Years before Ansel Adams shot his iconic photos, there was Pathe News’ Ralph Earle who brought motion picture images of the scenic beauty found on public lands to the eyes of the public on a large scale. In the mid-1910s, Pathe had sent Earle and his wife on a 10,000 mile drive around the western states visiting national parks and forests in order to film them for Pathe’s “See America First” feature that was shown in thousands of theatres across the country.
The resulting films, well Earle was not required to pay for a permit to be able to film them…
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When it comes to news gathering, USC’s Robert Hernandez says mobile phones just aren’t fast enough. Hernandez, who says he “hijacks tech for journalism,” is looking to wearables as a catalyst for the next big change in the news business.
“It’s not the device, it’s the content,” said Hernandez. “It’s actually the content optimized for the device. We were slow for mobile, before that it was social media; I’m trying for us to be proactive because this is a new form factor.”
It’s certainly a good time for journalists to be talking about these devices and new content forms with this month’s debut of the Apple Watch and more types of wearables popping up every day.
“I think the wrist wearable is the transition before we get over wearing technology on our face,” said Hernandez.
So, how do you define a wearable? He says it has six attributes.
- Always on
- Environmentally aware
- Connected to the Internet
- Gets attention without disruption
- Open to third party developers
Hernandez says Google Glass is the “most mature of the wearables,” but points to the Oculus Rift as an indicator of what the future may hold. The system’s virtual reality goggles offer a dual-screen, full immersion experience, making you feel like you are there.
The Des Moines Register is one of the first news organizations to develop a project specifically for the Oculus Rift. According to the Washington Post, the Register’s “Harvest of Change” is an “interactive view of a farm in Iowa that was created to accompany a multi-part series of articles about the changing world of modern farming. In short, it’s what happens when you transform the news experience into a virtual reality gaming experience.”
Changing the experience of newsgathering and news consumption with wearables seems to be focused right now in these two areas:
- News organizations are using them for new methods of video and image gathering. Wearables can be less obtrusive, creating opportunities for more intimate views of news events. Opportunities for live streaming what the journalist or another witness is seeing may make for dramatic breaking news coverage, as it did when Tim Pool of Vice used Glass to cover events in Ferguson, Missouri.
- The hands-free aspect of wearables make alternative interview styles easier. They facilitate recording audio or video of an interview subject demonstrating, giving the audience a different point of view. Glass has also been used to document first-person experiences in a unique way, such as Victor Oladipo’s NBA draft day.
On a smaller scale, perhaps, the video translation or real-time mapping features of Glass and other wearables can become more useful to journalists in the field. CNN’s Victor Hernandez also speculates wearables could be the “next-gen IFB for feeding on-air talent information on the fly.”
Robert Hernandez says it’s too easy for journalists and newsrooms to avoid embracing technology trends, hating tech because in the beginning, it’s generally not perfect. But he says the profession will make a mistake if it doesn’t push to see the possibilities of wearable devices.
“We need to not fight this.”
Whatever you call them, “man on the street” interviews are a staple of TV news. Done well, they can reflect public opinion on important issues in your community. Done badly, they’re just a waste of air time. So how do you shoot them well?
Start by thinking very carefully about where to go. Many stations tend to collect vox pops at the same location, day in and day out, because it’s close by, has lots of foot traffic, and they don’t need permission to shoot. The parking lot of a strip mall often fits the bill. But there’s no way of telling if you’ll find anyone who actually has something to say about the topic at hand. If you wind up having to explain the story at length before you can get anyone to comment, you’re probably in the wrong place.
Choose a location where people are likely to have some connection to the issue you’re covering. Public transit? Try a bus stop or a parking garage. The price of organic food? Outside a grocery store. You get the idea. Location matters!
As for the “how-to” part of shooting M-O-S interviews, here’s a video tutorial produced at Sheridan College in Canada (where they call these types of interviews “streeters”).
If you’re one of those reporters who finds it difficult to walk up to complete strangers and ask them to talk on camera, know that you aren’t alone. Keep trying. And when you need a pep talk, read this advice from Julie McCann of J-Source.
ABC affiliate WMTW in Portland, Maine, produces four and a half hours of news each weekday plus weekend morning and evening newscasts with an on-air staff of 16. This week, the Hearst-owned station put together a behind-the-scenes video to show what it takes to get the 5:30 p.m. newscast on the air. Enjoy!
Kristen Wilson spent her college career working on design and magazine projects, but her first job out of school put her on the front lines of WTVA’s social media presence. Wilson is a Web producer for the NBC affiliate in Tupelo, Mississippi. She says the best way to master social media is by observing your audience in action.
“Always have a picture with your posts, and it helps sometimes to add a small tease with a little more information so people can know what they’re getting into before clicking on the link,” Wilson said. “People just don’t care about certain things and you kind of learn about your audience that way- it’s fun to see how your audience changes.”
Over time, Wilson says she’s realized just how sharp the social media audience can be, too.
“I know that if there’s a drug arrest, people will get upset about the use of a picture we use that has multiple drugs on it. If the story doesn’t involve marijuana they’ll say, ‘Well why is there marijuana in the picture?’.
Understanding the make-up of your audience is also important, according to Wilson, and analytics programs make that much easier.
“It breaks it down as far as are you reaching men more, or women more, or what age group?” Wilson said, “And right now, you can see that we have heavily more women, but the men’s percentage has increased, so I’ve tried to put things out there that they might be more interested in.”
Of course, reporters also interact with the social media audience and reporter Chris Tatum says most journalists should already have the skill they need to write excellent social media posts.
“The one thing that always works across the board, and I can’t say it enough, is good, simple, clean, writing and crystal clear communication is never out of style,” Tatum said.
But Tatum says some suggestions for creating better social media content just don’t make sense.
“Forcing words into sentences just because they are searchable will not work for television news because we still have to speak a clean language that’s simple. That’s why I don’t think TV stations are making great use of social media,” Tatum said. “I think they think they are, but no one has been able to come up with a good solution of how to combine [the writing styles] – they’re almost competitors trying to be friends.”
Tatum does value the “social” in social media, however.
“People make stories, information doesn’t make stories,” Tatum said, “Human beings connect to other human beings.”
For Wilson, it also comes back to the people on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
“It’s a learning thing. Social media made me conscious of what the audience is looking for.”
Thanks to WTVA producer intern Christina Jones for contributing to this post.