Archive for the ‘ New Technology ’ Category

Is Skype the Future of Live TV?

Almost everyone has used Skype these days, whether it is for a business conference or to stay in touch with loved ones and friends face-to-face. However, Skype is also being used in the newsroom.

According to Poynter Online, a WTSP-TV anchor/reporter Janie Porter was on TV, reporting live from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on the run-up the week’s national college football championship game. Interestingly, she didn’t have a big live truck accompanying her, an engineer tuning in a shot or a photojournalist standing behind the camera and setting up lights. All she had, was her computer.

Porter set up her own camera, opened her laptop, connected the camera to her computer, slipped a wireless connection card into her laptop, called up Skype and used her Blackberry to establish IFB (the device TV folks wear in their ears to hear the off-air signal). Put this all together, and you have a pretty decent live shot without all the hassle of a crew and a huge camera.

This type of reporting marks a new day. It is more than backpack journalism or one-man-band reporting. It is a potential cost-saving way to use fewer people and to send in live reports without using expensive trucks.

According to Poynter, WTSP News Director Darren Richards said, “The process was surprisingly simple. We used a camera with firewire video out to a reporter laptop computer. We then used Skype to send the picture via a wireless AirCard. Back here at 10 Connects, we called up the video via Skype in a computer in our control room that we have on the router. We then punched it up like a regular live video source on our switcher. We ran some tests in advance and they all worked great — very smooth with only a slight delay, probably a little shorter than a SNG (satellite truck) shot.”

The key to a smooth shot seems to be having solid high-speed connection. The slower the connection, the worse the signal becomes. It also helps to have a fast laptop.

Well, If this doesn’t sum up the future of reporting, I don’t know what does. I’m very proud to say that I did my own live shot recently for QNN – The Quinnipiac News Network via Skype. I’m so glad that our professor is using Skype as a journalism tool and is helping us get some live shot experience while still in college.

Here are some examples of live shots using skype.

Robo-Journalists?

The future may be bleak for us mere humans…especially with robo-journalists taking our jobs!

There has been a significant increase in automated journalism in the last year. Software programs are able to write sports stories and generate original news videos by compiling images and opinions found on the Internet.

But now, researchers at the Intelligent Systems Informatics Lab (ISI) at Tokyo University have developed a journalist robot that can autonomously explore its environment and report what it finds. The robot detects changes in its surroundings, decides if they are relevant, and then takes pictures with its on board camera. It can ask nearby people for information, and uses internet searches to further round out its understanding. If something appears newsworthy, the robot will even write a short article and publish it directly to the web.

Although the idea of robot journalists may be frightening, and maybe even creepy, there are some benefits to the idea. For instance, robot journalists can go to areas too dangerous for human reporters. Back in 2002, MIT created the Afghan eXplorer robot to cover the war there. Of course, that robot was a teleoperated shell while the ISI bot is autonomous. Which means that we can make a huge number of these bots, send them out into the field unsupervised, and have them generate a new era of robot written media.

To see some robot journalists in action watch the video:

Tweet, Tweet

Photo Credit - arkarthick.com

Twitter has revolutionized society as we know it. In a nutshell, Twitter is a networking tool that helps users keep up with friends, strangers, and even celebrities. But for news organizations, it is a resource for publishing work, communicating with other journalists and finding story ideas.

Along with The New York Times, other news organizations such as CNN, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel and The (Portland) Oregonian are using Twitter to post breaking news alerts and updates on sports, business and traffic, that can be read via cell phone text messages, instant messaging or on a user’s Web browser.

One of the best things about having a Twitter account for a news organization is that it doesn’t take much time to create. And it’s free. Having a free tool is especially important in today’s industry with newsrooms making tons of cutbacks to save money.

Journalists can also use Twitter to get tips for story ideas through updates from other organizations. Journalists can use Twitter’s public timeline and look for trends to develop into a story. They can also find sources in the search option on the right-hand side of the Twitter page.

Some journalists are even using Twitter to find jobs. The British journalism site, journalism.co.uk., has a Twitter account that sends job updates to subscribers who write “Looking for a job.” Followers of the twitter site can also have job updates instant-messaged or text-messaged to them through Twitter.

Recruiters can use Twitter to help keep in contact with people who apply for jobs and internships. By posting a tweet, a recruiter can let everyone know where the company is currently at in the selection process. This will definitely save them a lot of unnecessary phone calls and e-mails.

Although many people in the news business are still not familiar with Twitter, it can be a very useful tool. So journalists…jump on the Tweet-wagon and tweet away!

Wiki what? WikiLeaks.

According to Time Magazine, websites like WikiLeaks and WikiNews “could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”

The beauty of wikis in general is that multiple editors and contributors can collaborate on a web page. The most famous  wiki, of course, is Wikipedia. In 2004, Wikipedia decided to apply the concept of Wikipedia to news, and created what was called WikiNews. The goal was to promote the idea of the citizen journalist – the idea that anyone, anywhere, can be a journalist.

Of course, just because someone posts something on a wiki, does not make it true. Mutual trust and cooperation are the key ‘checks and balances’ that help make WikiNews legitimate. WikiNews has a policy that must be followed by users when referring to points of fact. The policy states, all sources used for information must be cited, and they must be verifiable by someone else. In the case of original reporting, field notes must be presented on the article’s discussion. By having these checks in balances in place, WikiNews can remain accurate.

Although WikiNews seems like a good idea, there are cases where other wikis have gotten out of hand.

Photo Credit - WikiLeaks.org

A website called WikiLeaks started off as an organization that publishes anonymous submissions and “leaks” of otherwise unavailable documents while preserving the anonymity of sources. At first, WikiLeaks was promising to the journalism industry. Being able to access otherwise confidential documents instantaneously rather than going through the long process of an FOI request (Freedom of Information) seemed like an amazing thing. But it’s true that too much of a good thing, is not good.

In late July, WikiLeaks was thrown into the spotlight when it posted a huge trove of secret U.S. military documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to ABC News, the U.S. Defense Department has warned “it could have blood on its hands for publishing documents that name Afghan sources.” This brings us to the question – has journalism gone too far?

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said he supported tools like WikiLeaks that expose wrongdoing, but he also noted that journalists must practice integrity and responsibility to censor unrelated information that could put people in danger.

As technology and information evolve, it becomes easier to access information. However, a journalist needs to be careful when dealing with new tools like WikiLeaks. Although technology is evolving, the ethical codes of journalism must still apply.

There’s An App For That

There seems to be an app for everything these days. In light of a recent survey, perhaps news organizations should start thinking about mobile apps.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Internet and Nielson, studied cellphone users’ app habits. They found that about 43 percent of cellphone users have an app on their device, but only about 29 percent actually use them. However, this may change. The ever-growing market for smart phones is sure to increase app usage. So, journalists…jump on the bandwagon!

Photo Credit - thefrisky.com

It’s simply a fact..young people like apps. According to the survey, about 47 percent of 18 to 29 year old said they’ve downloaded an app, compared to 39 percent of 30 to 49 years. The 50-plus group brings in a measly 14 percent. For news organizations looking to reach out to young customers, apps are perfect. The survey also found something very interesting – young people have taken to giving mobile donations. For nonprofit news organizations like ProPublica, this is the perfect combination. Young people plus apps equals money!
Another interesting fact about apps is people who use them tend to get their news online. According to the survey, 90 percent of app users consume news online, compared to 75 percent of non-app users. That is a HUGE percentage! Apps will not only draw in money, but will draw in an audience. By having a mobile application, a news organization can keep constant contact with their audience.
Some news organizations already have apps. For instance, CNN and USA Today both have applications. Unfortunately, news apps aren’t nearly as popular as game apps, but they are managing to make it onto the scene. The most popular apps, such as Facebook take a whopping 42 percent of users. If you look a little further down on the popularity scale, news apps start appearing – nine percent of users said they used the CNN app in the past month, 8 percent USA Today and 7 percent New York Times. For being fairly new to the app scene, these number aren’t too bad!
Apps need to be quick and concise. The survey found that people who use their apps daily only do so for less than 30 minutes. This is where journalists’ skills to catch an audience’s attention will come in very hand. With people only spending so little time on an app, a good headline or lead is extremely important to draw them in.

They Can Run, But They Can’t Hide

Government agencies beware. A new open source tool is allowing journalists and citizens to see what’s happening in Washington around the clock.

The new tool, called ChangeTracker, lets users monitor changes made to government websites, such as the WhiteHouse.gov, Recovery.gov and the FinancialStability.gov. ChangeTracker is extremely accurate, showing users exactly what was removed, edited or updated on the sites. It also shows side-by-side comparisons of the website before and after the changes were made.

Scary, huh? Well, maybe for people like the President. Let’s say, for instance, the Obama administration decides to alter the language on a proposal or backtrack on a claim. As soon as this happens, the users of ChangeTracker will immediately see what changed. Cellphones and computers will immediately light up with notifications since users can receive updates a variety of ways – via RSS, Twitter (by following @changetracker), daily email or directly on the ChangeTracker Web page.

It’s almost like having a twenty-four seven security watch on the White House. For ProPublica, this is a great asset for their investigative reporting,

According to Scott Klein, ProPublica’s director of online development, “ChangeTracker will help us keep an eye on the administration’s transparency pledges, and will help reporters, bloggers, government watchdogs and everyday citizens keep watch over the Web sites of their elected officials.”

That being said, ChangeTracker can truly help ProPublica fulfill their mission – to hold officials in prominent positions accountable. But, ProPublica is not the only one taking advantage of this tool. ChangeTracker’s open source software allows anyone to use it on any website they choose.

According to Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica’s managing editor, ProPublica is proud to share this tool with other media organizations. “This is a tool that local news organizations can use to follow the government officials they report on,” Engelberg said. “Any city, state or federal reporter can adapt ChangeTracker to their needs.”

ChangeTracker is just one example of an open source tool. Open source tools are increasingly becoming great sidekicks for journalist. There are countless open source tools out there, journalists just need to learn know how to use them to their advantage.