Thursday, December 28, 2006

the future is now

The Guardian has a great story that integrates stills and videos extremely well. The 'film,' Iraq: The Real Story was photographed and taped (is there a better word?) by Sean Smith and produced by Teresa Smith. I was left wanting to see more stills, but a great all-around piece of work.

rant and rave

At the risk of blogging about bloggers again, Sion Touhig at his site SionPhoto doesn’t pull any punches in his evaluation of the state of journalism, photojournalism, newspapers and convergence.

As I have also noted, content needs to be the focus at newspapers and web based journalism. The 'real estate' potential of the web is far greater than trying to get a full color page in an already increasingly shrinking news hole. Just try getting a page front referring to a double truck.

Sion really gets to the heart of the matter when he writes, 'Newspapers are not You Tube. If they wish to keep their existing readership, and expand that readership into the Web, they need to produce visual content that reflects the existing ethos and qualities of the paper.'

The storytelling potential on the web for photography and journalism in general, when coupled with sound, graphics and Flash beats almost anything we can do in print today. While I am still fighting the usual newsroom battles about white space and design I have more freedom on our web site than I do in print.

The trick, as always is editing. Deciding the best way to tell these stories is more important now, because it just isn’t a single, multiple picture package or page. You can lose an audience just as fast as you can in print.

What also doesn’t get mentioned is how viewers eyes 'read' the web differently than in print. Digital journalists need to use not only their 'core strength...which is having a good pair of eyes' as Sion calls it, they need to understand what the Poynter Eye Track III study found IN ADDITION to using their eyes.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

new site for a new year

Hope your holidays are going well!

Good news for those digital, mobile, multimedia journalists out there. Richard Koci-Hernandez of the San Jose Mercury News has started a site just for you:

First of all: Richard, thank you for starting this site.

A brief exploration highlighted some interesting work and necessary conversation. Too often the folks doing this work
are in different newsrooms, more often than not on their own or in a department, and unable to have meaningful conversation about works and what doesn't work.

Check it out!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

i've got my mojo workin'

Photographer, or in this situation mobile journalist, Andy Cross of The Denver Post photographed the 'snow in' at the Denver International Airport and found a fun way or tying the audio track together in a nice package produced by Mateo Leyba and Deb Neeley. I am all in favor of having some fun with journalism in general and audio tracks in particular.

My all time favorite fun audio track is when the San Jose Mercury News staff had fans a Grand Prix Auto Race make car noises themselves. It is perhaps the best way I have seen and heard to tie a piece together and have some fun.

Yesterday I wrote about changing people’s perspectives on the world through art. San Jose Mercury News photojournalist Pauline Lubens and reporter Mark Emmons tell Frank Sandoval: A Survival Story on the Mercury Times Multimedia Page in a remarkable way. Kudos.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

art shock

I had the chance to listen to a portion of NPR’s Neal Conan interview Simon Schama about his new book, The Power of Art, and the accompanying BBC series. I have read his book Landscape and Memory and liked the way he approached the confluence of the two. Having taken RIT professor Elliott Rubenstein’s class about the book Shock of the New, I am always intrigued about how art influences society and culture.

On the BBC web site Schama is quoted as saying: 'The power of the greatest art is the power to shake us into revelation and rip us from our default mode of seeing. After an encounter with that force, we don't look at a face, a colour, a sky, a body, in quite the same way again. We get fitted with new sight: in-sight.'

I wonder if we have the capacity to shake people into revelation in the field of multimedia. I am seeing more and more work that gets close, and I sincerely hope that we have that capacity to get people to see the world from a different perspective. We can always dream.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Earlier this month, December, Washington Post Staff Writer
Frank Ahrens wrote a story about a Fort Myers News-Press mobile journalist, or 'mojo.' The article, 'A Newspaper Chain Sees Its Future, And It's Online and Hyper-Local' is about a Gannett initiative to get reporters out in the community and posting directly to web sites, reporting from their cars. A very interesting thread was started on that follows this idea and what one cross section of the photographic community thinks about this approach.

I must admit I like the idea of getting writers out into the community that they cover. Focusing on local news is one way for newspapers to remain viable entities in today’s ever changing mediascape. My problem with this hyper-local approach is highlighted in the story, the News-Press writer Chuck Myron, covers the event himself including taking the picture for the web publication. (No, a photographer biased diatribe is not about to begin.)

The problem I perceive is two fold. It is difficult enough for a journalist to cover an event well, yet alone cover an event both photographically and write the story. When I collect sound there are almost always times I miss a great photo or when I photograph I hear great sound. This is one of the hazards of doing multimedia; the end product can be better, but some things get missed in the collecting. The other danger is that the hyper-local journalists will fall into the trap that Chuck Myron has, writing three stories about an event that might have justified a brief. Hyper-local can also be myopic.

To conclude, yes, by all means get out into the community you cover! Why not even send teams of journalists, a photographer and writer, with a web producer/editor back at the newspaper to package and edit work. That sounds like a great recipe for success. Time will tell how Gannett and the Fort Myers News-Press’s approach will work, I wish them all the best. They are at the very least trying something new, and in newspapers, that is a step forward.

P.S. - Ironically enough, the writer of the Washington Post piece took the web picture that accompanied the story, but THERE WAS NO LINK TO THE FORT MYERS WEB SITE IN THEIR ONLINE STORY.

Monday, December 18, 2006

'between you and me'

Brian Storm and Ed Kashi lookout behind you. Artist/filmmaker/director Patryk Rebisz has created a short film entitled 'between you and me' that is quite remarkable. The film is a 'flip book' style movie created from still shots from a Canon EOS 20D and assembled to a 8 fps movie. Other than one too many zipper sequences, it is a well told narrative, one of the things missing from Ed and Brian piece on MediaStorm. Yet another 'person of the year' doing some innovative work.


The results are in and the person of the year might be you! TIME magazine has 'officially' recognized the information age and the impact of individuals and communities on the web. Good work, looking forward to seeing great things from you in '07.

Friday, December 15, 2006

moment of zen

Check out what you can do with CSS at the Zen Garden.

chasing storms

Wow, two good uses of video on the web in three days! The latest is a package from The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia about Storm Chasers. Staff photographer Nick Moir worked with journalist and producer Jano Gibson and designer and Flash producer Carolyn Mills to create a piece that navigates well and really brings you into the story and the moment.

My only criticisms, are small, minor points. There is very little coverage of the aftermath of the monster storms, and if there were not some aftermath images in the intro I don't think I would make this argument. The cool and sexy work is chasing them, the covering their effect and the impact on lives, for me is Part II. I also would have liked to hear more ambient sound, if there is or was any more; the hail, thunder, people talking in the truck chasing the storm. The audio is almost too clinical for the motion and action in the images.

But overall, a great piece. The video is integrated well, makes sense and moves the story forward in a way that the stills are not always able to do. Great work!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

community, community, community

At the risk of starting to sound repetitive, there are some other perspectives on the new Yahoo!News and Reuters community journalism projects that circle back to some of the comments I have made earlier.

The Readership Institute’s Limor Peer has an interesting piece about 'What’s in it for the user? It’s all about community.' Mindy McAdams, who I should disclose is one of the influences on Limor Peer writing her article, and is subsequently referred to in the Peer article, continues the conversation on her Teaching Journalism web site. So, setting aside the incestuous aspect of people blogging about people blogging, what emerges? Community. People desperately want to get involved in communities.

So the next step, in my ideal world, is to ask what should we do as professionals to involve people in community, facilitate their desire to be in community or cover their community? Two interesting articles on community from the Readership Institute are Online communities can build engagement, but require a plan and User-Generated Content: The Problem. If you don’t already know about the Readership Institute, I suggest checking out their site, soon.

Additional links regarding Reuters and Yahoo!News new citizen journalism programs can be found at the Center for Citizen Media and Viewfinder Blues.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

solid storytelling

The results are in... The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), started a monthly Multimedia Contest this year. The first winners of the first month of judging are now posted and there are three winners that caught my attention.

The first is a video piece by the San Francisco Chronicle’s James Irwin titled 'Prison tour program tries to keep boys on right path.' This is the best newspaper video piece I have seen to date for a number of reasons; including steady camera work, good audio, and an interesting, well told story. It is work like this that give me hope for video on the web.

In the individual audio slideshow category, Jim Gehrz of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune delivers an amazingly photographed piece called 'Baby Lance's Long Year.' The work really needs no additional commentary from me.

Last, but not least, is a neat entry from the team category. Dallas Morning News photographers Michael Hamtil, Erich Schlegel, Lara Solt, & Cheryl Diaz Meyer followed candidates for governor around and captured some neat moments in their 'The Road to Austin' package. Perhaps more importantly, the overall site plan is clean, well constructed and holds work by different photographers together.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

molto paolo

Sadly enough, I just got around to reading my November issue of Photo District News. Inside is an interesting article by Edgar Allen Beem about Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin. What caught my eye and attention was the statement by Pellegrin that, 'Every ten years or so, there is a body of work that is one step further, a breakthrough in the history of photography.' The last such influential book he argues was Giles Peress's Telex: Iran. Pellegrin maintains that Peress's work has been the dominant influence in photojournalism, 'an esthetic of inclusion, of packing as much as possible into a picture, often with vertiginous, titled horizons and imagery falling into and out of the frame,' writes Beem. 'The busy, multilayered views of Peress were ideally suited to an age of upheaval,' continues Beem.

Lately Pellegrin has been exploring the idea of subtracting from photos, the opposite of the current esthetic. Beem writes ''the 'process of taking away,' Pellegrin says, really amounts to 'searching for the essence of a story.'' I really like that, 'the essence of a story.'

All too often, especially in multimedia, photojournalists are doing things and telling stories because we can. Getting to the essence of a story sometimes gets forgotten or lost along the way as we rush around with our gear, computer and sound equipment. What is the best way to tell our subject’s story? That should be our first question.

Monday, December 11, 2006

npr day part deux

There was a brief report on NPR’s Morning Edition about Fox, Viacom, CBS and NBC talking together about creating an alternative to the popular YouTube. The headline on NPR’s web site really says it all, 'Old Media Companies Plot to Compete with YouTube.' See my comments earlier today about media companies and the need for innovation.

What strikes me is the 'copycat' nature of their approach. Instead of working to understand why sites like YouTube and Threadless work and building on that approach, these companies are going to 'compete.' While I have not seen what will emerge I can only guess, based on the past performance of previous large companies imitating smaller, more nimble companies,that it will be a pale shadow of YouTube. What these four companies should be doing is trying to figure out what their competitive advantage is for the net; hint, content; and how to package it and repurpose it for their consumers. Time will tell.

innovate, innovate, innovate

While driving in to work today I caught a story on NPR by Jenny Lawton about an on-line company called Threadless. The interesting twist on the usual business story is that the company is essentially a community of people with a common interest who vote on and purchase t-shirt designs that people submit to the site. The company is able to track what people are interested in, listen to their consumers and follow what their customers want. Sound like a familiar wishlist mainstream media?

While this model does not necessarily directly translate to media web sites, the title of the story, 'Online T-Shirt Company Builds a Community and Business,' does convey an important lesson. Threadless is not only succeeding because they have an interesting business design and approach, they are also succeeding because they are nurturing a community that not only contributes to their product but interacts with their web site.

The passive, consuming model of newspapers, where the paper disseminates information, is eroding faster than many in our field would care to admit. Providing forums or on-line communities on squidoo, local blogs, or other means of interaction are all ways that current news organization can help nurture communities that not only consume their product, but influence it. Letting people inform organizations about interesting people or stories in their area, give feedback on stories, blogging about local issues, are all ways to pull people into community.

The bottom line is that newspapers, internet news organizations, TV, and radio need to innovate, experiment and not be afraid to try something new. Media companies should not be afraid to build a community of customers and provide their news in multiple formats for people to utilize. It is time for journalism to become more responsive, participatory and customer/consumer orientated.

Friday, December 8, 2006

apocalypse part ii

The above is more tongue-in-cheek than the first sign covered earlier today, see below. A big 'shout out' to Mindy McAdams for bringing this to our attention. Chris Strimbu, a Yahoo!News multimedia producer, created a package about the coup in Bangkok using images from Flickr and audio from a British ex-pat.

In general, the piece itself is kind of interesting as a whole, as in the narrative greatly helps the series of images that start to look alike after awhile. I can’t help starting to wonder what James Nachtwey might have been able to do or did do with this event. I guess what I am getting at is that I think the Flickr photos are fine as far as records of the event, but I can only imagine what a trained photojournalist might have found. The juxtaposition of the flowers and guns; the importance of the color yellow; tanks in the street, echoing Tiananmen Square; all elements that I would expect a professional to utilize to broaden and deepen the coverage.

As it was, I think this project is an interesting narrative technique. I think as more people push the boundaries of multimedia journalism, journalists and the public will start to recognize acceptable and unacceptable ways to tell stories. I like the taking of chances, I appreciate the going out on a limb, creating a narrative where that was not one before, these are all positive things to take away from this project. Before we can 'think outside the box' we must first find the boundaries of the box. I think this piece charts out a new territory with exploring .

sign of the apocalypse?

To borrow a 'Sports Illustrated' tag line, do we have another sign of the apocalypse or just the broadening and flattening of the news hierarchy with the emergence of Yahoo!News's new: you-witness, citizen journalism site and Reuters new You Witness News (trademarked)?

My first reaction after hearing about this through a thread on and from other journalists: Is this a little early for Reuters after the freelance photographer fiasco in Lebanon? They say that they will have editors looking over the citizen journalists' work before posting, but after cutting editing slots and letting the Beirut images through, how much attention will they pay to these submitted photos after a while? What rates are they going to pay people for these images, what are they making from this?

Please do not misunderstand my skepticism. I have no problem with people on the scene taking pictures on the scene or submitting them. I do wonder if they have the training, equipment, ethics and background that journalists do or should have, but I have no problem with eye witness reportage. Having looked at the first day or two of Yahoo!News work, after the shuttle picture there is a big drop off in quality and content. I wonder what are the motivations for these organizations to push forward with this. Are they trying to involve people in their sites and pull people to their sites, or are they trying to errode what they can pay professional photojournalists? Will any consumers notice or care? Furthermore, Dan Gillmor wonders how many of us will be able to earn a living if this downward slope continues.

All that being said, what are the implications of this for journalism, photojournalism and media? Having read Foucault in college I wonder if we are getting closer to a 24-hour surveillance society. But I wonder what the consequences of these decisions will be ... will they erode the public trust of photojournalism, will the ‘democratization’ of news collection lead to diluting of the final result? The run up to the Iraq War illustrated the importance of a free press, or lack thereof, to question authority’s positions. If no one believes the press because of this ‘democratization’ is that good for anyone?

P.S. - I should mention that both sites, Yahoo!News and Reuters offer good resources on their sites regarding journalism for both the professional and novice.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

not enough people on the field?

A colleague of mine, Andrew Dolph, at the Medina Gazette recently published a piece online that highlighting a OHSAA Division Regional Semifinal football game between the Brunswick Blue Devils and the Canton McKinley Bulldogs on November 11, 2006 at Kent State University’s Dix Stadium. Andrew has graciously allowed me to bring this up as a topic for conversation, and for this situation to be 'Monday morning quarterbacked.' I should also note that they have an extensive multimedia page that is worth a visit.

The photos in the package are solid moments, but what caught my attention was the music in the background. It turns out that the soundtrack is the BHS Marching Blue Devils performing at the Bands of America National Championships at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. First of the bat, Andrew has not 'hidden' or disguised this information, it is clearly labeled as such in the piece and below the flash package in the HTML.

Andrew and I talked briefly on the phone today about this piece and it raises a number of questions: How much can one person do at a game like this i.e., find images, get correct caption information, capture sound, get peak action, find emotional moments, capture the turning point play. How much should we expect of our photojournalists/journalists in these situations (should there have been a team?); Is it misleading to use sound from a different event, even if it is the same school? And the reality of this situation is that we often think about what we could have done differently or better after, even days after an event is over.

That being said, I wonder if the band had played at half time of this game, could Andrew have recorded that? I really want to hear the clash of helmets, coaches yelling, the crowd cheering, all the audio that 'sets the scene for me.' Should he have just done a slide show without the audio? Could the reporter have helped out with getting audio? How many times should Andrew change 'hats' as he shoots and records? Is there enough audio equipment at his paper for every photographer to have a recorder with them?

Hopefully Andrew will be telling his side of the story on this forum. First and foremost, I am not castigating him. I think these are all things to think about in multimedia journalism, and how we represent ourselves and our work to the public, his piece merely was the catalyst for raising a number of these questions.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

web design

Luke Stevens in an article titled 'Trends Shmends' on his web site Design 2.0 presents a brief survey of different newspaper web sites around the world. What captures his attention is the difference between the Scandinavian sites and those of other cultures. What was missing for me was any mention of the Spanish newspapers, which are interesting in the printed world. However, a quick visit to El Pais proved to be disappointing and there was a broken link in the sports section that threw everything off.

I have been getting up to speed on XHTML and CSS of late, so I can understand Luke’s bashing of Indonesia’s Kompas for using frames, but the overall design of the site is quite nice. Spending days at work, and nights coding, has brought a number of things to my attention. Most notably, many of the headaches I had back at RIT when we were coding HTML by hand in text edit, have been addressed by XHTML, thank goodness.

The curious thing is that when I take the results of Poynter’s latest eyetrack3 study and compare them to how people read newspapers and how we design for papers, it seems that reading, and necessarily, designing for the web is an entirely different beast. Yes, I know it is a screen, it is back lit, but many of the ‘rules of design’ seem to be turned on their head for the web. I am sure many web folks, are saying ‘duh’ right now but the point is, how photos are used and should be used on the web are different from print (and for a photojournalist this is scary). What is also interesting is that headlines are better entryways for readers, probably because of their size and dominance, but people seem to be processing the information differently from a printed page.

So is there a point to any of this today? Just as designers had to learn how people read newspapers, we digital journalists need to better understand how people read web sites. As journalists we should be trying to break new ground in storytelling and increasing interactivity so that we learn what works and what doesn’t work on the web. So I guess I would argue for going out and sacrificing a few 'design sacred cows' today and see what happens.

Monday, December 4, 2006

do the iPod shuffle

Joab Jackson republished a book review on Steven Levy's new book 'The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness' on AlterNet. While the book and the review go into larger areas of interest and thought on commerce, culture and cool, one thing jumped out at me.

Joab Jackson writes: 'Here's a handy little trick from the artist's proverbial toolbox: Whenever you find yourself slogging through some new creative endeavor and the results just aren't working, break the work into discrete components and rearrange them in some random fashion. Better yet, have them rearranged by some external process beyond your control.'

While this comment might be considered tongue-in-cheek he does have a point. There are several times in the artistic process when it helps to walk away from a project, or mix it all up to find new connections in the work. When I edit audio for multimedia projects for example, I really work to not follow the linear line of how the sound was captured. The best storytelling more often than not, breaks out of the 'order' and puts different pieces together that tells the story in a better way.

Take the time to read Joab Jackson's piece and see what jumps out at you and prompts you to start thinking 'outside the box.'

Friday, December 1, 2006

new work

A big thanks to Mindy McAdams to bringing this project to my attention. A great piece of digital journalism about documenting and preserving the legacy of the graduating class of Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans.

The group that helped design and produce the project, Blue Cadet, has a great web site as well. One of the project’s that caught my eye on their site was a piece on Holocaust Survivors.

prophets of doom

In the continuing trend of prognosticating, Jack Shafer on Slate writes about the 'Chronicle of the Newspaper Death Foretold.' In the article he quotes Leo Bogart's 1991 book, Preserving the Press: How Daily Newspapers Mobilized to Keep Their Readers. Bogart, Shafer writes, 'portrays an industry that knew exactly what ailed it but refused to adapt to a shifting marketplace. Change a few dates and a few names in a couple chapters from Preserving the Press, and you could republish the whole thing as 'breaking news.''

The article rehashes much of the ground plowed by many other, to mix and mangle a few metaphors, but does raise something intriguing to think about. Shafer talks about how the net allows for unbundled access to news and information. Unlike processing your film and having 36 prints made when you only wanted four, now customers can print only the photos that they want.

What is interesting is that Shafer mentions the above and then moves into Andy Kessler's idea of EPILIT: Entertainment (or Editorial) and Perishable Information Leading Indirectly to a Transaction. Essentially, Kessler is arguing that newspapers are providing information with a short 'half-life' that many times leads to consumers/readers purchasing something; otherwise, all the advertising dollars are being spent for nothing.

Referring back to yesterday’s comments about Susan Stellin’s 'Bad News for Old News,' Some of her other predictions were that: 'TVs, computers, and other digital devices will truly begin to morph,' which we are already beginning to see. 'Technology will make it easier to find, access, and manage content.' And 'Marketers will make some mistakes as they move into new digital spaces.'

So what does this mean or imply? The increasing speed of the news cycle, the unbundling of news and entertainment, and the impact of technology are all trends that newspapers seem to be ignoring at their own risk. If Shafer is correct, newspapers will continue to ignore things until they further atrophy and die off. Or, some really smart news organizations will recognize what they have access to: banks of information, an organization for collecting and formatting news and entertainment for consumers on various platforms, the experience to create loyal consumers that recognize a brand and move into the post printing-press era.

Thursday, November 30, 2006



I know what I have written earlier about Ed Kashi's piece, but Contact Press Images photographer Kristen Ashburn's new project on MediaStorm is impressive, not only visually, but as a cohesive piece that utilizes video seamlessly and very well. Great audio, nice use of background music...a TV quality/PBS documentary quality ready piece if ever I have seen one. This is what multimedia is all about.

what tomorrow may bring

A recent article on, 'Bad News for Old News' highlights many of the arguments I have been making and I know others have been advancing as well. For too many years newspapers have utilized the 'here are your vegetables, they are good for you' approach to news. I advocate for more of a 'balanced diet,' that adds some protein, carbs and dessert to go with the brussels sprouts.

The article has eight predications for next year, I will mention one today. 'Traditional media companies will struggle to maintain their audiences.' This is already happening, obviously, but a central part of this is that traditional media companies are not investing enough time into understanding what their audience and customers want, what shape they want it in, and how to deliver it (whatever it is) to them.

Last month, the TV show 'Lost' had a fake ad that directed viewers to a web site that allowed them to explore the story line in a series of different formats, ie. sound files, web sites, clips. The producers of 'Lost' broadened the way that their viewers could experience and enjoy the show. I haven’t seen that determination and understanding of the new media market at newspapers yet.

I believe the main focus is on providing interesting, entertaining content, to consumers that gives them interactivity, ownership, participation and yes, fun, to go with their vegetables.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

new watchdog?

Journalism now has another watchdog. This ‘guardian at the gate,’ NewsTrust, is presenting itself as a neutral ratings and evaluator of journalism on the net.

The idea is a twofold intriguing concept. As corporate media ‘under’covers or ignores stories that might annoy advertisers and an increasing number of ‘journalists’ are writing pieces on line, there is a level of difficulty of evaluating who is legitimate and who is not.
(I won’t even begin to explore the concept if anything from the Heritage Institute should be published in a newspaper to begin with.)

That being said, I think the idea is a sound one. Although in practice, and I am sure it will take time, the initial results are somewhat predictable, with a few surprises. The top rated sources are in descending order: the union of concerned scientists, FactCheck, Frontline, Women’s eNews, Atlantic Monthly, PBS, Daily Show, Greg Palast, Rolling Stone and All Things Considered.

Overall, it will be interesting to see how things develop and what emerges in this ever changing transition of journalism to the net.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

redux two

Beyond all the commentary I have read about Ed Kashi and Brian Storm’s "Iraqi Kurdistan" package that appeared on MSNBC I really only have one additional thought.

One of the things I have long admired about Ed Kashi’s work is the intimacy that his pictures convey. That seemed to be missing for me in ‘Iraqi Kurdistan’ and for that reason I think we are all poorer.

Don’t get me wrong, I think some interesting things were done in that piece, and as I have noted, other folks have done similar things that this project builds on. Please remember, despite all technological advances, one of the most powerful tools we always have in our bag is the edit.

Friday, November 24, 2006

food for thought redux

I was just looking at Ed Kashi and Brian Storm’s "Iraqi Kurdistan" package that appeared on MSNBC, has been mentioned on web logs and Photo District News (PDN).

Earlier in this blog I wrote about the movie ‘Take the Lead’ and about one of the trailer Remixes they produced. It appears that both New Line Cinema and Brian Storm were thinking along the same lines.

I think Ed Kashi is a great photographer and I think that Brian Storm is a wonderful innovator. That being said, their piece causes me to pause.

My first impression is that it reminds me of KOYAANISQATSI, Godfrey Reggio's debut as a film director and producer. The title comes from a Hopi Indian word meaning 'life out of balance.' If you have never seen it, it is worth the time and helps put Ed’s piece into perspective.

I will need more time to think about this; but I go back to the concept of 'Koyaanisqatsi' and wonder again if we are losing something along our rush to embrace technology.

90 degrees

Right before ‘Turkey Day’ NPR interviewed Tom Waits about working on movie sound tracks and his new three CD set.

What intrigued me was when he talked about doing sound tracks for movies and his approach. Waits talked about how if the song tracked too closely to what the film was trying to say than the overall effect was muted. He argued that coming in at a 90 degree angle to the film more often than not highlighted what the film was trying to say and supported it in a different way. The added benefit was that this is not an 'obvious' approach.

The longer I work on multimedia projects, the more I wonder if Waits is not onto something important. I think there are things people need to know, who is talking, what their story is. But I think we lose something as journalists if we 'spell everything out' for our audience and beat them over the head with it on the audio track. Sometimes, giving them room to think, feel and imagine is also important.

There are times when interesting images that go beyond the obvious can help tell stories, when sound or moments of silence can tell just as much as a narrative. As photojournalists move into doing more multimedia work, I think it is important to listen and learn from other mediums that have been doing similar things.

Here is hoping your holiday was a good one.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

amusing ourselves

As I noted earlier on this blog, the name of the site has to deal with Neil Postman, not the really bad Kevin Costner movie adapted from a really good book by David Brin. None-the-less, Postman had some very interesting things to say about the media and the emergence of television, as well as very cutting cultural observations.

In an earlier posting I referred to our 24-hour news cycle and the possible dangers it poses. Back in 1979 Postman wrote that:
'[We have had a] rapid emergency of an all-instant society: instant therapy, instant religion, instant food, instant friends, even instant reading. Instancy is one of the main teachings of our present information environment. Constancy is one of the main teachings of civilization.'
–Neil Postman, Teaching as a Conserving Activity (1979), p. 76

Everything is instant these days, including success, fame and noterity. Taco Bell has even invented a Hobbit friendly 'fourth meal' concept to persuade teens and college students that there is always food available.

Perhaps Postman’s best known book is 'Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business' The new book cover has a clown nose on ronald Reagan that is actually scarier than the initial cover with headless people in the glow of TV.

The quote that I have been thinking about and struggling with of late is his statement that 'in every tool we create, an idea is embedded that goes beyond the function of the things itself.' He continues on the next page 'our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture.'

We as photojournalists and journalists need to think about and understand the power of multimedia. We need to recognize why it works, how it works and what ideas are embedded in flash, sound and the internet that may influence and change how we think about and tell stories.

The first and most obvious point is that we often create these projects because we can. Sometimes we do really 'flashy' things with flash because we can, not because that is the best way to tell a story. I realize and understand that we are entering into the age of multimedia, and storytelling online and that there are many things to learn and figure out how to do. But we should also be thinking about what we are doing and how the tool is influencing how we think and tell stories.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

a second look

Initially today was going to be about Neil Postman, the Postman referenced by this blog’s name. However, life as usual, pulled me a different way.

Deadlines are interesting creatures online. In print, once it goes to film and press, it is usually over. What is done is done.

As with web sites, it is easier and sometimes welcome to revisit a multimedia piece a day or two after launching to see if there is anything to polish, correct or tighten. Sometimes that second look can be the difference between OK and great.

More often than not, for work on deadline, the second look is not a bad idea. For longer projects and single creator pieces, I am not sure the second look is always needed, but another set of ideas in production always helps.

Recently we put together a piece on deadline that was OK, shift differences, deadlines and other issues saw us publish a piece that was not up to our own standards. With some post publishing conversation, revisiting the initial edited material and some ‘spit balling’ of ideas, a better narrative was created that flowed and was tighter, despite being a bit longer.

A second look was all it took.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Just in case you missed it last week, photographers were the 'bad guys' on both CSI and CSI:Miami. The one shoreline that really caught my attention was a 'war photographer' for the Las Vegas newspaper who’s editor had photographic proof that he had montaged his award winning photo from Iraq. Aside from the bad Photoshop job, the story arc should give pause to the people who question the necessity of ethics and the seriousness of the past several cases of photojournalism fraud.

Our profession is now the fodder for stories on TV, that alone should make us think. For better or worse, we are now on the 'radar' of creative types. It used to just be paparazzi type photographers, but now photojournalists are under the microscope too.

So, did the episode raise a good question: in short, yes. The quasi, made for TV photojournalist with a British accent and goatee, argued that he 'created a lie to tell the truth.' In the larger context of journalism and our culture I think this raises and interesting question; is it ever appropriate to deceive in the interests of a greater truth?

In the finite world of photojournalism, it raises a tougher question. Last weekend, my wife and I watched the movie 'Gitmo.' In it, the Swedish documentary directors ran into the challenge of how do you illustrate a story that you don’t have access too, ie. the actual detention area of Guantanamo Bay Camp Delta. As journalists we constantly run into roadblock like this, where the story has already happened, the subject is dead, the event is over... So what do we do? I am not sure that their solution completely worked for me, but I will let you be the judge of that.

In general, I think that the faux 'photojournalist' in the TV show was lazy. He constructed an image of what he though the story in Iraq was about for the soldiers. The 'faux photog' didn’t document what was there in front of him, or the people he interacted with; he wandered into the realm of commercial/editorial photography and got lost. How easy is it to lose our way into today’s media culture? If we are not careful, we might wander far enough afield to make it into the next CSI production.

Friday, November 17, 2006

verbals and visuals

A few years ago, OK, more than I would care to admit, I was a College Fellow at the Poynter Institute. They divided us up into two groups: the visuals and verbals (I think those were our self-described titles). Very infrequently did we meet, more often than not at a party, and even more infrequently did we work together.

Not unlike the Sharks and the Jets in West Side Story, writers and visual journalists don’t seem to mix well in many newsrooms. In 2002, Poynter’s Monica Moses and Roy Peter Clark attempted to utilize Mario Garcia’s concept of WED: marrying writing, editing and design. I think Mario’s concept back then was a good idea and catchy acronym, but I am not sure it encompasses all of the storytelling options of today. Unfortunately, the ‘happy couple’ had issues and ultimately Roy confessed to reading Maxim magazine (there were also some attempts at reconciliation via marriage counselor.)

Ultimately, WED seems to have fallen by the wayside, but the headaches still remain in the newsroom. There are two main problems as I see them.

First, the internet is not going away, despite what writers and editors might think or hope. Many newsrooms are still administered by people who came up through the word ranks and think in headline and text. Poynter’s first eye track study illustrated how most people entered pages through the photos and graphics and then deadline and finally stories. The Eye Track III study focused on web based pages and found some interesting things. My point is, despite the rapid changes in how news is provided and consumed, the people making decisions are more often than not verbal.

Secondly, the visual side of the newsroom can get carried away by technology and software and cool internet things and completely lose the verbal side. We also lose them when we talk about where our eye starts on a page, how it moves through a picture and entryways; they only see the words. Rob Galbraith outlines the rise of soundslides on his site and highlights the increased storytelling power that audio and slide shows of images can provide, far stronger than video on the internet in my opinion.

So where does this leave us? I am not sure, but both sides of the newsroom had better start working together, utilizing new storytelling methods or else newspapers and journalism as we know it will fade in to obscurity.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

24 hour news (sort of)

Two recent stories, one local and one national, highlight a growing concern of mine. Last month, Yankee’s pitcher Cory Lidle flew his plane into a high-rise building in NYC. From the initial coverage of the incident/accident, a viewer might have easily formed the impression that terrorists had struck again.

Closer to home, a local teen was transported to the hospital after an explosion in his family’s garage. The initial press release from authorities referred to a pipe bomb and subsequent communications mentioned four other bombs under construction. TV, web and radio news raised concerns about another Columbine or a local homegrown terrorists. When the figurative smoke disbursed, a story about a young, mechanically inclined teenager, most likely ‘souping up’ his potato gun or building an explosive device to try out on his paint ball range emerged from the confusion.

In both situations, the press rushed to cover the story and made a number of assumptions or outlined possible cases that had nothing to do with reality. In the rush to be first, the actual story was lost in the drive to air information, any information. There are many proponents of the 24 hour news cycle and the wide availability of news. The problem is that more often than not, the initial coverage does not shed much light on a story, in fact it can spread confusion. One of the advantages of a newspaper is that time must pass between collecting information, writing a story and taking photographs, printing the newspaper. There is time for thought, reflection and analysis as well as time for the full story to take shape.

I am not opposed to web, TV or internet news that goes out into the field and starts reporting. I am merely advocating for a realization of the dangers of speed, what can lost in the rush and some of the advantages of not over hyping a story until the full extent of the situation can be analyzed. I have rushed off to many fires that turned out to be stove fires, accidents that are nothing more than fender benders and I am not saying don’t go; but don’t be afraid to say ‘This is not really a story,’ after you get there and do some actual reporting.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

food for thought

I am a big fan of movie DVD’s special sections. I have been known to watch a movie and then go back and watch the movie again with the director’s or writer’s commentary turned on. It drives my wife nuts.

That being said, there are gems to be found in the special sections, particularly about different approaches to storytelling.

I recently watched New Line Cinema’s Take the Lead directed by Liz Friedlander and starring Antonio Banderas. The DVD had a series of trailers that they reedited and had some fun with music, rhythm and beat. While I am not arguing or advocating that this approach works for journalism, the idea is an interesting one and reminds me of a 2-D class assignment. It is also a way to disassemble and retell a story in a different way. So here is some food for thought.
Smaller Version

There is also some good and bad uses of flash on the main site. The main directory page takes a scene from the movie and reproduces it as a flash animation.
Main Movie Site

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

multimedia on deadline

Last week Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton came to town and we covered the event with two photographers and one digital audio recorder. Back at the office I assembled flash templates for the different ways we could tell the story depending what the photojournalists brought back to the office. The photo editor did his thing with the images, I edited the sound, and the four of us did the final edit on the sound slide show... published online I might add, before the staff writer turned in his copy.
Hillary slide show