Friday, August 31, 2012

Finding good feature story ideas.

"Whenever you find something that makes you have a mental pause, that makes you recoil just a little bit, that makes you have some kind of emotional reaction, go down that road and see where the rabbit hole leads you."

- Jeff Emtman, independent radio producer in Boulder 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Here Be Monsters: Behind the scenes of an independent radio show

How I reported this:
* I recorded the interview on my iPad using the standard camera.
* I filmed him recording his show with my iPad.
* I downloaded his final broadcast from the Web and used the audio file, interspersed with his life recording.
* I edited in iMovie on my Macbook Pro. (The basic iMovie app for the iPad is only sufficient for very basic edits. I have actually never found it useful. A waste of money.)
* CGs from iMovie.
* Water sound effect from iMovie. This is controversial from a journalism perspective. Purists would say I should only use the original audio from his broadcast. What do you think?
* The music is the original audio from his broadcast.

* Very low lighting in his basement bedroom with minimal natural light.
* No mic on the iPad. (Need to invest in one.) He was a soft speaker.
* Essentially, I was filming a guy working on his computer. The task became: How to make that visually enticing?
- Uncomfortable black screens with the audio from underwater.
- Weird, long, silent pauses

I can do that: talking pictures.

Look at Facebook. Ninety percent of my stream is photos with inspirational or funny quotes on them.

I can do that, too.

I don't need to understand why this kind of communication is speaking to society right now, but I can occasionally apply it to my efforts to reach out.

I have begun playing with Photoshop, which is so over my head that I may as well have just said, "I have begun trying to write my stories in Mandarin Chinese." Here is one of my early Photoshop attempts to create "talking pictures" to help tell my stories online. (Click on photo to enlarge it.)

"Fifty Shades of" a new sex life. Read more here. 

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Making meaningful connections in a modern world

We are more (virtually) connected than ever before. Duh. We all know this. 

Still, indulge me while I vent: 

The monster speaks: Social portraiture is the new journalism

Yesterday, I spent my afternoon in the dim basement with Boulder independent radio producer, Jeff Emtman ( He recently received a fellowship from SoundCloud  to explore unique ways of storytelling via a podcast.

Emtman developed his own field of study at Western Washington University that he called Social Portraiture -- the idea of capturing a person or story via a mix of photography, journalism, sociology, other social sciences and radio production.

"I've really struggled a lot with that label 'journalist,' because it’s a really complex field," he told me.

In fact, he thinks journalism falls under the umbrella of art, like sculpture or music (a controversial perspective that he says has landed him in some trouble a few times).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Being playful is good for your job

I read this in this month's Shape magazine -- further proof that mobile journalism is the way to go.

Writers who work in cafes might be onto something, finds new research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Compared to the low-level din of a library, a moderate amount of ambient noise -- the equivalent of a bustling coffee shop -- prompts the mind to work at a more conceptual level, stimulating out-of-the-box thinking.

Camera file photo

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Out-of-office reply

Two reporters for our sister university-focused paper, the Colorado Daily, recently made a point to go hang out on University Hill at popular bars and chat with the students they write about. They posted pics of their experience on Instagram and Facebook, and I caught up with them after to see how it went. Here's the low-down. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Want to know the best place for a mojo to work?

Sure, it's fun working in coffee shops and malls and bars (yeah, I've done it). It's entertaining to station at the farmer's market or try to write live from a concert.

But my favorite place to work remotely continues to be (drumroll please... excessive suspense...) the library.

University of Colorado library in Boulder.

Yes, those still exist. So do newspapers. Jerk.

Now I have 12 eyes and 12 ears.

And I'm not just talking about how strong my glasses are. 

Me, third grade, miserable.
My Features Community Advisory Board is already surprising me with its usefulness. So far, it's going so well that I may recommend every reporter has her own.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Time traveling with technology

It's the Pearl Street Mall's 35th birthday. In celebration, I wrote a column about walking down the mall one morning, my own sort of "walking tour" where I visited the new shops and the places I've always wanted to go, and talked to the interesting people I encountered.

Here's the story:

I also tracked down some old photos from the Carnegie Branch of the Boulder Public Library. I put together a fun little then-and-now slideshow of buildings in 1986 and today. (I wanted to find pics from 1977, when the mall opened, but this was as far back as I could find with good quality.)

I always enjoy comparison shots, whether they're before-and-after or then-and-nows. I especially like comparing the cars and clothes. I can't believe how old 1986 looks.

Same lamp post. The world before Ozo.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Newsflash: People hate Facebook

Clarification: Sarcastic newsflash. Because we know that people hate Facebook. But not enough to stop using it or do anything about it. Sort of like how I hate an overfilled trash can but it's my husband's job to take out the trash, so I keep stacking Cheerio boxes on top like trash Jenga.

Our love-hate affair with FB never bothered me until recently, when I was trying to put together a Features Community Advisory Group, an unofficial crew of people in the community repping various fields, who I asked to communicate directly to me as a way of improving our coverage.

I had decided to run this group through FB, to make it as easy to remember and do as humanly possible. I got the idea when several event-planning committees did this and it worked great, as a way of sharing lots of info without having to log into yet another portal, and remember to update it, and yada yada waaaa. It worked before, so why wouldn't it work this time?

Well, let me tell you.