Friday, March 22, 2013

On-camera tips for print journalists

You've heard the saying, "A face fit for print," right? In other words, the beautiful journalists become TV anchors and the rest of us, well, we hide behind computers in our sweatpants, twitching and scratching, drinking Jack Daniels while smoking cigars and being generally socially awkward. 

Yes, I just described myself on most Friday nights. 

But the line between print and broadcast journalism doesn't exist anymore. And the truth is, a lot of print journos are a great fit for the screen.

Take my colleague, Whitney Bryen. She recently attended a workshop about on-camera reporting, and she has been putting together some great digital broadcast clips. 

Not sure where to start myself (see above description), I decided to tap into Whitney's brilliance for some on-camera tips for print journalists. Here's what she shared (below). 

By Whitney Bryen 

As a newspaper reporter, the bulk of my video work includes holding my iPhone as steady as I can during a live event or while I interview a source and then publishing it to Youtube and sharing it via social media. 

I rarely edit and never end up on camera, but I learned about some of the benefits of including on-camera shots in my videos for the web at a workshop at the Denver Post TV studios. 

Here are the three main tips I took from the class this week. 

1. On-camera shots are great for branding. As a modern-day journalist, I'm always posting my stories online and sharing them on every social media platform I can find to find readers and connect with the community I cover. Putting myself into my story, even just through a short intro or wrap up of a video, could give my stories a face and make me recognizable in the community. Maybe people would even start approaching me with story ideas and feedback. You can also promote your print or online stories and content within the video driving more readers to your work. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Interactive expressions are becoming the norm around here

Oops, I did it again.

My story about this shop, Nod and Rose, runs on Sunday, but I have already created a little interactive tour of their shop, including spring fashion trends for men and women.

Click here to see the expression.

I'm not usually a fan of cute fonts, but it seemed appropriate for this feature.

I did discover a downside of New Hive this time. It crashed and deleted my original project -- twice. The plus side is the support folks over there are so fast and responded personally to help me troubleshoot. Although they were not able to recover the original project, talking to a real human on the other end of the mysterious Interwebs was a novel, pleasant experience.

Here is how the final story appeared online.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five pro tips for journalists using iPad/iPhones

Let's face it. Most of us did not go to school for photography and videography. We're writers, English majors and newsies who got swept away by modern technology, where we are now expected to be professional everythingers. 

I can tell you about AP Style (and yes, the word "everythingers" is AP correct, I swear). But when it comes to providing legit tips about taking the best photos with your iPad or iPhone, I have to call in the real pros. 

I tapped the brain of Erie-based professional photographer Iman Woods  to get some insider tips. Somehow her casual iPhone pictures look like they're shot with expensive equipment. Like this oh-by-the-way shot of the sunset that she posted on her Facebook this morning. 

This is so not how my iPhone photos look. 

Here are Iman Woods' five pro tips for journalists using iPad/iPhones: 

1. HDR slows you down, but is excellent for pictures where there is a disparity between highlight and shadow.

From the camera, choose options. Slide the HDR slider to turn it on.

Here's the tricky part. If you just take the photo, the iPhone's light meter will make the exposure decisions for you. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn't. So you need to put your finger on the BRIGHTEST part of the scene so that the HDR exposes to keep the highlight detail. When you go back through your photos the second image will have High Dynamic Range maintaining both highlights and shadows.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

More questions, more answers: taking notes, resistance and evolution

I really feel like Dear Abby now.

I've received a few more questions. I have a few more answers. And I didn't even make you wait four months this time.

Q: When you do interviews on your iPad, do you feel as if that saves you transcription time? 

A: For sure. I absolutely could not function without my iPad now.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dear Aimee (it's like Dear Abby for journo-nerds)

And now is the part of the program where I answer questions posed to me by other journalists. 

Got a question? Send it to and I will respond within three to four business months. 

Q: I read your proposal. Have you been successful at each stage? Where have you seen the most success? Do you feel you're adequately being an "instant journalist?"

A: Define success. 

No, seriously, things always look different from the outside than the inside. I have had to deal with different hurdles than I expected, the greatest offender being the "rut." In trying to make all of my Idealab work useful for my newspaper, I have fallen into writing regular features, and sometimes that traditional reporting eats into my creative time. But I do still try to do something unusual and creative with one story I produce per week. 

If you define success as pushing past your comfort zone, hell yes. If you define success as meeting every one of my personal deadlines (I get a little wild with my to-do lists), not quite. If you define success as being fearless, adaptable and not wasting any opportunities, then yes, yes, yes. 

Behind the scenes of the Second Story Garage: A horizontally scrolling interactive photo

Lately, I have been trying to pay attention to innovative things other journalists are doing, and I didn't need to look far. Right in my own newsroom, we have created a high-quality, live recording studio.

As in sometimes when I'm on deadline writing my articles, a big group of musicians with dreadlocks walks past with their drumsets and guitars and begins jamming out a short distance from my desk.

It's a unique setup, for sure, especially to pull something this top-notch off with very limited resources (time and money are hilariously foreign concepts in the modern newsroom).

I was dying to learn how the crew puts it all together, so I sat down with Duncan Taylor, page designer by day, audio engineer/production genius by, well, day, also. I asked him to show me behind the scenes of the Second Story Garage and offer other newsrooms tips on how they could possibly do something like this, too.

I put it all together in a fun horizontally scrolling interactive page, complete with a 4 1/2-minute long video. I know -- that's like documentary length for a newspaper's website, but I think it's worth it.

I hope you enjoy.

Click here to visit the interactive page. 
Click on the screen shot below to enlarge it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fun with free, creative video apps

OK, here's a quick diversion.
I have been playing with video apps this weekend and have found a few fun, free ones.
These would obviously not be fitting for a hard news story, but they might be interesting for a feature story (Magisto for a burlesque class or our annual 1940s ball, for example).
Or maybe they're just amusing.

Here are two videos featuring my adorable daughter (and adorable husband) that I made in about two seconds this weekend.

What app: Magisto Video
Cost: Free
What it does: Makes quick "music videos" with preset themes. My favorite is Roaring Twenties, which turns your clip into a silent movie. You can combine clips, too. Then add music (you must have music, which obv takes the professional journalism out of it, but hey, it's 2013).
Pluses: You only need to hit four clicks and it automatically creates the movie for you (e-mails you when it's ready). If you've ever spent hours crunched over iMovie, you know the relief in this concept.
Downsides: Some of the themes are pretty cheesy. And I wonder about the copyright of the preset music they offer.

Here's my Magisto titled "Bettie and Dad play with her new puppy:"

What app: Smule CineBeat
Cost: Free
What it does: The free version turns super short (15 seconds and under) into stylized "music videos," using your own audio laid over preset music. Turn your clip into a rap song or an acoustic indie song, or make it sound like you're in an echoey hallway. I honestly can't think of any legitimate reason why you would ever need this app for journalism, but that doesn't mean I didn't waste an hour last night recording my daughter and making her a rap star. OK, maybe you could use this for some kind of music or entertainment reporting... OK, maybe not.
Pluses: Addictive, easy, funny, entertaining.
Downside: You only get a few free filters and the others cost about $5. This sucks because the app itself is so addictive that you can easily get caught up into thinking that is a good idea.

Here is my daughter's Smule, her first original indie single.
Click here.
Oh yeah, that's another downside. No embed code. Boo.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A New Hive graphic drives traffic to our site

On Sunday, I published two multimedia articles utilizing a New Hive interactive graphic. Much to my surprise, these graphics ended up driving traffic to our site, contributing to one of the stories landing the spot as the most-read story on

What I created: 


In a way, the fire that turned her house and all her possessions into ashes was a blessing. It taught Vivienne Palmer about freedom. And she wants to be free again.
Short of setting her house on fire, that is.
She looks around her Boulder home and wonders how it got so full in the 10 years since a house fire in the middle of the day on Nov. 20, 2003.
"I thought it would be horrible -- but I really felt euphoric," Palmer says, thinking back. "After getting over the shock, which happened pretty fast, I was at this point where I would think about a certain thing I had and think, 'It's gone,' and let go of it. It felt amazingly freeing to do that. It's not a bad thing to let go of things."
Now, she has committed to let go of 10 things every day for a year.
She is calling it Project 3650, for the number of objects she aims to purge from her house by December.

Read the full story and see how we used the graphic to enhance the storytelling by clicking here.

This story was the most-read article on the Daily Camera website for more than a day, a rarity for a features story. It also received more than 27 comments. In addition, Palmer reported her blog, which normally has about a dozen subscribers, had 1,000 hits the first day and 1,500 the second day, a giant surge.

The story also included photos, links and a tip box for how to purge your own house.

The graphic:
View Process of Elimination in its full glory by clicking here.