Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

A call for collaborators II

Posted in Online Video by Adam Westbrook on July 5, 2012

Are you an independent multimedia journalist already deep into reporting a big ambitious issue?

I’m just starting work on another big publishing project, but right now it’s a lot of planning, ideas and desk-based work. I’m always trying to keep busy telling stories but haven’t had the time to invest in finding a new one yet.

I figured, rather than wait for one to come along and embark on another solo project, this would be the perfect time to help someone else produce their story to a top quality standard. So I’m looking for someone to collaborate with.

Note: this isn’t the same as my call for general collaborators earlier in the year – Mo, Nick, Tony, David, Fabio, Gavin, Lindsay and Pablo thanks for your emails – I’ll be in touch.

Who am I looking for?

I’m looking for someone who is already well into the reporting of a story, has already gathered a lot of the raw materials but is unsure of how to produce it. Maybe you feel that you don’t know how to organise all the materials you collected, or you can’t figure out how to structure the narrative in the most effective way. You might also not be confident at editing and other post-production skills or how to get the story on the web. I can help you with all those things.

It doesn’t matter where in the world you are as we can communicate over Skype and email. However if you would like some hands-on producing then it would be useful (although not vital) if you were in the UK so we can transfer large chunks of media.

What stories am I looking for?

It should be an ambitious, deep reporting multimedia project that you have invested a good amount of time in, building relationships and contacts in the story, immersing yourself in it. I don’t have enough time to do any of the reporting myself so it should be near the end of the ‘gathering’ stage, ready to go into post-production.  There’s no particular subject matter that I’m looking for but I’ll pick the one that interests me most and looks like it has the best potential to be a great story.

You might have photographs, audio and even video to put together. Ideally the story is character led, with a strong engaging person at its heart.

What can I help you do?

I can work with you to shape your raw materials into an engaging, attention grabbing narrative full of all the right story ingredients, whether as a standalone documentary, website, digital magazine or even a one-off iPad magazine.

I have a fair few other commissions and projects on the go at the moment so this wouldn’t be a full time gig – but we’ll work hard together on it until its done and ready to be published. I’ll also help you turn it around swiftly so it goes live by the end of the summer.  I won’t charge anything for my time or claim any ownership of the content itself, although a producer credit would be nice.

How to get in touch 

If your project sounds like a good fit then first of all drop me an email and tell me a bit more about you and your project. I want to know who you are, what your story is, what stage it is at right now and how it fits the criteria above. I’ll get in touch with the ones that appeal to me and the next step will be a short Skype conversation where we can see if we’ll work well together.

To get in touch visit my website and click the big ‘Contact Me’.

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10 tips for recording a better interview

Posted in Online Video by Adam Westbrook on December 1, 2011

The most exciting power of great multimedia storytelling is the potential to give a voice to those who would otherwise go ignored.

I’m deep into teaching undergraduate students on Kingston University’s journalism program the basics of producing good video stories. They recently finished their first film, portraits of fellow students and how they feel about their job prospects in light of high youth unemployment. A dry-ish topic, and so their challenge was to tease good stories from their subjects, find specific angles and get to the nub of the issue.

The key to doing this is the interview: in most great online video stories & portraits it forms the spine of the narrative. Everything else in the story hangs off the interview.

Watching their first attempts at film making, it was clear conducting good interviews is an issue. So I put together a presentation with 10 tips for recording a better interview – I thought I’d share it here. Lots of this advice has been won through hard experience in my last 8 years of interviewing everyone from genocide survivors to David Cameron; but I’m also grateful to multimedia maestros like Ben Chesterton of Duckrabbit and Brian Storm of MediaStorm for a couple of the specific tips.

Again, there are bound to be things I’ve missed off: let me know in the comments!

10 tips for recording a better video (or audio) interview

NOTE: I’ve published the presentation under a Creative Commons Licence (attribution) – feel free to reuse and share, but please credit.

Multimedia journalism that’s making money

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on October 19, 2011

Death & Taxes by Jess Bachman

What you’re looking at is a very profitable piece of multimedia journalism.

Death & Taxes is a data visualisation project by Jess Bachman: a 24×36 inch glossy poster that’s just been published by Seth Godin’s Domino Project. It’s available to buy from Amazon US – for $27.00 (currently discounted to $20) – and at the time of writing, has already sold out.

Jess (who isn’t a trained journalist) took all the spending data published by the US government (he says it runs into thousands of spreadsheets) and visualised it into this one image. And let me repeat the most important point: it’s a poster. Not an interactive, not a video, or a motion graphic – a poster: something you can sell to the public. Something that can go up on classroom walls.

I bet no-one teaches poster production on multimedia journalism courses these days…maybe they should.

This is an example of a clever idea, that serves a need, packaged in a sellable way. And here’s the takeaway: anyone reading this blog could have done this. The data is available, for free. The data interrogation and cleansing is free too, if you learn how to do it. The design is tricky, but doable – especially if you rope in a talented friend.

What does it cost? Time -and lots of it. Plus determination and stamina – all fuelled by a brilliant idea. 

The Next Generation Journalist and entrepreneurship

Posted in Freelance, Journalism, Next Generation Journalist by Adam Westbrook on July 5, 2010

I was recently interviewed by journalist Andy Bull on my Next Generation Journalist ebook and the idea of entrepreneurial journalism.

Andy knows what I’m talking about-an entrepreneurial journalist himself, with a portfolio career, and an actual proper book to his name (on paper an everything). It’s called Multimedia Journalism: a Practical Guide (Amazon affiliate link) and alongside Mark Luckie’s Digital Journalist Handbook is probably the most up-to-date and relevant book for journalists trying to grapple with the new media age out there.

I’m working my way through it and I’ll do a full review for you in the next week or so. In the meantime, here’s a few clips from our interview. The full collection can be found on the website which accompanies Andy’s book.

What is a Next Generation Journalist?

How do you build a portfolio career?

Can anyone be an entrepreneur?

Bring on the wall! (But is it worth paying for?)

Posted in Adam, Broadcasting and Media, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 25, 2010

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“We are completely unashamed of this, we want people to pay for the journalism”

Daniel Finkelstein, Times columnist

Did you know the Times has an Ocean Correspondent? That’s right: a journalist dedicated to covering ocean news. He’s called Frank Pope and he was on the front page of yesterday’s print edition, diving into the Gulf of Mexico, an experience which must currently be akin to swimming through a gigantic jar of Marmite.

He’s a man whose beat is 70% of the earth’s surface, yet the position of Ocean Correspondent is a luxury not many papers or broadcasters would afford.

And that’s why the Times wants us to start paying for its online news, just like some pay for the paper. And this morning we see the launch of this – with thetimes.co.uk and thesundaytimes.co.uk going live in the last few minutes.

Last night I joined a small group of bloggers and media/tech journalists at the headquarters of Rupert Murdoch’s News International in Wapping, London to get a sneak preview of the site before the wall went up.

It’ll be something of a glass paywall at first with the content visible to all — then, after four weeks, the glass becomes brick and not even Google’s spiders will be able to crawl between the mortar cracks.

That’s right: articles on thetimes.co.uk and thesundaytimes.co.uk will not be searchable on Google…if you see a story you like, you won’t be able to share it on Twitter or Facebook…it would seem, a massive own goal, but at least they’ll save money on SEO consultants.

Niche & experience

My two concerns for the Times paywall are these:

  1. the Times is not significantly niche enough (as, say, the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal are) to attract paying readers
  2. the experience of reading the Times online was not good enough to make it something to pay for

On point one, they have put thought into it. The websites will boast what the Times and Sunday Times do have – excellent columnists, good travel, review and culture. It won’t, we’re told, be a repository for breaking news “taken from PA”, insisting they won’t put a story up “if they can’t add value.”

That is a good step, although I am still not sure what the Times stands for: middle-of-the-road, middle-class, middle-aged Britain? As someone once the said, ‘the only thing in the middle of the road is white paint and dead animals.’

The Times and Sunday Times are to have two separate websites, each independently updated. This means even though the Sunday Times is printed only on a Sunday, it will be updating the web with new content throughout the week.

And what about the experience of reading the Times or the Sunday Times online?

Well, at first impressions I am not bowled over: black text on a white screen, size 12, serif font – just like every other news website out there (and even this blog!). A web page can be any colour and fully dynamic – a concept no major newsroom is yet to grasp.

I was taken to task on this though by Times Assistant Editor Tom Whitwell who insists they looked at different options. There are apparently fewer stories on the front page, leaving it less cluttered. The experience is also more visual with larger front page images, and a chance to explore the top news stories in pictures (a cue taken, perhaps, from the Independent’s NewsWall produced by UltraKnowledge).

The Sunday Times website is actually quite a pleasure to navigate with a large rolling ‘shop window’ carousel and multimedia galleries. Said the editor: “we’re expecting people to browse and enjoy the experience.” Is it distinct enough from the Guardian, Telegraph, New York Times or the BBC? That’s for you  to decide.

Other cool bits include a culture planner to organise your week, and the rather neat ability to set your Sky+ box direct from the Times website, both giving the sites usability rather than just something to read. Interestingly if you wish to SpeEk You’re bRanes about the content, you’ll only be allowed to comment using your full name.

On video & multimedia

Now to the bit most readers of this blog are really interested in – the multimedia stuff.

The editor of the Sunday Times told us they’d “invested a lot of time and money in multimedia” including on a new video studio.

There’s to be a push on interactive infographics to rival the Financial Times, and multimedia photogalleries of the best images. They want to connect their journalists with their readers and there’ll be plenty of live webchats online.

But it seems there hasn’t been an investment in more multimedia staff, or a push for innovative video storytelling. Instead the investment has been in getting their current crop of journalists to create more stuff for the web, with pen still in hand. As if keeping tabs on all the news from 70% of the earth’s surface wasn’t enough, our Ocean man Frank Pope must also file video every time he goes diving.

Now that’s fine – and indeed, if the print journalists I have met in my time are anything to go by, not an easy pitch for the Times editors to have made.

But the Times or the Sunday Times won’t sew the seeds of innovation in multimedia. Tom Whitwell described having to ask columnist Caitlin Moran, who’s interview with Lady Gaga just went viral, to do some video on the story. The problem: Caitlin is on a ‘writer’s retreat’ in Brighton apparently.

Will any of their video journalists be treated to a ‘video retreat’?

(NOTE: Caitlin is doing a live webchat about meeting Gaga at 1200 BST today)

Is it worth the money?

That was the one question everyone asked when I tweeted from last night’s preview. And I’ve needed to sleep on it to make my mind up.

Here’s the numbers: for a single day’s access it’ll cost you (in 4 weeks time) one of your English pounds. But you can get a whole week’s access for £2 – so if you’re interested, don’t bother paying by the day.

And actually…£2 for access to comment and analysis from a good newspaper – and topped off with access to the Sunday Times is almost, almost, worth paying for….

You can try speculating about whether Rupert’s paywall will work, but whatever your conclusion you’ll probably be wrong. So let’s bring on the wall …and see what happens.

Other commentary about the paywall…

Three examples of great online video stories

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on April 14, 2010

Regular readers will know how much I like to bang on about storytelling. It’s the oldest craft the journalist uses, yet still one of the least well understood (including by me).

Stunningly well told stories are so rare to come by, I think it’s worth highlighting them when they do.

Here then are three examples of how to weave a gripping narrative in video. These haven’t been chosen for how good they look, or how well they’re edited, or necessarily any journalistic rigour. But they all take a story and don’t just tell it in a linear way. There’s a lot to learn from them.

Soul mate Stories by Guardian Video

Expertly directed by Sonali Fernando to tell the stories of people who’ve met via the paper’s online dating service Soulmates.

What to take away: what makes this special is the visual narrative devices weaved in to tell the story. Most of the story we hear from the two characters, but rather than just having talking heads, Sonali has one paint the other. That’s a narrative device with the visuals firmly in mind. It leaves you with this wonderful reveal when she’s describing meeting the love of her life online, and we see his face appear in the painting.

Just about subtle enough to still pack a punch, it’s a great device and used very well. When making your own video stories, what ways can you get your subjects to show, rather than tell?

16:moments by RadioLab

This is a concept rather than a story – but there’s no doubting there’s a story in here. Directed by New York filmmaker Will Hoffman the film plays around the idea of a single moment.

What to take away: The opening fast cut montage of pictures, matched with some enticing audio builds suspense. The voices we hear pull us into the story, and reveal the talent of a film maker with passions for radio too.

Putting moments together, and visually connecting certain visual cues packs a powerful punch. Notice how he matches the first steps of a toddler with the strides of a grave digger – it instantly tells a great story about birth and death. The music is important: as it builds it pushes the story towards a climax.

50 people 1 question by Deltree

Directed by Benjamin Reece, the 50 people 1 question videos have been shared around the web a lot in the last year. Post Secret takes the same concept but the question is ‘what’s your biggest secret?’

What to take away: It’s a simple concept, but leaves the director with the problem of having a random collection of vox-pops to turn into a narrative. He does it skillfully, however, inter cutting half answered voxes to build tension, and making excellent use of the reactions, pauses, recollections and silent regrets. He makes use of all his shots, even when he’s framing up or pulling focus.

The climax comes half way through when we see a couple tell each other their biggest secrets. Putting them together, facing each other on screen, is a wonderful idea. Similarly, watch out for the skeptical girl who appears near the beginning (01’00) and says “why would I tell a secret to a bunch of strangers?”: she appears right at the end, revealing the most intimate secret of them all. It’s known as book-ending – an old trick, but a good’un.

As with 16:moments above, the piece makes use of music, this time to change narrative direction.

So there you go, three pieces of multimedia which show us how in the right hands cameras are powerful tools. Hopefully it’s inspired you to aim for something as powerful in your own films. And I’m always on the look out for amazingly well told stories – if you’ve seen any, please recommend them in the comments section!

Journalism posts: a summary IV

Posted in Fresh eyes series, Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 31, 2010

Presentation: 5 new career paths for journalists

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on February 23, 2010

I’m busy working on a new e-book, to be released in May 2010, which I hope will be a big help to journalists everywhere.

In it, I’m revealing ten new ways for journalists to do what they love and make money, in the face of the digital revolution and the economic downturn. With fewer traditional jobs, and more journalism graduates than ever before, the maths just don’t add up.

So what can the next generation of journalists do? Think laterally and outside the box– which is exactly what the new book will be all about. I’ve delved into entrepreneurship, life design and tech; looked at how other people are exploiting the internet for profit – then applied it all to journalism.

Earlier this month I shared some of my early ideas with journalism students at Kingston University in London. Here’s a shortened version of the presentation I delivered, with five (OK, six!) of the ten new career ideas briefly explained.

The book will be packed with practical step-by-step guides to fulfilling them – make sure you subscribe to the blog (in the right hand sidebar) for updates!

UPDATE: It’s having trouble with slide #2 but the rest of the presentation is fine!

Five myths about shooting video

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 27, 2010

Lets start with some truths: video is going to play a huge part in the future of journalism; it is more popular than blogging and social networking; according to the Global Web Index of May 2009, 70% of web users watch video online.

And here’s some more truths: 20 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube every minute; (and that was in May 09, so it’s probably closer to 22 or 24 hours). That’s the equivalent of 86,000 Hollywood movies being released every week of the year.

Despite this, there are still some myths surrounding video and film making; myths which stop some print reporters, journalism students and hyperlocal bloggers from trying it, and mean that those who do produce mediocre content.

Time to blow them myths wide open.

Five myths about shooting video

01. shooting video is expensive

It really is time to put this myth to bed. Yes, TV programmes cost £100,000 upwards per hour; Hollwood movies $45,0000,000 is more like the average.

But you don’t need a £20,000 camera to achieve broadcastable results. In fact, you can make high quality, high definition video for as little as £100. It’s not the kit, but how you use it.

Not convinced? Here’s how I kitted myself out with camera, tripod, sound gear and a full editing suite for £500 ($900). And watch how the Kodak Zi8 (£150) can get professional results.

02. shooting video is only for the professionals

There are lots of people who’d like you to believe you need to spend years in film school and thousands in training courses to produce professional looking video.

These are the people who have spent years in film school and thousands on training courses, and fair play to them. To an extent they’re right. If you want to produce a pitch perfect visual masterpiece every time you take out your camera then this may be the answer.

But to produce video journalism, to cover everyday news events, to record interviews, to tell exciting video stories…well, there are some basic tricks anyone can learn. White balance, framing, sequences – these three basics of visual grammar will elevate your production in no time.

Here’s how I’ve been teaching journalism students at Kingston University, London how to shoot video:

03. shooting video requires lots of talented people

Even today there’s a lot of resentment towards video journalism. Jaded hacks hate the idea of being asked to hold the camera and ask questions at the same time. They argue having a camera-person (and ideally a producer) with them means the results are better.

Now I believe in collaboration, don’t get me wrong. And two heads are better than one. But are they always necessary? No. The evidence of this comes in the scores of excellent films produced single handedly.

So don’t feel inadequate when you pitch up on your own. It is possible, and indeed not that challenging, to master your video and your sound and your lighting and your framing, and still have time to ask the questions. You will need one thing, and one thing alone to achieve this: practice.

04. shooting video is a luxury

I’m sure there are lots of journalism students, and lots of hyperlocal bloggers who would love to have more video on their website, but see it as a luxury they can’t afford. Well, I’ve already shown you it doesn’t necessarily have to be a financial luxury.

But don’t think video is the icing on the cake; the thing which makes your journalism look a bit prettier. No, the statistics at the top of this page show the audience is demanding more and more video. They don’t just want to read about an event, or see a nice photograph. They want to watch it, they want to hear the interviews.

In a short number of years video will become core to our audiences’ consumption of storytelling. So it needs to become core to our production.

05. shooting video is easy

And on the flip-side, the final myth of shooting video is it is actually easy. Well, the professionals make it look that way don’t they? Trust me, from years of frustration, anger and despair, the one thing I’ve learned is shooting video is actually ruddy hard.

At least getting it right is.

First there’s the guaranteed technical hiccups. Your camera’s battery is low; there’s interference on the mic; the tape has corrupted; the edit software keeps crashing; your video exports sound and video out of sync…all of these have happened to me at one time or another and it drives me crazy.

And secondly getting every shot right, getting the soundbite, getting a perfect sequence, getting your framing right…these are all simple to read on paper, but difficult out in the cold with an impatient interviewee.

A little bit of history repeating

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 24, 2010

This whole multimedia journalism thing seems very new a lot of the time.

We’re always being told we’re breaking new ground, doing things no-one has done before. But that’s not necessarily so:  some of the ‘innovations’ we have come accustomed too have been around for decades.

Citizen Journalism

When do you think the first citizen journalists appeared? Did amateurs start recording news events a few years back? 2004? 2002?

How about 1940?

BBC Four in Britain are screening a series of programmes called Shooting The War, about how ordinary soldiers and civilians used the first cinecameras to record daily life during World War II. People like Leslie Fowler and Derek Brown provided us with an intimate portrait of life in Britain in the run up to, and during the early years of the war.

Their footage shows Home Guard preparations for a possible invasion of England in the summer of 1940.

The documentary describes amateur film-making as an unusual hobby in the 1930s, but it was still there.

One-man-bands

Now what about solo-journalists? The one man* film-maker, out in the field on his own with a camera? 1990s? 1980s?

How about the 1940s again?

During the war, the British government became aware of the extent to which the Wehrmacht had been using propaganda films to accentuate their sudden invasion of Western Europe. Realising the potential of this, they created a new division in the army: the Army Film and Photographic Unit. It trained ordinary soldiers to carry their own film cameras and shoot activity on the front line.

As well as lugging their weaponry and everything else, they were carrying a huge wooden cinecamera and probably loads of film too – and then filming entirely by themselves, something most of us didn’t think could happen until Betacams in the 1980s.

Multimedia

And number three, what what the first newspaper to go multimedia? Was it the NY Times in 2000? Or the LA Times in 2003?

Nope?

What about the Observer…in 1951?

I’ve spent the last two weeks documenting a project at the Southbank Centre in London, the home of what was once called the Festival of Britain. In the festivals last weeks in the summer of 1951, the Observer paper (the Guardian’s Sunday edition) commissioned a 15 minute film called Brief City. You can watch it here too.

It explained how the Royal Festival Hall was built, and how it was used. It is a stunning piece of film making of its time, with its own specially orchestrated score.

So that’s a newspaper investing in moving pictures to tell stories. In 1951.

It’s a shame they all forgot pretty soon after how to do that.

*sorry ladies, it is still the 1940s after all

10 new years resolutions to make you a better multimedia journalist

Posted in 6x6 series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 1, 2010

What will 2010 bring?

It’s sure to be an eventful year in journalism and multimedia and I’ve already spelled out a few of my predictions for the year. But how can you prepare yourself for all the twists and turns? If you’ve already given up smoking, joined the gym and don’t need to loose any weight, here are 10 resolutions to make you a better multimedia journalist in 2010.

01. Learn a new web skill

You can’t live in fear of code, CMS, templates ‘and all that geeky stuff’ any longer: if you don’t know a bit of HTML the other 50 people going for your dream job will. Or maybe only one of them will, it doesn’t matter, they’ll still probably get the job.

There are two myths about learning web languages: 01. it’s really difficult; 02. it costs money. They’re both false.

Learning any of the basic web languages is both relatively easy and free. You can fork out £40/$60 on “HTML for Dummies” if you want but it’s not necessary. I’ve just spent a few hours over Christmas lounging on the sofa teaching myself Javascript on my laptop.

If you’re still not convinced, think about this: society is moving increasingly online and news definitely is. How much of a handicap is it to be unable to speak the language of the web? It’s like moving to France without knowing a jot of French. And then trying to get a job on Le Monde.

Four things you can learn:

  1. HTML/XHTML
  2. CSS
  3. Javascript
  4. J-Query

02. Read up on business

I’ve said several times in recent articles and videos, as have many others, there is potential for journalists to employ business skills to create small, nimble journalistic ventures which return a profit. Even if most balk at that idea, multimedia journalists – especially freelancers – should tool up on business skills to maximise their profits.

Again, don’t be scared off by the unfamiliarity of the subject. Use the New Year to grasp the nettle and dive straight in. I’ve been reading lots of business books over the last three months, investigating how journalists can employ business knowledge in a news environment. The results will appear in a new e-book here in the spring.

In the meantime, study successful business people and find out how they made it work. And remember this, the most successful businesspeople often come from non-business backgrounds:

  • Richard Branson (him off Virgin) left school with few qualifications. Despite being  dyslexic, he set up his own magazine.
  • Duncan Bannatyne (off that there Dragons Den) was a beach bum until he turned 30, when he started selling ice-cream, now he’s worth more than £100m.

03. Make audio slideshows

If you haven’t made any audio slideshows yet, pledge to make at least one in 2010. They’re great because they’re relatively quick and cheap to make (a second-hand SLR and audio recorder could set you back perhaps £300; Soundslide software is just £50) and the results can be stunning.

They’re also removed of the production distractions of shooting videos, so you can focus on telling a great story.

The weekend audio slideshow challenge:

  1. Got a free weekend on the horizon? Start thinking of story ideas near you. All you need is one or more people to interview, and a setting with the opportunity for great photographs and great sounds. Set it up. On Saturday morning go and record the story and take lots of pics.
  2. On Sunday morning go through your material and craft it into a story on paper. Then edit the audio together using Audacity (free software) and create a slideshow in Soundslide.
  3. Sleep on the results, and after making changes, upload the final piece on Monday morning. Use social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to share it. And you could even try to pitch it to a paper.
  4. Repeat as many weekends as possible.

04. Learn a new design skill

I think New Years Resolutions should be about learning new things, not prohibiting things (can you tell?). Here’s another.

A journalist with a great visual eye makes for a good multimedia storyteller. Composition, colour are really important, especially if you’re working in video or photography. But there will be more calls for interactive designers in the future. People who can create stunning data visualisations using Java and design software.

If none of the resolutions appeal to you so far, think about learning how to use Photoshop (or even cheaper, its open source equivalent GIMP); of how about Illustrator or DreamWeaver? And start bringing in some design blogs into your blog reader. I gave some suggestions in my best of the blogs post.

Join a network like Deviant Art or Behance to show off your work.

05. Pick up a microphone

This is an appeal to make 2010 the year you take audio seriously. If you’re shooting video or audio slideshows, audio is half of the magic, and coming back with poor sound quality shouldn’t be acceptable.

Spend some money on a decent microphone and spend some time learning how to use it properly.

6×6: audio

In my e-book “6×6 skills for multimedia journalists” I devote a chapter to getting good audio. Click here to download it.

06. Have personal projects

Life shouldn’t be all work, work, work – even if we are lucky enough to call journalism our job. Devote time to personal creative projects. They’re a fantastic way to keep your creativity vitalised.

Make it the part of journalism you love the most – writing maybe, or shooting video, or designing graphics…and give yourself a project just for the hell of it. It’ll keep you in a happy place I promise.

Ideas for personal projects

  • Create a tumblr account and use it to post your own creative bits and pieces
  • Start writing that novel or screenplay. Go on, just write the thing!
  • Design a new range of awesome posters
  • Create an audio portrait of an interesting area or neighbourhood over the space of 6 months
  • Start creating blogazines instead of boring old blog posts

07. Aim to double your blog readership or website hit rate

Challenge yourself to create a website that really sells you and gives value to readers. The key, as all the blogging mavens tell you, is creating great content. Make 2010 the year you stop posting funny videos or rants about something you read in the paper, and focus your content.

What value can you share with other people? What do you know about that other people will want to know about it? If you’re a journalist, there’s a good chance there’s something you can share.

This very post is a good example. I was close to writing a “my goals for 2010” post, and bore you all with my plans for next year. Then I thought I could add much more value to your day by coming up with this list.

08. Devote time to storytelling

One of the things I learned in 2009 was about the importance of storytelling, how most storytelling nowadays is crap, how many of us think it’s something we’re born with or that it’s easy.

Storytelling is in fact a craft in itself: choosing the characters, developing a narrative, conflict and climax. Take time in 2010 to learn more about this mysterious and under-appreciated art. A good place to start would be to get hold of a copy of Robert McKee’s excellent book Story. He’s been quoted all over this blog in 2009.

09. Collaborate and hookup

One of my aims for 2010 is to collaborate more. Teaming up with other people, especially those who have strengths where you have weaknesses is really fulfilling. Collaborating also gives projects a better chance of getting funding and of getting finished. So don’t go it alone in 2010.

At the same time, talk to more journalists, and collaborate on ideas for the future of news. More than 150 people have joined the Future of News Meetup Group I created in 2009, and in 2010 we’ll be meeting every month to thrash out new, positive, tangible ideas on what the news landscape will look like.

If you’re in London, make sure you sign up and get involved. If you’re not in London, then create your own for your area!

10. Be audacious

2009 was a rough year. And the signs are 2010 won’t be any easier, especially if you’re a journalist. But make a decision now not to get battered around by the waves of the economic storm. Your future doesn’t have to be shaped by events around you, just you, your ideas, and whether you’re prepared to turn them into reality.

“If you don’t find what you’re looking for, be it, create it.”

S. Dawns

Whatever your resolutions and goals are for next year, make them audacious. Make them big and make them exciting. If they don’t excite you or scare you a little bit, what hope do you have of making them happen?

And a final resolution for you….keep reading this blog!  It’s been great to have all your comments and feedback in 2009; there will be lots more practical advice about multimedia journalism in 2010, including two ebooks before February.  To make sure you don’t miss out, use the form to the right to subscribe to future posts.

Whatever you have planned for 2010, I hope it’s awesome. Happy New Year!

A wealth of journalism inspiration from New York

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on December 11, 2009

I’m sure most readers of this blog also follow US new media giant Jeff Jarvis’ blog over at Buzz Machine.

Jeff was telling us the future of journalism is entrepreneurial before anyone had really considered it and Buzz Machine is a hive of interesting writing. Today Jeff posted the results of an Entrepreneurial Journalism class where his CUNY students have been pitching their own business ideas.

For obvious reasons he’s not giving much away, but what he did reveal about the pitches that won some development cash (and those that didn’t) offers some excellent inspiration and ideas to the rest of us:

The four ideas that won some money from the McCormick Foundation are (emphasis mine)

  • a platform for news assignments
  • a mobile sports application
  • a creative, algorithmic answer to filter failure
  • and ClosetTour a new media site dedicated to fashion

And those that didn’t:

  • a specialised womens travel service
  • a specialised local real estate (property) service
  • a cool food idea
  • 2 business-to-business ideas
  • a hyperlocal idea
  • a service for NGOs
  • a commercial service for NGOs

What’s great is the huge variety of ideas – covering news, fashion, food, sport. What’s more as Jeff notes:

A few were built around the need not just to create content but to curate it. Most are highly targeted. Some saw the potential in specialised local services. Some saw the need to go mobile to service the public. Some are international. Some are multimedia. A few saw the need to make news fun, others to make news useful.

And Jeff stressed the need for every business to cut a profit in order to survive. We must be capitalist about it now.

Anyone outside of CUNY or the US should read this and take inspiration. Although Jeff’s descriptions are necessarily vague, use them to fuel your own ideas and thoughts for entrepreneurial models. Think about the importance of serving a market, having a niche, finding a gap in the market – and being able to sum up your business in an elevator pitch.

Earlier today a friend showed me plans for an exciting news business in the North of  England, which I can’t  say anything about at the moment. But all this adds strength to my conviction that, if 2009 was the year of “great media collapse” then 2010 will be the year it rises from the ashes.