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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

So far, production work has been a lot of fun. I’ve really enjoyed working with audio/images/text in the different ways that we have.

By having an end product in mind I have been able to get a lot of good main and supplementary photos, footage and interview clips in order to put my pieces together. This has been working out well for me so far and I have yet to sit down to edit only to realize that I’m lacking one crucial piece. I think that thus far I have always tried to gather a little bit more material than I think is necessary just to be on the safe side.

Throughout production I have definitely had a few equipment mishaps. Once, my batteries ran out during a game of bingo, and another time I did one of my very first bingo interviews only to realize upon completion that I hadn’t put a memory card in my camera. Other  times, the sound on a video or two will be mysteriously missing when I upload my clips to my computer. Through all of these things I have had to either go back and give it another try or talk to someone else or use other material in the original’s place.

So far, the video project seems to be the most challenging. I think that this is partially due to the fact that the end of the academic year is very hectic and the only time that I have been able to work on my project has been when my schedule permits me to go to the Mac lab or when a friend allows me to use their computer. Currently, my project is on a computer at school that another student is using. Hopefully I will get the chance to upload it to YouTube today so that I can post it on my blog!

Upon reading chapter 12, “Opportunities and Challenges,” of Foust’s Online Journalism, I began thinking of slightly more recent current struggles and issues that I have recently read about that relate to his discussion of the business model of online journalism.

Foust noted the success of the Wall Street Journal in selling subscription fees to readers, and the failures of other news sources from attempting to use the same model. Now, with e-readers such as the Nook, the Kindle and the iPad, the format of the traditional newspaper is changing even further, along with the business model. This new form of accessing news media is allowing journalism giants the chance to re-establish a business model that might just work. By charging subscription fees, news outlets such as the New York Times, USA Today and the the Wall Street Journal  are hoping to rake in a bit more cash instead of giving their content away for free. Other journalism sources are following suit.

On December 11, 2009 Ravit Lichtenberg commented on the future of social media and journalism in the article 10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2010 on ReadWriteWeb.com. In one section of the article, Lichtenberg writes,

 “Last month, Rupert Murdoch announced he may opt News Corp out of Google, instructing it to de-index its publications from the search engine and giving exclusive rights to Bing for a fee. This means that content publishers will be able to determine where they make their content available and at what cost.”

With such holdings as the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, The Times (UK), FOX, Hulu and Myspace, Murdoch’s decision to force Google to de-index these materials could be an essential driving force behind the changing business model simply because he weilds so much power. Murdoch has also proposed the monitoring and limiting of click-through’s (as mentioned by Foust) available to users who are viewing content through an indexing, aggregating site such as Google or Bing. Though these changes have not occurred yet, over the past year Murdoch has been very vocal about the power that he holds over the indexing and search engine business and has further established his foothold in the profits garnered from the creation and distribution of media content.

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In “Case Studies: Blogs and Journalism,” Chapter 9 of Axel Brun’s Gatewatching, the question of whether or not blogging is “journalism” is discussed. After reading the entire chapter and considering my own experiences with blogging, reading blogs and reading aggregated blog news sites I have formed my own opinions about this issue. I believe that blogging is journalism, but like many others, I feel that blogging is very different from traditional “journalism.” Blogging is more of a form of grassroots citizen journalism. Now, with the wide availability of simple computers and high-speed Internet service, almost everyone has access to the tools necessary to digitally record and publish information for the world to see. Of course the digital divide does keep some underprivileged and working class Americans and others in different areas of the world in the dark, without a platform to express and share their ideas and opinions, but in America this is becoming less and less of an issue.

Now, with blogs and blog aggregation sites it is easier to find news about a specific topic from a wide spectrum of viewpoints. Also, the news that is being disseminated today is of a wider subject variety as the public agenda is no longer being set by an exclusive class of professional journalists. Rather, grassroots journalists and ordinary people are harnessing more informational power and setting the public agenda themselves.

While large, professional news outlets are still revered by many as accurate and trustworthy sources of news, blogs and blog sites such as The Huffington Post and The Drudge Report are gaining readership and notoriety in the world of news media.

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In the article “The Video Explosion,” Charles Layton says that young journalists who have the skills to shoot photos, video and to write traditional print stories could be the future. With the leading medium of online news journalism changing from print to multimedia content like audio, video, and photo slideshows, it is important for emerging journalists to be prepared for any sort of assignment. While the role of future Web journalists is still not completely well-defined, it easy to see that more is expected of them than ever before. ‘I didn’t want to be someone who just wrote stories and only did that because that’s the only way I know how. I see a journalist being able to write, to shoot video, collect audio… Or, at a minimum, a journalist should know how this whole thing works,’ says reporter and video producer Evelio Contraras.

In news media today, journalists have a wide range of proficiency in regards to these new skills. In regards to online video content, Layton says, “….much of it disappointing, some so awful it makes you cringe, and some reasonably well executed but trivial… but a small proportion is excellent by any standard…” This variety can be seen in the videos that we have had the opportunity to view in class. The Buffalo News video “Jeff Miers reflects on the Grammy Awards night”, for example, was an example of something cringe-worthy while most of the LA Times video work featured on their site  is excellent

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I used many of the videography techniques discussed in Herber Zettl’s Video Basic 3, “Chapter 5” when I shot video for my final video project. When I interviewed Debbie, an avid bingo player, on-camera I kept several things from this reading in mind. First, I practiced using different fields of view, angles and focal lengths. For every few questions that I asked Debbie, I altered the position of my camera getting close-ups, medium shots and wide angle shots. This variety of shots enabled me to capture detail in facial expressions, body language, and her surrounding environment. In all of my shots, I tried to leave enough headroom and room in front of her face as “proper leadroom.” These are both compositional elements that Zettl discusses the importance of. Also, I was sure to include Debbie’s face and shoulders in most of the shots to allow for what Zettl calls “psychological closure.”

At one point, I tried to zoom in on Debbie’s mouth as she talked about a time when one of her teeth fell out while eating pizza at a bingo hall. The zoom was very sudden, and Zettl advises against this, but I hadn’t yet grown accustomed to the zoom feature on the zi8 and was surprised by the speed of the zoom. Next time I will keep this in mind.

I did not focus much on depth while getting my interview footage as Debbie’s surroundings were ery bland and it was a fairly straightforward video shoot. Two techniques that I did use that Zettl doesn’t mention, however, involved camera stabilization and the length of individual takes. When I was shooting video of Debbie, I stabilized my elbows on the back of a chair that I positioned to face her in hopes that this would minimize the shakiness of the video. Also, when I began and ended takes, I left the camera running for at least ten seconds after she or I had finished or begun speaking in order to capture establishing and closing shots that would make the video easier to edit and less choppy when watching.

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