Follow my blog series, TechFed

I’d like to invite all of you to read a new blog series I’m writing for a class called TechFed, where I look into UK and Lexington related technology and social media news.

I guarantee to give fresh facts and analysis than any other tech resource in the area.

The column is something I am doing for my Media convergence class, on the site BlueCoast Live. It is another wordpress CMS-run site and I am taking the opportunity to do something different than my usual daily activities for the Kentucky Kernel, UK’s daily student newspaper.

So far, I’ve analyzed UK’s Facebook and Twitter activities, and identified the most active and also the most lazy social media outlets for UK organizations. Yesterday, I Storified Greek Sing, an annual Make-A-Wish Foundation fundraiser put on by university fraternities and sororities.

The opportunity to write about something that I have a passion for is a great one, and even though right now this is just for a semester and for a class, I think if I find this continually interesting, I could really run with this, and even take the idea to my first job and offer it up as a blog idea.

What I find so interesting is that social media is becoming a huge part of the daily lives of Americans, but right now, news organizations only look at the national level of social media, like the new announcements by Twitter and Facebook and Google. But, as social media is getting taken more and more seriously be local business owners, a huge industry of social media advertising, community engagement, marketing and news are flooding even the smallest of cities. The industry is large in Lexington, I know it. But the mainstream media is lacking serious coverage of this market.

I’m going to change that.

While I may not have the resources to fully cover every aspect of social media news happening in Lexington, and can sure take a stab at is. I think this will be an exciting experiment for both me and my readers.


Picture Kentucky 2011

Mary Deaton rests her hand on her face early Friday morning in the reception room of the Deaton Funeral Home in Jackson, Ky, Oct. 14, 2011. Deaton woke up around 1:30 a.m. to help service a new body. She would not be able to rest again until after a funeral later that morning. Photo by Brandon Goodwin

After attending my second Picture Kentucky workshop, the photojournalism workshop that inspired this blog, I have come back with similar feelings to those I had when I left the first. I couldn’t be happier about that, either.

The workshop assigns the 16 students to small groups, each lead by an accomplished photojournalist from around the country. Mine was the great Matt Detrich, a photographer from the Indianapolis Star and multiple winner of Indiana photographer of the year. He was a coach from the Beattyville workshop, and his presentation on the power of photojournalism had already changed how I perceived the career.

Now, I got four days of his time. I couldn’t imagine how much I would grow with his guidance.

My assignment this year was at the Deaton Funeral Home. The slip of paper I was given said that the embalmer was an interesting fellow, and to see what I could learn about him. When I got to the small funeral home, the embalmer was nowhere to be seen or heard of. The lady who answered the door, Mary Deaton – the owner, and eventual centerpiece of my story – delivered the bad news, but invited me in to talk.

After spending the first day with Mrs. Deaton, a retired Kentucky state social worker, Detrich and I decided she should be the focus of the story. (The embalmer was out of town that week). Her story was touching and real. See the video below:

Deaton and her son had taken over the family business when her husband passed away in 2008. Her home was fixated above the funeral home, keeping her in contact with business 24/7, but also tying her to it. What was special about her was her deep thoughts about death, and how it isn’t something to be feared, something to be ignored. Death is part of her daily life, and in some ways, she has already coped with the looming reality of the life cycle.

Photographically, the story was challenging. Her job on most days was simply to stay close to the phone, in case another body was to arrive, or need to be picked up. Sitting in an office all day doesn’t give a photographer a lot of options. But the light at the end of the tunnel was the funeral on Friday, the last full day of shooting for the workshop, where she would be more busy and interacting with other people.

Some things I learned from my four days as part of the Deaton Funeral Home family:

1. “That body ain’t gonna get ya, child,” – I had never personally seen a dead body in my life, until the day I introduced myself to Mary Deaton. Of course, I had seen pictures and videos, but the sudden rush of adrenaline and shock that flooded me with my first peak into that open casket snapped me back into reality. That quote was Mrs. Deaton’s response to my reaction. Too true, Mrs. D.

2. Don’t forget about that white balance – Natural light, flourescent, incandescent… they were all there. I thought to myself that every room must use a different type of light bulb, because even my automatic setting couldn’t keep up. I’m more aware now of that particular setting’s importance than ever before.

3. Stay focused – I’m talking about the photographer. Sitting in the office all day made me feel like I was wasting my time. That was wrong. Detrich put me in my place when I decided to skip out on Mrs. Deaton to hang out with the grave diggers for the afternoon. They weren’t the story. She was. Stay Focused.

Of course, the assignments only make up one part of the Picture Kentucky Workshop experience. In the evenings, like in previous workshops, each photojournalism coach gave what turned about to be huge inspirational talks.

The highlight this year was Jahi Chickwendiu, a staff photographer from the Washington Post, whose photographs of conflicts in  Africa and the Middle East easily awed the audience. But his speech was more than just a display of his own talents. He was setting a fire in us, giving us a piece of his own passion that threw him from being a high school math teacher to his current position at one of the most prolific newspapers in the industry.

Words cannot due justice to the passion Jahi’s speech instilled in me about photojournalism. Here is that speech. Enjoy: Latest tracks by lexpjjp

If you are interested in learning about photojournalism, and want to be pushed past your limits and more, check out Picture Kentucky’s website, and watch this video below:

Internships are invaluable (as if i’m telling you something you didn’t know)

My Page 1 play for my Indian Museum storyPractice makes perfect.

After my internship at The Oklahoman this summer, I truly couldn’t agree more.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to improve this summer until I arrived at the Oklahoman, and my copy came under the scrutiny of the editors here.

My first few stories were under par, and I was worried I had failed the editors’ litmus test. As discouraged as I might have been, they kept their faith in me, and in a few weeks, I was pumping out cleaner copy every day.

One of those stories was the one shown on the right. With the patience of Rick Green, the local desk editor here, I turned what was a mind-numbing numbers story into something truly valuable to the reader.

I should say that I had two goals this summer, and I would have been happy with just one of them being accomplished: Either (A): Get good play on the front page, or (B): Have two stories run on the same day.

I guess I set my goals pretty low, because the staff did more than their share to ensure that I got great stories and that they were well-played on the page. For example, in my first week, I had two front page stories.

One was on FEMA’s response to Oklahoma’s tornado damage. The other was this one.

Not only that, but in one edition I claimed the front page CP, and then had a second article teased on the front page as well. That broke both goals I wanted to achieve.

Another time, in yesterday’s edition, August 4, I got CP on the Page 1 AND on the Metro front.

I really can’t believe all the good that has come out of this internship for me.

I’ve made some amazing connections with some extraordinary journalists and interns here.

My writing went from typical fresh-out-of-j-school approach, to a more polished, professional style.

I’m still nowhere close to where I want to be as a storyteller. But give me two more years, and I might just be hirable. *Hint, Hint to any newspaper recruiters reading this*.

Live Storytelling: An ancient, compelling platform

The more that I think about live storytelling, the more I’m impressed with it.

Every story that I’m engaged with on a daily basis has been finely tweaked, edited, trimmed and polished with days or weeks of attention.

Yet there are people out there who participate in live, oral storytelling, who speak to an audience without notes or facts, and tell a story beautifully.

I’m truly fascinated with these speakers who can deliver compelling, gripping stories in their presentations. It isn’t an easy thing to do; more of an art form than anything else.

The Moth Radio Hour

I came across this type of storytelling while listening to NPR. I tuned into a new station, and they introduced me to a new program called Moth Radio Hour, an anthology of stories told by speakers to a live audience at a theater hall. I can honestly tell you, I never remember the drive home on the days it broadcasts. My full audible attention was directed towards the speakers. It truly is an experience.

In any case, the program would be extraordinary to see live, a romantic and thoughtful alternative to the movies or a play. Many of these events take place in New York City, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles. If you are ever in town, be sure to hit up a show. Here’s the Moth Radio Hour’s scheduled events.

One speaker in particular, Edgar Oliver, with his haunting voice and presence, is a must listen. His true story account of his life growing up in Savannah, Georgia, with his sister, who both want desperately to escape the grasps of their paranoid and dementia-ridden mother’s controlling grasps.

This type of ancient storytelling has stood the test of time, and the power of these stories tell me that something about the medium is everlasting, so long as humans are capable of communicating.

While live storytelling isn’t a perfect science, and probably isn’t a recommended way for journalists to get their messages across, I think it ought to deserve an immense amount of respect from any kind of storyteller. Broadcast or print, fiction or non-fiction. These stories are masterful in their own way, and they are in no short supply.

Storify: altering storytelling techniques

I’ve read blogs and books that experiment with story structure and storytelling techniques. When I ran into Storify not too long ago, I knew it would change storytelling for me. It gave my writing new pathways into alternative narratives and plot structure.

If you are a hard news journalist, you know how severely formulaic your pieces can become if you let complacency seep into your routine.

Here is an example of a great storify piece from UPI on the debt debate.

Example of Storify's unique storytelling capabilities

Storify example of UPI's story on the debt debate

Storify is a social media and information tool that drags Snippets of information – like tweets, blog posts, articles, photos and videos- into a storyline.

It’s not a new concept, but Storify let’s the user create an annotated piece of virtual nonfiction by allowing a writer to provide evidence like a broadcast journalist would.

What I mean is that Storify presents written evidence in a visual storytelling way. An “author” (or really a social media editor) can be an integral role in a story, or let the information completely dominate the piece and speak for itself.

I haven’t used the service yet, but I see the potential, and I’m biting at the bit for a good story to come along to fully see its potential.

Social Media pushes my storytelling ability

I take social media like I do Advil.

In doses.

My friends on twitter tell me I reappear into the microblogging world with guns blazing, and after about 30 tweets I disappear for weeks at a time. I treat Facebook like I do my job as a journalist; I don’t interfere and watch from the background as news and media flood my feeds.

But recently, I’ve recommitted myself to using all the storytelling social media tools available through my computer and iphone. Each keep me thinking about how I can tell the story of my life, or what I’m reporting. They allow fresh thought, angles and flexibility in what I think is newsworthy bit of info or a quality photograph.

So here are my weapons in my arsenal I use to get my voice heard:

Twitter:  This is my primary weapon. The easiest way to share all my articles, blog posts, photos, videos and audio snippets I curate, Twitter is a powerful weapon for storytellers. I’m keeping this one on standby at all times. If you don’t have a twitter, get one. If you don’t follow me, @bdgood. Do it.

  • Apps I use for Twitter: I’ve been flip-flopping between Tweetdeck and Hootesuite. But since I don’t need all the professional analytics available on the web-only hootesuite, I tend to organize my feeds and twitter lists with Tweetdeck.

Instagram: While I use many apps for photos, I’m publishing them via Instagram (or online). This allows me to post them on the instagram mobile social network and other social networks. It has a tilt-shift feature which allows some funky editing along with their available filters.

  • Apps I use for mobile photography: My most used tools are Hipstamatic, PictureShow, Auto Stitch, Photoshop Express, besides my default Camera app. Hipstamatic is just awesome for non-serious moments when I don’t mind experimenting with photography. It is risky since you can’t keep an original, so if you’re on assignment (which you shouldn’t be using filters anyway) you might miss that moment by using the wrong lens. PictureShow is a fun post-processing app which gives me lots of options. I use Auto Stitch for wide panoramas, although it tends to shut down (patience required). Photoshop Express gives me the basic editing tools I need to clean up a photo.

Foursquare: Its like the scene-setting graphs in a novel. I can announce my arrival at a destination while also getting sucked into the thrill of gamified social networking. Foursquare‘s geolocating service allows me to post to Twitter and Facebook my location, which can help my followers understand succeeding photos, videos and tweets/posts. I prefer Foursquare over Facebook Places because of its smaller network. I have a tighter and close-knit group of tech-savvy friends that I trust. If I feel ok with posting my location, I have the option of putting it on Facebook or Twitter. Over Gowalla, well… I just picked one (cue Canon vs. Nikon argument similarities).

Soundhound: This usually doesn’t come into play for my journalistic career, but I love it. Similar to Shazam, but without the fees, Soundhound gives me a way to identify songs, and then provides me more information and options than I would ever need.

If you don’t think that social media has earned its place in the journalism field yet, Brian Stelter certainly put it to use for the New York Times during his reporting from Joplin, Mo. He was quoted as saying “Looking back, I think my best reporting was on Twitter.” Read his blog post here.