Taking radio journalism online in a multimedia world

Let me just say at the outset that I think the ABC’s response to the new digital media environment has been innovative and outstanding. Not only is their website full of fascinating content from their TV and radio networks but they have also started to produce innovative community projects like Pool, and their mix of commentary at Unleashed is terrific.

But it struck me when I clicked on a story at their website this morning that there is still a way to go. The story “Modern Mag,” from Radio Australia, about the launch of a new fashion magazine for Islamic women is on the news home page under “The best of the ABC” banner. It has a short description: “Aquila Asia is a fashion magazine aimed at Muslim women in South East Asia,” and a picture of a veiled woman (see pic above). When you click on it you get an audio player of the five minute interview with the magazine’s editor. It’s a good listen and challenges some misconceptions about contemporary Islamic women.

However it is – or should have been a visual story – a women’s fashion magazine is a visual medium and one of the main topics of discussion is the use of varied models which reflect the differences in the lives of Islamic women. It would have been a simple matter for the producer in prepping the story to ask for the editor to email a couple of sample spreads and images which could have been loaded onto the program’s website with a brief two para introduction. Or with permission these images could have been taken directly from the magazine’s website.

This would have had two effects: on air, the presenter could say, “If you want to know more about Aquila Asia take a look at our website,” and in the post-live online environment, the presentation of the audio with the addition of simple visuals provides a much stronger representation of the story. The presenter even refers to the magazine’s website during the interview without providing viewers with a web address. Again if the small story had been preloaded, this information would also have been available to readers.

I don’t deny that there are resource implications in this type of approach, but if the workflow is handled well they can be minimal. I have written before about how a multimedia approach demands a simple checklist that associates sourcing of multimedia elements with the traditional checklists already a part of all editorial pre-publication  workflows. As a transitional approach I am not even saying that all radio stories demand this type of treatment but radio producers do need to ask themselves: is this a story which needs additional visual material provided through our website. If the answer is “Yes,” then contemporary listeners will expect nothing less.

American public radio NPR are ahead of the curve in making this transition and show what a contemporary online radio environment should be like. They also have one of the only decent news apps for the iPad.

“The best of the ABC” can no longer be produced in simple one medium format – the best now demands a multimedia approach.

The story can be heard here.

And the Aquila Asia website, which is fascinating, can be found here. They even have a facebook page.

Make convergence part of all your editorial workflows

BAM premiers new film on Alexander Shuglin…The “father of ecstasy” is still a serious scientist hard at work in his home lab despite failing health.

Making the transition from print or simple broadcast to fully convergent, multimedia journalism is not easy and does involve a range of labour and other costs. But I am constantly amazed at how media organisations – from big well resourced mainstream orgs to new and innovative blogs – ignore simple steps because they haven’t come up with a convergent workflow checklist for their stories, which would enable them to quickly add multimedia reader value.

For example, given that many companies now post their film trailers on YouTube there is no reason not to include an embedded trailer with every film review. This is even more important when you are reviewing festival and independent films which may not get wide mainstream release. Cinematical is a great site that covers film culture from mainstream Hollywood to independent arthouse releases. They are a blog product of the new media age, yet even these new comers have failed to take simple – more or less cost free/time free – steps to integrate multimedia clips into their site which is about MOVING PICTURES!

I clicked on this fascinating review this morning of a new documentary about Alexander Shuglin the mavrick chemist behind the development of ecstasy. It’s just premiered at the New York’s BAMcinemaFEST and is unlikely to get to Australia anytime soon, so I immediately went to YouTube to see if the trailer or any excerpts had been posted. Sure enough the production company behind the film had posted the trailer a week ago, so Cinematical could have legally and quickly embedded the trailer in their review. This would have given me instant access to a taste of the film and would have kept me on the Cinematical site and encouraged me to explore it further.

All this requires is a different mindset and a new easy step in the final editorial workflow…. Byline. Check. Picture caption. Check. Embedded YouTube trailer. Check. etc. It certainly requires more than adding an embedded film trailer to a review to complete the move to a fully convergent media experience but unless media organisations begin to integrate these first, easy, cost free steps they will never be able to make the bigger moves.

So let me give you a taste of the film:

The problem with iPad news apps

A turtle took a video camera for a swim and ended up on YouTube

I have been loving my iPad. Many of its features make reading the web a much more intimate, easy and pleasurable experience. However none of the mainstream news organisations – except perhaps NPR, which comes close – have managed to produce a fully functional app which matches the breadth and versatility of their respective websites. The real problem however is with sharing via blogging or social media sites.

Earlier today I came across a cute little story on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s new app about a Turtle activating a waterproof camera and taking it for a swim. The camera was found washed up on a beach in Florida and its contents were posted on YouTube. It’s hardly a breaking news story but it is a perfect light relief “share” story and my problems getting the word out illustrate some of the frustrations with the iPad as a creative reporting tool and some of the problems with current news organisations’ decisions around how to produce news apps.

Normally the Turtle story would have been easy to share because, unlike a number of other news apps, the ABC has good Twitter integration – including auto link shortening – for sharing stories straight from the app. However, the app story has no link to the YouTube video. The ABC is not alone here all news apps have decided to forgo links within their apps, so researching connections to related content is difficult. But if I was going to tweet this, I first wanted to view the video and of course I wanted to include a link. So I had to exit the app and go into the YouTube app and search for the Turtle video. I tried a few different searches – including some written phrases from the YouTube notes quoted by ABC – which failed to turn up the video. So I exited the YouTube app and went to Safari, I tried the ABC’s normal website to see if they linked to the video in their web version of the story. Not that I could see. Safari produced a few other news versions and one of them provided a link to the video, which on the iPad opens in the YouTube app. The You Tube app has share via email but no Twitter integration. So to share a simple 140 word tweet I had to:

1. Open the story in the ABC app, press the share via Twitter, which produces an auto tweet of headline and shortened url, which I copied but didn’t send; close

2. Open Twitterific app, paste tweet into new tweet form but didn’t send; close

3. Open YouTube app and find Turtle video; press the share via email and copy the url – as the app has no browser style url field; close

4. Back to Twitterific, open new tweet field which has kept my previous unsent version pasted from  the ABC app, add in the YouTube info and finally send.

It probably seems even more complex than it was. In some ways switching between apps is just slightly more complex than switching between open tabs on a normal browser (two or three finger taps instead of one mouse click), and for some functions I have learned to adapt pretty well, however in this case it was far more complex than it aught to have been. Hopefully all this will improve with the multitasking functions on the new iPhone4 OS but this doesn’t hit iPads till later this year.

However even after all this I had not anticipated one final problem. As I was reading and tweeting other stories, I noticed a message from @marygazze: “That turtle link just raised a huge red flag with bit.ly. Got another?” Hmm. Turns out that the ABC uses “is.gd” shortening and when I transfered it into to Twitterific the already shortened link was reshortened by bit.ly and this caused the “red flag”. I tired to check all this on my iPad but finally I got up and went into the study opened up my big browser and a set of tabs and had the whole thing fixed and retweeted in minutes.

A final interesting point is that when I looked at the normal ABC web story (not the iPad app version) on my large screen desktop I saw that they had actually included a link to the YouTube clip in the sidebar under “related stories.” I had missed this on my initial scan when I checked the normal ABC site through Safari on my iPad:  firstly I was looking for an instory link and secondly the smaller screen didn’t allow the sidebar link to jump out on a quick scan. This in itself is an interesting comment on Nick Carr’s recent thoughts on “Delinkification“. (For further comments on this see Jason Fry’s thoughts at Nieman Lab)

The Turtle story itself wasn’t really worth all the effort. The camera was found in January, so it’s really a strange story for ABC to be running six months later. But it serves as a good case study of certain trends in news delivery and my experience tweeting this story certainly serves as an interesting case study of the tweetability of iPad news. It also signals that news organisations should think harder about the nature of news in the evolving news ecology. If a news organisation is going to run a story in any format about a YouTube video they are simply not providing complete reporting without providing a link, if they can’t or wont provide a link why even bother running the story. Not providing a link demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the nature of viral YouTube videos and web sharing which is after all at the heart of what makes this story newsworthy.

Just to complete the strange twists of this story on sharability, I can’t embed the video here because the original poster disabled YouTube’s normal embed settings. Maybe he didn’t want to infringe the Turtle’s copyright! (More likely it’s a perverse attempt to up his view rate) If you want to see it, here’s the link to YouTube.

I have lots of other thoughts on iPad news apps and usability issues which I will cover soon in another post.

BBC Newsroom Head talks web video

Andy Plesser of Beet TV reports on the BBC’s approach to web news video.

Video news reporting for the Web, different than conventional television news, is quickly evolving and the BBC is innovating in a variety of forms including one which the newsroom calls a “show and tell.”

Recently in London, I spoke with Mary Hockaday, Head of the BBC Newsroom, about video news reporting for the Web.

She refers to an emerging format for correspondents on the ground to act as a sort of guide, providing an unscripted, personalized tour of the circumstances of a news story.

The final edition in Denver

Saying goodbye

The Rocky Mountain News, has become a regular example in my lectures to young journalists because of their commitment to great story telling, creative multimedia approaches and pulitizer prize winning features. Unfortunately they are about to become an example of a completely different kind: of the difficulties of sustaining a profitable model of journalism in the current economic environment. Today they closed their doors after their proprietors failed in their one month bid to sell the paper. As usual they say goodye with a stylish piece of multimedia. Hopefully their website will stay operational.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Yes We Can

This little video is a perfect example of multimedia reporting. A great summary intro which narrates the civil rights precedents to the Obama victory which combines historic footage intercut with Obama’s victory speech and contemporary commentary is followed by an interview with the perfectly chosen Maya Angelou. She concludes with a recitation of her poem “I rise” which resonates with the type of rhetorical speech making of Obama and other black leaders from the opening report. It also has an accompanying text feature

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Dopple your fun – Technology – smh.com.au

Five internet gurus spell out what’s happening at technology’s cutting edge, writes Nick Galvin.The breakneck pace of online innovation is showing no sign of slackening. New tools, concepts and services seem to pop up on the internet almost daily, making it nigh on impossible for the average punter to keep up with it all.

Dopple your fun – Technology – smh.com.au

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Learning to become

Another fine paper from Ulises Mejias: A Nomad’s Guide to Learning and Social Software. (Thanks to Will Richardson for the link) His insights on the cultural working out of social software technology is as astute as usual and his framework is superb:

At a more fundamental level, models of learning based on social software can facilitate the shift from what Brown and Duguid (2000) call learning about to learning to be, or to give a more Deleuzian connotation, to learning as becoming. Learning about implies a passive consumption of knowledge in the form of facts. Learning to be implies the application of knowledge in the development of skills that allows us to fulfill a particular (professional or non-professional) role in society. But to highlight the fact that being is not static, I’m using learning as becoming to signify an ongoing process. Learning, as constant becoming, is the work of nomads, to use another Deleuzian image explained below by Semetsky (2004):

“Nomads must continuously readapt themselves to the open-ended world in which even the line of horizon may be affected by the changing conditions of wind, shifting sands or storms so that no single rule of knowing that [learning about] would ever assist nomads in their navigations, perhaps only knowing how [learning to be, or learning as becoming] would” (Semetsky 2004:447, italics in original; my additions in brackets).

Semetsky continues by quoting Casey. ‘The local operations of relay must be oriented by the discovery (and often continual rediscovery) of direction (Casey 1997:306)’. Becoming, as this continual rediscovery of direction, takes place in relation to the world and to others. What social software can do is to help us re-situate learning in an open-ended social context, providing opportunities for moving beyond the mere accessing of content (learning about) to the social application of knowledge in a constant process of re-orientation (learning as becoming).

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Blogtalk: Storybox

Ben Hoh talked about a project using blogs with young refugeesA lot of “digital storytelling” follows the traditional narrative arc of problem/process/enlightenment in thier life story project with refugees Ben and his colleagues deliberately chose to use blogs with the idea that they are a more aggregative model that builds narrative idiosyncratically.Also explicitly talked about the project in terms of “narrative therapy” it reminded me of Marc’s comment this morning that it is ok if it’s only your mother who reads your blog – also OK if your blog is therapy, even though this is a well voiced criticism of blogs.Ben has developed a very interesting textual analysis of some of the emerging hybrid vernaculars that traverse the traumatic and the mundane and has come up with a very interesting notion of “neveryday” life:

So it is not really a matter of what these new vernaculars “actually mean” in a representational sense, but what they enable: a reconception of what used to be the spheres of everyday life and the political, into something else — into whatever space that can be apprehended with such a vocabulary. Call it “the neveryday” — an alternative platform upon which de Certeau’s model of “textual poaching” (de Certeau 1984) can be modified; in de Certeau’s model, the poacher is forever destined to be guerilla-as-loyal-opposition to “the writer”, but a “neveryday” mode of enunciation is more waywardly “queer” and less heroic, and yet also seems necessarily based on a transgressive, sometimes incomprehensibly extreme platform of an underwriting trauma, a crack in subjectivity. And while the embodied specificities of the refugee experience are irreducible, this crack is not — the coherent subject is an impossibility, and that this inevitably involves trauma; I would therefore suggest that the Storyboxers’ “neveryday”, with its underwriting trauma, could be a useful model for how both casual mundanity and affectual extremities are often modulated through each other in the blogging of the self.

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Blogtalk Downunder

For various reasons I haven’t posted here for a while but I have been busy preparing a paper for Blogtalk Downunder our first homegrown blogger confest. My abstract is below, readers of this blog will recognise some of the thoughts from previous postings!

Much of the published discussion and research on blogs and teaching and learning in higher education focuses on evaluation of blogging as a communicative technique. This type of discussion largely assumes that successful integration of blogging into course delivery should be judged against a pre-existing and unchallenged pedagogical model. This paper argues that to leverage its full educational potential blogging must be understood not just as an isolated phenomena, but as part of a broad palette of “cybercultural” practices which provide us with both new ways of doing and new ways of thinking. The paper looks at the ways broader theoretical models associated with the development of the blogsphere might challenge or enhance current theories of teaching and learning. Spatial metaphors inherent in network models of blogging will be contrasted with the surface/depth model of student learning. The paper will argue that blogs should not be seen merely as a technological tool for teaching and learning but as a situated practice that must be brought into appropriate alignment with particular pedagogical and disciplinary practices. A model of blogging as a networked approach to learning suggests that blogging might achieve best results across the curriculum not through isolated use in individual units.

I draw on lots of wonderful work by other people but I found Martin Jacobsen’s notion of “cyberdiscursivity very useful as a way of drawing out some of the new dimensions of blogging as a practice situated within a wider cyberculture. Here’s the key quote from Jacobsen:

Where oral rhetoric is embodied and literacy is disembodied, a cyberdiscursive rhetoric is virtual, characterized by remotely centred interactivity and instantaneousness…the concrete rhetoric of orality and abstract rhetoric of literacy become dynamic in cyberdiscursivity via the continuous, productive nature created by virtuality and user agency…oral rhetoric’s aggregative structure and literacy’s hierarchical structure give way to an emergent structure in CMC, pieced together by a user who does not recognize a structure until it develops before her through a random choice of fragments which seldom, if ever, remain cohesive, and which usually become impossible to trace…the communal nature of oral rhetoric and the individual nature of literacy move toward an idiosyncratic rhetoric in which reader/user agency transforms the textual experience into an epistemologically challenging game which shatters rules as basic to print texts as one word following another.

I was led to Jacobsen from Ulises A. Mejias’ excelent paper on online discourse

If you are interested in reading the whole paper download this pdf

Fascinating new experiment in news delivery

Wired reports on a fascinating new experiment in news delivery:

After doing much in recent years to revolutionize the way an encyclopedia can be built and maintained, the team behind Wikipedia is attempting to apply its collaborative information-gathering model to journalism.Through a new effort, Wikinews, members of the open-source community who write and edit Wikipedia’s encyclopedia entries are encouraged to test their skills as journalists. The news site follows a similar set of rules as the encyclopedia, which allows anyone to edit and post corrections to entries, so long as each change is recorded.

Interestingly unlike other citizen journalist experiments such as Indymedia Wikinews is adopting a policy that mirrors traditional journalistic commitment to objectivity. There project group voted “to collaboratively report and summarize news on all subjects from a neutral point of view.”The mechanisms by which this might be accomplished are in effect a new (and quite different) version of Gaye Tuchman’s famous “strategic ritual” of objectivity. It is one based around negotiated collaboration (compromise?) and peer review rather than through creating a series of source/journalist opinion buffers:

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales believes the process of collaborative editing has allowed Wikipedia — which contains more than 1 million entries in more than 75 languages — to maintain a neutral tone on a wide variety of controversial topics. He expects the same process to prevent bias in Wikinews coverage.”The incentive for behavior in a wiki is to write in such a way that your writing can survive,” he said. “The only way it can survive is if your writing is acceptable to an extremely wide audience.”

Alex Halavais makes some interesting comments in the Wired report:

Halavais believes Wikinews’ collaborative editing process will help foster a neutral tone in the content of its stories. However, he thinks writers’ biases will affect the selection of articles contributed, in much the same way that profit motives impact what mainstream media outlets cover.”One of the things mainstream media does, for better or for worse, is report on news they expect will drive sales,” he said. “This means ignoring foreign news, for example, in many cases, because a local audience is not as interested. Since there is not the same economic incentive, the question is what the agenda of Wikinews will look like. I suspect it will reflect the interests and lives of its citizen reporters.”


In a marvelous hypertext essay Adrian Miles both elucidates and models the hypertextual.

His reflections dance around the rhetoric of the link . He argues that use value and realism have over-determined our understanding of the way the link works or should work in hypertext writing. Miles points to a more open way of conceiving links and hypertextaulity:

Links are moments of risk in writing and reading.

When writing in a manner that we might characterise as ‘hypertextual’, that is, a writing in which the materiality of hypertext is not confused with the convenience of electronic dissemination, the link always remains open as a point of possibility….

The link does not require, need, or even recognise a codified set of rules for what may or may not be linked, either in terms of origins or destinations. To this extent the link always presents itself as a virtual outside to the codified norms of language, that is to grammar, syntactic organisation, and rhetoric.

For the reader, the link is also a moment of risk. This risk is that of comprehension and of readerly control. To follow a link is to surrender, in that moment of choice, control to a system whose logic of operation and connection remain unknown. A link is, then, in such a system, little more than a roll of the dice, and just as the dice may have a small set of outcomes (let’s say one in six), the particular outcome remains unknown in each instantiation. A link always operates like this, and for the reader this excess is a bet made with, and for, each link followed. That its force has been colonised by an existing model of writing [realism] is not surprising, as these qualities of the link move it outside of the system and processes of writing as we have ordinarily conceived them to be and so remain largely invisible to such systems.

Miles argues that hypertext works by analogy not traditional argument and negation; that it is more akin to a visual language than to traditional forms of writing.

This is a fascinating paper and is well crafted to show the delightful risks and gifts that hyperlinking can produce. It points to a different way of doing academic writing and warns that if we must just import our existing models of writing and criticism into online/digital environments then we are missing a great opportunity.

Miles work is much more developed than the type of structure that you would produce in a blog however it provides an interesting theoretical background for thinking about academic blogging as both a writing and research space. For one hypertext essays tend to link within whereas blogs tend to link out to other sites. However if we conceive of a research blog as a continuing hypertext essay we might work to thoughtfully linking backwards and forwards to our own as well as other’s posts.

Part of the freedom of blogging is its currency and its security as a space where anything from brief notes, first thoughts and links, to more worked-up essay style postings can live together. However we can also actively mine this archive and draw it together in the way that an artist gradually shapes a collage through the addition of other elements that juxtapose in some meaningful or surprising way with the forms that are already present.

Personal knowledge publishing

Excellent two part article on Personal knowledge publishing and its uses in research by Sébastien Paquet

Among the many interesting points he makes is one on the question of quality:

Quality emerges in weblogs largely as a result of the web of hyperlinks that is weaved by the community of editors. Although it is true that there is no review process prior to publishing, one definitely occurs immediately after publication.

As people read others’ weblogs, they link selectively to the content that they find interesting. Content that has been referenced more often directly obtains more visibility….

Note that these dynamics mirror those of academic publishing: articles that are cited more often are more visible and are read more. This is useful in two respects: it encourages quality, and it makes it more likely that people will find the most relevant documents.

Weblogs and Discourse

Oliver Wrede provides a really excellent framework for thinking about weblogs in higher ed in this detailed conference paper.

He begins be emphasising that blogs create a particular form of authorship:

Weblogs are not special because of their technology but because of the practice and authorship they shape. And it is a practice that will require a weblog author to be connected to processes, discourses and communities.

He goes on to specifiy this:

Weblogs combine two oppositional principles: monologue and dialogue. A reaction to a statement is not only directed to the sender but also to unknown readers. Very often the weblogger gets feedback from unexpected source: new relations and contexts emerge. This (assumed) undirected communication developes to an open and involving activity.

Weblogs not only enable interaction with other webloggers, they offer a way to engage in a discoursive exchange with the author’s self (intrapersonal conversation). A weblog becomes an active partner in communication, because it demands consistent criteria for what will be posted to a weblog (and how). This »indirect monologic dialog« of weblogs allow to conduct communicative acts that otherwise would only be possible in very particular circumstances.

The whole paper is really worth a read and I will come back to it.