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When I look at multimedia pieces, I’m usually drawn to pieces that strike an emotional chord, those that show the viewer something they would not have been able to understand otherwise. Pieces that words alone could not bring justice. I found this is a PBS documentary called “Child Brides, Stolen Lives done by Producer Amy Bucher, Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa, Senior Producer Lesley Norman and Executive Producer John Siceloff. This was a one hour video documentary about the damage to the lives of young girls who were forced into early marriages in foreign countries.

Hinojosa visited countries in India, Africa and Latin America for this piece, focusing mostly on the emotional aspect of the issue. The piece mainly revolved around personal interviews and moving visuals. This is a great story to have presented through a video medium because you can actually see the innocence and fear in the eyes of the 13-year-old girls who had to deal with being an adult at such an early age.
In India, when Chukha told her story of abuse and rejection by her in-laws, the video picked up the emotional pain in her eyes. In the end, the video showed that there is hope. You see this hope in the girls as well as they smile through their fears and pain.

Even though I liked this piece, I still saw that some changes could be made to make it better. For instance, the producers could have gone beyond video and made this more of an online piece, incorporating facts and statistics. They could include statistical data on the side about child brides in different countries. The video showed hope but it didn’t show how change could be made. They should provide ways for individuals to get involved (maybe in a box on the side). I also would cut out the piece in the beginning of Hinojosa speaking to the camera and just focus on the girls.

A Reuters’ article about a study conducted by University of Maryland’s journalism professor Susan Moeller showed that students are addicted to the internet. Compare flashing colorful images onscreen to printed words on recycled paper — Traditional newspapers can’t compete with new media. We’ve become a nation with ADD symptoms. Sure, we can sit still in front of the computer, but we probably have at lease five screens open at once. Facebook. Myspace. YouTube. Gmail. Bing. It’s like what Tom Rosentiel said about the audience being polygamists. We can’t commit to one social media, not to mention a single news outlet.

And the lure of not being in any committed monogamist relationships? Its fun. Like digital journalism. Even for online journalists, they have more freedom to express themselves. You can write blogs in first person. You can express political and religious thoughts and opinions. You can defame someone and not have to worry about libel (not that I would do that). And you don’t have to stick to one medium. Maybe some stories are better told through visual images. Others through video. And sometimes you can capture so much more feelings and emotions with images than any secondary description. I like that I can be present in a blog but also completely take myself out of a video. With videos, I like it for the subjects to tell the story and not distract it with my own narration.

However, the thing with blogs is that everyone can be a journalist now. I don’t even know what journalism/journalists mean anymore. Does having a degree in journalism make one a journalist? What about a job at a well-known news organization? Or a Youtube channel that has one million hits? Or a blog with 50 comments? Or what if I blog every hour? With new media, the line between journalists and readers is being blurred. Now readers can create their own content and don’t need journalists anymore. You can get published and reach the masses without a middle man. All you need is a computer and internet.

Coming into journalism school I was very adamant about sticking to print. But all the sites and articles we’ve analyzed made me realize how much journalism is evolving. Soon no one will be reading print news anymore. Mussenden once said something like, if no one reads an article does it exist? Or is it like the tree in the forest that supposedly fell? I’ve been learning to do things I used to be uncomfortable with and I’m finding that it’s not that bad. Like setting up a twitter account. Or YouTube. Or blogging. Or looking at HTML codes.

Journalism isn’t just about feeding information to the public anymore. It’s about communication — about getting comments and replying to them. The audience can choose what information they want and how they want it. And they can also give information to journalists, something that wasn’t available before.

I took a Washington Post seminar last semester where I kept hearing about how the company was not making any profit. All the while reading about local newspapers going out of business. People wonder if newspapers are dying? If this is the end times for journalists? Is it? Or, is this the birth of a new species in journalism?

Clay Shirky wrote in his recent blog post this month:
“When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.”

So has journalism collapsed? Or at the brink of collapse? It went from being really simple with news only on one format (print). Then it started getting complex with the internet. Once the idea of free-onlin-news-access went viral, news organizations found they have no way of making things simple again. In order to keep up with their competitors, online news organizations have to be up to date with new media. They have to exercise things like providing links to other articles, as well as screen captures, tagging, videos, photos, maps, polls, comments, options to share via blog/twitter/facebook, etc.

And now with the introduction of the iPad as a revolutionary way to read newspapers. I wonder has journalism already become as complex as it can be? Or has it already become simple, with amateur videographers and photographers making their own news via blogs and youtube.

Then there’s this idea of everyone being able to engage, to create journalism projects and broadcast it. With the internet and new media, journalism is now able to engage and connect everyone around the globe, especially with interactive features on websites.

Dr. Joel Selanikio took this a step further by attempting to expand the global news universe to those in developing countries who don’t have access to the internet. As a winner of the Knight News Challenge, Selanikio proposed a project to provide newsfeeds via text messages for those who don’t have computers. Episurveyor.org, the application that collects the web-based data, is completely free. Datadyne created MIP to broadcast text messages and create news feeds which was first piloted in Chile and Peru. This will allow news and news outlets to reach populations that they haven’t been able to reach before.

I think if the BBC had random polls on their website, it would devalue the site’s newsworthiness. Too many interactive elements could also distract the reader. While interactive multimedia news packages are fun, I haven’t found any on the BBC. I think its just not their style. As mentioned in the previous post, the BBC sticks to a simple and consistent web design. I like how the news stories are always positioned a certain way when you click on it, with only the text and one picture. It would be nice to for the BBC to have more fun with their articles but it might be confusing for the reader.

What might work for the BBC is to create a link just for interactive multimedia news packages. This way, the user doesn’t get confused when the web design of the news story changes. They’ll already know they’re being linked to a different page. Here the BBC can provide interactive elements for story packages like the earthquake in Haiti or stories about war. There could be timelines for the events and interactive maps.

Interactive maps would be great on the BBC, especially because it is are an international site (and since Americans are usually geographically challenged). There is a map on the upper left hand corner of the BBC page, which highlights certain geographical areas that the BBC covers. However, the map is very small and it doesn’t zoom. Neither does it show what countries are part of which area. An interactive map would also be a great addition to the country profiles. Country profiles show a small map of the country but it doesn’t show it in context. It would be nice to be able to scroll over a larger map to see where Haiti is relative to other countries or to zoom in on the cities in Haiti.

Instead of random polls I think the BBC found something that works better: the site’s ‘Have your say’ page.  The BBC throws out a question (similar to a poll), but instead of providing the reader answers to choose from, the BBC leaves the question open-ended. An example is their recent question ‘Should Mars be the main mission’ of Obama’s course for astronauts in the 2030s. This received 264 comments as of Friday night.

Another way the BBC provides interactive engagement is for users to submit their own stories. For instance, users were able to submit stories on the recent volcanic ash in the UK. Some stories came with pictures while others were on video. Some readers like to be heard and seen and this is a great way to get them involved. Also, when they see their stories on the site, they are more inclined to view it and tell their friends and families about it.

The BBC’s search bar at the top of their page is another interactive element on the BBC’s website. However, this should be, and probably already is, on every prominent news website.

One page where I did notice random polls is the page for the BBC’s sports radio station 606. This poll is just to rate articles but it isn’t very effective. For instance, this article on supermarkets selling Fifa tickets only had two people responding to the poll.

When it comes to web design, readers appreciate simplicity and consistency. And the BBC delivers just that. No one wants to spend more time trying to figure out how to navigate a site than actually exploring its content. Smashing mag shared how web users are attracted to the upper left corner of a page and tend to scan their eyes around that area. The BBC has strategically placed links to its various news topics on the left of their front page to help readers navigate. The one-minute world news is also on the upper left, with the latest news and top story right below it. Here are some more ways the BBC designed their webpage to accommodate for the lazy and not so techno-savy reader:

Page layout
Whether on the UK page, the Asia-Pacific page, or the technology page, readers can expect to see consistency. The screen is similar on all the pages on the BBC.  The navigation topics remain on the left and each section has a top story on the upper left (next to the navigation links). All the stories are accompanied by a picture to its left. This is generally where the reader’s eyes first gravitate. The only news page that is slightly different is the UK election page. The side links for the different regional and topical news pages disappear but the rest of the page stays true to the BBC’s basic layout. Readers can easily go back y clicking on the “News Front Page” link. However, I would make this  link bigger, or even have the navigational links run horizontally on the top of the page.

Font
Bigger is better on the BBC, for the most part. This is true of most news websites (New York Times, Washington Post, etc.), where the headlines of top stories have a bigger font than less prominent ones. The less prominent stories also appear further away from the upper left. Like other big news organizations, the BBC likes to keep their fonts basic, sticking to mostly three colors (red, shades of blue, and shades of gray).  They use shades of a certain color mostly to provide contrast. For instance, when a blue headline is clicked, it changes to a lighter shade of blue. The BBC is also very consistent with keeping their headlines blue and their text gray. They’re also not afraid of white space, which provides more contrast for the text and graphics.

Graphics
As mentioned, each news page has a picture on the upper left that is bigger than all the other pictures on the page. Below this are smaller video clips of video news, followed by pictures for a section titled “Features, Views, Analysis.” Each section is separated from each other either by a thin line or a background box color. For instance, the “Feature, View, Analysis” section, as well as the navigation links on the left are boxed by a light gray background, adding more contrast while giving the page more organization. The graphics are also all consistent in size when they are in the same section.

Accessibility
Admit it, humans are lazy. We like doing things the easy way. When we get to a web page, we don’t like to scroll the page. Our eyes just scan what we see. And the BBC is aware of this. That means, no scrolling for the reader. As discussed in class, readers lose interest after two scrolls. The BBC doesn’t even bother with two scrolls. They keep all the important information on their page within the first fold.

Additionally, when readers do click on a story they want to read, it means they want to read it. It doesn’t mean they want to sign up or sign in. What’s nice about the BBC is that they let their viewers read and view anything on their web page, unlike other sites, like the Washington Post. On the Washington Post, viewers can view the homepage, but once you click on an interesting story, a sign-in page will come up instead. This usually makes me lose interest and attempt to find the story somewhere else.

The videos on the BBC are short, only a few minutes. And for the most part, they run like standard news videos.

Humphry Hawksley experimented a bit in his video Villagers claim corruption prevents aid reaching them. The video begins with action and narration, showing the living standards of those in developing countries. It seemed like this would be a video with only narration and no photage of the reporter. Then, in one of the following images, Hawksley included himself in the scene, sitting among the other villagers. His back is to the camera so it barely noticeable. He then included parts of an interview with one of the villagers but only included what the other man said. The source has a strong accent so it is difficult to understand him. Usually there would be subtitles in these situations but Hawksley doesn’t offer any.

In one of the images the reporter did and interview with an official but the reporter didn’t show his face. You can only hear his voice asking the questions. Hawksley framed the interview to get the official at an angle, the way reporters often position a camera during an interview.

The next interview was with the permanent secretary from the Prime Minister’s Office. Hawksley again taped him at an angle. This time though, he also included himself briefly in the interview.

Finally Hawksley shows himself standing in the middle of the frame and speaking to the camera, with kids standing to his left. It looks like an image from a commercial calling for sponsors for some sort of nonprofit organizaiton.

In the next interview, Hawksley is in the middle of the frame with the person he is interviewing. Other interviews include the source sitting to the right or left of the screen shot, or even in the middle of the frame. It seems Hawksley experimented with everything in this video.

In contrast, Wendy Urquhart’ video Recycled house has a lot of bottle doesn’t include her at all. It could be because this is about art and Urquhart wanted to focus on the images of the recycled house. I actually prefer this set-up over Hawksley’s. I’m not sure what his purpose is coming in and out of shots. I would much rather prefer just listening to his narration. In fact, if Urquhart had appeared in her video, maybe in the scene with the other tourists, it wouldn’t seem out of place. However, when Hawksley did appear in his video it seemed strange (for instance the scene with him in the middle of the shot staring at the camera and with the children to his left, also staring at the camera).

I couldn’t really find any user generated videos on the website. BBC global news director Richard Sambrook shared his disappointment with user generated newgathering during a lecture two years ago. Michael Haddon reported what Sambrook said in an article on journalism.co.uk. Sambrook mentioned several way the news organization is trying to incorporate user generted video content, including Qik, Have Your Say, Seesmic, and 12 seconds. However, Seemic is for video conversations. And 12 Seconds only has three videos, all of which were posted at least a year ago. These are videos of BBC reporters calling for user generated content, but I don’t see any of the audience’s video’s here.

Poets gather at Upper Senate Park on Thursday to share their vision for America through a Cento poem reading, part of the 2010 “Split this Rock” Poetry Festival from March 10-13. The project calls for poets to bring their vision for America to the Capitol by telling lawmakers, in poetry form, how to spend the next $1 trillion, because “the United States has now spent $1 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, our public schools and universities are facing massive cuts, millions of Americans are without health care.” (UMD Photo/Tami)

“Split this Rock” Poetry Festival’s board member, Micheline Klagsbrun shares her one line vision for America on March 11. About four dozen people participated in the Cento poem reading at Upper Senate Park. (UMD Photo/Tami Le)

Ashley Faye Dillard, from Centreville, Va, participates in “Poetry on the Streets” at Upper Senate Park on March 11 by sharing her vision, “We must learn from the past in order to instill hope for the future.” Poets lined up to share one line (up to 12 words) for the collaborative Cento poem, which begin with lines from Adrienne Rich’s poem “An Atlas of the Difficult World”: I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse …” (UMD Photo/Tami Le)

Dan Wilcox, a Vietnam War veteran from Albany, N.Y., blows bubbles as he listens to other poets share their vision for the country at Upper Senate Park on March 11. Wilcox’s own line for the Cento poem was “If peace broke out tomorrow, would you be ready? Would you enlist?” (UMD Photo/Tami Le)

Latecomer Martina Robinson (center) shares her message on March 11. Robinson’s 12 words for the Cento is “Six billion beings. One trillion for war. That’s $1,666 per person US.” Robinson is a disabled rights activist from Belchertown, Mass., who came to the District for the 2010 “Split this Rock” Poetry Festival. (UMD Photo/Tami Le)

internet image upload practice

Photo from US Embassy New Zealand

In the event of war or natural disasters, it is difficult for any news organization to send out photographers and reporters in time. This is when sites like the BBC need to rely on their audience for their stories, creating user generated content through a process called “crowdsourced journalism.”

Most recently was the call for stories and pictures from survivors of the Feb. 27 earthquake in Chile. The audience contributions, ranging from a few sentences to a few paragraphs, were first-hand accounts that the BBC would have not been able to accessed otherwise. They were featured on the website’s Have Your Say page, created just for audience content.

The BBC even featured a couple stories in article length pieces, like the story of Ricardo Leon. For this piece, the BBC only had to write the headline and a very brief introduction. Everything else was quoted directly from Leon.

Surprisingly, there aren’t as many pictures and comments for the earthquake in Chile as I had expected. I’m not sure if it’s because the BBC didn’t get as many, or they just chose not to publish them (since audience submissions do seem to be closely monitored).

The BBC’s Have Your Say page also poses several questions each day regarding popular news stories for the audience to debate about.  The one featured on their main page asks “Can Jacob Zuma’s stat visit improve his credibility?” which generated 307 comments.

A major incentive for users to participate in crowdsourcing journalism is to be recognized. BBC provides just that four their readers. Two reader’s comments are also quoted on the main Have Your Say page regarding the question about Zuma’s visit to the UK.

Another page on the website (In Pictures) features pictures submitted by the audience.  Readers can turn in their portfolios on a specific subject of their choice. Or the BBC also provides weekly themes for gallery submissions. The most recent theme is “dreaming.”

What the BBC does with In Pictures and Have Your Say is similar to CNN’s iReport. Here readers can contribute to online conversations regarding major news stories. However, CNN keeps all their user generated content on one page. The BBC should do this as well.

Like the BBC, CNN gives there readers weekly assignments to submit stories or pictures, the most recent being the earthquake in Chile. While the BBC had two pages of short user comments/stories, CNN focused more on featured pieces. CNN featured about 19 Chile earthquake assignment stories, each linking to a new page. Some of these are slide shows of pictures. Others are longer stories with pictures. This makes it seem more organized, user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

One of the problems with crowd sourcing is the daunting task of moderating every reader’s submissions. On each page that iReport links to, a window pops up to warn the reader that CNN does not edit, fact-check or screen these stories. Maybe this is why the BBC has fewer stories. For the Chile assignment, I only found two stories featured on the BBC. The BBC does a great job of monitoring user content. In order to submit materials or make a comment, a user must first register. The BBC also makes sure their users understand the guidelines they must adher to in order to participate in crowd sourcing journalism.

I interviewed for an internship with a prominent news corporation last August but ended up only talking about Facebook. When the company called me back to offer me the position, it was too late. Thinking that I had failed the interview, I accepted a different job. And for months, I couldn’t understand why the former would even want to offer me the position. I felt like I was definitely under-qualified, with no previous experience or exposure to journalism.

But now I understand why. Because the future in journalism lies in new media and social networking. I had told the interviewer that I often share news stories with friends on Facebook. Maybe if I told her I had a Twitter account she would have hired me on the spot. Except I didn’t know what Twitter was at the time.

According to an article on CNBC on Feb. 23, social media is now a requirement for journalists. Phil Stott reported that the new director of BBC Global News told his journalist to either “get with the social media program or get out.”

Additionally, Stott quoted the Guardian report saying that “aggregating and curating content with attribution should become part of a BBC journalist’s assignment; and BBC’s journalists have to integrate and listen to feedback for a better understanding of how the audience is relating to the BBC brand.”

I tried, for some time, to resist becoming a slave to another social media outlet. I’ve done AIM, Myspace, Gchat, Facebook, Friendster. Now with the addition of Twitter, I wonder if reporters for these other news organizations find keeping up with their online social life burdensome and overwhelming.

This week I tried to follow BBC’s technology correspondent, Roy Cellan-Jones. He actually does a decent job updating his page with newsworthy tweets daily, and quite frequently throughout the day. He also provides links to his blog keeps up with his online social life by tweeting other reporters. One follower even commented on a mistake Cellan-Jones made on his blog, in which Cellan-Jones quickly fixed and informed this follower, via Twitter. There is no link on his blog on the BBC to retweet what he writes. I would think that would be an option, being that he is blogging about technology.

Cellan-Jones doesn’t stop at tweeting and traditional blogging (if there is such a term). He also does audio blogging. I wonder if there will be a day when another news director requires his journalists to do audio blogging. Or even youtube. Many Washington Post journalists also have a Youtube channel, like Chris Cillizza from The Fix. I wonder if this was one of their job requirements. Maybe for my next job interview I should talk about Twitter and Youtube. Or maybe there will be a new social media website to join by then.