Teaching Examples

Basic kit: Gear for the multimedia reporter
June 7, 2007, 2:35 pm
Filed under: audio, journalism, journalists, multimedia, online, reporting, video

You’d think everyone would know this by now, for cryin’ out loud! But I see posts to Listservs and discussion forums from people who still haven’t figured it out (and who apparently don’t know how to do a Google search!).

Audio hardware:

  1. Audio recorder: Olympus WS-300M, or DS-2 (or the discontinued WS-200S) — these are less than $100 each.
  2. Microphone: Electro-Voice 635 A, A/B or N/DB (search B&H for these) — about $100.
  3. Microphone (cheaper): Nady SP-5 or SP-4C (search Musician’s Friend for these) — $10 to $20 each.
  4. You’re going to need a very specific cable to connect a proper microphone to an audio recorder — a female XLR to male mini, 3 to 4 feet long for face-to-face interviews (about $8). For meetings, panels, etc., you’ll like a longer cable.
  5. For a different type of microphone (shotgun), see this comparison. I have an Audio-Technica AT835b, and it’s great. Koci loves the Sennheiser ME-66. You should be able to find one of these for less than $200.
  6. A more expensive audio recorder (that you can use face-to-face without a mic): The Edirol R-09 can be found for about $350-$400.


I covered point-and-shoots in an earlier blog post here. Reporters can start shooting video with these, and in many cases, the quality will be BETTER than that of a cheap video camcorder. See for yourself.

Video gear:

Someone else will have to fill your ear with the looong debate about video cameras. Andy Dickinson recently summarized it — and offered sensible wisdom too.

Phone and laptop/notebook computer:

These are obvious, and there are too many models to discuss. If the laptop has wi-fi (and why wouldn’t it??) you can scoot into a Panera Bread and upload from there. Or buy an Internet-anywhere card from a mobile service provider.

The capabilities you need on the phone depend on the other stuff you’re carrying.

Some folks advocate ditching the computer and doing everything with a PDA phone. I never want to edit a Soundslides on a PDA, thank you very much. But I sure do love having the full Internet (Google Maps!) on my BlackBerry.


  • Audio: I linked to a two-part guide to Audacity, which is FREE, in an earlier post. Separately, I also wrote a rundown of all the options for audio editing. Practicing multimedia journalists left helpful comments on that post.
  • Photos: Of course this means Adobe Photoshop. I never thought I needed to say that, but a recent experience in training made me realize that some people are not aware that every photojournalist has and uses Photoshop. If you need a free photo editing program, look at Picasa or Gimpshop (thank you, Dave!). Be mindful, however, that professionals use Photoshop.
  • Slideshows (with audio): Soundslides, of course. There is no debate.
  • Video editing: To start with, use iMovie if you’ve got Mac, and Windows Movie Maker if you have Windows. These are the entry-level video editing programs. If you want to move up, and you have Mac, then Final Cut Pro is the obvious choice. But if you have Windows, you’ll get into another looong debate! Gannett, for example, is in love with Avid. (I think that’s a VERY expensive choice, but what do I know?) Other options include Adobe Premiere and the relatively cheap Sony Vegas product line. (Note that I have linked each software title to its entry in Wikipedia, for a succinct description in plain English.)

As for Flash — Flash is NOT BASIC. The first people in your newsroom who should be thinking about using Flash are the graphic designers, the news graphic artists — NOT the reporters!

One File to Rule Them All

Download my No-Fear Guide to Multimedia Skills (PDF, 735 KB) for a tidy illustrated package (five pages) of this information. It’s got audio recorders, mics, and point-and-shoot cameras.

Related posts:

PLEASE feel free to leave a comment that adds to, contradicts, questions or expands on this information.

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Which journalists should blog? And why?
May 31, 2007, 8:02 pm
Filed under: blogging, journalists

Howard Owens: Every journalist should blog

Bobbie Johnson: Why NOT every newspaper journalist should start a blog

Both links via Andy Dickinson.

Both Owens and Johnson make some excellent points, so probably you should read them both (neither one is very long) and mull it over.

My two cents: If you (a) want to blog, and (b) think you can post once a day, Monday through Friday, indefinitely — give it a whirl. Why not? It’s free. You already know how to write. Try it and see.

After a while, as you get into Technorati, FeedBurner, stats, etc., you’ll find out if you like it — and whether you are able to build an audience. If you can’t build an audience, give it up.

I require my journalism students to blog just so they can find out, firsthand, what it’s like to write every day. To try to find something meaningful to write about. Every day. To try to get people to pay attention to you. To plug into conversations and informal online communities. Some of them find out they really like it. Others discover the opposite. Some of them are terrible at it. Some take to it like little ducklings tossed into a pond.

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Journalists can apply for Fulbright grants
May 18, 2007, 1:28 pm
Filed under: education, international, journalism, journalists

This is off-topic, but I feel so strongly that international experience is one of the best things you can ever give yourself — I hope you’ll excuse the interruption.

Journalists (who are not educators) are eligible to receive Fulbright funding to go abroad to selected countries. You must be a U.S. citizen when you apply. The deadline for applications is August 1, 2007. Check the Guide to Awards Open to Professionals: 2008-09 and look for journalism. I found 24 different countries that are seeking professional journalists.

There are also up to nine lecturing, research or combined lecturing/research awards for journalism educators during the 2008-09 academic year in Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Israel, Maldives, Syria or the West Bank. Go to this page and start by choosing either a country or a discipline.

The application form is long, but you can complete it in little bits and pieces. It is all online, and you can save it safely many times as you work through it.

I went to Malaysia on a Fulbright (lecturing/research) from November 2004 to July 2005, and it was absolutely one of the best and most wonderful things I have ever done. Do I speak the Malay language? Sadly, no. Many Fulbright grants are open to people who are fluent only in English.

You can apply for only one grant per year, so you must select the country and the award that interests you most and apply for that one. Awards are tied to specific countries.

The deadline for U.S. students applying for a Fulbright is Oct. 19, 2007.

For journalists, what could be a better way to go abroad and research and produce the story of your dreams? You would be funded, and you’d be your own boss.

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So you want to become a video journalist?
May 4, 2007, 12:42 pm
Filed under: blogging, future, journalism, journalists, online

A student who will graduate this Saturday came to see me earlier this week. She wasn’t a journalism student, but she has decided she wants to be an independent video journalist. From me she wanted advice: How should she create a Web site to accomplish her goal?

Does she know any HTML? No. Has she taken any of the university’s courses that include Web design and production information? No. And she’s less than a week away from graduating.

You can just imagine how many varied thoughts flew through my head.

But you know, I did not want to tell her: “Don’t do it.” Maybe it’s a crazy idea, but maybe not. She took the time to make an appointment and come to meet with me. She seemed sincere and intelligent. And … she already knows how to shoot and edit video. She’s had some training in that.

The advice I gave her: Start a free blog on either Blogger.com or WordPress.com. She will need to research how to compress and upload her video, but she can start by simply putting it on YouTube. She can embed her YouTube Videos directly on her blog posts.

If she decides she wants to continue this project, she can start her own video channel on Revver or Magnify or Blip.tv.

What she absolutely should not do is wait. She should not wait to read a fat, fat book about HTML. She should not wait until her boyfriend or someone else “builds a Web site” for her. She should not plan, design and build a vast Web site with multiple sections and features.

Why not? She’s only one person, first. She doesn’t know anything at all about HTML, second. And third, if she did all that, she might end up with a big empty Web site that looks great but has no content.

Her idea is to produce content — video journalism. She already knows how to do that. Well, the best advice I could give her, or you, or anybody, is — START RIGHT NOW.

Don’t wait until you have read that fat book, for heaven’s sake! Stop waiting. Just sit down and begin. If you run into a dead end, THEN open the fat book and consult the index.

There’s a manufacturing strategy or system called “just in time” that, back in the 1980s, was credited with the rising success of the Japanese auto makers. The idea behind “just in time,” or JIT, is that you don’t waste resources by first stocking a big warehouse and then starting production afterward. JIT means you set up reliable systems and lines of communications so that the auto parts you need for the assembly line arrive days or hours before they are needed. Less warehouse space needed, lower financial overhead, the ability to change quickly — it was more efficient. It crushed the U.S. auto industry because it was a better system.

In software and Web application design (as well as manufacturing), a related idea is rapid prototyping. An apt example of that: You’re supposed to create a demo, and you decide to learn a new technology to get it done. BAD IDEA!

The point is, if you can get something moving without months of development work, then you can quickly see whether it works, how it works — and adapt.

If you spend lots of time and money developing a new thing and then find out it does not work — all that time and money were wasted.

Moreover, given human nature, you will probably continue to support that bad product for longer than you ought to — because of all the resources you invested in it.

If you start a free blog and after a few months it still has no audience, it’s really no big deal to quit. Or change it.

So stop waiting until you read that book or take that class. Just start doing what you have in mind. Small investment, small risk. Small failures are not so bad, in every way imaginable.

So don’t tell anyone, “You can’t do that.” Instead, encourage them to start small — and start now.

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What a hiring editor looks for (or, what’s your URL?)
April 20, 2007, 2:30 pm
Filed under: jobs, journalism, journalists, online

Yet another sign of how out-of-touch some journalism teachers and professors are: Do aspiring young journalists need hardcopy of their clips today? (Do they even need clips at all?) Maybe the old-style packet of a printed résumé and photocopied clips is outmoded.

Meranda Watling has been the education reporter at the Journal & Courier, in Lafayette, Indiana, for three months (almost four). It’s her first job out of college. She wrote:

I learned this relatively early in my job search from an editor who was impressed with my resume, mostly by my demonstrated new-media experience. But she raised one extremely valid point about my package. In her words, “Why is this carbon-based?” Good question. Why was I, of all people, applying on paper?!

As soon as she said it, I knew she was right. It was the catalyst I needed to organize my professional work online. The next week, I registered a domain, started my blog, uploaded my resume and posted my clips online in one central location.

Don’t think you don’t need clips at all — I hear from enough editors at U.S. newspapers that there are still two things they need to see before you even get a phone call, and those are: (1) news story clips, at least from the student newspaper; and (2) an internship.

Increasingly, however, they want to see your URL.

So let’s have a quick chat about what you should have on your professional Web site.

  1. A résumé — designed well for the Web page it’s on (example). Don’t forget to feature all of your internships prominently on your résumé!
  2. A link to a PDF of your résumé for anyone who might need to print it (such as the human resources office). See the example at No. 1 above.
  3. Links to your clips: Try a list of linked headlines, each one followed by the title of the publication AND the date of publication. If all clips come from one publication, then you can put that in the heading. Here’s a good example (although it’s lacking dates).
  4. Examples of your audio, photo, video, and/or design work — like this or this.
  5. A brief, well-written bio that summarizes your individuality. I suggest a 150-word limit. Here’s a good one at a lean 99 words.
  6. And finally, of course, a home page that makes all the relevant bits easy to find (and that does not link to any embarrassing photos of you). Like this or this or this. Don’t forget to include functional contact information.

So, get cracking. You can buy hosting and a domain name at any number of sites, such as Dreamhost or Bluehost (read comparisons here and here). A Wikipedia article explains Web hosting pretty well.

Be sure to proofread as well as spellcheck every single word on your Web site very, very carefully.

Addenda (April 21): All the links in items 1-6 go to sites by graduates (or almost graduates) of the journalism program at the University of Florida (naturally). Also, I’ve used Dreamhost for about six years; I host all my Web sites there, and I love the service.

For speakers of British (not American) English: A résumé is a CV. Clips are cuttings. (Thanks, Andrew.)

But wait, there’s more! Lucas Grindley, content manager for HeraldTribune.com, left a comment on this post telling you what you should NOT include! “The Herald-Tribune is the third-largest newspaper in the New York Times Co. and the largest newspaper in the New York Times Regional Media Group” (source). So listen up.

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Why Al Jazeera English is blocked in the U.S.
March 28, 2007, 4:05 am
Filed under: international, journalism, journalists, news

Finally, I’m happy that I watched an episode of Frontline’s “News War” series on TV. The first three were very disappointing — stuffy, predictable, old-fashioned and dull.

In the fourth installment, “Stories from a Small Planet,” the series focuses on something that is not old and stale. It is the biggest uncovered story in the U.S. — the rest of the world.

The first half focuses on Al Jazeera and some other Arab or Near East-based television networks, including Alhurra TV, the U.S. government-funded network (where our tax dollars are hard at work, spreading propaganda abroad). While not quite as informative as the documentary Control Room (2003), “Stories from a Small Planet” provides a decently paced overview of broadcast journalism outside the Western countries. The second half skips around and ignores Latin America and Africa, but briefly looks at the Philippines and China.

Now, as to why the whole of the United States is prevented from receiving the global news channel Al Jazeera English — via cable or satellite network. Look no further than Accuracy in Media. Yes, the ultra-conservative media watchdog organization. There they are, proudly showing off letters from their campaign to inform every U.S. cable and satellite provider about just how harmful and dangerous Al Jazeera English would be if it were broadcast in the U.S.

Since when are Americans opposed to an open marketplace of ideas?

I’ve said it before — I would pay a premium to get Al Jazeera English on my cable TV lineup. I would like to hear other points of view. Not because I am anti-American, but because I don’t think we can know what’s true if opposing views are censored.

There’s a ton of supplemental material online for “Stories from a Small Planet” at the Frontline/World site:

Update: Here is what Accuracy in Media published about Al Jazeera English in November 2006:

The American people do not want Al-Jazeera International in their homes or businesses. In fact, a recent poll revealed that 53 percent of people oppose Al-Jazeera International, while only 29 percent support the channel. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has not responded quickly enough to the rise of Al-Jazeera International, and it was recently reported that the network will launch on November 15, though at this point there are no U.S. cable companies that have announced plans to carry it. When asked to comment on the new Al-Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar, Director General of the Al-Jazeera Network, stated ominously, “The new channel will provide the same ground-breaking news and impartial and balanced journalism to the English speaking world.” Indeed, Khanfar sardonically supports Kincaid’s assertions that Al-Jazeera International and the Arabic Al-Jazeera are entirely similar. Kincaid warns that this issue is of the utmost importance, and if Al-Jazeera makes waves on American cable, then the possibility of suicide bombers in America could lurk close behind.

It is interesting that they refer to a supposed poll and never name the poll or provide any information about who sponsored the poll, when or where the poll was conducted, or what questions were asked in the poll.

If 29 percent of Americans polled supposedly “support” the channel, why is not being carried on any U.S. satellite or cable service?

And how is it possible that a supposed 53 percent of Americans “oppose” Al Jazeera — when they have never even seen it? How can you oppose something that you have no experience with — an information source you have never seen? Do they oppose it because the poll-takers described it to them as the network that will create “the possibility of suicide bombers in America”? Hm?

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Reading reporters’ blogs
March 1, 2007, 3:03 pm
Filed under: blogs, journalism, journalists

Here are three blogs by newspaper reporters that I recommend:

Why? Because you can learn a lot about today’s newsrooms from them. They are not “multimedia guys” per se, but of course you’ll find a lot of stuff relevant to cross-platform journalism in their blogs.

Are there any you would like to add to the list?

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