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Archive for April, 2011

CNN Using DSLR’s to Produce Cinematic Journalism

CNN recently used the Canon 7D, a video-capable DSLR, to capture its piece “Japan Society: A History of Support.” The piece itself has a truly cinematic tone to it, and I think this is an instance where DSLR’s really shine.

The cameras themselves were able to operate using only available lighting in the gallery. The exhibition has a peaceful nature which was captured tastefully with the artful nature of the images. The soft music in the background sets the mood for the piece. The narration is provided by the interviewee, the museums director.

It’s getting interesting to see more news organizations turning to DSLR’s. A piece like this would normally be shot for a news magazine show such as “60 Minutes” with a much larger crew.  However CNN was able to put this together with a crew consisting of only two people. Cubie King, one of the producers of the piece had this to say:

“Dan Chung’s statement that “cinematic techniques [allow] people [to] connect to and care about news” is quite apt.  Indeed, one could argue that the rapid ascendancy, commercialization, and general audience acceptance of feature-length (and short) documentaries over the past decade – combined with easier, more economical, access to professional grade equipment and software – calls for a reevaluation of how certain news is gathered and presented.  And the new pixel-rich platforms of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and colossal HD screens complement a “cinematic” approach more than their predecessors ever did. ”

As these cameras continue to permeate through news organizations, it will be fascinating to see which techniques become accepted for news gathering.

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Tweeting in Class

April 26, 2011 1 comment

Today in Journalism 24/7, we attempted our second class tweeting seminar. The goal was tweet our notes as Professor Selvin lectured on Net Neutrality. We would take whatever information we felt was relevent, mark it with the hashtag #Selvin247 and tweet it out.

Reviewing the feed after the class was over was fairly interesting. It certainly gave the class clowns (I myself am completely guilty of this) the opportunity to make remarks on the lecture. Professor Selvin herself tweeted after class that the experiment was a failure due to students not being able to resist the urge to be clever.

But I believe calling the experiment a failure misses the point. Like Thomas Edison trying to find the proper fillament for a lightbulb, perhaps it will take many tries to get Twitter to work in a classroom environment. If nothing else, Professor Selvin has just received valuable feedback on exactly what students are thinking during a lecture.

Although some of the remarks may have been witty and off topic, others clearly attempted to breakdown the lecture into a manageable form. The trouble with using Twitter for serious academic use, is that it still has the “toy factor.” None of the students really took it seriously. But what would the result have been if class participation points were on the line in exchange for on-topic tweets?

I think a truly interesting experiment with this techonology would be to try it over the course of the semester, adding a second hash tag with the date of the class. You could theoretically create an online repository filled with chunks of knowledge from the different lectures, just by searching through the hashtags. This could help when preparing for exams, working on papers or when trying to remember something from the class years down the line.

Twitter isn’t ready for full time use in educational institutions. But it certainly has the potential to engage a class if properly implemented.

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Breakdown the Paywall? Sure? Infringe our Trademark? No way!

It didn’t take Canadian computer coder David Hayes long to find a way around The New York Times paywall. It also didn’t take The Times long to respond with a cease and desist letter demanding he stop using the letters “NYT” in the title of his “NYTClean” bookmarklet. The Times in-house counsel claim this was a clear violation of their trademark.

Trademark violations aside, The NY Times paywall is so easy to evade it is almost laughable. This article shows how by just using your delete key you can easily get around the 20 free articles per month limit. The fact that the paywall can be hacked so easily is a clear indictment that measures such as a paywall have no place in the current media environment.

The NY Times has somehow missed the last ten years of digital distribution, which has crippled industries from music, to film, and especially to newspapers. News content is available everywhere. We can watch it on TV for free. We can listen to it on the radio for free. What does The NY Times offer aside from quality journalism? To be honest, not enough to be willing to pay for it. 

The NY Times entire business model is built upon the concept of them holding a monopoly on the distribution of their news. That monopoly has eroded and disappeared. And the paywall is not going to change that. What The Times needs is creative thinking to utilize alternate distribution methods to maximize advertising revenue in an online environment.

Regardless of how many cease and desist letters their attorneys send out, people will still find a way around the paywall. You can’t compete with free, and any money you spend trying to is wasted.

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Battle of the Blogs – HuffPo vs. The NY Times

In a stroke of sheer satirical brilliance, Arianna Huffington recently posted this blog post informing New York Times employees that they would now be subject to a Huffington Post paywall. Her post also offered free access to the first 6 letters of all Huffington Post articles to Times employees, as well as free access to all stories involving animals born with extra limbs to visitors who come to the site through Facebook.

This post is really just the latest in the ongoing war-of-words between Arianna Huffington and The Times Bill Keller. However, this online squabble is a true example of the differing attitudes between new and old media organizations. The Huffington Post has found a way to monetize a site built on a combination of paid journalism and unpaid advertising. The NY Times has resorted to putting up a paywall in a desperate bid to generate further income. The Huffington Post has 60 full-time employees on staff, and makes a profit. The New York Times has 350 staff-writers and is struggling to remain relevent.

The problem with any old media organization, is that they can no longer count on their size to compete. A paper as powerful as The Times could once buy out any little competitor that came along, gobble up their resources, and continue on with business as usual. With internet distribution, the largest portions of The New York Times business model, their role as a publisher, is all but obsolete. If the Times were to eliminate all of their support staff and focus their resources on journalism, they might stand a chance. While print editions of newspapers may still be read in wide enough circulation to keep them around for another 10 years or so, they certainly should not be something to base your business practices upon.

As The NY Times begins to compete with sites like The Huffington Post in the internet age, they need to rely upon their credibility, their news-gathering abilities and quality writing in order to remain relevant. Taking shots at The Huffington Post isn’t going to get them anywhere, and Arianna Huffington certainly knows how to strike back. And a pay-wall may not make for a good fortification in an online newspaper war.

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