Video: Kodaline Album launch in Dublin

I’ve been keeping up with my attempts to improve my video editing. Unfortunately, I left the tripod at the office. This video was shot on a single handicam with no tripod – using my wallet and notebook as supports – and the audio was recorded on an iPhone.

Everything was synced up in Adobe Premiere Pro, and I added a few shots of the scene to cover up the clumsier movements.

Quick and dirty but did the job – that false start actually took about five minutes to sort out.

Help me Write narrows ideas down to the ones your audience wants to read

Here’s the scenario: you’ve two great ideas ready to go, and limited time. Both deal with your area of expertise, but one is a straight feature to educate and inform your audience with useful content, and the other is a personal essay about your experiences battling a problem your audience can relate to.

Which one do you go for – straight and reliable, or personal and risky?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got lots of writing ideas, but you’re not always sure which ones will fly with your audience.

Enter Help Me Write from Makeshift, a cool product design studio in London. They’ve tried to solve that problem by connecting authors and audiences and ask: do you want to read this?

The process is simple: you dump your ideas to your Help Me Write profile page with a well-written first paragraph, like on you’d send to an editor with a query letter, and then share that page to your social profiles, your blog – wherever your audience lives.

Then, they just click ‘I’d like to read this’. No messing around collating repsonses from your Twitter feeds, just pure, democratic expressions of interest.

Help Me Write Interface

HelpMeWrite.co

Assuming you’ve got some feedback, once you write the piece, you’ve got a pre-existing audience ready to read it. It’s an extension of the technique you often see with feature writers on Twitter who drop tidbits about their current projects to whet a reader’s appetitie.

Obviously, this type of app works best for those who have a large pre-existing audience online. But considering that that’s the goal of every young writer out there these days (or it should be), this kind of app has a pretty bright future.

Big media potential

Imagine the potential to have this feature rolled into big media companies with some of the finest writing styles on earth. What if subscribers had the ability to tell their favourite newspaper that one minor idea from a columnists’ pile grabbed them and they just can’t wait to read it?

That’s what really fascinated me – the idea that media could institutionalise the kind of feedback that social media is so celebrated for.

Photo: Ireland v Poland

I’m using the new Flickr’s storage space to upload some of my photos from my hard drives. Having lost a lot of photos in the great hard drive crash of 2009, the more places they exist in the cloud the better.

Today’s uploads come from the Ireland v Poland football friendly at the Aviva in February. I was very ill-equipped for the job, with a lightweight tripod, D80, and a simple 18-135mm kit zoom. The end results needed a lot of sharpening.

I’ve since bought a much nicer 70-300 VRII, which performs much better. Still, here’s what I got on the night.

Four Fine Resources for Fledgling Journos

There’s a notion amongst journos who are good at what they do that every prospective reporter should be born with some sort of heaven-sent ability to write a story in perfect inverted pyramid form. Baloney. As anyone who’s spent time as a section editor for a college paper knows, first-year students getting stuck in to writing for the first time need to be shown the ropes.

Not every university that has a college paper has a journalism course or school of media. Mine didn’t, but I was lucky enough to be educated by a smart and savvy team in a student paper which has been around for over 50 years. For those less fortunate, there’s plenty of material out there to teach those who need to teach themselves. Whether you’re an incoming news editor who needs to train reporters for the first time, or someone who has inherited the Editor’s position and wants to brush up on some skills, these are some resources which have helped me out over the years.

The News Manual

 

This is a real nuts-and-bolts guide to writing news, and should be metaphorically thrust into the eager hands of beginners. Structure, the importance of intros, what questions to answer: all the core stuff is there. Teaching reporters the basics early on will not only save the sub-editors a lot of hours, it will make your staff better writers.

The manual was originally drafted by UNESCO in the early 90’s as a resource for news outlets in developing nations that might not have formal education set up for the media. As such, it’s a great match for student newsrooms where some or all of the staff might not be taking courses in reporting.

Click here to read The News Manual

The Student Newspaper Survival Guide

 

What a book. Rachel Kanigel writes an inspirational book that covers the basics of each style of writing, from news to features to sports, with sections on photography and editing. The book is aimed squarely at the college newspaper market, and as a result contains advice on dealing with college authorities, seizure of copies, and other university-specific problems.

It’s written with an American audience in mind, but that’s no bad thing. The US student press is bigger and more successful than that of most other countries, and many of the tips for structure and organisation can really help redefine the newsrooms of any paper, making them more efficient and professional. For any paper looking to get off the ground or reinvent itself, this truly is a must-have.

You can buy this book on Amazon or have a look inside on Google books. There’s also an author’s site, but it hasn’t been updated in a long time.

The Associated Press Stylebook

 

Every newspaper should have a style guide. Odds are that if you invest time into writing your own, some staff will never use it. So, align your house style to one of the big names- the AP or the Chicago Manual, which carry weight and authority. I find that the AP Stylebook tends to cross borders very, very well. It contains comprehensive advice on punctuation and listings for industry-specific terms.

It’s also very widely available, coming in paperback, electronic, or even iPhone app formats. Although asking every writer to buy a copy would be pointless, it’s a great resource to have on the office bookshelf or editor’s desk. I’ve found myself missing the office copy since I’ve started writing freelance. A formal style guide is the easiest way to introduce consistency in style, which adds a whole new layer of polish (and, again, will save the subs many headaches).

The AP stylebook has its own website with multiple purchase options available here; unfortunately delivery of a physical copy of the newly-released 2010 version is prohibitively expensive. The 2009 edition is readily available on Amazon, while those who opt for an iPhone version from the App Store will receive a free update to the 2010 version once it’s ported.

There’s also a very nice and easy-to-use Guardian Style Guide available, though it’s not nearly as comprehensive as the AP.

Freedom of Information knowledge

The FOI act (which you can read here) is your friend. Universities receive funding from the state, via the HEA, so they’re covered by the act. That means you can request information that your college (or any other state body) won’t give you willingly. There are exceptions, notably “commercially sensitive information” (which gets trotted out a lot, and is sometimes worth appealing) and personal information about someone else.

There’s a €15 charge for each request, and they can also charge for hours of work if they need to hunt down files or copy them. Luckily, you can also FOI personal information about yourself without any charge. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of this in a small environment like a college: you’d be amazed at how often people you know are involved in stories.

Sadly, there’s no idiot’s guide to FOI that I can find tailored to jousnlists, thought the government does maintain a guide of sorts here. The short version is to ask for the records without the act first (just in case they hand them over), then to write a letter stating that you are making a request under the act, enclosing the €15 fee. A word of warning: you’ve got to be specific about the records you request.

There’s also the (free) Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) option which you can find out more about here and here.

With these four resources under your belt, you’re off to a good start. Of course, there’s no substitute for actually doing what you’re reading about, so get stuck in!

Have I missed any quality resources for those starting out? If so, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them if they’re good.

A working web-to-print system on a budget


A long time ago, I wrote that in an ideal world, student newspapers should be able to figure out a way to move content between InDesign and an online content management system automatically; there’s no reason why XML can’t be read by either.

Well, not only is it possible, but the Bangor Daily News has spent the money to get it done, and, in an enormous display of generosity, has released the code publicly.

This blog post summarises the information perfectly, and nitty-gritty details are available on their development blog.

This is fantastic system for low-budget operations like student newspapers or locals that simply can’t afford an enterprise solution like the incredible Woodwing. And it focuses on a web-first solution, which is something often talked about but rarely practised.

I’m very interested to see who takes advantage of the open source code. If I were starting as Editor of my student paper again, I certainly would.

Excuse our Appearance!

UPDATE: Content is all back up and categories are fixed. Images are uploaded but not displaying for old posts, comment previewing needs to be implemented, and a search template is missing, as is the RSS template. So we’re 90% functional, just missing a few bells and whistles.

If you’re looking for something, I’m really sorry if it’s not here.

We migrated hosting providers today, and also made the move from ExpressionEngine 1.6.9 to to 2.1, which has caused a few problems. The blog content needs to be uploaded, categories and comments are broken for the moment, and there may be a few kinks all around. All this will get fixed in a day’s time, so… please forgive our appearance while we renovate.

137 murdered journalists

There’s an excellent piece published on The Guardian today, titled “Waking up to press slaughter”. In it, Jim Boumelha, President of the International Federation of Journalists, argues that the press need to take more responsibility for publicising the plight of their own kind, and mount pressure on the international community to combat the targeted assassination of journalists. There’s an interesting point to be made here. From the above-linked article:

For many years the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has been publishing on the first of January the list of journalists killed in the past year, but it’s rare for commentators to show the slightest interest. Last year was one of the deadliest years on record, with the IFJ listing 137 journalists and media workers killed across the world. Only a few newspapers, among them the Guardian, bothered to report it. Imagine if these were killed politicians or killed policemen. In almost every corner of the globe, journalists continue to be targeted, brutalised and killed. Some say they may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But journalists have a duty to be on the spot when news is in the making.

On a day when most media headlines and blogs will be devoted to the decision by Google to stop censoring its search results in China, I thought I’d encourage you to read the pieceand think about the genuine dangers of a career in serious investigative journalism.

As a teenager, when I expressed an interest in journalism, family members warned of the dangers of the profession (naturally, following on from the murder of Veronica Guerin in 1996). However, I had always thought of that as an isolated case; I assumed that most journalists died in wart reporting. Not so, says Boumelha:

Contrary to common belief, most are not killed in war, and most are not foreign correspondents. Only one in four died in armed conflict and the great majority fell in peace time in their own countries, attempting to cover serious issues such as politics, crime or corruption. Two thirds of the fallen journalists were murdered – silenced because they tried to expose wrongdoings.

And, to add to the problem, the murderers are rarely, if ever, caught or convicted. Boumelha argues that there is an apathy of sorts towards the journalistic community, and that even journalists themselves ignore the issue. Serious issues that require true investigative work and nerves of steel- crime, drugs, foreign correspondence- have always been glorified as some sort of magic “fast track” in the industry, and carry a kind of glamorous, dangerous style with them. But those dangers are more real than, I feel, we young aspiring journalist types often realise, and it’s this type of thing that we should read and remember.

And for those cynics among us, who think this is just hopping on the media cycle following the death of Rupert Hamer, sure, I’d agree. But the point is still important. From the Guardian pieces’ comments section:

In Mexico people rely on reading information written by journalists and hearing radio news reporters to find out which roads in Chiapas have the highest rates of armed road blocked robbery AND whether or not the robbery is just money and valuables OR are women targeted for rape.

In the north and border regions we read about where and why machine gunnings happen because the weapon of choice here for the cartel gunmen is an AK47 and I believe a bullet from an AK47 can travel a kilometre and still kill.

After a chief of police and later 3 local small political appointees were machine gunned to death near my house I have changed my route to work and no longer shop in my local store. I and my neighbours park our cars in the street not in the garage to form a buffer between our houses and the street.

Without journalists I wouldn’t be able to make these decisions.

Bit of perspective, eh?

Newspaper Ads: Not Made Like They Used To

Is it just me, or do newspapers consistently fail to tell us why they’re important? All the advertising I see these days (that isn’t just a quick plug about a free DVD in tomorrow’s paper) seems to emphasise the choice and diversity available to the reader. Surely it’s time for struggling papers to emphasise the core value they offer instead?

The Sunday Times is “for all you are” and has some (admittedly great) ads like this one featuring a paperboy emphasising the diversity of their content. But with this form of publishing in direct competition with the infinitely diverse web browser, surely there’s more sense in talking about their extensive resources and (supposed) impartiality?

I recently came across this wonderful old advert for the Guardian which tells me it’s an independent newspaper with the resources to get to the truth that might not be easy to find. And it’s so much more effective than anything I’ve seen recently.

Does anyone know of any recent campaigns that remind the public of these kind of values?

Cimín Cruthaitheach: Creative Commons Ireland

I haven’t posted in a while due to my university finals, and I’m slowly re-immersing myself in media.

One of the most interesting things I’ve read this week is the creation of a localised version of the Creative Commons licence which is custom-built for the nuances of Irish copyright law. The above links to Eoin O’Dell’s excellent cearta.ie blog, but the actual project is the child of UCC staff Darius Whelan and Louise Crowley.

It’s great to see these types of initiatives. Irish law is different to that of the USA, where many of these projects originate, and to those of us lacking a law degree, it’s these little things that make our lives easier.