2019 Sessions Blog

The challenges of mobile visual journalism | Robert Scheer, Indianopolis Star

There are challenges to producing digital journalism with a phone, but here are some tips to making it more manageable.

  • Let the subject determine whether to go live. For instance, the Indy Star has a live show before Friday night football games.
  • All good video starts with good audio. Get a mic close to the person being interviewed.
  • Value what visual journalists bring to the table. Get them involved early in the editorial decision-making process on a project.

From spatial to sensor technology: New pathways in local news | Amy Schmitz Weiss, San Diego State University


Spatial and sensor technology can add another layer to local news coverage and give citizens access to granular information, such as air quality for a specific block.

  • Sensors can measure light, temperature or air quality, and reporters can make sensors themselves or purchase them (prices vary from under a $100 to about a $1,000).
  • Sensors can lead to powerful journalism, such as showing the extreme heat or cold in neighborhoods that lack adequate climate control.
  • Sensors can provide valuable, in-depth information to a community. In a survey of readers of coverage based on sensors, San Diego State found 84 percent said the coverage helped them understand air quality in their area.

Creating AR experiences that stick for news audiences | Ray Soto, USA Today


USA Today has invested in augmented reality in recent years, and the numbers have shown that people are willing to engage in these types of projects.

  • When looking to start an AR project, try to find something, a “nugget,” to hang its hat on. For instance, for the podcast series The City, about an illegal dump in a poor black neighborhood in Chicago, an AR trailer for the series highlighted how tall the pile of trash was compared to neighborhood buildings.
  • AR projects can handle heavy subjects. USA Today worked with black authors, poets and artists to create a project that allowed users to explore a ship that carried the first enslaved Africans to America.
  • AR projects might bring new audiences that may not be familiar with legacy media organizations.

The future of journalism | Yusuf Omar, Hashtag Our Stories


Access to high-speed internet, artificial intelligence and augmented reality hasn’t fundamentally changed journalism … yet. But a perfect storm might be coming where they do.

  • Augmented reality can allow journalists to maintain sources’ anonymity. For instance, adding a virtual face mask to a video of a rape survivor telling her story.
  • Wearable technology, such as glasses that record video, can do the same thing. For instance, having a human trafficking victim wear the glasses so her face is never shown but she can tell her story.
  • Most user-generated content used in traditional media is either light, such as a feel-good viral video, or heavy, such as phone video of a terror attack. But there is tons of other content out there that journalists could mine in order to tell otherwise hard-to-reach stories (with the requisite fact-checking, of course).
  • It’s possible that in the next 10 years most people could be wearing technology and that we won’t use phones like we use them today.

AI in Journalism | Paul Cheung, Knight Foundation


Artificial intelligence in journalism is not new, and news organizations have been finding new ways to incorporate AI into their journalism.

  • Examples: 1) The LA Times’ Quakebot, which posts a story minutes after the shaking ends, 2) Quartz used AI to analyze tens of thousands of pages of documents in hours, saving journalists’ valuable time.
  • The journalism industry doesn’t have a framework to discuss whether or how AI should be used in the newsroom. The conversation is set by the people who made the platform.
  • There’s a need to balance out the ethics of using AI with the efficiency it could bring to newsrooms.

Working on editorial special projects for mobile audiences | Almudena Toral, Univision


Univision gets 90 percent of its audience from mobile. Mobile teams use visuals as a universal tool to appeal to audiences of all languages. The modern reality is mobile teams now do things that are used by the traditional television department. Here are some lessons learned on using visuals for mobile:

  • Animation enables the ability to tell stories with images that wouldn’t have images otherwise.
  • Collaboration with partner news organizations is the key to success in producing visuals for mobile, and also a good way to get the journalism in front of a different audience that might not have been reached otherwise.
  • Subtitles are a necessary pain to reach a wide audience.
  • The quality of the camera does not matter. The most important thing is to capture the moment.

XR Journalism: Beyond the rectangle | Dan Pacheco, Syracuse University


We exist and experience things in a 3D world. Why is our media still concentrated in 2D rectangles?

  • XR (extended reality) makes fully immersive devices that can transport your consciousness to other places, which might allow organizations to give news consumers a more immersive experience.
  • In the future, today’s films and videos might be called “flatties” because media will have depth.
  • XR could allow researchers to literally walk through data sets and graphs their working with, possibly leading to increased understanding of the data and retention of information.
  • We could be at an inflection point where access to this technology — at an affordable price — becomes widespread.

How NPR is reinventing radio | Tamar Charney, NPR


NPR is reinventing its editorial process for new technological devices, as more and more people adopt smart speakers.

  • Twenty-five percent of public radio streaming is done on smart devices now.
  • It’s a mistake to take old things and put them on a new technology. Radio products should become more native for use on smart speakers.
  • Smart speakers with screens made NPR add a visual component to its newscasts. It works more as a second screen than as an immersive experience.
  • To be successful on newer platforms, radio journalists should think about who they are and what their audience expects from them. Take people where they want to go.
  • New jobs are being developed — there is a lot of need to bridge new technologies and editorial work.

Are you really watching the right metrics? | Kurt Gessler, Chicago Tribune


News organizations are drowning in analytics data, but not all of it is very helpful. Focus on the ones that can help grow an audience.

  • When it comes to search traffic, look at competitive keywords and phrases — not the organization’s name, but what topics people are searching for that leads them to the website. For example, many people search the Chicago Bears and get to the Chicago Tribune.
  • For email newsletters, look at engagement by format. The Tribune changed from a need-to-know to a nice-to-know model of sharing news.
  • A Facebook audience has a different taste than a main website’s audience. Also, focus less on volume and more on quality in Facebook.
  • For Twitter, it’s quantity over quality, as long as the posts are spaced out. Longer tweets get more engagement, and organizations should limit retweets of other accounts to grow the brand.
  • Remember: News is the largest driver of traffic.

From linear television to content company | Mark Hulsey, Big Ten Network


Since its inception in the mid-2000s, the Big Ten Network has shifted from focusing on linear, or traditional, TV to marrying linear to digital and social networks around live sports, a communal experience.

  • It’s the greatest time to be a consumer. For media companies, it means they have to adapt and thrive. If they stay stagnant, they will not survive.
  • Mobile changes the way things are produced for linear TV. The barrier between linear and digital is completely broken down, and the growing audience is certainly on mobile.
  • AI for generating highlights became a game-changer for Big Ten Network. It is used to populate clips in minutes on social media platforms.
  • Multi-platform video producer/editor (MVPE) program helps to find content providers among students on Big Ten Network campuses to generate as much social content as possible every day.

Constant adaptation for mobile and off-platform storytelling | Stephanie Clary, CNN


Emerging platforms offer the exciting opportunity to serve, impact and reach new audiences. But navigating this ever-changing landscape also requires intentional and creative workflows as well as agile teams. See how CNN has adapted across platforms and where teams are looking to grow next.

  • Plan coverage for each platform you’re on because what works on one doesn’t necessarily work on the other.
  • Try to meet your audience where they are. For instance, people on Twitter expect things to be live and updating constantly, and people on Instagram want a more visual experience.
  • CNN has built “agile teams that can plan for change” that helps the company use social media well.
  • CNN’s keys to success:
  1. Be intentional — explore opportunities for growth with a clear strategy in mind, and stay authentic to the core journalism and voice
  2. Have consistency — have disciplined workflows to develop habits
  3. Have diversity — among teams, content and platforms