Saturday, September 28, 2013

Playlist for Writing a Thing

This post was adapted from the blog Virtual Newsroom run by Josie Herrera and Mary Kenney. To check out the full post go here.

Josie’s Playlist:
I have a soft spot for almost every genre of music; therefore, my writing moods and processes are very specific and have to be broken up. Needless to say, music is a must for my writing process to be even remotely successful. 
My most recent example of this was just last week where I worked on a convergence reporting piece on the national folk-revival influencing instrument sales and music lessons in Columbia, Mo. Naturally, I worked some playlist magic and formed my own folk-revival list. I never thought I'd be so into the banjo, but this story really gave me a new appreciation. Thanks, journalism!

Regularly It starts with the…
1. Research
While I’m planning, organizing, contacting sources and researching, I enjoy a shameless Top 40 mix. Things I can sing along to and be silly while I work on the less glamorous side of media (what?!?!? journalism isn’t all glamour, all the time?). Playing the “Top Hits” station on Pandora will do the trick or check out some of these individually:
2. Walking to an Assignment
I admit I have a problem. I am part of the generation that can’t function without headphones…even if I’m not listening to anything. SO SAD. I make an extra effort at times to walk places without headphones because I am trying to be more human.
Still, getting in the mood for an assignment is essential to me. In this case, I play anything that makes me feel empowered and like a bad**s motherf**ker that can do anything. If it’s a long enough walk or T ride (I’m in the city), I’ll plug in and let epic-ness ensue. 
The Blood of Cuchulainn byMychael Danna and Jeff Danna (from The Boondock Saint’s soundtrack and especially feel good when walking through Boston).
3. Serious Hardcore Writing
Now I’m at the real deal. I’m about to try to blow hearts and minds and this piece of journalism is serious and not simply a fluff piece. I’m gonna f**k some s**t up. This is where my real musical interests are. Please check out some of these amazing non-Top 40 artists and support their work. 
4. Non-serious Fun Writing
Not that this isn’t important or interesting work…it just warrants a different kind of mentality. In these cases I revert back to Top 40 or I make it even better and listen to mainly bachata. 
5. Academics
Alas, I am still a student counting the credit hours I have left to graduate. To me, writing papers is VERY different than writing stories and articles. Besides the fact that I find it extremely boring, unnecessarily long and refuse to write in anything but AP Style, my music needs change as well. 
Refer to #4 for my favorite bachata songs that make academic writing bearable. I also really enjoy some of the stuff listed below for these sad occasions. 
Well, now that you know the intimate details of my life, I hope you find some new songs you like (especially in category 3).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NYT Micro-documentary is Simple and Powerful

A concept I just discovered is the "Op-doc."
This idea combines the visual power of micro-documentaries and uses it to express and opinion.

Welcome to the new age of the "Op-Ed" page.

Photo by
 The New York Time's "11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote?" caught my eye. The title itself is enough to make you want to watch with all the usual bombardment of pro-voting advertisements. A video on not voting? What is this? The concept, over seven minutes of talking to young Americans of why they vote or do not vote, was brilliant. It was an interestingly sarcastic and backhanded approach to counter the arguments of apathetic non-voters. The video was also very simple. It was just a compilation of high-quality interview shots with people. No b-roll necessary, just new angles and words. I also found it engaging to hear the interviewers comments from behind the camera. A new approach is refreshing and entertaining.

 Check out the video and Op-doc section here:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

LGBTQ Resource Center Hosts Election Watch Party

[Nov. 6, 2012. Columbia, Mo.] Patriotic decorations, provided by the Triangle Coalition, hang in the MU LGBTQ Center in celebration of election day. The watch party began at 8 a.m. with free bagels and cream cheese.

Red, white and blue paper decorations hang from the doorway of the MU LGBTQ Resource Center.
A sign by the entrance reads, "It's fun to support LGBTQ rights."

From its 8 a.m. opening on Nov. 6, the resource center is hosting an election watch party focused on encouraging the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community to vote.
Sophomore Theodore Tushaus arrived at the center at about 9:30 a.m. to join a small five person gathering to to start watching election coverage.

He had just finished voting in his first presidential election.

"I will be here from 9:30 a.m. till midnight, or until [a presidential winner] is called," Tu
shaus said. "I am very invested in this election."

The MU LGBTQ Resource Center is a "safe-space" in the MU Student Center that works to increase acceptance of LGBTQ students, staff and faculty on campus. The center can not endorse political candidates.

Breakfast bagels were provided by the center for early morning watchers. Free pizza will be provided at 6 p.m.

-Laura Herrera, 2150 Multimedia Journalism

[Nov. 6, 2012. Columbia, Mo.] Sophomore, and first-time presidential voter, Theodore Tushaus grabs a bagel as he settles in the MU LGBTQ Resource Center for a day-long watch party. The election watch party was sponsored by the resource center as well as the Women's Center and the Triangle Coalition. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

In the Storm, Multimedia Still Shines

As a Floridian, I am use to storms.

As twisted as it sounds, tropical storms and hurricanes carry nostalgia for my childhood with them. At 6-months-old, I slept through Hurricane Andrew. I went through the 2005 storm season without any shutters on my house. Hurricane Wilma left me without power and school for two weeks. This past summer I got to wade in Tropical Storm Debby's flood water for three days for the Tampa Bay Times. It was brilliant.

This is not anything new or frightening for me. I have also always seen the power of journalism in a time of need. The Miami Herald won an award for community service with their Hurricane Andrew coverage. I remember seeing their print editions even during storms and listening/watching local broadcast coverage during storms on battery powered TVs.

But I was interested to see how The New York Times would hold up. While they are one of the most prestigious publications in the world, they are not accustomed to hurricanes. Storms are a beast of their own. Even with this, I was pleased to see the continuation of powerful multimedia in storm coverage, predominately through photo slideshows.

This piece on power outages in public housing captured my attention as a new angle than most outlets looking at damage along the New Jersey shoreline:

Graphics and interactive features on the storm may also be found here:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Multimedia as a Form of Audience Interaction

As a regular viewer of "The Sweet Spot," a New York Times video blog by David Carr and A. O. Scott, I began to think of the emphasis journalists and journalism schools place on connecting with the audience.

Having individual reporters "vlog" or do radio interviews on specific pieces is not a new form of engaging audience with the news. However, "The Sweet Spot" goes above and beyond to show the usually invisible faces of "traditional" news organizations, like the New York Times.
Carr and Scott literally sit down with viewers on a regular basis and carry out, what seems like, natural conversations on topics that are not scripted and edited like in broadcast news segments. The flow of their dialogue is not awkward and looks for new angles on mostly arts & cultural issues, but sometimes issues like election coverage. Most importantly, the vlogs interview various NYT reporters and editors on their opinions or usual habits. In the segment "Election Overload," they asked about consumption of election news. In past segments, they've revealed reporters' guilty pleasures, often finding middle-aged  editors who love the song "Call Me Maybe." In "Election Overload" they even interviewed Executive Editor Jill Abramson.

While these are fairly simple dialogues and topics, I feel they are a new form of audience interaction that more "traditional" organizations should explore in order to continue being relevant.

On a brief side note, because I usually critique multimedia production, it did seem that in most of the one-on-one interviews "The Sweet Spot" failed to use a tripod to stabilize the camera. As this is a pet peeve for me, I do find it amazing that this is an issue for even the New York Times.

The Sweet Spot "Election Overlode?"

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Boundaries of Being a Bystander

As a journalist, social justice advocate and general human being, I feel there is a moral obligations for a journalist to their "sources" or whomever they are working to cover. There are situations where journalists, acting as humans, should help someone.

As a journalist, I do feel like I easily detach from the situation, but many aspect of "self-disclosure" that journalists will avoid, I feel are very valid. For instance, over the summer I did a more long-form-esque piece on the only LGBTQ support resource in Hernando County, Fl. When I initially contacted this group that work in a suburban/ semi-rural area the group organizer was very wary of what the Tampa Bay Times might want with their organization.
Members of the Hernando PFLAG chapter

We met over coffee to talk about it and I had to basically prove I was not a threat to the safety of their group. It would be easy to say I was interested in the organization because I am also queer and wanted to explore resources in the area I cover for other queer individuals. But I didn't do that. I didn't want to cross an ethical boundary that I wasn't even sure was there. Over my month and a half (maybe more) of covering them, at some point I did discreetly disclose that I had a "partner." From there, there was a mutual understanding that we understood part of each others stories and I was not just an outsider looking in.

Much of my work in the social justice community has to do with bystander intervention whether it is in bullying, alcohol poisoning, or sexual assault.  While I understand letting events unfold in order to document them, I do not feel any other case, especially in international coverage, should be that different. Why do press credentials give reporters the privilege of being a bystander instead of a solution?
Barbara Sinclair (left) of Brooksville, Fla. marches in the 2012 St.Pete Pride parade with her son, Dean Whitcomb.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Video Analysis: "Cooking with theTuccis"

While multimedia projects on cooking are not my usual taste, I found the New York Times "Cooking With the Tuccis" an excellent piece of videography.

The relevance of this piece was formed around the actor Stanely Tucci and his family's recently released cookbook, but used visuals and strong interviews to humanize a celebrity and his family. Personal interviews involved Stanely and both his mother and father in well framed shots. There were also various types of shots used, from the tight wide shots to detailed shots.

Detailed shots were especially prevalent when showing the cooking and consumption process. From the detailed cutting of steak to the mixing of pasta, the video showed many high quality shots with low depth of field in varying focuses. These shots, changed about every five seconds kept the piece visually interesting even for viewers who usually are not drawn by "entertainment" topics, such as food.