Megan Taylor

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

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I caught the bug at a MediaStorm Workshop

Logo_MediaStormI should say, I re-caught the bug.

From September 19 – 25, I spent most of my time volunteering for MediaStorm’s Advanced Multimedia Reporting Workshop.

I teamed up with Paolo Black, Melissa Pracht, Scott Lituchy and MediaStorm Producer Bob Sacha to tell a story about two young men who have made a career out of street entertainment. My role was to transcribe all the audio that was collected during shows and interviews.

I got to sit in on training sessions and lectures, and watch the MediaStorm team work their magic. And it was absolutely magical.

Talking the story over with the team showed me exactly how powerful a story like this can be and how we can learn from each other during its production. We all had our strengths and points of view, which contributed to a stronger piece than any of us could have produced individually.

I got home each day ranting about some new insight: interviewing techniques that get the subject to respond in complete sentences or the beauty of the extreme close-up. I looked at other MediaStorm projects, watching for the details we had talked about.

When I saw that my name was going in the credits for the project, and that I made a cameo in the Behind the Scenes production (at about 8:08) the grin on my face was big enough to fit an XL pizza.

There are parts of the experience I don’t want to remember. The ringing in my ears and the ache in my neck after transcribing for hours at a time. The frustration I felt as I watched the other members of the team working with high-end gear I can’t even dream of having. That doesn’t mean I won’t volunteer again. But next time, I’m taking a bottle of Aleve with me. And a point-and-shoot.

I started taking photos and shooting amateur videos long before I fell in love with journalism. In college, I took photography classes, including a study abroad trip to Berlin. I also did some independent study and in-class work with videography. Not to mention my work with both mediums at The Independent Florida Alligator, as I struggled to get reporters to get video and create audio slideshows along with their text articles.

So I caught the multimedia bug long ago. But once I lost access to the SLR and HD cameras, it got harder to be interested. I’d see a cool photo opportunity, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t afford to buy my own gear.

During this time, I turned to programming. I became more interested in data and applications and code than I had been with framing and sequences and lighting. Programming is a cheaper pursuit, and I’ve always been geeky enough to find the resources and teach myself.

Now, though, I catch myself walking around and seeing everything through a camera lens again. I wish I could afford even some low-end gear, because I know that otherwise, my interest will wane again. I will miss out on an aspect of storytelling every bit as important as programming or writing.

And although all the industry advice, including what I learned at MediaStorm, pushes specialization, I still want to know how to do it all.

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Scaring highschoolers about the future of journalism

On Wednesday evening I spoke to a group of five students who are taking part in the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative.

I’ve mentioned BYJI here before, mostly begging for help with my public speaking anxiety.

To my surprise, the whole thing went pretty well. The kids were Web-savvy enough to have uploaded a few videos to YouTube, and knew of Twitter, though none are using it yet.

I talked about the “newspaper crisis” caused by lack of innovation, an old business model and the problems with advertising and paywalls. (The kids’ immediate reaction to paywalls: “That won’t work.” Out of the mouths…) I went over the basics of online journalism: blogs, social networks, multimedia. I also talked about citizen journalism a little bit, in terms of how everyone can have a voice in their communities, which is a big problem in the Bronx. They really liked the concepts of “Not Just a Number,” which I showed them, along with the Las Vegas Sun Web site.

One student asked me how he could learn to code, and I directed him to the W3Schools site. Another asked about the future of news on e-readers like the Kindle. And of course the final question was “Where are we going?”

Thanks to Mindy McAdams, Craig Lee, and Tracy Boyer for their advice and inspiration. I’ve uploaded a powerpoint presentation to Slideshare which I used as a guide for my presentation, although it was really more a conversation than a speech.

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2 Journalism Projects About People

One of the many reasons I use Twitter: finding out about what projects journalists are developing and launching.

Yesterday I saw two such posts:

and

1. Tampa Bay Mug Shots, also known to some as “Facebook for underachievers” is a simple and fun glance at booking data in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. A carousel of mug shots is accompanied by some basic crime data and arrest records.

The information presented here as a public service is gathered from open county sheriff’s Web sites in the Tampa Bay area. The booking mug shots and related information are from arrest records in the order and at the time the data was collected. Those appearing here have not been convicted of the arrest charge and are presumed innocent. Do not rely on this site to determine any person’s actual criminal record.

2. The Miami Herald’s 60 Seconds is actually a relaunch/update of an older project, and I worked with Stephanie Rosenblatt on the Flash video player during my internship at The Herald. There are 10 new videos in this series about South Florida characters.

I know that in some circles, this type of journalism may be looked down upon. No evils or corruptions exposed, no event described, no protesters sprayed with pepper spray.

But I see it as an example of what journalism should do more of: exposing a community to itself. In both cases, the profiles are of people who live or work in these communities. Just because it’s also entertaining (’cause I firmly believe that the funniest thing about any person is their mugshot) doesn’t mean it’s not useful and informative. Stories are still being told.

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Resolution and Project Update

So I made some resolutions in January, and two months into the new year I guess it’s about time to see how I’ve been doing.

One of the things I wanted to work on was posting to my blog more often. I did well in January, with 24 posts. But not so much this month, with one week left and only seven posts. Clearly, I’m going to have to work on plan to find, think or do more interesting things to write about.

As for learning Javascript…I’ve written a few simple scripts for pop-up windows and the like at work, but I haven’t been making progress with my Lynda.com videos. I’m thinking about finding a text resource; the Lynda.com videos go really slowly for me.

I have been making some progress on PHP, mostly through more advanced manipulations of WordPress. Haven’t started any formal learning though. Should wait until I’m done with Javascript.

Although I have not been writing for BrightHub once a week, and I’ve been neglecting NewsVideographer as well, I have been writing a whole lot for my Innovation Spotlight series at MediaShift. I had so many projects for January and February that I wrote mini-spotlights on the off-weeks. I’m looking for new projects now though…

I said in my resolutions post that I would produce one multimedia or web development project each month. I haven’t really kept up with that, mostly because every time I turn around, I get in my own way. Right now I’m dealing with some PostgreSQL issues on my Mac. However, I did edit this video for Quinn and Co., Public Relations.

My last resolution was about getting involved in my community. I got in touch with the West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative a few weeks ago and I will be helping them out with a new Web site and hopefully a guest lecture.

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Monthly Multimedia Contest

Today I found out that the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) holds a monthly multimedia contest (and has since 2006).

Over the last year, multimedia storytelling at newspapers has dramatically increased. Software programs like SoundSlides and Audacity have helped simplify the production of audio slideshows for online. Web-based video journalism is also gaining momentum. Many photojournalists are being asked (or told) to add video to their storytelling arsenals. In the midst of all this change, it became clear to many that a contest was needed to showcase this new work being produced by NPPA members. More importantly, I believe this multimedia contest will become a great learning tool for our members. Being able to see and judge everyone else’s entries will hopefully spur innovation and inspiration.

The contest is only for NPPA members, a tradition of industry associations that I’m getting really tired of. I know you want to recruit members and you need people to pay dues, but in the tradition of free web tools, I’ll bet you make more friends by providing services first.

Luckily, you don’t ahve to be a member to see the list of winners. There were a lot of projects that I haven’t seen, which makes this a good resources for rounding up examples. I usually keep track of multimedia projects via Multimedia Shooter and Interactive Narratives, among other sites.

I was very surprised to see that Zach Wise’s Thirst in the Mojave got second place for its category. It’s definitely one of the best examples of multimedia storytelling I’ve seen recently.

Go check out January’s winners, and if you’re a NPPA member, don’t forget to submit your projects for February.

Hat tip to Innovative Interactivity for writing about the contest.

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Yet another YouTube contest

This time, the winner goes to Africa with New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof to write and produce video.

To enter*, upload a video response to Nick’s video, cleverly titled “Win a Trip with Nick,” by February 13th.

Check out Nick’s blog post for more information.

*Bummer, you have to be a student.

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YouTube Davos Contest Winner

Davos is one day away and Pablo Camacho, a student and independent writer from Bogotá, Colombia, will be attending as the winner of the YouTube Davos Contest.

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Actionscript and Javascript

A few weeks ago I started following a NY listserve for Flash. I’ve gathered a good number of snippets and learned a lot so far, although I’m still just a lurker. I’m hoping to make it to a meet-up soon.

In any case, an item came in about the relationship between Actionscript and Javascript, which really inspired me to finish up my formal education in Javascript so that I can jump head-first into heavier Actionscript.

The e-mail was about a series of lectures hosted on the Yahoo Developer Network by Douglas Crockford. Crockford is Yahoo’s Javascript Architect and author of “Javascript: The Good Parts.”

Because Actionscript 1 was based heavily on Javascript, and AS3 hasn’t changed that much, these lectures are applicable to both languages.

Mentioned specifically were “The Javascript Programming Language” and “Advanced Javascript.”

I haven’t worked my way through all the lectures yet (they are segmented into three and four parts) but what I’ve seen so far is really helping me wrap my head around some of the language theory.

I haven’t decided yet whether I like learning programming from a video. In some cases, it’s the best option for a clean, class-style experience. Otherwise I’d be reading a bunch of articles all over the place with no real connection, and missing out on important information in the process. But I’ve been watching Lynda.com videos on Javascript and it’s kind of tedious. I can read a lot faster, and I feel like I assimilate information better by reading.

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Journalism Curriculum

Somehow, not being in school anymore just makes me more interested in the evolution of curriculum at journalism schools.

No, it’s not a subconscious desire to teach. I’ve not the temperament for that.

But I’ve been collecting information about what’s being taught, perhaps in the hopes that they’ll teach something I don’t know, thereby giving me an excuse to go back to school.

My, that sounds arrogant. But I only mean that I’ve been through the traditional journalism curriculum, took some online media courses and taught myself a hell of a lot in my spare time.

Bryan Murley updated his syllabus for the multimedia course he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

Most of the syllabus is the same as it was during the last semester, however, I’m spending much more time on audio and video, with lots of repetition and building upon core concepts.

Also, I should note that we’re using Final Cut Express this semester instead of iMovie. I’m done with iMovie until it is more stable and edits audio easier.

Andrew Dunn reports changes to the curriculum at the University of North Carolina, which now requires a class called “Audio-Video Information Gathering.” The UNC curriculum includes specializations choices of Multimedia and Electronic Communication (whatever that is).

Through University of Florida fact-finding professor Cory Armstrong, I found out about a new course at UNC: Public Affairs Reporting For New Media.

As near as I can tell, students in the course pick a topic for the semester and do some in-depth research, including multi-media elements, to develop a package.

The professor, Ryan Thornburg, is blogging about the class.

This is one that I’m really interested in, since I did something similar as an independent study with Professor Armstrong.

Fred Stutzman, also at UNC, has been teaching Online Social Networks for several semesters now.

This course is a primer on the study of online social networks. We will explore the theory, methods and findings of a growing literature on the topic. We will also explore applications and use cases, particularly in the context of education and library/information services. While online social networks are but a subset of social software, this course should provide you a strong set of fundamentals for exploring the multiple facets of our pervasive online sociality.

Mindy McAdams is teaching a new multimedia reporting class at UF as well as updating her Flash class (Advanced Online Media Production).

Students taking Multimedia Reporting will learn to:

  • Gather digital audio and upload it to a computer
  • Edit digital audio and produce an MP3 file
  • Edit, crop and resize photos; optimize photos for online use
  • Create an audio slideshow using Soundslides
  • Shoot simple video suitable for online distribution
  • Edit video with a simple editing program
  • Prepare video for online distribution

Lastly, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, changes are planned.

The new, proposed curriculum shift places a deeper, more thorough emphasis on awareness, understanding and application of online journalism skills and the training begins in the freshman year.

Stories CoJMC students write, photographs, advertising, marketing campaigns, video news reports and documentaries will be produced by hundreds of CoJMC students for the NewsNetNebraska Web site.

For those of us no longer in school and feeling left out, Dave Lee wrote about how journalists can continue their online education, well, online.

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YouTube Journalism Contest

YouTube recently collaborated with the Pulitzer Center to produce Project: Report, a journalism contest focusing on important stories that don’t get the attention they deserve.

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The winners have been announced, chosen through three rounds of competition, voting by the YouTube Community, and a panel of journalists from the Pulitzer Center.

The winner is Californian Arturo Perez, Jr., who reported on Camphill California, a community where adults with developmental disabilities live, learn and work together. He will receive $10,000 to travel and do a story in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center.

Check out the finalists, stories produced by the Pulitzer Center and production tips from Sony and Intel.