Mobile journalism now easier on Android devices

When I conduct training on using mobile devices as news gathering tools, the room is generally filled with journalists wielding iPhones. However, in a recent podcast produced by, some mobile experts are suggesting that 2015 was a game changing year for producing news content with Android devices.

Florian Reichart, the man behind @smartfilming on Twitter, says three developments were particularly significant.

“Probably the three big things that made Android better as an app platform within the last year or months was the arrival of Periscope, FLMiC Pro and the second video track option on the video editing app KineMaster,” says Reichart.

Periscope is, of course, a live video streaming mobile app that allows you to broadcast directly to the world through Twitter.  FiLMiC Pro has long been regarded one of the top high def video video production apps, but it has only recently been made available for Android.   KineMaster has been on the market for awhile, but the multi-track option added this past year has made the app much more useful to journalists.

Podcast host Catalina Albeanu also mentioned an app called Legend that lets you create text-based animations.  I’m looking forward to checking it out as a tool to add a stronger visual element to video stories that require full-screen graphics.  The app gives you the option to download what you create as an MP4, which should make it possible for you to add that element into whatever story you are producing in the field.   You can also share these animations on Instagram, Twitter, Vine and Facebook.

If you’ve used Legend or have another graphics app solution we should know about, please feel free to share your what you’ve learned.



5 tips to get you noticed by employers on LinkedIn

The job hunt is already underway for soon-to-be December grads from journalism schools, so now’s the time to beef up those resume materials.

Sean Callahan, senior manager for content marketing at LinkedIn, says there are a few things you can do to make your profile stand out from the rest.

  1.  Add a professional photo.  Callahan says profiles with pics get 14 times the views of those without.  Unfortunately, that means you need to lose the selfie and get the highest quality picture possible.
  2. Write an attention grabbing headline under your name.  “Explain what it is that you do or you want to do,” says Callahan.  “Show your passion and the value you will bring to some organization.”
  3. Draft a compelling summary.  It should be at least 40 words and you should be thinking about “keywords not buzzwords” says Callahan.  If you’re looking for a job as a multimedia reporter, be sure you use the words “multimedia” and “reporter” in the summary.
  4. Detail your work experience.  Yes, this can be tedious, but users who fill this section out vs. simply uploading a resume get 12 times the views of those that don’t, according to Callahan.
  5. Add examples of your work.  LinkedIn now allows you to add photos, videos and documents, so take advantage of that option.

And one of the best ways to get noticed on LinkedIn is to publish there says Callahan.  “Share your knowledge, your perspective on what you care about and generate a status update.”

He pointed to one college student named Tai Tran who published a piece on LinkedIn about the failed #RaceTogether Starbucks campaign.  That post got him noticed and eventually got him a job in digital marketing at Apple.

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Investigative journalist shares tips for tough interviews

You don’t have to be an investigative reporter to find yourself asking tough questions, but you can likely learn something from the way WFTV investigative reporter Christopher Heath does his job.

Heath, who has been at the Orlando station since 2013, says one thing you have to be prepared for is the non-answer.

“When faced with an interview subject who won’t respond to your question, ask it again, and again and again.  Play dumb if you have to and say, ‘I’m not understanding…,'” said Heath.

In a story about a local business incubator getting additional money from the city, though the group already owes taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, Heath used another technique for what he calls “the dodge.”

“Get your question on the air,” Heath said. “Be willing to point out the dodge and share how many times you asked the question.”


When it comes to holding public officials accountable, Heath has this advice.

“Ask for interviews early, ask in writing and then document every attempt. You can also ask if there is a written statement option.”

If that doesn’t get you what you need, you may have to push harder.

“Ask for the official’s public schedule; this will terrify them because they know it’s me getting him in the hallway or after a meeting,” Heath said.  “Or look at the schedule for public meetings, and no, that’s not an ambush.  If I go to their house or church, it might be, but at a city council meeting, it’s never an ambush.”

Heath says it’s important for every reporter to know his or her rights when it comes to public records or laws governing access to meetings and documents.  He also suggests having a public records request form ready to go at a moment’s notice, so you don’t have to scramble to get that prepared.  Finally, he recommends demonstrating what happens behind the scenes to the audience.

“Process is part of the story; show your work.”


What it takes to anchor TV news

GadsdenFor many TV journalists, moving into a spot on the anchor desk is a dream come true.   Today, Ginger Gadsden is living that dream at WKMG in Orlando, but she says the reality is that anchoring is also hard work.

“It’s so much more than reading the news; you think you have people catering to you, that you’re always dressed to the nines, but not really,” Gadsden says.

Here’s what she thinks anyone looking for an anchor job needs to know.

  • You have a responsibility to be prepared. “That doesn’t mean you just know your scripts,” says Gadsden, “it means that you know extra tidbits about every story that will be a live shot – enough so that if you are tossing to it, you lose the live shot and the producer says, ‘Stretch,’ in your ear, you know enough to tap dance for 10 or 15 seconds.”
  • Know about everything that is in the story. “You are the gatekeeper; if it comes out of your mouth, it is your responsibility.  Recently, after the China market took a big fall, there was a script in the show that said the U.S. stock market had fallen to its lowest levels since the start of the Great Depression.  If I had not looked at it ahead of time and had just read it cold, who looks like the idiot?  Not the writer – me!”
  • Don’t be too proud. “If you don’t know something, ask.  Don’t let pride stop you from finding out what you need to know.  I always say I would rather look like an idiot in front of the 50 people in the newsroom than look like a moron on the air.”

Gadsden also says that the best anchors don’t go it alone.

“Sometimes you shine by letting others look good; be a generous person on the anchor desk,” she says.  “Don’t be anchor hog and a know-it-all.  You’re part of a team, you’re sharing the anchor desk.  Don’t be the person who has to have the last word; when everyone is talking then no one is heard.”

Finally, what’s the best preparation for anchoring?

“If you do weather first, you can do everything.  You have to adlib everything – no scripts, it’s just you talking to the audience.”


Social first is smart strategy for promoting TV stories

Full disclosure:  I believe Boyd Huppert from KARE 11 in Minneapolis may be one of the best TV storytellers ever.  So, when he says it’s time for TV folks to rethink the value of social media, we should listen.

“I’ve been a reporter for 31 years, and the only audience measurement we had for most of that time was ratings; we checked the overnights,” says Boyd.  “It really didn’t tell us how individuals connected to content in the newscast, and I can’t connect with a ratings point.”

Huppert says reading and interacting with audience comments and posts has changed the way he views content and how to get more audience to see his stories.

The start of his new way of thinking came after his story about the friendship between a man in his 90s and the little boy who lived next door went viral.

But Boyd says the success of the original “Emmett and Erling” story wasn’t quite enough to change his attitude.  When a chance came to cover the friends again, Huppert decided to simply post a picture on Facebook.

“That photo was shared 4100 times, but I didn’t cover it; I made a mistake,” Huppert says.  “I wasn’t listening to our viewers, but I know better now.”

He went on to do another story about this pair that was aired in NBC Nightly News, and more importantly, shared on the NBC Facebook page.

“That story was shared 245,000, more than 10 million views,” he says.  “Therein lies the power of something I didn’t have any use for earlier in my career—generating content that is shareable.”

Huppert says about a quarter of the revenue generated by his stories comes from clicks. Now, he has a Facebook strategy for promoting his stories.  For example, a post about a piece he did on a group of kids who took it upon themselves to stop the bullying of a special needs child in their class was already shared by more than 1400 people before the story even aired.

“Teases don’t work on Facebook, they work on Twitter, says Huppert.  “If you say something like ‘You won’t  believe what happened…,’ no one would share that, it’s a commercial.  I’ve found that I need to write a narrative paragraph.

Huppert admits that goes against what TV reporters have been told to do “avoid giving the story away,” but he says he has proof that it generates on-air audience. For the bullying story, the key demos went from a .9 from the lead-in to a 4.9 at the start of the newscast and a 5.0 in the quarter hour where his story aired.

“If you’re going to tease, you have to deliver, but we’ve always earned our audience by the stories that we do.”




Creating stronger audio for your TV stories

Turns out you can learn a lot about creating better TV stories from a guy who focuses on audio.  Adam Ragusea teaches at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism and hosts a podcast called The Pub.  He presented at the Excellence in Journalism Conference on a topic he wrote about for — “Why You’re Doing Audio Levels Wrong and Why It Really Does Matter.”

When you’re trying to create sound consistency in a story that has a number of audio clips of varying levels, you need to normalize that audio as part of the mixing process.

“Mixing is the art of making all the bits and pieces of an audio composition sound right relative to each other,” said Ragusea.

The embedded tutorial provides an excellent overview of how to do a better job of normalizing audio in Adobe Premiere Pro.

But Ragusea says too many people stop with the mixing process and don’t go on to the mastering stage.

“Mastering is the art of making the mixed piece sound right relative to all the other audio in the universe,” he says, and that’s where dynamic range compression comes in. “Dynamic range compression is electronic or digital processing that automatically boosts quiet sounds and lowers loud sounds.”

So, how do you do it?  Here’s another tutorial that may help.

American Public Media engineer Rob Byers says voice levels should generally be around -15 dBFS, and nothing should ever go higher than -3.

All of this matters to those in TV because, as the saying goes — if you have great video and lousy audio, you end up with a lousy story.



Searching Instagram for news sources

Different social networks seem to appeal to different audience demos, so understanding how to search several of them for content and sources is critical for a journalist.  For example, according to SproutSocial, 53% of Instagram’s users are aged 18-29.

“Imagine a breaking news story in your community; and thinking about who uses Instagram, if there’s a breaking news story that’s going to involve younger people, this could be a good place to look for images,” says Doug Haddix, director for the Program in Public Affairs Journalism, Ohio State University.

Haddix, who conducted a social media search workshop at the Excellence in Journalism Conference recommends Websta as a tool for finding Instagram content that’s relevant to the story  you’re working on.  Websta works by searching hashtags or user names, so you may have to play around with different terms to find what you’re looking for.  Once you find a relevant photo, you can click on the user’s profile name to try to track him or her down.

Another great tool for Instagram search is Gramfeed.  What I like better about this option is that you can easily search by location and time/date to pull up anything public that was posted to Instagram from the location and during the time period you need.

For example, a search for photos from the candlelight vigil following the shooting incident at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi this week turned up multiple photos. By clicking on the user profile for this photo and then tracking back to the user’s Facebook page, I was able to identify where she worked and found a phone number for that business within 2-3 minutes.

The photos you find on GramFeed can be shared on your newsroom’s social media accounts or downloaded and incorporated into whatever story you may be working on.  (Preferably, with the user’s permission, of course.)

The functionality of Gramfeed and Websta is more robust if you link your own Instagram account to the services, but you can get some content in search results without doing that.  Both are free and both are good tools for finding sources from that younger slice of the audience.



Online news video survey says…

…long and high quality is better.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 5.30.05 PMResearch published in the Newspaper Research Journal, “Longer, Higher Quality Videos Preferred by News Viewers” had several key findings:

  • Viewers preferred high-quality videos over low-quality videos. (Not exactly a big surprise!) While prior research indicates that people can tolerate lower-quality videos if they like the content, this study suggests viewers “would not tolerate content they found uninformative, bad, not enjoyable or not worth recommending to others.”
  • People liked longer videos better than shorter ones. Long videos averaged 2.08 minutes in duration. (But wait — 2:08 is long?) Short videos averaged 24 seconds.
  • When both quality and length were considered, people preferred long, high-quality videos to other types of video, including short, high-quality ones.
  • A video’s quality influences what audience members think of a news organization, and having longer videos heighten that perception.

As the Shorenstein Center piece citing this research suggests, there is a perception in the industry that shorter is better in online video; and though a 2:00 local TV news package would be considered long in many TV stations, I’m not sure that that’s what most people mean when they talk about lengthy videos.

This is good research to add into the mix, but the debate isn’t over in my view.



How safe are live shots?

wdbjThe murder of two young TV journalists while they were on the air live has unsettled many newsrooms and classrooms. Reporter Alison Parker and photographer Adam Ward were shot to death by a former reporter at their station in Roanoke, Virginia. He had been fired two years earlier and who held a grudge against both of them.

It was a case of workplace violence, which is not uncommon, only this time the workplace was a very public place. The crime played out on television and went viral on social media, just the way the killer planned it.

What does this incident teach us about the risk of going live? Can anything done to make these assignments safer?

TV crews are by definition vulnerable when going live. Reporters are trained to ignore what’s going on behind the camera and to focus on the lens. Photographers are often glued to the viewfinder. And TV cameras, as well all know, are magnets for show-offs and worse. Journalists have been spit at, cursed and harassed by people who just want to get on television and social media. They’ve been attacked by people angry about news coverage and by thieves who’ve stolen their camera gear.

When sent to a potentially risky location, TV crews are well aware of the danger they face. If things start going south, they get out. Some stations now provide security guards for specific types of assignments. But that’s far from the norm. And the live shot that got Ward and Parker killed wouldn’t have merited protection anyway. No one could have predicted that a morning news feature story would end in violence.

Local TV stations aren’t likely to stop doing live shots, although some did scale back for a day in light of what happened in Virginia. And many news managers took the opportunity to remind their staff that nothing is more important than their safety.  But a “be careful out there” memo won’t change anything over the long term.

So what are the lessons to be learned? Here are a few.

Producers should carefully consider what stories they ask to be covered live. Too many live shots offer nothing but “production value” and use up resources better spent on reporting. As the blog Survive Your Job in Television News points out,

Live shots are meant to cover breaking information. It is the fastest means to get viewers the facts. If every newsroom reiterated this definition tonight, that move alone would prevent a lot of live shot photo bombing…and would make it a lot harder to predict where live shots will happen. Therefore, making it harder for people with less than good intentions to find your live shot locations.

Journalists should be extremely aware of the potential for danger on even the most mundane assignment. Choose locations for safety. Let the desk know if you don’t feel safe.

Stations should limit or eliminate the practice of sending journalists out alone to go live. If a two-person crew is vulnerable, imagine how much riskier it is for a solo journalist.

What happened in Virginia was horrific and terrifying. It has shaken everyone in TV news. Let’s not forget it. In honor of two journalists who died, let’s talk about it. And let’s do that in context. The victims were targeted by someone who knew them, not someone who hated the media in general. But those people are out there. Let’s do all we can to be vigilant while still doing our jobs.


Local TV anchors and reporters share social media strategies

Christina Garcia, WLOX  evening anchor, can be found on Facebook: Christina Garcia WLOX and Twitter: @Wloxgarcia.  Photo by Payton Green.

Christina Garcia, WLOX
evening anchor, can be found on Facebook: Christina Garcia WLOX and Twitter: @Wloxgarcia. Photo by Payton Green.

Like many other television news stations, WLOX in South Mississippi realizes that a large portion of its viewing audience comes from social media sites.

New producers and reporters learn how to write Web stories, tweet and post to Facebook long before they begin to work on broadcasts.

Christina Garcia is familiar to audiences across South Mississippi as the lead anchor for the 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. news. But when she’s not in front of the camera, she spends most of her time bringing the news to viewers on social media.

“Social media is where your viewers are,” Garcia said. “If you aren’t posting to social media, you almost don’t exist.”

Every day Garcia comes in and finds the stories she believes will most appeal to the WLOX audience and posts them online. Using a service called Shoutlet, she is able to determine the best social media platforms for the stories she’s working on and when to schedule her posts. In many ways, Garcia says her social media duties are just as important as anchoring the evening news.

“This is where the industry has gone,” Garcia said. “It’s not going there, it’s already there.”

While the employees of WLOX use all social media platforms to publish content, Facebook drives the most audience. In addition to the station’s main Facebook page, each reporter and many of the producers have their own fan pages.

WLOX reporter Jonathan Brannan is on Facebook: Jonathan Brannan WLOX and  Twitter: @JBrannanWLOX.  Photo by Payton Green.

WLOX reporter Jonathan Brannan
is on Facebook: Jonathan Brannan WLOX and
Twitter: @JBrannanWLOX. Photo by Payton Green.

With more than 3,000 likes on his fan page and over a thousand Twitter followers, news reporter Jonathan Brannan is perhaps the most popular journalist on social media at WLOX. He says part of the reason he has such a big fan base is because he never takes himself too seriously.

“If people can see you acting human and being silly every once in a while,” Brannan said, “then they’re more likely to take you seriously when serious stuff is happening.”

Some of Brannon’s most popular posts on Facebook are behind-the-scenes style videos of him goofing off with his co-workers.

“Every day I’m learning something new and trying something different on social media,” he said.

According to Brannan, timing, keeping things short and staying active are his personal keys to success on social media. He says that keeping that relationship with the audience is important, especially when there might be something serious going on that could affect them.

“Your audience needs to be connected when things are happening,” Brannan said. “You need to build that communication for their safety.”

This story contributed by Payton Green, a broadcast journalist student at the University of Mississippi.