Friday, October 31, 2008

Steve Garfield!

On October, 22, video blogger Steve Garfield came to our Reinventing the News class to share with us a form of citizen journalism that I found absolutely fascinating. Garfield, who runs, is journalist who, with the help of a few cameras (including the nifty Nokia N95 cell phone) files video stories for services like his website, the BBC, CNN iReport, and RocketBoom.

His reports consist of everything from his reaction to ongoing debates to the scene of Hurricane Kyle to life at home with his wife, Carol. In addition to this, he also offers his services to Councilman John Tobin, for whom Garfield produces vlogs for.

While he showed us some of the various reports he has compiled, the thing that Garfield did that impressed me (and seemingly everyone else) the most was the demonstration he showed us by using his Nokia phone to stream live video to Qik, an internet video site. He even demonstrated how the service allowed him to break the news that a presidential candidate was dropping from the race.

I found this to be a helpful form or journalism when it comes to providing the public with a service, as made evident by things such as his Rocketboom piece on the electric car and his setting the scene of the Maine beach shortly before the arrival of Kyle. He's innovative, energetic, and seemingly full of passion, and that is evident in the following three pieces:

The Boston Typewriter Orchestra from RocketBoom:

This is a clever video Garfield put together demonstrating how a group of Bostonians get together and make rhythms with the sound of a typewriter. Garfield does a good job getting the viewer interested in this quirky story, as his interviews focus on everything from the formation to the orchestra to the direction the orchestra wants to go in to the members pleas to be taken seriously.

VP Debate Reaction from Qik:

I enjoy this video because it's a unique example of the user generated reaction trend that is gripping journalism today. Garfield streamed the reactions of he and his wife to the internet as a way to give other debate viewers an instant feel for what others were thinking. I certainly would have enjoyed hearing his commentary as the debate progressed, and his wife served as a nice complement to the piece.

Paving Over the Trolley Tracks from

As previously mentioned, Garfield produces Tobin's videos, and videos such as this one serve as an example of how Garfield's work has the ability to provide a public service. Viewers of this video got a nice update on the track situation, and those in Jamaica Plain will certainly find this of interest.

All three of those videos were entertaining and informative, thus meaning Garfield is doing his job in my book. However, this form of citizen journalism just isn't very appealing to me. I can't see Garfield receiving much notoriety for his work, nor much pay (he is a professor at BU, so I would imagine this serves as more of a supplement to his income).

If this is what makes him happy, and it appears to, then good for him. I selfishly want more notoriety for the work I do, and I can't see an independent video blogger getting much recognition for their work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Displacement Simulation

Click here to a view a slide show of the event.

Northeastern students participated in a displacement simulation on Monday as part of the university's week long "Uganda Peace Week."

The simulation displacement, which was designed to raise awareness of the fact that children in Uganda are forced to constantly be on the move in order to avoid the Rebel army, took place in Centennial Common on the campus of Northeastern. The event was supposed to include replica cardboard huts similar to the ones used in Uganda, but those were unfortunately destroyed this morning by the wind.

"Five years ago, they had this big displace meet throughout the United States and major cities, where [people stayed] outside in cardboard boxes to demonstrate how the kids in Uganda are displaced," said Hannah Webb, a human services major at Northeastern who is involved with Invisible Children. "So, this is our miniature version of it to try to bring awareness to it and show what those people did."

Despite a lack of huts, the volunteers at the event had no shortage of material aimed at getting their message out- a message that raises awareness of the war in Uganda that has impacted the lives of many children. Posters, reading materials, and volunteers were all available to students who wanted to learn more. In addition to that, students could buy Invisible Children merchandise, donate books to African children, or donate money to the cause.

So far, students have been receptive to the message being spread by these volunteers.

"People, seem interested," said Webb. "The people who come over are really interested and really supportive."

A screening of the film "War Dance", a BBQ on the quad, and a candle vigil are just a few of the events that will take place this week as students involved with Invisible Children look to spread their message during "Uganda Peace Week."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Radio Nowhere?

Over the summer, I had the privilege of interning at SportsRadio 610, an all sports station in Houston. During my nearly four months there, I was amazed at how much the station was trying to direct listeners to its website. Interviews with athletes and coaches were promptly uploaded as podcasts, polls were set up online to gauge the reaction of listeners on certain topics, and news links for stories being mentioned on air were always placed on

All of this made me realized that, like the newspaper industry, the radio industry was being forced to evolved in this internet-driven age.

When Robin Lubbock, the director of new media at WBUR, came to speak to my reinventing the news class last week, I definitely understood where he was coming from as he spoke to the class about the changing landscape of the radio industry.

First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. He showed the class many of the features offered on WBUR (we'll get to those in a second), in addition to explaining how the radio industry was changing. I really liked his view on the fact that the internet has taken a local station in Boston, which only has to compete against a couple of similar stations over the air, and forced it to try to attract the attention and ears of people all over the world. This is because the internet has made it to where broadcasts stream online, and anyone from Dorchester to Dubai can listen to WBUR.

Lubbock showed the class how WBUR has integrated things like multimedia slideshows, content submitted by listeners, podcasts, facebook and myspace accounts and twitter feeds into the station's news delivery method. For those who aren't familiar with Tweeter, it's a site that describes it's services as "...a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

In other words, WBUR can place a question on it's Twitter feed, and listeners can instantly react to it.

These are just a few of the tools radio stations are using to try to protect themselves in the future.

One thing I found interesting was a Washington Post article on the future of radio by Marc Fisher. This article pointed to user customized radio stations, such as Pandora, as the future of radio. Sites like these create playlists for listeners based on their music preference. For example, if I typed Bob Dylan into Pandora as my favorite artist, the station would pick songs similar to Bob Dylan songs for me, and I could decide whether or not I liked them.

The article also included an interesting point made by Jerry Del Colliano, a music industry professor at USC:

"Del Colliano and other observers increasingly believe the radio of the future will not be a 24/7 music source, but rather a provider of short programs, such as podcasts, that appeal to an ever-shrinking attention span and work seamlessly with social networks, cellphones and laptops. "

This points in the direction that WBUR is going with all of it's interactive features that integrate listeners. Seth Godin, an author interviewed on Hear 2.0, also feels that while these features are important, the most important thing the radio industry can do during these times is think small:

"The smart media companies, the ones who are thinking small, say “we have this really powerful asset, we need to use it to migrate the attention to smaller and smaller buckets of identifiable people who want to hear from us.”
So if I ran a media company today, I'd say, "How can I turn this group of 100,000 listeners into 1,000 groups of 100 people who wanna subscribe to a podcast? How can I deliver exactly what they want, anticipate it, offer them personal and relevant information that they need when they need it."

As the industry evolves and things such as satellite radio continue to stream NPR programming, it's difficult to predict how stations like WBUR will ultimately fare, even with these fancy technologies. I understand that the most popular programming on stations such as this one is the national NPR programming, but I think there will always be a demand for local news. Whenever a local story breaks, national stations won't be on top of it like stations within the city. Whenever Houston added three sports stations in addition to the one I interned at, 610's motto instantly became "live and local." Many of these new stations relied heavily on national programming from outlets like ESPN, and 610 wanted listeners to know that it was their station where they could get the news most important to them- Houston sports news.

I feel like that's the only thing radio stations can do to survive in the future-place a heavy emphasis on local news. Some of the features WBUR and other sites are using can be very helpful and interactive, but I don't think that's nearly enough to save the industry. I consider myself a big time listener of radio, and internet features rarely intrigue me to the point of actually visiting the site. If I don't care to visit the site, why would people who are only casual listeners visit the stations website?

That being said, if national programming drives ratings, these local stations are seemingly going to have to downsize in the future. That happens in many industries, and soon enough, sadly, it may be radio's turn. I already saw this happening this summer when Houston's largest news radio station, 740 KTRH, downsized and began replacing more local newscasts with syndicated ones from Fox News.

Radio is doing fine right now, and I think it's wonderful how they're being proactive while the industry is still in relatively good shape. The future of the industry will certainly be interesting. Radio is desperately trying to provide listeners with on demand content through a variety of mediums, and only time will tell if it can keep the radio business afloat. One thing is for sure, and Lubbock mentioned it multiple times during the presentation. The internet has forced those wanting to enter the radio field to learn how to do more than talk into a microphone, as shooting videos and pictures and writing stories are all now part of a radio station's daily operations.
Photo (cc) by Stefan Kuhn and republished here under the GNU Free Documentation License. Some rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wired Journalists

Following my early class this morning, I walked around campus and was instantly struck by an event known as "The National Clothesline Project" that was taking place at NEU's Centennial Circle. Armed with my handy Motorola Razr cell phone, I began taking pictures of the event, which featured student designed "anti-violence" shirts being strung out from tree to tree on a clothesline. Once I took the pictures, I went straight to my apartment and began posting them on a website I recently discovered, Wired Journalists.

Wired Journalists is a great social networking site for journalists looking to share their work or find a job in today's media landscape. It gives you your own profile, much like Facebook, in addition to all of the other features on the site which allow for interaction among users. Of all of the features on the website, the one I think I will find most useful is the group feature. There are groups that members can join ranging from photography to audio techniques to wired journalism ethics. Within these groups, you can discuss techniques and issues with others who hold the same interests as you, in addition to meeting new people with the same interests.

Since I want to get into television or radio, I joined the audio techniques group and the visual editing group. I've already found ways to acquire royalty free music for slide shows, in addition to some helpful websites, such as I plan on frequenting these groups as because I'm always open to learning new technologies and programs in audio and video, so hopefully these people can offer some cutting edge information.

The site also offers a feedstream, which has news and tips on getting jobs, writing good cover letters, and what the future of journalism may hold.

When it comes to gathering pictures for Wired Journalists, as I did today, the process couldn't be any simpler. Taking pictures, despite my crummy cell phone camera, was very easy to do. All you have to do is go to the photo page of your profile and click on add photos. From there, you can upload your photos to the site. The only problem I had with it was getting the bulk uploader to work. I had to use the old uploader since I didn't have the latest version of Java installed, but the process was exactly the same as uploading a photo to an email. I'll get Java loaded, so I can play around with the bulk uploader next time.

My only complaint about the site is the fact that it seems like it may be too small at this point to really make a major splash. There are only 2645 members on the whole site, and some groups look like they haven't been interacted with in months. That's a shame, seeing how so many journalists could use this site as a tool.

All in all, I find this to be a very useful site. Any website where you can show off your work, interact with people who have similar interests, and acquire job tips is a helpful website in my eyes. Hopefully more young journalists will discover the site, thus allowing it to grow significantly into the future.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bloggers on Beckett

With the Red Sox going into the playoffs, the city is abuzz with talk of a third championship in the last five seasons. Before the playoffs began, the Sox got a dose of bad news when it was announced that Josh Beckett, last year's playoff here, would miss his opening start against the Angels with a strained oblique. Since baseball makes up a large part of the city's fabric, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what Boston area bloggers had to say about the news.

The Joy of Sox (Authority:122)

Like most of Boston, the folks over at The Joy of Sox weren't too thrilled with the news. They used a portion of a Steve Buckley piece, which compared it to the loss of another athlete who may be familiar to some of the people around the city:

The Red Sox could be facing a Tom Brady-like blow to their postseason plans. Just as the Patriots are trying to make it work this season without the injured Brady as their quarterback, the Red Sox could be going into the playoffs without Josh Beckett as the ace of their pitching staff.

Obviously, Beckett and Brady are both equally important to their teams, but I'm going to say the Sox are worse off without Beckett than the Pats are without Brady. Why you ask? Well, because Beckett's never done this. I guess Tommy can replace Heath Ledger if they make a Brokeback Mountain sequel.

Media Nation (Authority:174)

Arguably the finest blogger in the entire city, Dan Kennedy also took the news with a very unoptimistic point of view. He writes:

Now Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald reports that Josh Beckett might be out
with an oblique injury. I don't want to say stick a fork in them. But you might
as well keep one handy.

If I were the Red Sox fan, I'd hold the same view. Beckett is one of the greatest postseason pitchers of this generation (probably because he's from Houston) and if the Sox have to face the Angels without him, things won't be good.

Red Sox Monster (Authority:170)

Unlike many Bostonian bloggers, Dan Lamothe of Red Sox monster decided to leave his glass half full
when it came to deciding whether or not an injured Beckett meant postseason doom
for the local nine:

Bottom line: If Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka both pitch
great, it's possible the Sox could knock off the Angels. But they'd be the
underdogs for sure, and it's tough to picture them advancing beyond the American
League Championship Series.

Sure, he still acknowledged it'd be tough for the team to advance, but he didn't ignore the fact that the Sox still have some very capable pitchers behind him. Lamothe's optimism seems like a rare commodity around here, and frankly, I kind of like it. Sports teams in this town are all great (well, the Bruins are mediocre), so complaining about them or worrying about them should be illegal.

Toeing the Rubber (Authority:47)

Another Boston blog, another positive blogger. Maybe all of my preconceived notions of Boston sports fans are just plain wrong. They aren't, but still. This blog is taking the news with a complete grain of salt:

I refuse to get all freaked out about Josh Beckett’s oblique. It’ll suck if he
can’t pitch, but Tito says he can, so we’ll deal with it if/when it comes up. I’m not letting Steve Freaking Buckley control my emotions right now.

I’m still way too happy that Jonathan Van Every and Devern Hansack had the huge hands in beating the Yankees last night. The guys get to go on the trip to Anaheim on a high note and that’s what makes me happy.

I guess that's one way of dealing with the news.

The House That Dewey Built (Authority:15)

We couldn't wrap this post up without one more negative Bostonian point of view. Jimmy, from The House That Dewey Built, said this:

Look, the Sox made it to the postseason mainly on the strength of guys like Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and J.D. Drew, and all three are gigantic question marks. The players we have filling in for these guys (Paul Byrd, Alex Cora / Sean
, Mark Kotsay) are enormous drop-offs in talent. You’re essentially factoring out three guys with game-breaking ability, and their understudies are players who you’d be happy with if they miraculously managed to give you league-average play.

Actually, he's probably right. Although, Paul Byrd is a fine talent. You can read about it in his book. What the hell is Paul Byrd doing with a book?

There you have it. People are understandably freaked out about this injury. Hey Boston fans: SHUT UP. You have 8 million championships (could have been 8 million and one...cough...Pats), so if you lose out on one more, everything will be OK. I promise.
Photo (cc) by PhreddieH3 and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Playing the Numbers Game

Math excluded, it's a lot of fun to waste time on a boring Monday afternoon by playing around with numbers. When Matt Carroll gave my reinventing the news class a presentation on databases, including those on's "Government Center," I realized I had a new medium of entertainment available to me. Of the many databases available on the site, these three were of most interest to me.

Dunkin' Donuts Database

I'm pretty sure that the first thing that struck me when I visited Boston for the first time in 2004 was the absurdly high number of Dunkin' Donuts locations in the city. Alongside Bank of America, it seemed like every other establishment in the city was a Dunkin' Donuts store. I'm not the only one who feels that way, as all of the people from back home that have come up here to visit me have commented on the plethora of Dunkin' Donuts. Fortunately, this database exists for people who want to find out just how many stores Dunkin' has in the greater Boston area (for the record, the city of Boston has 67). I'm not a fan of donuts, muffins, or coffee, so I guess I'd have to move to one of only 17 cities in the area if I wanted to avoid what appears to be a Boston institution.

Employees Who Walked to Work Database

When I began living in Boston last September, adjusting to like without a car took some getting used to. The more I've spent time here, the more I don't miss having a car. I love walking all over the city, even on the coldest of days. Judging by the number of people I pass each day on the streets of this town, I'm apparently not alone in my feelings on using my feet for transportation. I like this database because it reveals the number of people, per 1,000 residents, who walk to work in cities throughout the state. The fact that 52.6 people out of 1,000 walk to work each day in Boston was fairly surprising to me, although I'd have to believe that number is much higher than what can be found in my hometown of Houston.

Deaths Caused by Heart Disease Database

Finally, in sticking with this health and fitness theme, the final database I looked at has to do with the number of people (per 10,000 residents) that died from hear disease in Massachusetts cities in 2005. It was interesting to compare this database to the one regarding the number of people who walked to work in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, the cities that had more people walk to work had less people die of heart disease. For example, 52.6 people out of 1,000 walk to work in Boston and 15.5 residents out of 10,000 died of heart disease. On the flip side, 3.2 residents out of 1,000 walked to work in Tempelton, while 30.7 residents out of 10,000 died of heart disease in the city.

As demonstrated by these databases, numbers alone can be the basis for an informative newspaper story. I feel like the most interesting story that could be taken out of these three databases has to do with what I began talking about in the description of the deaths caused by heart disease database. I would enjoy writing a story based around the fact that residents who don't heavily rely on cars tend to be healthier than those who are forced to drive everywhere. Nothing groundbreaking there, but interesting nonetheless.