Thursday, 23 December 2010

Get the new MMJ iPhone app for free, and keep up to speed on every aspect of multimedia journalism

 The new MultimediaJournalism iPhone app is the perfect way to stay up to speed with all aspects of multimedia journalism.

The free app combines:
  • Latest multimedia journalism news from a wide range of sources
  • MMJ Masterclass updates: previews of the latest tuition, from industry experts. Check out the Improve your Video Storytelling masterclass now
  • Twitter feed
  • YouTube channel
  • Audioboo podcasts
Install the instant app by visiting this link on your iPhone:
Or, if you are on a computer, send it to your phone by clicking here:
Read more about the app here:

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Shorthand is dead. RIP. So who would want to keep it alive?

Now that journalists can tweet from court, is there any need for us to learn shorthand any more?

Court reporting, and the essential requirement of having an accurate note of proceedings, has always been one of the cornerstones of the argument in favour of journalists using shorthand. Perhaps the cornerstone.

But now Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, has removed that cornerstone. He ruled that: “the use of an unobtrusive, hand-held, virtually silent piece of modern equipment for the purposes of simultaneous reporting of proceedings to the outside world as they unfold in court is generally unlikely to interfere with the proper administration of justice.”

There was just one restriction: “Before such use is permitted, the court must be satisfied that its use does not pose a danger of interference to the proper administration of justice in the individual case”

Shorthand was, until now, the best way of ensuring you could get a fair and accurate report into your notebook in a situation where audio recording is forbidden. But now, as Lord Judge said: “The most obvious purpose of permitting the use of live, text-based communications would be to enable the media to produce fair and accurate reports of the proceedings.”

So who needs shorthand anymore?

There is another argument in favour of learning shorthand, in the wider journalistic context. Say you are recording an interview. What’s best: shorthand or audio?

Defenders of shorthand will say that it is far better than an audio recording in that you can easily riffle through your notes and produce a report fast. Audio takes a while to transcribe, slowing down the reporting process. But then, so does shorthand, and you can read outlines wrongly, sometimes with disasterous results.

And, in any case, those who have been taught shorthand should also have been taught, elsewhere in their training, that it is far better to write your story without reference to your shorthand note or audio recording, referring to your record only to ensure accuracy with direct quotes and essential facts. So transcribing is bad, whatever the method of recording information.

So why keep shorthand on the syllabus? I have my own theory as to why some, particularly in the newspaper industry, will argue that trainees should still learn shorthand.

Because it’s hard, and takes time to master. Which means you can use the need for shorthand to help justify keeping a trainee on a pittance for 18 months: they need that time, typically, to get up to 100wpm.

I have an interest to declare here. I never got my 100wpm, despite two years of slaving away at it. Fortunately, that never held me back. But, today, no shorthand means no NCTJ qualification and, in the local press, that makes things tough.

But there can no longer be any justification for teaching shorthand to trainees.

What can’t be justified is failing to teach them about the full range of multimedia reporting opportunities that are now open to them: whether it’s using Twitter, CoverItLive or another text-based live reporting medium in court; learning to create mobile platforms; using their iPhone as a multimedia reporting device; understanding data-based reporting; or learning to create and run a hyperlocal site.

If those are not on a journalism syllabus but shorthand is, then journalism students are being ill-prepared for work.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

MMJ Masterclass 19: How to improve your video storytelling

Very often, online video is just a short clip embedded in a text report. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it’s a brilliantly effective way to use video

Steve Herrmann, editor of the BBC News website, says that the Beeb has learned that one of the most successful formats is the short news clip that shows something visually compelling

These work particularly well, he says, when they are embedded in a related text news story. So we’ll take a close look at video snippets and inserts in this masterclass, which you can find in full here.
But while quick clips are often all that is required, or there is time for online, that can be pretty limiting.
We’d probably all like to develop our skills as visual storytellers, we’d like a bigger canvas, and that’s what video packages give us. So this masterclass will focus mainly video packages and the art of visual storytelling.
You'll also need to be competent in this style of video journalism if you are on an NCTJ-accredited course and are taking their Videojournalism for Online option.

We’ll look at when such packages, which take time and skill to produce, are appropriate for the multimedia journalist.
To learn from the experts we’ll take a trawl through what a wide range of video journalists have been saying recently.
Those people include US journalists
  • Joe Fryer,
  • Jason Witmer, and
  • Darren Durlach,
who all spoke at a recent seminar at the Poynter Institute’s NewsU.
We’ll have examples of their videos, along with their explanations of how to make our own efforts as good as theirs.
We’ll also take a look at what UK multimedia storyteller Adam Westbrook says we can learn about storytelling from Hollywood movies, and how to apply it to our own videos.
Speaking of Hollywood movies, we’ll see what you can learn about sequences from George Clooney.
And introduce you to Shawn Montano, who writes the Editfoundry blog, a brilliant learning resource on the shots to get, and how to edit them into a great video.
What all this builds up into is a masterclass in developing your video storytelling skills.
The NCTJ's Videojournalism for Online syllabus is also outlined here.

This masterclass builds on the book version of Chapter 14: Professional standards: publishing platforms for advanced multimedia storytelling

If you aren't yet a subscriber, you can sort that out here

Next: Show not tell, getting embedded video clips right

Friday, 10 December 2010

Masterclass 18: Drupal website building for non-coders

So far in MMJ, we have looked at creating multimedia publishing platforms on simple, straightforward software such as Webs and Blogger

They're great places for non-programmers to learn the basics

But now a new, and much more sophisticated web-building platform has become available to the non-programmer

It’s called Drupal Gardens, and it’s a version of Drupal 7, an open-source programme that is used by many professional web developers, including those who built the MMJ site. Here's a video and audio introduction to it, and to what we'll be doing in this masterclass, with a text version below.


Until recently, Drupal was a great platform for programmers, but baffling to non-coders. And you needed a server to host it on.

Drupal Gardens is designed to enable the non-coder to build a site that is every bit as good, professional and powerful, as a Drupal website created by a programmer.

It’s web-based, and it’s hosted by Acquia, the company that developed it, so you can use it just as you would Blogger, Webs, Wordpress or any other web-based publishing platform.

Drupal Gardens uses the Drupal content management system. But there’s no software to install. No servers to update or manage.

Drupal Gardens has a library of themes and templates for you to use, or you can start from scratch, and create your own.

It has an integrated wysywlg editor, so adding multimedia content is easy.

And it gives you user profiles for your contributors, with tailored access depending who they are and what they do. So an editor and a team of journalists can all be given the access they need, to the areas of the site that they are responsible for.

It’s socially connected, easily linked to Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and all your other social presences.

And it takes RSS feeds. So if you want a site where a good deal of aggregated content can be presented – perhaps you are building a hyperlocal site with a lot of information feeds that you’ve tailored for your audience –  then Drupal Gardens can handle it.

If you want to import your own custom URL to what you build, you can.

And if you decide later that you want to host the site you build on your own servers, you can do that too.

But if you are entirely new to building publishing platforms, then I strongly suggest that you work your way first through the relevant Chapters of MMJ, and look at the supporting material, and practical demonstrations on the accompanying website.

It’s not essential, but if Drupal gardens is your first attempt at web building, you may find it hard going at first.

Anyway, here's the link to get you started:

The links to the right will take you step by step through the site-creation process.

Next: Creating your Drupal Gardens site and customising its appearance