12/11/11

For this week I looked at a video on fireworks shot off by Cuban exiles.  The narrative in the video was well-thought out and like a written news story.  I liked how the video had a variety of scenes from the fireworks to a ministry official talking to the rainy streets, it kept the images moving and interesting.  But, I thought the perspective was very one-sided, which was probably because the reporters didn’t talk to the exiles yet and the reporting crew had to leave the scene cuz some pro-government people attacked them.  The story seemed to end kind of abruptly because the reporters had to escape the attacks.

For my next video, I focused on a very local one about Middleburg Academy beating Landon in a high school basketball game.  I liked how the video started off with a shot of Middleburg scoring, which fit the title of the story.  I also liked how it then went into the player who made the basket shown before talking about his team’s game strategy and how he thought his team played and what the rival team was playing like.  While the video featured two players from Middleburg talking, it didn’t have any other players from the losing team saying anything, although I guess this makes sense because Middleburg is the one who won.  I wish they would’ve said where this school was though.  This video would have been really good though, for its primary audience (people who have some connection to Middleburg or Landon’s basketball teams) because it featured a lot of in-depth details about what thinking, strategy, and moves went into the game.  I thought this video was a tad too long for someone who isn’t really interested in the topic, but again, for people who have some connection to the subjects in the video, this was a great video.

12/3/11

So this week I decided to analyze some random different features on the Washington Post’s website. The first thing that caught my eye was a featured photo gallery on how GMU Law school brought in puppies to ease the stress of students during their final. This was just such an unexpected thing that I had to look. The photos featured a lot of close up shots to be able to show the happy faces of the students and the adorable little noses of the puppies! But, I really liked how next to photo 2, the caption explained that these puppies were part of a larger lesson on how to relieve stress naturally without turning to abusing alcohol or other substances. The shots didn’t really feature much variety, but nevertheless the absolute heart-warming adorableness of the subjects didn’t really need to be made more interesting.

For my next thing, I clicked on a featured video of Herman Cain saying that he’s suspending his campaign for the 2012 presidential election. The video was on the same shot the whole time of Herman Cain speaking, and the sound quality was even throughout and very clear so it was easy to understand what he was saying. In terms of subject matter, of course it was definitely news that Cain wasn’t going to run for president anymore, but the speech wasn’t too thrilling or interesting.

So next I clicked on a video of a reporter interviewing Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj at the Billboard Awards. It was cool to see how all the techniques we talked about when you’re interviewing people on video were followed here. First, although we did get to see a shot of the reporter in the video for a second, once Minaj started talking, all we could see was a hand holding the mike. I also didn’t hear any interruptions or nods of agreement from the reporter while Minaj was talking except for when he asked her questions. I noticed the mike was a good distance away, almost a foot, and even though the Billboard Awards must have been pretty noisy, the quality of sound was great and I could hear everything clearly. I liked how the video also put in short clips from Swift’s and Minaj’s music videos, so we could hear and see a little bit of their songs are like.

11/27/11

So for this week, I decided to go to the Multimedia tab on the Washington Post’s homepage  and check out what multimedia features they had. I came across a photo gallery about Bull riding in Virginia. I really liked how the captions next to the photos told a cohesive story from the very start, with the caption next to the first photo telling us what this bull riding competition is and where it was and what the prizes were. I liked how the third photo showed one of the bullriders tying on his bootstraps and the photos progressed from behind the scenes to people getting ready and in photo four, the bullriders saying the traditional “Cowboy Prayer.” I also liked the variation of subjects with not only typical bullriders in their 20s or 30s, but photo seven featured an adorable little boy either 10 years old or younger. I think photo nine was shot from a very interesting angle that I don’t usually see but it works for this subject. I really liked the contrast in the photos of the different blues of the sky with the oranges and browns of the earth and bulls.

Next, I clicked on the top 10 performing galleries of 2011 and checked out the first 4 sets of photo stories in the whole gallery of 60 photos. The first five photos featured the Royal Wedding. The photos were nice of course and captured the grandiosity of the royal wedding, and I liked the vibrancy of the colors but it got to be boring very quickly. The next set was of the cleanup efforts in Japan. Photo eight was an interesting aerial shot and I really liked how the photos captured the catastrophe with a woman crying the next and multiple cars swallowed up in massive waves. I thought photo 12 was really exceptional with the colors and just the composition and starkness of a cross against the bare sky. Next up was Osama bin Laden’s hideout revealed. I liked how this set included video frame grabs from ABC and other networks along with a photo taken by a security official instead of the photos being taken all by someone at the Post. The next set was hilarious and really cute and unexpected–it was different dioramas using marshmallow Peeps all depicting some event that happened this year or social commentary on some issue that readers felt was important. In something like this, the little details and colors are very important and the photographer captured them well.

11/20/11

For this week’s News Track, I’ll be analyzing video on the Washington Post’s site.  The first video I looked at was about Egypt’s police clash with protestors in Tahrir Square.  The video didn’t have any narration but I think it was better they just used natural sound throughout the whole thing because just seeing the footage of the people and chaos going on and hearing the sounds of ambulances and tear gas exploding tells the story much better than any narration would.  The video incldued mostly wide shots which capture all the things going around better.  I like the fact that this video wasn’t shot very exactly or with planned out angles and shots because that captures the feel of urgency and the disorganized riot going on.

The second video I watched was on rapper Heavy D’s funeral.  This video started off with just some footage of the cars pulling up and people coming out of the funeral, with a quick shot of Will Smith, then went into Usher reminiscing about Heavy D and the first time he came to New York.  I liked this because although it was a very short video, and the only person who talked was Usher, he was able to provide a nice human story about how much he respected and cared for Heavy D.  I thought it was weird though that at the end after they talked to Usher, you could hear someone asking if they could have a word with Usher.  I thought that part could have just been cut out since it doesn’t really flow.

The next video I saw was much more of a traditional broadcast style video.  It started right off with narration about what’s going on with Joe Paterno’s diagnosis of cancer and sounded a lot like a hard news story.  The video also included a lot of still photos of people related to the Penn State sex scandal like Jerry Sandusky along with still shots of the campus buildings.  It ended with a traditional anchor sign off.  There were no other voices besides the anchor’s voice, which made the video seem very much like someone reading the print story over photos and muted footage of Paterno giving a speech.  This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because I feel like I got all the info I needed without hearing Paterno and Sandusky actually talk to the camera.

11/13/11

For this week’s news track, I looked at a complete package story on protesters in Russia.  I wanted to see how much the multimedia added to the print story.  The print article was good, it gave all the information that was needed and I really liked the quote from Ilya Fainberg- I thought it really showed the human side of this issue and what motivated people to go against Putin.  The next two sections didn’t seem like they were all part of the same story, but I really liked them nonetheless.  They were written well with interesting vivid description and quotes.

Next I checked out the gallery that went along with this article.  I liked the variety of places the pictures were taken in- they weren’t all of the same protest but of many different ones throughout Russia all rallying against the same thing- election fraud and Putin. I thought image nine really made good use of the main colors in the image, black and white, and the fog. It made the masks stand out more and give the image a strange aura that made you look at it for a few seconds longer to figure it out.  Image 10 also made great use of the colors and contrast of bright red flares against the cold Russian night sky.  Image 11 was interesting because it used a fish eye lens angle which I haven’t seen that much in other news photos.  Image 13 really captured the emotions and rage of a protestor fighting with the police. Overall, the gallery was great because it had a lot of different types of angles and subjects in the shots, and served as a great visual supplement to the print article to be able to see all the faces behind the protest.

Then I checked out the video for the story.  I thought this was a great video that included all the neccessary information from the print article but also had compelling footage of different protests.  It was like a perfect marriage of the print article and photo gallery, but with sound and movement.  I liked that the video provided a little background information on Putin, which the article didn’t provide.  This video could definitely stand on its own as a complete news story, but along with the article and gallery, made for an interesting, informative, and complete package story all together.

11/6/11

Last week’s class was all about photojournalism.  Some of the things that make for a good photo include having a clear subject, shooting from different angles and distances, and being aware of the background so that it doesn’t look like there’s a tree growing out of the subject’s head.  I was looking through the photos and galleries on the Washington Post’s site, and found a lot of great photos.  This first gallery I looked at is about a man who comes from a devoutly Christian family, but converted to Islam.  I think the first and second photos make really exceptional use of shadows and contrast with light, symbolizing Blackwell’s struggle with having his family accept his conversion.  The sixth photo is very dramatic and seems to show how important Islam is to Blackwell along with his devotion to it.  Photos 14 and 15 are really nice family shots that capture the closeness between Blackwell and his daughter.

This second gallery I looked at features photos with amazingly vivid, rich colors which pop, along with a cool use of angles and proportions to frame the shot.  The first and second photos have phenomenal colors which really pop even though the shots were taken at night.  The second photo I think is one of the most stunning shots I’ve seen–it has a really nice glow on the tree which makes it look ethereal and I love the gradient of colors in the sky leading the warm, bright lights from the buildings.  I think it was a really good idea for this photographer to have taken the pictures at night because taking pictures of business buildings during the day won’t really add anything to the buildings.  Using the colors from the sunset and contrasting the brightness from the buildings with the dark night sky I think really makes what would be otherwise boring pictures of a business very captivating.  The rest of the photos are just shots of spaces, rooms and people inside the building, but the use of vivid color and proportions makes these shots interesting.  All the hot magenta in photo five gives life to an otherwise boring shot of businessmen standing around. I think photo six is funny and clever because this law firm is going green and the shot is completely filled on the left side with green leafy plants, which I think goes back to the fact that the main idea of this story is that this building is environmentally-friendly.  Even though photo seven only has two main colors, white and silver, the shot looks incredibly futuristic and spacey, nothing like a boring office room.  The photographer uses symmetry in photos eight, 11, and 13, which makes them look like shots from a movie, especially shot 13 I think–very carefully planned out and making a strong statement.  The photographer really brings out the unusually bright colors and exotic lighting in this building well.

10/30/11

This week in class we talked about audio’s role in online journalism and what makes a good audio story.  I went on the Washington Post’s site but couldn’t find an audio story (there were a lot of videos that were almost like audio stories, but that’s not the same thing).  So I took the closest thing I could find and that was an audio clip taken from Sirius satellite radio’s POTUS channel that is poking fun at Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ corniest jokes and stereotypical speeches.  This was very annoying to listen to because of the overuse of corny and repeating sound effects, and I think this was basically like a radio show and not really an audio story, although it did have a main subject that it was talking about.

I didn’t really know what else I could do to analyze audio for this week, so I took a video and analyzed the audio component of it, although I know that’s not the same thing as an audio story, but there’s nothing else I can analyze, so I thought this was the best thing to do.

The video I looked at was about 29 workers who were killed in a coal mine gas blast in China.  The video does a good job of showing us what the ruins look like as well as what it looks like inside the actual coal mine.  I think it also does a good job in reflection- in giving us some time to think about the story.  But, it doesn’t really convey any emotion or give a sense of person because the images shown are random and not really matching up with the words being said by the reporter, and we don’t hear any distinct sounds or voices of the people in the video, or of like ambulances at the ruins.  It provides good information, and could definitely serve as a news story that tells the facts and news, but it doesn’t really make us feel a sense of connection or empathy for the people in the story or what happened.  Like we do feel bad for what happened, but we don’t see any actual people in the story that we can use to connect the story to a face.

10/23/11

So this week’s lecture was about journalists as curators.  We learned that one of the ways to curate content is through linking.  The Washington Post makes good use of linking in one of the first stories on their homepage, “Fears of German power rise amid Europe crisis”.  In the second paragraph, there is a link to another relevant story about how “Germany urges plan to aid banks in crisis” which provides important background information that will help in understanding the rest of the story.  In the seventh paragraph, there is yet another link that links out to another Post article related to the German parliament.  This is good because almost every article topic has some background that comes with it, and can be something that has been building up for a long time and can be very dense, and it’s always helpful to provide readers with the option to educate themselves about it if they want to.

In terms of curating as organizing relevant material, the first article I mentioned features two photo galleries and a video.  Plus, there’s also a box on the side of the article that’s called “More on this story” and displays links to five other stories that might be of relevant interest.

Another method of using social media tools to curate content would be to embed a Twitter feed into the side of a story that pulls in tweets with a hashtag that relates to the story’s topic.  While I haven’t seen any actual Twitter feeds embedded into any of the Post’s stories, on the side in the Comments box and at the end of their articles, the Post always puts a little “Tweet” button that allows you to tweet the story.  The “Tweet” button next to it also shows the number of people who have already tweeted this story.

10/15/11

So this week we talked about social media as an invaluable tool for journalists to get the news out there to many people and engage the audience and learn from them as well.  Like I’ve talked about before, the Washington Post has a Social Reader that lets you connect through Facebook to see what stories your friends are reading or recommending.  This Social Reader is probably helpful to the Post in getting their stories distributed and seen by many people who don’t come to the actual site.  It makes use of readers posting links to certain stories on their Facebook to attract and grab an audience that they would have no other way to reach.  It grabs new readers through existing ones, and makes for a varied audience, since people of all ages, races, religions, political affliations, etc. use Facebook.

On the very top left of the homepage, there is a section that says “Follow Us:” with links to the Post’s page on Facebook and Twitter.  When I checked out the Post’s Facebook page, I saw that it was really a great way to hold a huge discussion where anyone who wants to join in can comment on posts about breaking news, entertaining things to talk about, or just asking everyone’s opinion on whether Obama’s out of touch, or what they think about Rick Perry’s energy strategy.  I think this Facebook page is great because the Post posts links to some story or slideshow in every post, directing readers to the actual site to read the full story, but also because the Post asks questions and tries to initiate discussion among the fans of the page.  This is good because readers don’t have to sign up again to post comments like they would have to do if they wanted to comment on the Post’s actual site, but can just pop over to the Post’s page on Facebook while they’re already on Facebook doing other things.  What’s also really great is that on a Facebook page like this, the Post has categories on the side each dedicated to different ways to engage the readers–photos, discussions, questions, stories, links, videos, notes– so readers can pick whatever category they’re most interested in and explore what the Post has to offer solely through pictures, or questions, for example.  I think the Facebook page is a really easy way for readers to engage with the stories and gives them a chance to talk with all different kinds of other readers on what they’re passionate about.  The Post’s Facebook page has 220,281 fans, which is a whole ton of news feeds the Post’s articles can pop up on.  This connects the Post with a lot of people who can potentially click on their stories.

The Post’s Twitter page (@washingtonpost) is another good way for readers to engage with the Post.  I like that there are two specific staff members followers of the page can direct questions and tips to, instead of just having to tweet at the whole Post and not knowing if the same person will follow through on your question or not.  The tweets take a more conversational, short and simple tone.  I like that you can see the Post’s favorite tweets by other twitterers that don’t necessarily link to a story on the Post’s site, but is about some topic that readers would care about or be interested in.  Washington Post’s Twitter currently has 670,086 followers, more than triple the number of Facebook fans.  I think that the Twitter page is good because it’s an even faster and easier way to connect with the Post than Facebook, and is less time-consuming which is always a plus in this busy day and age, when virtually 1,000 other things are vying for your attention and time and can win out against reading the news.

10/2/11

This past week in class, we talked about search engine optimization.  We learned that 80% of users click on one of the first three results in a search. So, I wanted to test out how high the Washington Post’s site came up when searching for major news. I typed “occupy wall street” into Google’s search engine since it has been major news for about two weeks now, and is still ongoing.  But, washingtonpost.com did not come up until the 2nd page, and even then the link wasn’t to the actual news story, it was to an opinion column about the subject.  Even when I refined my search to be only from the “News” option at the top of Google’s seach page, the Post did not come up on the first page.  Then I went ahead and went to washingtonpost.com, and found the Oct. 1 story about the protest on the homepage, and clicked on it to try to analyze why it didn’t come up anywhere near the top in search results.  (For some reason, the Washington Post does not have the page for that article up anymore, but I found another article that cited an exact copy of the Oct. 1 story in it starting from the fifth paragraph where it says, “On Saturday thousands of protesters from the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement…” so you can refer to that instead.)

First of all, I think that the story’s headline is a big problem in why it didn’t come up high in searches.  The headline is “700 arrested after swarming NY’s Brooklyn Bridge, shutting down lane of traffic for hours”.  This headline doesn’t include any of what I think are some of the main, important keywords: protest, Wall Street, Manhattan.  Reading this headline, I wouldn’t know that this swarming on the Brooklyn Bridge had anything to do with the “Occupy Wall Street” protest.  When reading the actual article, it doesn’t mention “Occupy Wall Street” until the second paragraph, and while the first paragraph does do a good job of explaining what “Occupy Wall Street” is, they don’t actually tell us the name of the protest until the second graph.

But, I really do have to say that the photo gallery they included at the beginning of the article, before the text begins, is really amazing.  (Unfortunately, this particular gallery is no longer up on the site but there are numerous other galleries featuring the ‘Occupy’ movement such as this one as it has spread to other places besides NY.)  It is extensive and has great gripping pictures where you can clearly see people’s aggravated expressions and read the signs that protestors made.  Each photo is accompanied by a short blurb explaining it, and this photo gallery alone can tell the story of what happened at this protest.  It definitely gets the message across and conveys the emotion and atmosphere of what happened that day when the protest first started.

There’s also a video included in the story that captures the protest on Oct. 1.  (Again, I can’t find the link to this video anymore but there are a ton of other videos capturing the ‘Occupy’ movement as it has spread since then.)  I think it’s unfortunate that not enough people will probably see this photo gallery and article than should, because it doesn’t come up high enough on the search results, even though this story covers the protest on Oct. 1 and not on Sept. 17, when it began.  So, I decided to modify my original search term (occupy wall street) in a few different ways and see if these differently worded searches would yield the Washington Post’s story higher up in the results.  I typed in “wall street protest” and washingtonpost.com came up as the 8th result–much better than before.  But, this link was not to the main news story but rather to a story on the site’s blog about the protest.  It was really good that they included three videos of the protest in the post, and even added a commentator’s own video at the end of the post.  That was a good use of integration, supplementing the original post with a new video from a reader.  I also thought it was a really good idea that at the end of the story, when readers can weigh in and give comments, the comments were organized into “Top Comments” and “All Comments”.  The “top comments” are described as “comments our editors find particularly useful or relevant.”  This shows a real dedication to listening to their reader’s opinions and perspectives, and even combing through them to see which one’s would be most helpful in generating discussion about the topic.

9/24/11

So this week in class, we talked about the 3 pillars of online journalism- multimedia, interactivity, and on-demand delivery.  The Washington Post employs multimedia in many of its articles to help tell a story in a more interesting way, or with more detail.  For example, when you go to the sports section, there’s a live table of stats for two college football games that are being played right now.  Under the live stats for the Southern Mississippi-Virginia game, there’s a link to a live discussion on the Virginia Cavaliers.  For an article on Redskins’ quarterback Rex Grossman, a photo gallery is featured, along with a live comments box that has an option for sending in story corrections and suggestions.  I think the corrections page is a good example of interactivity because it allows the readers to engage with the story and even influence it.  This is a good way of catering to and being able to find out what readers want and need from their stories, so that the Post can gain more readers, and have them be satisfied with the types of stories that are published.

There is also a “Washington Post Social Reader” on the right side of all their pages that lets you see the most popular recommended articles from people on Facebook, depending on what section of the site you’re on (so if you’re checking out the sports section, then it’ll tell you what’s most popular in sports articles, if you’re looking at national news, then what’s most popular from that).  If you log into Facebook on the widget, you can connect with your friends to see which articles they recommend the most.

If you go to the lifestyle section, there’s 10 different subcategories you can explore, including advice, food, travel, weddings, etc.  When you click on the wedding section, there’s a section that says “Share your story” which lets you submit your wedding story for a chance to be featured in an upcoming article.  There’s also a really interesting feature called “Date Lab” where you can fill out a questionaire about yourself and your dating interests and send it in for a chance to be matched to someone else who seems like a good fit.  If the Post finds a match, then they pay for your evening out with your new date, and publish an article about the couple and how their date went.  This is a cool feature where the paper really tries to engage with their readers, not just through news, but through their personal lives, too.

9/18/11

At first glance, I like the visual layout of the Washington Post’s site.  The simple white and black theme, along with the orderly columns and bulletpoints under each section make it easy to see all the featured content.  There is definitely a huge variety of options in terms of where a reader could go from the homepage, but it could also be a bit overwhelming, since there are so many links to choose from.  But, I like how they organized everything and made it accessible on the homepage.  I think the bar at the very top of the site with the drop-down menus is a very good idea for quick and easy access to whatever particular section the reader might want to see.  There are “Featured Photo Galleries” and a “Featured Videos” section on the homepage.  I think the “Live Discussions” box is a really cool, attractive way to engage readers to interact with different experts on whatever topic they’re talking about at the time.

Although they really focus on politics, it seems like their coverage compared to other media seems to be much more broad and well-rounded- as there is almost every topic on the home page you could wish to read about- sports, politics, tv, crime, musicals, and a very interesting and funny opinion section that right now, features a gallery of celebrity spectacles and what different glasses say about their personality, along with a quiz to see if you can match the glasses to their right celebrity owners.  I think it’s fun and unexpected that a news site has fun little quizzes like this, and isn’t filled completely with only serious, weighty issues and stories.  I think there’s a good balance of important, informative news coverage and lighter, more entertaining pieces on the site.

I also really like the bar right under the “Washington Post” title banner that says “In the News” and features current, popular subjects on the news on right now.  I really like that links to everything you could need are all the on the home page and that the interface is very user friendly and organized with good variety, featuring a broad range of topics, but organizing them under specific headlines and columns so that it’s easy for readers to just browse through and pick what’s of interest to them.  The homepage and the use of different size texts, lots of pictures, interactive links, and specialized sections make the site not daunting like many other news sites, but makes me want to explore the site to read more.  It makes me feel as if everyone, no matter what your age or profession, could navigate through the site and enjoy reading it.

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