The headline says it all.
I thought we had all learned our lessons about “shoveling” our content from one medium to another without tweaking it, even print-to-online stories. But no.
As much as I love NPR, they are the culprits for inciting enough irritation to write this post.
I clicked on a story. They offered a soundbite from the radio of a written story. Naturally, I clicked on the radio version, and I thought I would skim the story at the same time. Easy enough.
No. The story was ver batim the same story the radio reporter said. It was like looking at a transcript.
Why this is so frustrating is because of a few reasons. This applies in general to all news organizations, by the way:
1. It wasted my time: I would love to invest my time into reading and listening, but only if there was something unique to experience from each format. I don’t want to waste my time watching a video, when I know what happens (who does).
2. It’s lazy: Don’t put up duplicate stories on your website just because they are different formats. Each medium has it’s advantages to bring to a story. If the reporter wasn’t hustling enough to get info for a print story, or do a quality video, then he/she shouldn’t do it.
3. It’s wasteful: Using storytelling formats is a great thing, if you use them correctly. We have all of them for specific reasons. It’s a shame to see potential for something great to be tossed out because of “shoveling” stories.
Stories are like languages, you can’t get by using cheapo online translators to converse with someone. You need to be somewhat fluent, understand dialects and regional differences. Videos, audio bites and print stories all have their own flows, and transitional elements. I would expect a major broadcasting network like NPR to know this.
Lesson: Don’t duplicate your story. Expand your story with each format you introduce. If you do, you certainly won’t regret it.
If you want to see an example of a story that does it right, check out Denver Post’s American Soldier feature. They intertwine all their formats well and integrate each with great web design.
Stories from the Picture Kentucky workshop which sparked this blog are many. But the first I would like to share was the one I am still living down today. All it took was for Davide Labelle, a very well respected photojournalist, to ask me a simple question.
“Are you a writer?”
Harmless at first glance, but it was so much more than that.
So, at Picture Kentucky, it was a mixed bag of photojournalists and noobies looking to pick up the craft. Many of them worked at my student newspaper in a variety of roles, but all with print journalism backgrounds; writers in other words.
I was the assistant photo editor of my paper, the Kentucky Kernel, and I was proud of that. So proud, I wanted nothing else but to make the best pictures out of everyone, and impress everyone. I needed to prove to myself that I could take on the job responsibilities.
In short, I needed to impress Davide Labelle.
That didn’t happen.
In fact, I did the opposite. After the first day of the workshop, and I had returned with my first set of photos, David, as my team leader, started looking through my take.
He shook his head, muttering to himself “Brandon, Brandon, Brandon…” in that sad tone that any word which arrives in triple succession means bad news. Then, he gave me a good once over and asked, “Are you a writer?”
Or in other words, “Are you a noobie wannabe photographer who doesn’t know what he’s doing?”
Yes, you could say I’ve dwelled on it a bit. And when I told my friends about it, they have drug the joke on well past its prime. But after the incident, I knew I was nowhere close to where I needed to be.
I become a sponge during that workshop. Soaking in all the advice I could fit in my brain that four hours of sleep would allow.
Things like: “Its not what they are doing we care about, its where they are doing it,” a piece of advice that is still helping me today.
I think I’ve become a much better photographer because of that paranoia. To think someone would mistake me again for something I was not has propelled my need to make better pictures.
It’s only one fraction that pushes me to work hard, but its a part thats lasted with me through much of my photographic career.
Got any funny photo stories you want to share?
Email me a firstname.lastname@example.org with “Composition Notebook Post” in the subject line, and i’ll post it on the site.
I think my biggest contribution to journalism and storytelling may be to improve local, rural news industries.
My reasoning: they need someone to help them.
I realized and confirmed one of my long-held suspicions that smalltown newspapers are stuck in the past at a local Wal-Mart near my father’s home. I saw the front page; all black-and-white photos, which were just two three-column mugs. The kicker was a fire-red flag across the top.
The layout seemed to be stuck in the 50’s and I thought to myself, once again, “And we don’t know why journalism is dying?” While I didn’t think about snapping a photo from my iphone, I thought later to check out their website, should they have one. What I discovered wasn’t far from what I expected.
I think it is fair to say, it is almost unnavigable and completely forgotten about in the days of AngelFire.
I don’t want to single this news organization out, because there are so many that are struggling with the same issues. I’m no expert in the field of digital journalism, but I know by my experience at my student paper, there are plenty of young and innovative minds out there that could help these veterans out in the digital age.
These news organizations have stood the test of time, and that plays to their abilities to tell stories and provide information the community deems valuable. All they need is a little journalistic Redbull to pull them into a new era of multiple-platform publishing.
I guess the best lesson i’ve taken away from this is while the message may remain the same, sometimes how you convey that message is just as important.
I’m sitting at home safe, but I can’t say the same for Oklahoma journalists right now.
For the past three hours, i’ve been glued to local TV, Twitter, the Oklahoma City newspaper website, newsok.com, and Facebook keeping up with the movement of current tornadoes ravaging central Oklahoma.
I’m not the only one either.
The nation is glued to TV and computer screens, desperately scrambling to find new information and coverage of the storms. All the national news outlets are collecting photographs and video from people and reporters on the ground, publishing photographs of twisting tornadoes and debris.
Read articles about the storms:
The dedication of these journalists to cover storms in the midst of clear and present danger is one reason why journalism will not die. Journalism is directly saving the lives of several people who are listening in via radio or TV in these storm-stricken areas.
The Oklahoma City NBC affiliate station, KFOR, had their chopper in the middle of the storm, finding destroyed homes with families standing around with stunned looks painted on their faces. The chopper landed to check on them, and the family said they were listening in on the radio to KFOR’s broadcast and took shelter just at the right time. Everyone in their family was safe, except for a few cuts and bruises.
Without journalism, these people may not have received the information necessary to take shelter in time. These hardworking photojournalists and reporters use their own way of life-saving tactics, called information.
I know from this that I, as a storyteller, can learn so much from these individuals who drive, fly and run into danger to get information that is saving the lives of people across this state.
While I don’t necessarily want to be in the middle of a tornadic thunderstorm, I won’t hesitate if I’m called upon. Until then, I applaud the accomplishments of those journalists on the front lines of our homeland.
Entry #2 Summary: Telling stories and information-gathering, at its roots, takes courage and steel resolve. We are a service-based industry that deals in information.
On Oct. 2, 2010, I was given a composition notebook.
I was told to fill it with experiences and lessons which would make me a better storyteller and photographer. It was given to me in front of other blooming storytellers by a man who possesses my unshakable respect.
Originally, David Labelle, my mentor during the photojournalism workshop Picture Kentucky, told me I needed it because I was having trouble with the composition of my photographs. He said maybe someday I could return that notebook to him with it filled.
I intend to do so.
I have until next year’s Picture Kentucky workshop to fill every page with entries on how to tell better stories, and reach my full potential. I am journalist, and I will meet my deadline.
A person is a composition in themselves, crafted through life experiences. We are molded by the people we meet, the stories we hear and share, the friends we keep and the dreams we work towards. Through this project, I hope to become the best person I can be, and compose within myself the characteristics of a true storyteller.
With this in mind, I want to invite you on my journey to fill that composition notebook. Maybe you can learn from my entries. Maybe I can learn from yours. We’re in this together. Let it begin.