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Category Archives: Journalism

Triva floods our media while real news slips by

I don’t know if this is an age thing, but commercial radio and TV ads irritate me. They seem to be eager to drown us in triva –not to mention groan-worthy humor. (have you seen that latest McDonald’s ad about French Fries and chicken something? If not, avoid it like the plague!)

Why is it that a British baby that’s 4th or fifth in line for a ‘crown’ that nobody quite cares about fills our channels? Or why the obsession with the other royal family over on this side of the pond? I’m not talking about the Clintons, but the Kardashians. So many important local and global events are unfolding, but we get non-stop coverage of trivia.

Here’s a glimpse of what went unreported last week.

  • NASA tested a 10-engine aircraft capable of vertical take-off, that could change idea of unmanned vehicles. Interesting, since Amazon seems to think the ‘delivery drones’ are actually becoming more possible.
  • Speaking of books, there’s the Arthur C. Clarke Science Fiction award in the UK, to a young writer, Emily St. John Mandel. It’s been described a novel about the ‘hyper-globalized’ future. Perhaps John Kerry, and Jeff Bezos are reading it right now, while ignoring the Clintons-in-waiting, and the princess of Cambridge, or whatever she is called.

 

 

 

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Great reporters don’t wither (when temperature rises)

I’m not talking of reporters coming under fire on dangerous missions. I’m talking about keeping up the communication when all hell breaks loose in front of you, and you’re on camera.

Take a look at how Phoenix-based Fox 10 News reporter Cory McCloskey handled an arguably hot situation. Cory is a weather reporter on the field. Apparently, in this instance in-studio, the weather map went berserk. The data on the map I mean. I won’t give it away – watch!

By chance I met Cory last week, when he came to my school to do a live weather report, and yes, the man has a great sense of humor. (It involves coffee and solar energy, if you’re interested.)

The above video clip (viewed more than 4 million times as of today) is the stuff that ought to be used in Journalism school. I’m sure my friends in Ahwatukee might not laugh so hard, because we folk in the Chandler area were not subject to his satire.

Mr. McCloskey: I wish there was a sub-category in the Pulitzers (under ‘Explanatory Reporting’ maybe?) that is awarded for humor, and not missing a beat.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Arizona, Journalism, Media

 

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Podcasting is hot stuff. Again!

There seems to be a growth spurt for podcasting.

I love the fact that the audio format has been on the upswing, even despite the explosion of screen-based communication options. Depending on who you ask, they will tell you video didn’t assassinate the radio star for various reasons. Such as

  • Podcasts is immensely portable, and does is perfect for multi-tasking
  • Podcasts capture the ‘authentic’ voice of the person or the moment being represented – no fake ‘DJ voice’ required
  • Podcasts have in their DNA something akin to long-form journalism – deep dives into content, rather than skimming a topic

  • Podcasts lend themselves to drama, even while being authentic. The nearest thing to the documentary.

My recent favorites are Snap Judgement, Serial, Invisibilia (former radio Lab producers), and Star Talk.

Apart from the usual line up of This American Life, For Immediate Release, and EdReach, an education podcast for Ed-tech matters I now dabble in.

 

Interestingly this year will be six years since I first got into podcasting. And this year may be the year we begin podcasts at my school. More on this in a later post!

 

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“This is Salt River Radio!”

Audio is a powerful medium. Overlooked, but extremely powerful.

While video gets all the attention, audio programs –basically podcasts — have been steadily growing recently. This week, I began the new semester by upping the ante for 5th and 6th grade students, showing them how to become producers of content. To start off, I got them to think of themselves as owning their own radio show. A news show, a sports show, or a show about events in the community.

How do they plan and create content? What are the elements of a good show? Good information? A nice pace? A strong personality? Music? Sound Effects?

I plan to use some of my prior radio experience to get students to create their ‘shows.’
Audacity-2.0.png
The software we will be using is Audacity, which is really powerful software. All computers in the Computer and Technology Lab are now loaded with Audacity, and we just got started understanding how  tracks and buttons work, and how to export an editable audio file, to work on it as we move along.

I’m sure you’re wondering: how could digital natives get so excited about ‘old media’? You would be surprised!

‘Salt River Radio’ is the tip of the spear of something bigger I have in mind. I am also looking for input from anyone with radio experience, who would like to be a part of this project, either as a guest instructor, or otherwise.

Stay tuned, if you’ll pardon the pun.

 

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When storytellers ‘hyperlink’ they still pull you back. Do you?

I had to explain what a hyperlink is to my class last week.

It’s odd to see, through the eyes of a new audience, how the words we take so much for granted, are really a tad arcane. Yet we continue to use words and phrases such as URLs (no-one cares what it stands for), Cloud, hyperlink.

But just to explain hyperlink by focusing on the word link, made me look of how stories used to be constructed in a pre-Internet era, with built-in hyper-links. The storyteller used his craft to send the listener to a place and then craftily pull him back, thereby enriching the story. The whole back-and-forth link-out/link-back process is how we intuitively learn to write. To keep an audience engaged. (for this experiment I am not using any hyperlinks in this post.)

Take Hamlet, for instance. When he speaks to the ghost of his father:

Yea, from the table of my memory

I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,

All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,

That youth and observation copied there;

Shakespeare piles on metaphors of books, records, copying etc, to take the audience –an outbound link– to a place that provides some background to Hamlet’s state of confused state of mind, his ‘distracted globe.’

Now, nearly 400 years later, even as we experiment with ‘media snacking,’ we are increasingly aware that we don’t advance knowledge by reading headlines and summaries.

But while an actor could pull us back, we who abuse the hyperlink (just to show we know more about a topic), inadvertently encourage readers to drift off into some abyss.

Hamlet was, by his own admission,  ‘distracted,’ but he made sure we are not!

What could digital storytellers use to pull an audience back, to enlarge the story?

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Journalism, Social Media

 

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Citizens’ voices matter

A few years ago I conducted a series of webinar-style workshops for the U.S. State Department, for content creators, educators, marketers and those in traditional and new media. The workshops were called  “Passport to Digital Citizenship.”

I was convinced that citizen’s voices would be valuable, and –despite technological barriers and people who would try to keep them quiet– they could be heard.

So today, as my book is about to launch, I am thrilled to see this report by CNN on the importance of citizen-driven media.

Journalism has been forever changed — I’d argue for the better — thanks to the fact that people can interact with media organizations and share their opinions, personal stories, and photos and videos of news as it happens. This year’s nominated iReports are prime examples of how participatory storytelling can positively affect the way we cover and understand the news. 

(“36 stories that prove citizen journalism matters.” By Katie Hawkins-Gaar, CNN | Wed April 3, 2013 )

When we talk of  ‘participatory journalism’ we mean that ‘CitJos’ work alongside traditional media. They are not here as a replacement model, but to complement the changing media industry. Of the 100,000 citizen stories submitted to CNNiReport.com in 2012, they used 10,789 –having vetted them first.

I just interviewed the creator of a leading citizen journalist outfit in South Asia, and he stressed the importance of community guidelines, and careful design.

Citizen journalism, and the power of citizen voices is a big section in my book, Chat Republic.

 

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Storytelling tips from Lone Ranger

When I teach young people about the  elements of a story, I tend to lean on the trusted models of the Who-What-When-Where-Why-How (or the 5WH) structure. Or the one about having a Beginning, Middle and End. (My version of this, for those writing for the web is to make sure they have a Beginning, a Middle and a Hyperlink.)

So this week I revisited  two stories, separated by several centuries. The Lone Ranger, and Beowulf.  (Yes! There’s a delicious irony of being able to listen to a 1930 radio show of The Lone Ranger via a Kindle app!)

The basics of these stories –one from the radio age, and the other from a different culture and era, entirely – is that they revolve around conflict. It makes good drama. Good vs evil material. But beyond that, it is how carefully  the author, or script writer selects his words.

So here are four things we could take away from Lone Ranger:

1. Grab Your Reader/Listener
Cut short the pre-amble, and get to the point fast.  In Lone Ranger, we are all familiar with how the scene is set: “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi-yo Silver!”  (The previous intro was: “In the early days of the western United States, a masked man and an Indian rode the plains, searching for truth and justice. ….Return with us now”)

The ‘search for the truth’ is built around intrigue (masked man) and the promise of action (search for truth, hoofbeats…)

2. Cut to the ‘Chase’
Move quickly to build up the tension. The stereotypical car chase (or horse chase here) can have other variants such as a puzzle that the reader is yearning to solve, the expectation of a confrontation etc.

3.  Build Great Dialogue.
Though the story is told to us by a narrator, it is rich in dialog. Tonto, his foil, despite the author’s use of some clumsy pidgin English, is full of exchanges.

TONTO: “Crooks try rob bank last night”
RANGER: “Have Bogus Brown and his pal Elk been in town?”
TONTO: Umm. “Them the fellers try to rob bank?”

4. Humanize Your Characters
The Lone Ranger, despite his mask, is still human enough for others to be able to relate to him – Sheriff’s, townspeople, crooks.

Too often our modern ‘stories’ –um, press releases, podcasts etc– are full of inside jargon, and layer upon layer of description. It’s almost as if the boss’ requisition stated that the script be stripped of ‘normal’ words, and the sort of everyday, ordinary exchanges. Instead what creeps in a slick, sloganized phrases, put in the mouths of spokespersons who would never talk like that.

Maybe we should make Fran Striker (college dropout, announcer) the little-known writer behind Lone Ranger, essential reading for those writing for an attention-deficit audience.

 
 

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