Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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SNDBoston: Multimedia, The Next Frontier

Brian Storm, founder of MediaStorm.

Bloodline: AIDS and family by Kristen Ashburn and Kinglsey’s Crossing by Olivier Jobard – good photojournalism can transate into cinematic (web) space, blending video, audio, text slides, infographics and photos.

Storm also showed the “Creep” Flash animation for Radiohead, an animated collage of life in Cuba, and, of course, Ivory Wars (in collaboration with National Geographic).

Newspapers think that video can save them, but photography is still a powerful medium. So get audio. Do audioslideshows.

Storm doesn’t believe in the “2-3 minute YouTube rule.”

Production and distribution costs are affordable and simple.

MediaStorm aggregates a bunch of different types of media, they are sponsored by The Washington Post, uses Brightcove for playback, relies on viral products (music, photos, video, books, podcasts etc), “reducing the friction.”

Can license projects to clients to premire content, media companies can bid. Media companies can also hire MediaStorm to produce specific content.

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Student Sessions: Your Online Publication

Jared Novack and Mike Swartz talking about taking a print publication online.

“How to make an extra $10,000 at your first job and not get laid off 3 years later” is the title of their presentation.

First step is to establish a Web identity. Look at the flags from established, important newspapers and then check out their online representations. Ew. You already have a print identity. Use the same logo, carry your brand over isntead of creating a new one.

WEB DESIGN IS NOT PRINT DESIGN ON A COMPUTER. amen.

Remember:
hierarchy content placement
teasers and reefers more important
columns and grids
design fundamentals
ads are content too
scannability (provide a buffet of info..I’m hungry!)

Forget:
large amounts of real-estate
large amounts of copy
overdesigned logos

Design it once: modular design

Online typography: Only a few typefaces to work with. Make the best of it with CSS. Check out A List Apart. Typography is what users interact with most on your Web site.

Three tips:
Play with letter-spacing
Play with line-height (approx 130% of font size)
Use font size for hierarchy

Newspaper Sins:
Flashturbation: Hell to make and update, hell to link. But, Flash can do the work for templated packages.
Blog Jammin’: Why are so many newspaper Web sites inundated with blogs? Rife with: non-information, uninteresting and mundane, not current or neglected, leftover stories. When they are extremely targeted, have organized information and are used as an easy portal to content, they can be good. Good idea: crime blog.
Podcasts: enhance content by providing a primary source, don’t just read the headlines.
Video: YOU ARE NOT TV and that’s a good thing.

Use Google Analytics. Use SEO.

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Semester Update

Well, we’re a month into the semester now, and I’ve got a good grip on what each of my classes is trying to teach me.

Intro to Photographic Journalism is going very well. I still have to remind myself what settings (white balance, ISO, shutter speed, aperture) to mess with in order to make the photos come out as I imagine them, but my focus and composition are improving.

We have an interesting case study assignment for Ethics, otherwise the class is much like a philosophy course. I wish the class was smaller, say 15 people instead of 80-something. A good friend of mine is a philosophy major with a special interest in ethics, so I’m looking forward to some juicy discussions.

Reporting and Writing for the Web is giving me trouble in terms of the format and content of the course. Our first project is to do a Soundslides package, which while important for the students in the class with no previous multimedia experience to learn, is hard for me to sit still for after building an audio slide show in Flash by hand when I took Advanced Online Media Production. The end result of our work this semester is to create one big package.

Finally, Advanced Interactive Media Reporting is the most confusing and frustrating course, although it has gotten much better. Some of the students feel that the course should be teaching specific skills, as opposed to working towards a product: a converged newsroom. We’ve gone back and forth and around and around for the last few weeks, but I believe we have gotten past some of that.

I’m feeling fairly confident in my skill set as a result of the classes I’ve been taking. My weak spot right now is video, and I know absolutely nothing about databases. But these should be corrected before I graduate in the Spring. I’m looking forward to deciding which aspect of online journalism I really want to focus on.

Advanced online media was one of my favorite classes, because it finally hit my level of geek. I was honing my CSS skills, learning Flash, and talking about online journalism…all the things that make me excited. Even better, the famous Mindy McAdams was our professor.

I was really nervous about Flash at first, because I can’t draw. One of the things I have difficulty getting my head around is that I don’t have to be able to do everything. Not only is it easy to create basic shapes in Flash, but most newspapers have graphic design artists. I got a lot more comfortable when we hit ActionScript. Even though my programming is at an elementary level, I still recognize the properties of the languages. That made ActionScript fairly easy to understand, even if implementing it still gets buggy now and then.

Our projects involved basic animations which became more involved as we learned the different things Flash can do. Motion, buttons, slide shows, until we had to put together a slide show with audio. The culmination was a web portfolio to be graded on design and scripting practices.

Classes in Review series:

Applied Fact Finding
Reporting
Advanced Editing pt3
Advanced Editing pt2
Advanced Editing
Preview

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Nikon’s Advertising

200 citizens of Georgetown, South Carolina received free D40 cameras from Nikon and a license to shoot.

Nikon used the pictures and the story to create a brilliant advertisement for the D40.

The pictures on display were taken by 8 amateurs, which is supposed to show that the D40 is a great camera in any body’s hands.
Along with profiles of the participants, which include multimedia, is a photo gallery that is comment-enabled.

The whole package almost feels like journalism. Blurring the lines much?

My peeve: the only reason I found this Web site is because I happened to actually watch a commercial. I only saw the commercial once. Why spend so much time on this project and then not scream the URL from every possible medium?

I just thought it was interesting for an advertisement to have such depth.

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(J)journalist/(P)programmer

Two recent events set off a discussion among the journalists whose blogs I read to the effect of: Do journalists need to be programmers?

Adrian Holovaty got a grant to go off and spend his days working on EveryBlock, and Northwestern University got a grant to provide scholarships to computer programmers who want to learn journalism.

Of course, this discussion has occurred in classrooms and newsrooms already, but this was the first explosion on the subject online. At the root, the problem is that in order to create great online content, SOMEONE in the newsroom needs to be able to work with databases (PHP), ActionScript (Flash), and CSS. But newspapers aren’t hiring, or programmers don’t get involved in journalism, or something occurs that prevents the newsroom from having access to someone who can write some code.

Here are some of the opinions that have appeared:

(A lot of people are differentiating between Programmers and programmers, Writers and writers. That’s why I use upper- and lower-cases differently.)

Matt Waite: In 2 separate posts, Matt explains the reasons newsrooms need programmers and who should/shouldn’t be learning it. His position is not that all journalists should learn to code, but that the people who have an interest in both writing and programming can bring more to the table. Ultimately, “Journalism needs all the innovators it can get.”

David Cohn: David, clearly on the side of journalists learning to code, asks where the scholarships are to teach journalists to program, and points out that the hot players in geek journalism are journalists turned coders, not the other way around.

Dan Gilmor: Journalists don’t need to learn to program, they need to learn how to work with programmers.

William Hartnett: “Journalists need to know programming. Not all of us, but some.” He differentiates between Programming and programming, and argues that some programming can be considered journalistic tasks, “clean up dirty personnel records from the school district or parse some messy addresses in crime data from the sheriff’s office.”

Scott Rosenberg: Scott supports the idea of journalists learning programming, but they don’t need to Program. More important, they need to understand the technology available for storytelling online.

Howard Owens: Howard is a journalist/programmer himself. But he recommends that journalists learn new skills that compliment their talents and individual situations. And these new skills should be applicable online. In a later update, Howard says the instead of all running off to learn to code, journalists should “figure out the niche your employer needs filled, and fill it.”

To me, online journalism encompasses all of the aspects of the Internet, be it code or multimedia. I’m not sure you can call yourself an Online Journalist if your Web page is all HTML tables and a few lines of PHP make you quiver like Jell-o. If you don’t feel comfortable writing code from scratch, you should at least be able to edit it.

I’m definitely in favor of a scholarship for journalist/programmers and programmer/journalists. I feel like some journalism students are afraid to learn code because it is associated with, or feels like, math. I’m no math genius, I never got past statistics, and the only math I’ve come across so far is adding up margins and padding in CSS and adding seconds for audio in ActionScript.

I may never be able to build anything as cool as chicagocrime.org. But I enjoy coding, in the same way that I enjoy writing. So scholarship or not, I’ll learn how to manipulate database information, build time lines and maps in Flash, and anything else that looks like a great way to spread information online.

Edit: Matt can’t seem to keep his site up and running, so you’ll have to search archives.org for his post.

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Editing is not just proofreading

Last semester, I took Editing as part of my course load. It was less demanding than some of my other classes, and time limitations meant that I didn’t give the subject the attention it deserves. I tried to make up for that by taking Advanced Editing during this first half of the summer.

In the Editing class, the emphasis is on grammar, punctuation and word choice. The professor gave us articles to “fix.” Many of the errors were inconsistencies, fact errors, awkward wording and the like. We also did a little bit of page layout on dummy sheets, and cutting down AP wire stories. Less integral to the class, but more interesting, were topics of diversity, ageism, sexism, bias, ethics and taste.

These are the issues that we have discussed in the Advanced Editing class.

The advantage of this class is that it is very small, (at least in the summer, we had only 11 students) which allows for greater freedom of class discussion. The professor would hand out an article or case study and we would discuss the issues as a group. We talked about verifying sources, making up information, copying press releases, critical thinking and journalists and math.

Recognizing these issues and grasping the “big picture” behind a story is what being an editor is all about. But it’s also what being a reporter should be about.

Being an “online” kinda gal, I’d rather be out shooting video, making Flash presentations or putting together a database than managing people and editing articles. But the chance to discuss the issues that editors face everyday has been invaluable, and I think that my future work will be better because of it. These problems are not unique to print journalism. They need to be addressed in other forms of media as well.

Advanced Editing wasn’t a required course, it was a choice I made because every puzzle piece counts. If I could stay in school long enough to take courses in layout, photography and business, I would. Sadly, I’ve only got one year left. But until they kick me outta here, I’m going to scrape together as many puzzle pieces as I can. They will make me a better journalist, but even more importantly, I think they will make me a better person.

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Typography Examples

Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries presents a slew of typographical and visual examples.

There are too many to summarize, just check out two or three of these
and think about how they make you feel, what they make you think, and what they are trying to convey.