2. Recruit contributors: Individuals may be able to carry one part of a story, but if your storystream has multiple authors, there will just be more content your readers can relate to.
Think of all those times you asked your readers for user-generated content. It probably seemed a bit disjointed from the rest of your publication’s journalistic activities, or just an afterthought, no? Recruit your readers in the real-time telling of a particular story, and you’ll have more than one person to help you spread the word about your storystream.
For its recent “A Day in the Sun” storystream, the Austin American-Statesman announced the project on its site, on Twitter and Facebook. Announce your project in multiple media with “you”-centric language. After all, the storystream is about your readers, not you per se.
One more note: When you recruit, be sure to refer back to your theme and guidelines regularly.
3. Curate your content: Once your storystream has new contributors, you’ll need someone to oversee the flow of content — and questions — you’ll get from them. Is it the content what you’re looking for? Is it good content? Does it fall within the guidelines you laid out earlier? Curate before you publish and the story will be clearer and better.
4. Promote and syndicate your content: After your storystream begins, talk it up! Re-post your content on:
Tell your friends about your project. Tell co-workers, digerati — both local and non-local — and explain to them what the project actually is. They may be so excited, they’ll want to contribute or spread the word.
5. Reward your contributors: Come up with some incentive for your readers to contribute. Invite your storystreamers in for an exclusive tour of the newsroom. Give them a percentage off their newspaper subscription for a couple of months. Give them a T-shirt. Buy them a beer. Do something.
If you follow these steps, your storystream will bring your readers closer to you than ever before. It will also get them excited to be a part of your news brand.
As always, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to post them as comments below!
As newsrooms become more digital, it becomes more important for reporters, editors and producers to keep up with digital contacts and readers. The thing is, the social Web tends to be a very, well, “What have you done for me lately?” sort of place. In order to stay on top of things, you must monitor and respond to your contacts’:
This can become rather tiresome, especially if one looks at it as work — that’s a different blog post altogether — but it’s something that must be done nonetheless.
Last month, I blogged my thoughts on lifestreaming, and how it is to become the future of the web. I believe a feed-like (as opposed to blog-like) lifestreaming service, FriendFeed, may be the key to streamlining one’s digital activities.
You might not see an immediate benefit to using FriendFeed. In fact, you may think, “This looks just like Twitter. And FriendFeed just got bought by Facebook. Why would I use it?” Here are three reasons why you should use FriendFeed:
1. FriendFeed, when used properly, compiles all digital activity in one place. Forming a deep digital relationship with your contacts and readers take time, but if you read and respond to their blog posts, tweets, Facebook status updates, blog comments, Flickr photo posts and everything else, there’s a good chance your relationship will improve quickly. (Of course, you don’t respond to everything; focus on your influencers.)
FriendFeed compiles everything in an easily navigable stream, and it links directly to their posts. Just click through and respond, either on their FriendFeed page or — better yet — on the page itself.
2. Build your digital street cred. Many digital professionals are on Twitter. They’re not on FriendFeed yet; it still has that “geeky” early-adopter feel. If you’re on FriendFeed, and you use it to keep up with your contacts — not to mention make new ones — it makes you stand out.
3. Your good influencer/blogger contacts are there. There’s a good chance that any blogger worth their salt is on FriendFeed. If your contacts are in the space, you should be there too. Period.
If you were going to create the ideal set of rules for a newspaper comment board, something that your readers — hopefully — would abide by, what would you include? We’re talking about story-level comments, blog comments and forum remarks.
How would you enforce the rules?
Where would you post them?