Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

G20: multimedia experiments

Posted in International Development by Adam Westbrook on April 1, 2009

Protests are always a magnet for the media. Scuffles make great pictures for TV, chants make great sound for radio; the mass of people suggesting some great social movement.

Why should multimedia be any different?

It was no surprise all the big news organisations were employing blogs, twitter, online audio and video for today’s G20 protests. They’ve used them on news stories several times over the past few months.

What I think makes today different is this is the first time newsrooms have had significant warning of a news event, to flex their multimedia muscle and see what it’s capable of.

They had time to think ideas, get creative and explore. So, how’d they do? Here are some UK media examples:

BBC News: interactive map

BBC News: interactive map

BBC News : Interactive map

Immediately popular was BBC News’ interactive map which appeared mid morning.

The movable image covered central London, and as reports from the ground were filed, they appeared on the map.

The stories were multimedia; everything from text, audio, video and images.

Guardian: audio boo uploads

Guardian: audio boo uploads

Guardian: Audioboo uploads

The Guardian were out in force at the protests, with journalists employing all sorts of technology to help them in their quest.

One of the favourites was the new audio sharing site Audioboo, unique from places like  Soundcloud and Mixcloud in that it only really works if you have an iPhone.

So excited were Guardian journalists by this new technology it seemed they were happy to upload all and every interview they conducted, including the one pictured, with Rory O’Driscoll.

“Sorry, were you expecting some a little more, err, involved?” he told the reporter, clearly not at all bothered about what was going on.

Guardian: twitter reporters

Guardian: twitter reporters

The Guardian’s Twitter army

Someone (on Twitter in fact) commented, on seeing this image, that there must have been more journalists on the streets than protestors.

What these provide though, were unfiltered, immediate dispatches from the scene.

Stuck in an office, those of us in Web 1.0 world were forced to watch Dermot Murgnahan and the rest of the Sky News reporters stumble their way through the protest.

“Oh look, a policeman’s fallen over” was just one remark, along with a car-crash interview with Russell Brand, the comedian who’d clearly taken the wrong turning on his way out to get some milk.

These Guardian dispatches though – raw, mispelt, abbreviated into 140 characters, gave you the very latest – and of course they’ve not been through an editor.

Who said any story couldn’t be told in 140 characters or less?

BBC News: live updates

The BBC had a similar live update system with similar benefits.

This one though included chosen comments from viewers/listeners as well as BBC correspondents (and in some cases media students) on the ground. It looked good, and continued until 2100…but I’d wager cost a lot more than any other news organisation would manage.

BBC News: live updates

So lots going on, and it felt – for once – there was more to be seen online than on TV. Has this set a precedent? I hope so. Throughout today, no-one was tweeting/blogging about the G20 coverage they heard on the radio or seen on TV. They were sharing links to sites like the above ones.

The key benefits: immediacy, raw information, and interactivity.

But for that, do I feel the coverage of the protests was any better than the old media? Hmmm, that’s not so clear cut.

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Presidential mashup

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 24, 2009

A fantastic piece of ‘history 2.0’ from the New York Times this week.

They’ve produced tag clouds from each of the 44 US presidents inaugurual speeches, and then arranged them in an interactive timeline.

Like the tag cloud on the right of this blog, the words which appear most often are larger. Those which appear more than the average are highlighted in yellow.

New York Times

Copyright: New York Times

It’s fascinating to see the word “country” and “people” as the popular words, slowly replaced by “nation” and “America.” Note how Obama’s big words are the same as Clintons.

And a brilliant use of web 2.0 to help understand the past.

Hat tip: Cyberjournalist.net

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A new era

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, Journalism, News and that by Adam Westbrook on January 20, 2009

So it was as powerful and emotional and historic as November 4th, and more.

Billions, they reckon, watched Barack Obama’s inauguration; 4 million made the pilgrimage to Washington DC to see it for themselves.

From a journalist’s perspective days like this are always fascinating and exciting. I thought some mind find it useful to see how the local radio station I work for covered it today.

Local v national

Generally, local media have 2 choices when it comes to big national/international stories:

  1. You are a local station, you cover local stories primarily
  2. You are an outlet in tune with your local audience and the wider world.

In radio certainly – many managers consider local news a major facet of their “localness” requirements – and will often inforce ‘Lead on Local’ policies.

Even without, local journalists sometimes feel guilty at covering non-local stories.

Where I work, we take option 2. There is a wider world out there, and often things happen nationally/internationally which affect our listeners lives.

When people turn on the radio, they expect to be briefed on all the big stories – and what’s happening NOW.

We decided editorially last week it would be THE story today, despite another strong local story which has been developing for a week vying for lead.

So we put lots of effort in advance of today getting local reaction to the historic inauguration. In our main lunchtime bulletin we ran an in-house report looking back at Bush’s legacy. We also tracked down American’s living in our area, as well as academics and politicians.

Mixed with audio from our national news wire service we had comprehensive coverage.

Perhaps overambitiously we tried to take a live feed from Washington at 1700 to catch the opening words of Obama’s oath. A nice idea, thrown out of whack when the ceremony was delayed (for the first time in 200 years!).

In terms of writing, a day like to day is a journalists dream, with all sorts of options for epic and creative copy.

Compare that to our local rival (who I won’t name); at 5pm, as Obama was about to step up to take the job of President of the United States, they led with a local crime story.

The inauguration came last “and finally…”

As a listener/viewer/reader would you feel in touch with the world?

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Change

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on November 5, 2008

It’s great to feel you’re witnessing history.

Because of what we did on this day, at this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

 

Change

Change

 

It’s all a bit Hollywood ham, but last night feels like proof for all of us that if you do hope, if you do dream, it can happen.

Let’s hope change has come to the rest of us to. 

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More US elections in pictures

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on November 5, 2008

 

Voting incentives

Voting incentives

 

Hi-tech voting

Hi-tech voting

 

McCain latest

McCain latest

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The US elections in pictures

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on November 4, 2008

 

Voting in laundrettes

Voting in laundrettes

 

 

ID cards help avoid fraud

ID cards help avoid fraud

 

John McCain votes

John McCain votes

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US voting system in plain english

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on November 4, 2008

The US electoral system is a lot more complicated than I imagined. Colleges, senators, districts all that.

Luckily then there is a helpful explainer (with pretty pictures) on Youtube. Useful, even if the guy doing it sounds like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle:

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Time to watch, and wait

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on November 4, 2008

As Chris Doidge pointed out earlier today, there’s nothing else left to say on the US elections now.

It’s all been said, and doesn’t matter anyway as 136 million Americans queue for hours to have their say.

Charlie Beckett reckons 95% of the international media are pro-democrat and very pro-Obama (check out some front pages from Ghana’s leading newspapers with E.K. Bensah if you need proof).

Chris says the internet was the bigger winner this time round. My only addition to that is Obama was the big winner from the internet. Would he have been so successful with youtube, myspace and his cunning use of Web 2.0?

I interviewed an American student earlier, who used to work with Mitt Romney all those months ago (remember him?) She was a highly articulate Republican, but quietly resigned to the fact it won’t go her way tonight. “McCain was the wrong choice” she told me.

Last word to Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow in America:

“Listen, I have lived in America. I have reported on America for more than half my life. And I will share with you that this day feels exceptional – however it ends.”

Either way tonight, history will be made.

The (other) big election

Posted in International Development, News and that by Adam Westbrook on October 28, 2008

Thanks to E.K. Bensah for reminding me of another big vote taking place before Christmas.

Yes, with seven days to go all eyes are on the upcoming US elections. But I’ll also be following Ghana’s vote in December.

Unlike the yanks, Ghana has no less than 8 candidates for president ranging from Prof. John Atta Mills to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

And whatever you might think of elections on the African continent, the website of Ghana’s electoral commission suggests this is a poll sat firmly in the 21st century.

From my own experience covering a tiny by-election there way back in 2003, people take politics really seriously!

Still it’ll be sad to see the back of John Kufour, possibly the world leader with the deepest voice!

That Russell Brand speech in full

Posted in News and that by Adam Westbrook on September 8, 2008

So old Russer hosty-wosted the MTV VMA’s last night, despite being a virtual unknown Stateside. Caused a few upsets though, mixing sex and politics, when we know only Sarah Palin’s daughter’s allowed to do that.

Enough wise-cracks from me, here’s what the man with the massive mullet said:

On the US elections:

“As a representative of the global community, a visitor from abroad, I don’t want to come across a little bit biased, but could I please ask of you, people of America, please elect Barack Obama, please, on behalf of the world.

“Some people, I think they’re called racists, say America is not ready for a black president.

“But I know America to be a forward thinking country because otherwise why would you have let that retard and cowboy fella be president for eight years.

“We were very impressed. We thought it was nice of you to let him have a go, because, in England, he wouldn’t be trusted with a pair of scissors.”

On Sarah Palin’s daugher Bristol:

“That is the safe sex message of all time. Use a condom or become a Republican!”

On himself:

“…a little sex once and a while never hurt anybody.”

“I’m famous in the United Kingdom. My persona don’t really work without fame. Without fame, this haircut could be mistaken for mental illness.”

Meanwhile at the other end of the country, another Brit was making a big impression in America. Misery guts Andy Murray got through to the final of the US Open. Very cool. But incidentally I was talking to people on the street in the UK today and the phrase “couldn’t give a toss” was an oft repeated one.

I wonder then, which Brit made the biggest impression on the US of A last night?

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