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.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Keeping Up with Social Media

Nancy Loo's lecture on using social media to interact with others reminded me that I love social media... in theory.

I have successfully used Twitter previously to interact with not only readers in my past internship, but other reporters and the new organization's main Twitter handle. I love being able to send out quirky pictures for Fourth of July gold cart parades or information on flooded community pharmacies (both real life examples), but sometimes I fall behind.

Sometimes I am slow to updated my LinkedIn account or will neglect my other blog for months on end. I was excited to begin this blog thinking I' be engaged throughout the week, but I consistently find myself leaving posts (like this one) till Saturday on deadline. I have also neglected to up the image or the "about me" section of this blog.

Maybe successful bloggers have an inherent drive and a natural strength that they've found in blogging or maybe they make weekly goals and schedules. How do successful bloggers keep up to date?

"Taking on Tosca": A Self-Narrative

The New York Time's "Taking on Tosca" was an excellent example of a self-narrative profile.

The videography, even in the low lights of a opera house, is clear and high quality. The reporter allows for the singer's voice to be heard clearly without the audio mishaps of mishandled microphones or cords. There was strategically cuts between the signer's talking explanation and performance as not to overwhelm watchers. In addition, the interviews with the singer and play director show clear visuals with a lower depth of field as to focus on the speaker and not have items in the background distract from their faces.

Asides from the technical aspect, I appreciate the use of self-narratives as a way of allowing people to tell their own stories. While in this specific example it is easy to allow a source to tell their own story, I feel this is always a far more insightful way of approaching storytelling, especially in a multimedia platform.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Beyond the Awkward Silences

As a full-time reporting intern for the Tampa Bay Times, I was constantly out and about talking to sources for profiles or wadding through flood waters from Tropical Storm Debby. I loved the constant interaction and meeting new people for every story.

At the same time I had photographer envy. It seems like they just got to hang in the background of ever story scene I wrote and just visually document. They talked to sources and gathered some info, but they seemed come and go as they pleased.

For this reason I was excited to start my multimedia project on the Necropolis haunted house. For my three photo assignment I was relieved to not be going through the whole in-depth interviewing multiple people aspect along with having to write it all in a few hours for the next day.

But I failed to anticipate just how awkward being a photographer, a seemingly silent figure in the background, could be. As a writer I'm use to moving between observing and asking bold questions. I learned very quickly that people are wary of photographers and at times where there is not much movement or noise (like work meetings like the one at today's Necropolis shoot) it can be awkward to be moving around going shutter-happy.

I hope to either acclimate to this better or improve my social skills as a photographer and who better to do this with than the ragtag cast of haunted house actors?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Through the Lens: Seeing Red

The "Seeing Red" assignment was a useful way to ease myself back into shutter-happy mode. I have not been able to take photos at my leisure for a while and I hope to make it a bigger habit, if not for my professional development then for my entertainment. Here are the top three shots form the assignment:

Getting back to photography also made me think a lot about some of my heroes in the realm of photography and journalism. I doubt I would ever focus enough on photojournalism to hold my own against their work, but it is always good to keep them in mind for inspiration.

The Miami Herald's photographer Patrick Farrell has always been one of those heroes. As a Miami native, I have grown up with the paper and in high school read it literally every morning after my car ride to school. When the Haiti Earthquake hit, not only did I see each of his photos come out in the daily editions, but I helped cover local relief efforts in the newsroom. I was thrilled, but not surprised, to see the announcement that he had won a Pulitzer for his Haiti coverage. Not only were they quality photos, but I saw first hand how much the coverage meant to my community.

Here is a link to multimedia inside view of the photographs:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

How Wedding Media can be Significant for LGBTQ Individuals

Woman in a large hat and colorful shift stand in the foreground. Behind her her son holds a rainbow pride flag.
Barbara Sinclair of Brooksville, Fla. and son Dean Whitcomb march in the St. Pete Pride parade representing the Hernando County chapter of PFLAG.               Photo by Laura Herrera
Because of Monday’s lecture, I began to think about what is worth telling through multimedia.
After watching the MediaStorm piece, A Thousand More, it is really hard to imagine anything I might work on in J2150 as significant in comparison to the story of 9-year-old Philip Mayer who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. But I'm working towards it.

I have a guilty pleasure when it comes to anything wedding related. From alternative wedding blogs, like Offbeat Bride, to ‘Say Yes to the Dress,’ I love seeing weddings come together. One of my favorite indulgences is the New York Times’ Vows section.

NYT Vows is basically soon-to-be-wed couples telling the stories of how they found each other. While these are beautifully put together multimedia stories (I wouldn’t expect anything less from the New York Times), I’d categorize them as fairly insignificant. How does a couple getting married compare to the unique story of Philip Mayer?

While it would be unreasonable to ever compare the two, I realized NYT Vows does inadvertently add important social commentary when it comes to sharing the stories of queer* couples.

Most wedding coverage is really hetero-normative. It’s rare, though not unheard of, to see queer couples featured on mainstream wedding shows. NYT Vows is not only more proportional in the population they feature, but because queer couples are able to share their own stories they have the ability to politicize their story as much or as little as they want.

Interestingly enough, every story of a queer couple I have watched has included a political reference. Some talk in-depth about how they never imagined marriage would be a legal reality for them. For others, it is as simple as “Thank you, Governor Cuomo.” This shows the unique cultural environment queer relationships form under in the United States.

To me, that seems pretty significant.

*Queer in this context is used as an umbrella term for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and other identities.