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. 

I originally set out to explore instant journalism, and along the way discovered a greater value in digital-first, creative features writing. I thoroughly dove into instant journalism, trying to cover as much ground as possible, for the first half of my project, but found much greater satisfaction -- and reader response -- from pushing my creativity and discovering new ways of storytelling. 

That is where I think I have seen awesome satisfaction. I am a completely different reporter today than I was last year at this time. That is success: evolution. 

This is what success looks like. Hello there! 

Q: When you do movies, do you use iMovie on the iPad or how do you typically do that? For the trivia video, I didn't buy the app for the iPad, so I downloaded the videos to my laptop, then transferred them to iMovie, then built the video. It all took quite a bit of time, which is usually the case when I'm making a video. I feel like designing it right in iMovie on the iPad might save a ton of time so I'll probably bite the bullet.

A: If I am making a very simple clip, I just use the iMovie app on my iPad, but it is seriously limited. For example, you can't layer video with audio or B roll. It is really only good for splicing and cutting clips. 

I have stopped making most of my videos on my iPad because I feel like the audio and video quality is less than my iPhone. I now do all filming on my iPhone and transfer it to my laptop, where I have the full version of iMovie. There are flaws with iMovie, too, such as the neat fact that mine takes 18 minutes to "upload thumbnails" every time I restart it, and it also likes to crash spontaneously. I have had our IT guys look at it to no avail. 

Still, by and far, iMovie is a must for making any kind of quality video. I would not waste the money on the iPad version. You can get free apps to splice videos together and crop them, if that's what you need to do. 

Just plan on it taking some time to transfer the files, and book it into your day; write a story then, or do it when you're sleeping, if you're not on deadline. 

Q: You have all your notes and audio files on your iPad. Are the files not large enough to ever get too big for the iPad, or do you eventually back them up to your mac?

A: I back up all of my files on all of my gadgets and gizmos to the cloud. I also back up my iPad on my laptop every month. 

Q: Is your usual process to interview and then immediately go write that story? Or do you ever do several interviews and then spend a couple of days writing?

A: I do a mixture of both. It depends on the deadlines. I love it when I have the luxury to dedicate a full day to writing a few stories. It's like a treat. 

Q: Do you have analytic numbers for improved number of views to the Daily Camera website, or your stories in particular? Do you feel that all this effort you've put into changing the way you do journalism is actually working? Where do you see the results?

A: Some stories have the numbers to back them up. (See New Hive graphic drives traffic to our site.) Other times, I measure results by reader response and feedback. Other times, it's by acknowledgement from other journalists, like our recent Digital First win for storytelling. My stories are immeasurably better -- and different. The way I approach a story is different. And I see this momentum rippling through newsrooms everywhere. Journalism is changing, one story at a time. 

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