youtube nation…

When news strikes, I go hunting for video. Just an old habit. I want to see for myself what it looked like.

So after yesterday’s 5.8 earthquake back on the East Coast I went to youtube, thinking that I might be able to see some rocking.

No such luck. What was there were myriads of folks posting what THEY felt and saw. I must have gone through dozens of “eyewitless” accounts ranging from “I’m okay” to “Hey we had an earthquake” to “I’ve never been so scared in my life.”

Oh – and the fake earthquake videos. Don’t even get me going. Why anyone would shoot something that is pretty obviously NOT an earthquake defies imagination. Right up there with Jackass movies.

Hint: in a real earthquake everything is moving – not just the guy in front of the camera. Shaking the camera doesn’t make it look real. Falling on the floor doesn’t make it look real.

In the end I found a few actualities. But I also probably wasted more time than I should have. So much for citizen journalists. (Don’t tell me what I know…show me what I missed.)

End of rant.


Citizen photographers app…

Can you say “Citizen Journalist”? That phrase harkens back seven or eight years when everyone it seems wanted to become a journalist. It had its good and bad points and never really seemed to take off. Kind of floundered and dropped out of sight.

Well, now someone has developed an app titled “Tapln” that encourages citizens to shoot photos to be submitted to their local rag.

Participating newspapers would ask their readers to pull out a phone and snap pictures if they are on scene of an event…even to the point of shooting breaking news.

We all know the dangers inherent in having untrained civilians running amuck thinking they can do a pro’s job. I won’t list them. Why don’t you? Feel free to make a comment below and let the world know what YOU think of this marvelous new app.

(Thanks to Mickey Osterreicher with the NPPA facebook group.)

Sitting and stewing…

It’s a funky time of year…kind of a blah time when you think deep dark thoughts about the meaning of life.

Like: do journalists OWN the right to produce news?
Oh no! Not that argument again! Well, yes, but with a difference. Every term I teach my students about the march of technology that made today’s marvels possible.

Without speech, we wouldn’t have our present method of communicating. Without those Neanderthals with dyes and brushes, art might never have sprung from cave walls to canvas to computer. Each new technology pretty much depends on former technologies to support it and advance it.

So I’m getting ready once again to dive into the past when I took another look at Gutenberg, his press, and the Church. And the ancient Egyptian priests. And their ilk.

Information is knowledge (how I hated that phrase in high school). Trite but true.

Who controls information controls people. At one point in time the Church (be it followers of Ra or Jehovah) filtered all information, thus ensuring the public heard only what they were supposed to hear. Now the media performs the same task, albeit with purer intentions. What is fed into brains is mushed around, accepted or rejected, and spat out in the form of opinions and votes.

Gutenberg and his printing press broke the choke-hold of the Church and allowed all who could learn how to read the opportunity to stand on equal footing with the priests.

As I watch the neutral news, carefully parading both sides of issues to the public, the questions rise once again. Why are some items hot news and others not? What is news and who decides what makes the cut? Why are there only two (or three) sides to each neatly packaged story?

Consider this the rant of the day.

Having worked in news for nearly three decades, I know the answers that are always given to these questions. News is what happens that interests the public. Carefully trained ethical professionals can recognize news and cover it neutrally to ensure the public gets the information it needs to make intelligent decisions.

But with many stories I would guess there may be dozens, perhaps hundreds of opinions and sides. It’s just easier to reveal a truth if it is simple. Break it down to manageable bytes. Don’t confuse the audience with too much information.

And honestly I can get behind that – keep it simple silly. That was how to present the truth with the old media – newspapers, radio, TV.

The Internet allows more time, more room, more freedom to expose ALL sides to issues. And maybe it is time to reach out and include all audiences. Sometimes we may feel alone because our views don’t fit the mainstream…too conservative, too liberal, too too (much too) far out.

I was at a budget meeting of the Lodi Unified School District last night, listening to speaker after speaker explain why THEIR agenda should not be cut. Excellent reasons all, right down to the cute little girl who wants to keep music. I would guess she made the news (after all, Channel 13 did interview her after she gave her speech). As I exited the meeting, I overheard a few folks wondering why the news camera was still hanging around now that the meeting was over. Easy answer – the speakers weren’t passionate enough. They were factual, thoughtful, organized.

The news crew wanted some passion to go with their facts.

In the minute thirty world of broadcast and the 15 or 20 inch world of print, only a limited number of opinions can pop out. I see the Internet/web allowing more and more of the disenfranchised to air their side. Even the wackos we don’t like to make eye contact with. Or the teacher who wants to keep class sizes small and eliminate sports. Or the high school students rallying to keep elementary school music to save the job of their teacher who will be bumped due to seniority issues if the lower grades lose their music programs. Or the four librarians trying to save both their jobs and the libraries at their schools. Or even the middle-aged teacher who sees merit in all sides and wonders how the heck the economy got to this point.

Ya can’t tell every story out there. You can include them by allowing them to tell their stories. Most news sites allow that with comments. It’s a beginning.

I’ve argued against citizen journalists in the past and still have reservations…but are we the know-it-all High Priests of the Truth and Journalism? Or are we outdated?

(…just trying to get your brain juices flowing here. Don’t rant back at me. Think, consider, ponder…respond…think again. It’s good for ya.)

Harriet Henderson hangs it up…

old fem reporter
Credit: Kevin Hare/The Enquirer

This just in from the Battle Creek Enquirer (Michigan): a 91 year old radio/television reporter is hanging up her mike. Thanks to tvspyfor the heads up.

Harriet Henderson picked up her first job because she was a regular at city council meetings and a local television reporter asked her to cover for him while he was out of town…and she says,

“That did it. It just snowballed into all these stations.”

After doing the math, I figured Harriet must have been born in 1917 and didn’t begin reporting until she was in her 50’s. And she seems to fit the quintessential mould for a good reporter. An interest in government…and, as the Enquirer reports:

Tim Collins, WBCK operations manager and program director, said Henderson was an asset to the radio station.

“She had a good understanding of how those meetings went and she was very even-handed in her reporting,” he said. “I think (elected officials) all were straight shooters with Harriet probably because they trusted her and because they knew she knew what was going on.”

And here we are just “discovering” the citizen journalist…while Harriet has been plugging along (as I’m sure countless others still are) in her corner of the world, doing what has to be done – and doing it properly.

True eyewitness news: you-witness-news

It’s here – Yahoo, which caters to whatever will draw an audience, has created a citizen propelled news site which will take any video Joe Citizen with a camera wants to offer up, and at no cost whatever to him or Yahoo.
I’m not really sure what to say – this is either one of the brightest ideas ever or it has the potential to drag real journalistic news further into the basement. If Yahoo screens what comes in to ensure it adheres to journalistic standards of objectivity with an equal voice given to both/all sides, then we are all receiving an amazing gift. Unfortunately this site has all of the potential of youtube, with everything from professional to work by “yahoo’s”…folks with attitude who wanna get their story out.
Stay tuned – I know I will – to see how this develops.

“Citizen Journalist” vs. “Videojournalist” vs. Eyewitness

Andy Dickinson has fresh insight into the Sadaam hanging video. As professionals, VJs observe and report on what goes on in the world from an objective viewpoint. But what happens when a citizen sees/records important events? Does that make them a videojournalist? In my experience, no – that makes them an eyewitness. The variable today is that they are able to record the event and put it out there for the world to see. My experience has been that when a citizen sees and records an event, they often need to be debriefed in order to ensure that their story is clear and consistant. That is often the role of the journalist….to ask questions and push the eyewitness to think through what they saw and place it in context. An earlier post said that in times of great chaos the media simply streams information and visuals directly to the public – and this includes cellphone video and stills. But the execution of Sadaam was not shot and immediately put on the web. While I am not familiar with exactly what happened, it seems to be a citizen or even a political statement. It is not journalism.

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