Thursday, September 16, 2010

What is a digital-first newsroom?

Many have that question today, across the news industry as well as at Journal Register Company.

I don't have the exact answer myself, but as I've watched our progress in recent weeks, I can safely say that I am witnessing its creation.

Thanks to the addition of high tech tools in the newsroom, we at The Record have made the digital side of news more a part of our everyday routines, as opposed to the former thinking that it was just extra work on top of print preparation.

Take this morning for example. We had an editorial board meeting scheduled with Steve McLaughlin, a Republican candidate for state Assembly, at 10 a.m. In addition to the usual group of bodies (editors, a reporter, photographer, and myself to handle social media/web updates), we were recording video from two different setups.

We had our traditional Sony HD camera on a tripod with a microphone on the table close to the candidate to record the meeting so that we could edit down and upload a video later in the day. But, for the first time locally, we also gave live-streaming a try using my ideaLab iPhone.

It took literally seconds to pull the phone from my pocket, lean it against a stapler on the conference room table, fire up the UStream app and hit "Go Live" to start streaming instantly.

Seeing as it was the first time we had used a live streaming service at The Record, I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out. I had read mixed reviews of using the UStream application directly from the phone over AT&T rather than using a webcam on a powerful desktop or laptop with a hefty broadband connection.

While that was transmitting, I jotted down the streaming address and sent it out to all of our Twitter followers, and threw a link up on our Facebook page as well. I believe the candidate's campaign manager also pushed the link out as well.

In between live-tweeting the meeting, I periodically checked in on our UStream event page and saw that everything was transmitting fine. At one point I saw we had 4 viewers of the live stream (it may have gone higher sometime during that our as well). That seems like a small number, but considering it was our first-ever attempt, that wasn't a problem.

After the meeting, I checked the recorded clip and was pleasantly surprised that the audio was clear and the video, while not perfect by any means, looked just fine for anyone looking to follow along with the meeting.

Click here to view the results.

I embedded the clip on our website so that interested readers could watch it (as little or as much as they wanted) immediately instead of waiting hours for the HD tape to get downloaded, edited, and uploaded to our site.

Obviously, this isn't a big accomplishment in the current age of the Internet, but it was certainly a milestone for us at The Record and something we hope to do with all of our editorial meetings this election season and beyond, as well as for other news events that may occur.


In other news, mobile journalism experiments have been going well here. Reporter Danielle Sanzone filed her primary election-night coverage from the field using the netbook.

Here's what she had to say about it:

Since I had never used the notebook before, I was a little nervous about utilizing it to file from the field. But, it was actually a lot easier than I thought. I got to the incumbent state Senator's campaign headquarters for the night, spoke with him and immediately started typing the article. Being able to do this must have saved at least 30 minutes since it would have taken me about 20 minutes to drive back and then another 10 or so to get situated at my desk. The notebook's cursor was a little annoying at points since it would randomly click when I was typing and thus some of my words would nearly be deleted, but, overall, it was helpful to have in the field.

Again, at the second candidates' headquarters, it was great being able to file just minutes after his concession speech which definitely saved a lot of time since his HQ was a good 30minutes from Troy, and, since it was about 11:30 p.m., the deadline clock was ticking.

I will definitely try to use the notebook again to file from the field.

Reporter Katie Nowak will take the netbook out tonight for a meeting, and fellow reporter Dave Canfield plans to use it to cover a police department dinner tomorrow night.

In sports, all of the reporters are used to filing from the field to get game stories in on deadline. So rather than having them each try it out, I'm going to see if there's anything I can do to improve their experience or work flow in the process.

Now, I've just got to get the photographers trying it out more, which shouldn't be hard with either the netbook or the iPad and camera connection kit.

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Anonymous Steve Shoe said...

Oops. Sorry, Tom: It occurs to me that maybe my first comment is still awaiting moderation and that I just submitted a duplicate (I thought maybe I forgot to hit the Submit button when I commented the other night. I've been known to do that). Feel free to approve whichever one you like better and kill the duplicate -- and this one). Hope things are going well!

September 20, 2010 at 7:24 AM 
Anonymous tcaprood said...

No problem. I was a little sick this weekend and just didn't get to sifting through my e-mail for notifications as much as I normally would.

I know one of our photographers already said the same thing, that they can't do any major editing on the iPad or netbook because the screen's not calibrated for our press.

I understand that argument for getting the image completely ready for print, but there's no reason they can't do a quick crop if one is needed and shoot back an image for the web in a few seconds (minutes at most). I'm going to try this week to see if we can do that a few times this week to start.

I also agree that the quality of the image in this day and age does not matter for the initial report, as Twitter and YouTube have shown - amateur and first wins the battle when faced with professional and hours behind.

Should be interesting to see how everything goes.

September 20, 2010 at 9:31 AM 

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