Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Inside the Story: designing good stories

Posted in Online Video by Adam Westbrook on April 24, 2012

Are you excited yet? There are less than 48 hours until Inside the Story goes on sale!

I’m personally psyched about the whole thing for a few reasons: firstly because it’s the culmination of three months of work, hundreds of emails all over the world, lots of planning, writing and designing, and I can’t wait to have something to show for it. Secondly because now I see the finished product I reckon it’s going to be incredibly useful for hundreds of journalists, film makers, publishers and producers who are flirting at the edges of remarkable, but aren’t quite there yet (I include myself in that).

The third reason is the most important. I want Inside The Story to do more than help digital storytellers: I also figured it could make a real difference to people all over the planet. That’s why 100% of all the money from each sale will be donated to Kiva, the developing world entrepreneurship charity.

Kiva are a real innovative non-profit: they crowd-fund loans which are given to people wanting to start their own business in countries like Kenya, the Philippines and Indonesia. The money lets these entrepreneurs invest in equipment, supplies and anything they need to get started, but would never be able to afford on their own. Incredibly, in the last six years 760,000 people have been given help starting a business with more than $3million in loans – and 98% of those loans actually get paid back!

It’s a simply brilliant way to help people help themselves and master their own destiny. Inside the Story is going the extra mile though: every penny will be given to Kiva as a donation, rather than a loan; Kiva estimate every dollar donated generates $10 in loans – so if we make $3000 through selling Inside the Story, that could create $30,000 in loans. Epic.

That’s why this book will help up your career, and the career of someone else. Remember it goes on sale Thursday morning at 0800 BST. 

Story design like a pro

All this week I’m giving teasing glimpses at the great knowledge and advice you’ll find in Inside the Story – written by some of the finest digital storytellers in the world. So far, we’ve had a look at how to prepare stories like a pro, and how to structure them in the most engaging way. But the book isn’t just for film makers. There’s advice too for web designers, photographers and interactive designers too.

What does it take to capture people on the page and engage them with your story? For Monica Ulmanu, interactive designer at the Boston Globe, it’s all about focus. Monica creates amazing multimedia interactives for the Boston Globe’s website – there are some must-see examples in the book. So what is the secret to good design?

“Focus your user’s attention on one element at any given time. Carefully craft your design so that particular element stands out. Constantly ask yourself: What do I need to show right now to make the message clear, the story easy to follow and uncluttered?”

Another peek inside Inside the Story

Monica follows this up with some great graphic-design tips on how to direct a viewers’ eye through the page. It’s advice echoed by web designer Sergio Acosta, co-founder of Designing Stories. He says web design needs to move away from making templates and instead use design to give the visitor an experience – in essence a narrative.

“Storytelling design is the experience a web designer creates out of a narrative. So, look for the visual cues and the key words that will set the design apart.”

And when it comes to creating immersive experiences, the New York Times is up there with the best. In Inside the Story you’ll get to hear from the NYT’s Multimedia Editor Andrew DeVigal, who leads the team responsible for some real innovations in multimedia storytelling, including a story which was commended in this year’s World Press Photo Awards.

…great journalists ask those questions in which the answers provide insights and pushes us to think in entirely new ways. In asking these questions, curiosity often leads to innovation and in providing new angles to a story or situation.

Andrew gives examples of how his team solved problems and created a new way of experiencing stories on the web  – you can find out what they did on Thursday.

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How to produce online video from scratch

Posted in Online Video by Adam Westbrook on December 15, 2011

I recently showed the behind-the scenes progress of a motion graphics commission using the curating tool Storify and it went down pretty well so I thought I’d do it again, this time showing the process behind a typical video shoot.

Last week I published the third instalment of a web series I’ve been making with presenter Matt Walters. In each film he tries something new (and usually ridiculous) to try and drastically cut his carbon emissions. So far he’s crushed his car, and tried to cut his waste to zero.

In this film he tries to power his house using home-made methane, and you can see the results after the jump.

Below is the behind the scenes Storify – as usual, I can’t embed it into WordPress.com – but click on the image and it’ll take you straight there.

And here’s the film, released this week.

Who do you think you’re not?

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism, Freelance, Journalism, Next Generation Journalist by Adam Westbrook on November 26, 2010

Image credit: Dano on Flickr

“So, what do you do?”

It’s the question I dread at parties, bars and any social gathering.

“I’m a journalist” I say.

“And who do you write for?” is almost always the first response. The fact that I don’t write for many people (I make films or do training and consulting) plus the fact those I do write for are online publications immediately makes it all too difficult to explain.

“Oh, no-one you’ve heard of” ends up being my stock response, which makes me sound either unsuccessful or like a dick.

My problem is I haven’t really worked out what I do.  My first year in the freelance jungle and I’ve pretty much done everything that’s come my way: speaking, lecturing, films, audio slideshows, articles, copy writing, blog posts, consulting, writing books, photography; it’s difficult to tie that all into one job.

It’s not what you do – it’s what you don’t do.

It’s a similar headache when starting a new enterprise or freelance career. You think of all the things you love doing, and come up with markets to sell your markets or products to. And you end up with a list of several strings to your bow.

It’s hard when trying to establish yourself as a journalist, freelance or otherwise, to really understand what you’re about. That’s bad because it makes it almost impossible to market yourself properly. Take a look at my portfolio website for an example. What the hell am I? A film maker? A multimedia storyteller? An online video consultant?

I’m sure most people who see my site leave dazed and confused.

How to nail down what you do

Here’s a really effective way to hammer down to what you’re about: do the opposite. Write down all the things you don’t do.

You don’t make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That’s a warehouse. What makes a museum great is the stuff that’s not on the walls.

Quoted in Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (affiliate link)

Instead of thinking of all the people you could work for, identify the people you don’t work for. For example, you might be photojournalist and you want to specialise in doing shoots for high end lifestyle magazines. That means you don’t do shoots for companies, charities or local newspapers. It means you are not a paparazzi or a hard news photographer – so don’t pursue work in these fields.

Having fewer products or offerings means you can specialise in making them great.

If you do audio slideshows, then you don’t do video. Just focus on the slideshows and make them the best slideshows around. Become known for how good your slideshows are, so people identify you and your work with excellence and quality.

Apple know what they do, but they also know what they don’t do: you won’t get customisable, cheap and cheerful computers from them. RyanAir know they don’t do luxury flights, so they don’t even try in that market.

It’s not so black and white of course. If you can do video and you get offered a great commission then don’t stubbornly turn it down. And when you’re young or just starting out, it’s hard to know who you are, let alone who you aren’t. By all means play the field a little bit.

But working out what you don’t do is sometimes the best way to figuring out what you do do.


Multimedia workshops in Siberia

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism, Freelance, Next Generation Journalist, Online Video by Adam Westbrook on November 22, 2010

Charles Maynes (US) and Ksenia (Russia) work on audio slideshows

I’ve spent the last week working with young radio & print journalists from all over Russia. We’d all converged in the city of Abakan, which if you check it out on Google Maps sits somewhere in the heart of Siberia, not far from the Mongolian border, in a landscape surrounded by vast mountains and dark icy rivers.

It was part of a festival organised by the Eurasia Foundation, and I’d been invited to speak about Next Generation Journalism, new business models for journalism and help out with a multimedia workshop.

It was great to speak with journalists with different perspectives about the future of news. Although ad revenues are down and the internet is fragmenting audiences, the impression I gathered was that job losses haven’t been as severe as in the UK and the US.

A freelance-free country?

In introducing my book Next Generation Journalist, and the concept of a portfolio career to audiences in Abakan, I got an interesting reaction. It turns out that in Russia, freelancing just isn’t an established way of earning a living.

There are all sorts of valid economical and historical reasons for this but it left many asking me how they’d actually start life as a freelancer. How do you pitch work? Do companies come to you, or the other way around?

What is similar though is the commitment to using multimedia to tell stories online. Home to mail.ru, one of the most valuable companies on the stock exchange right now, Russia is no internet backwater. Journalists there are experimenting with video and audio slideshows and working out how to incorporate it with their more traditional practice.

One group of young radio reporters from the Urals were able to turn around a wonderful slideshow, combining text, audio and music with photography to tell a powerful story about a tram accident. They used free software to make the whole thing work. (Reaper for audio editing – a new one on me; and Windows Movie Maker to assemble the photo sequence.)

But the big question of the week was: how do we juggle all these different mediums and still report accurately what is happening? As I wrote, after my own work in Iraq last year, the answer is ‘with great difficulty…but it gets easier with practice.’

And it sounds like these talented Russian journalists, not always working in the safest or easiest of conditions, are committed to practicing their new skills as much as possible.

Editing with Final Cut Pro and Reaper

A multimedia journalism gear guide (on the cheap)

Posted in 6x6 series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 23, 2010

The excellent US multimedia producers MediaStorm published a very useful multimedia gear guide this week, outlining some of the kit you’ll need to get started as a video journalist or online film maker.

It includes the popular Canon 5D MKII, Sennheiser mics, and Marantz audio recorder.

Now I’d love to use the Canon 5D MkII, and some top of the range Sennheiser mics, but they have always been a bit out of my budget range. The 5D, for example, will set you back around £2,200 ($4000), a difficult investment for a recently graduated journalist or someone bootstrapping a business. There are however a few alternatives for the multimedia journalist on a lower budget – I thought I’d share them here as a complement to the MediaStorm list.

All prices & currency conversions are approximate and based on a brief scout online. Definitely search around for good deals.

HDSLRs

Depending on where you read, Canon have upset some photographers who were waiting for a firmware upgrade to their 5D or had just shelled out for a 7D – by releasing the 550D for a fraction of both prices. It shoots in 1080i HD and in 720 at higher frame rates and apparently its LCD display is better than the more expensive options. I have been using this camera for about four months and have very few complaints so far. It is very small & light, but has a less sturdy body. You’re unable to adjust or monitor sound levels and are limited to 12 minute video recording sessions.  All problems you can work around however.

Below that the 7D is more expensive and has a slightly nicer sensor from what I can tell, although I have not used it myself. The Kodak Zi8, perfectly capable of good footage if used correctly has now slipped below the £100 mark – a really realistic option for the journalist on the very low budget, or even as a backup camera.

Canon 550D (+ 18-55mm lens) ~£600/$900

Canon 7D ~£1100/$1700

Kodak Zi8 ~£100/$150

Lenses

I use a bog-standard 18-55mm lens for most of my shooting at the moment. However there are an array of affordable lenses out there too, even those with a wider aperture. For the lower price you’ll have to accept a plastic body, and probably lower quality glass – but it’ll still be good enough for most shoots. Note I have not used any of the following lenses myself.

If you’re doing any extreme close-up filming, another cheap option is an extension tube macro ring. I found one for just a few pounds -it is essentially a plastic tube you attach in between your camera body and lens, and it creates a macro zoom effect. The cheaper ones don’t have contact rings though, and the camera won’t be able to automatically adjust exposure or white balance. For filming this is usually OK.

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II (known among photographers as the thrifty fifty!) ~£60/$99

Canon EF 50mm f3.4 USM ~£290/$440

Canon EF 100mm f2 USM ~£350/$530

Extension Tube Macro Ring ~£15/$25

For a fuller list of cheap Canon & Nikon lenses check out this post on PhotoTuts.

Audio Recording

To get around my camera’s poor audio settings I, like many DSLR shooters, use a dual audio system – I record the audio completely separately to the video and sync it up in post production. I recently invested in the budget Tascam DR-07, certainly the cheapest option. You loose any XLR inputs and just rely on a 35mm jack, but you have full control over the audio levels and settings. For the low price you also get a crappy plastic case, which does rattle if held incorrectly, but otherwise the quality is just fine.

I attach a Rode VideoMic to the top of my camera to collect ambient sound and to sync the audio later. It is a very good mic on its own however, and I find it works fine as an onboard camera when a tie-microphone won’t do. For the tie-mic itself, I went proper budget and spent just £20 on a tie mic about a year ago. 12 months on and it still works great alongside the Tascam. It is not a wireless mic though, so your interviewee cannot be at a distance!

Tascam DR-07 ~£130/$200

Zoom H4 ~£220/$330

RodeVideoMic ~£80/$120

EM102 Condenser Tie Mic ~£20/$30

Accessories

Manfrotto’s Modo tripod is designed for both stills and video cameras. It’s tiny and extremely light, and it has sticks which can be moved into a practically horizontal position, meaning you can have a steady shot at floor level. I recently bought a couple of cheap filters from Amazon, which work fine. Play.com got me a 32GB SD card for around £30 – make sure you get a Class6 card if you’re shooting in HD!

Manfrotto Modo Tripod ~£39/$60

35mm Filters ~£15

16GB Class 6 SD Card

Post Production

For post, Final Cut Studio is now around £250 but it’s quite a bargain when you consider you get Apple Motion, Color and Soundtrack, plus a library of sound effects, licence free music and graphics with that too. If it really is out of  your budget, I still swear by Adobe’s Premiere Elements for Windows which I have used until very recently. Rumour has it the latest version of iMovie 9 now allows you to separate your audio and video tracks giving you almost professional editing flexibility for free.

Audacity is a good enough audio editor considering its free (open source) and Pluraleyes has made the job of syncing your video and audio tracks a lot easier. That’s just under £100 to download, or there’s a free trial.

Final Cut Studio (Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Color, ProRes) ~£250/$380 (as an upgrade, or with a new Mac; approx £400-600 elsewhere)

iMovie free

Adobe Premiere Elements

Audacity Free

Pluraleyes ~£97/$149 (free month trial)

All images licenced under Creative Commons. Image credits (from top to bottom):Dave Dugdale, visual.dichotomy, Stephend9 & D’Arcy Norman

Five great places to find free (or cheap) music for your films

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 2, 2010

Increasingly music is finding its way into online multimedia journalism, and with good reason. A well chosen soundtrack can pull your viewers deep into your story, keep them hooked and make an emotional point.

Music is, and let’s be honest about this, a way of manipulating how your audience feel. There are those purists who are against that, who argue the story should be strong enough not to need to tell your viewer how to feel.

Whichever camp you lie in, one thing is for sure: if you use music in any piece of online video journalism or digital story it must be legal. There is no excuse for getting your client or your newsroom shouldered with an expensive bill just because that bit of Arcade Fire fitted perfectly with the film. The good news is there are plenty of resources out there for free, or cheap, music. Most, but not all, operate under the Creative Commons Licence, which lets you use music on certain conditions.

01. Audio Network

This UK based ‘music production library’ is used often by the big players, and you have to pay to use any of the music. The prices vary however, from just £0.79 ($1.50) for personal use, to £95.00 ($200) for charities and £195 ($400) for TV commercials.

With the price tag though comes great quality. AudioNetwork has some really good music, well organised, and the sort of thing you could imagine being used in cinema. They have on their books a selection of in house composers and a lot of their orchestral scores are recorded with a full orchestra at Abbey Road, and not on someone’s Casio keyboard.

I have purchased music from them before and it’s a simple credit card payment to download the .mp3.

02. Jamendo

When I cannot pay for whatever reason, my first stop is always Jamendo, and I have sourced free music from here for several films in the last two years.

The secret to Jamendo is its community – it is a home for thousands of amateur musicians, artists and DJs who all put their music up for the world to hear. All the music is released on one kind of Creative Commons Licence. That means you’ll either need to include the artist in your credits, promise not to create any derivative works from it, ensure your production is not for profit, or a mix of all three.

Jamendo also has a very nice search option, which lets you get instant previews of music in a pop-up window before deciding whether to get it. If you choose to download music, you can download the entire album as a .zip file which even includes album artwork.

The big downside of Jamendo is the sheer amount of time it will take you to find anything good. It’s out there, but it’s not easy to find. If you’re producing a lot, I recommend fencing off some time every fortnight or so to rummage through and save any quality tracks for later use.

03. Musopen

If it’s classical you’re after, Musopen is a great resource. This website works along the very clever observation, that after a certain amount of time, the copyright on a score or performance of music expires, and the song enters the public domain.

Their goal is to build repository of public domain music for people to use. The great thing about public domain music is that you can use it and redistribute it as part of a production for profit, without a need to pay license. However, Musopen is based on US copyright laws, so if you’re in the UK or elsewhere, check the rules before you use. Also bear in mind, just because the composer of a song maybe long gone, and their score public domain, a more recent performance of that song may still have copyright rules applied.

04. Mixcloud

More a place to listen to mainstream music, or create and upload podcasts, Mixcloud’s library does contain some creative commons music.

It’s also a good community hub of music creators, DJs and podcast producers. It’s not hugely clear what is Creative Commons licensed and what isn’t so if you do find a song you want to use, it would be sensible to contact the creator for permission first.

05. SoundCloud

Like Jamendo, Soundcloud is becoming a growing community of music makers from around the world (including my brother!)

The majority of music on here is electronic and instrumental, which can suit some productions perfectly, and destroy others. Definitely worth a listen though, and Soundcloud also comes with very fancy ways to embed audio players into websites.

A premium membership to Soundcloud costs €9 a month for creators and upto €59 a month for businesses.

So they’re the five best ones I have used in the last year or so – but are there any not on my radar? Tell me in the comments box and I’ll check it out!

Learn multimedia on the cheap – and how to make money from it

Posted in Adam, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on June 15, 2010

Image: StarbuckGuy on Flickr (cc)

I’ve been preparing for a day-long course this coming weekend for photojournalists wishing to make the leap into multimedia.

Run by multimedia evangelists Duckrabbit and hosted by Rhubarb Rhubarb, Photography Still Moving is what the industry needs more of – training with an optimistic edge. I’ll be there running a session on how to get kitted up to do video, audio and slideshows at affordable prices; the day ends with advice on how to turn skills into money.

Interested? Here are some details for you.

The running order for the day goes like this:

  • WTF is multimedia?
  • Getting to grips with the kit (on a budget)
  • Sound for idiots (interviewing techniques)
  • I got pictures, I got sound, now what?
  • Show me the money

What’s more, at £45 it’s some of the cheapest training you’ll find – and there are spaces still available! So what will you be doing on Saturday? Face-palming at another England howler from the night before? Probably. But then get out of bed, get your camera and come and learn some new skills.

If you’re interested, click here to get yourself a ticket.

Why 19th June is a good day for photojournalists

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 26, 2010

More and more photographers are appreciating the creative satisfaction, revenue potential and damn necessity of getting tooled up for multimedia.

From experienced photojournalists like John D. McHugh and Paul Treacy teaching themselves how to produce film and audio slideshows, to the dozens of excellent pieces showcased at Foto8’s monthly Slideslam Carousel, the trend is clear.

There are many, many photojournalists who haven’t taken the leap yet – if you’re one of them and you’re not sure where to start, then help is at hand.

My good multimedia friends Duckrabbit have teamed up with Rhubarb Rhubarb to offer a day long course in London, at quite astonishing value.

The details

When: 19th June 2010

Where: Direct Studios, London

What:

Photography Still Moving will explore just how still photographers from all disciplines can make the leap to digital storytelling.  We’ll show you the tools you need, as well as sharing how you can make money from multimedia.  One lucky participant who submits a set of pictures in advance will also have their work transformed into a multimedia feature on the day.

Price: £45…yes you read that right, £45!

I’ll be there, running a session on the kit you need to go multimedia, and how to do it without giving your bank manager, or husband, or wife an aneurysm; as well as benefiting from the knowledge of multimedia masters Ben Chesterton, David White and Anna Stevens one person who submits their images early gets it made into multimedia during the day.

I think it might be cheapest day long course of this quality there is, so places are bound to be booked up hyper-fast. Don’t delay!

Click here to book tickets.

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My first video journalism shoot with the Canon550D

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 7, 2010

I was recently commissioned to produce a five minute video package ahead of this week’s General Election in the UK, on the controversial ban on prisoners being able to vote.

It was a commission for the VJ Movement, and has since been featured on Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

It was also the first test for my new Canon 550D DSLR camera and related paraphernalia which I introduced here.

Click here to watch it.

The story

We spent a fair amount of time thrashing out the story arc for the piece, something VJ Movement take very seriously.

Together we’re trying to produce video journalism which doesn’t conform to the old rules of a TV news piece. This first commission doesn’t quite go the whole way with that, but the opening sequences and the atmospheric introduction of the main character attempt to try a few different things.

We used John as the main character to drive the narrative forward, rather than flipping between talking heads, which works well, and he lent himself well to colourful soundbites and nice sequences.

The story is limited though by its complex and legal nature; there’s a lot of elements to it not just John’s personal story which all need to be included – a challenge to both shoot and write to.

The gear

For the most part the 550D performed well, and produced some excellent images. I have the most basic 18-55mm lens but it’s a good all-rounded for most shots. Importantly it performs very well in low light, which helped in the darker locations I was filming in for this piece.

It also produces a nice colour for the images. Some limitations with recording time though: you can only record for a maximum of 12 minutes at a time, regardless of the size of your SD card (I have absolutely no idea why). You might also spot a couple of out of focus shots too, a result of not being able to focus properly on the LCD screen.

The rough edit contained a few handheld shots but we removed them as they were too shaky. Being an SLR it’s not an easy camera to keep steady…more support, if anything, for always using a tripod where you can.

The biggest challenge, as with all the DSLRs is audio. As well as a Rode VideoMic attached to the camera, I recorded all the interviews separately onto a Tascam DR-07 and synched it in Final Cut Pro.

I am very happy with the quality of the audio – but ran into trouble with frame rates. If, for example, I changed the shutter speed down to 25fps to brighten the image, the audio recording was not recorded at the same speed.

All minor problems to iron out with more practice, and I personally don’t find it too much of a hassle to sync the audio in post – if it means the sound is good quality.

No grading was done to this film – more out of a lack of time rather than anything else. I’m hoping to get more aquainted with Apple’s Color in later edits.

The DSLR debate

I’ve enjoyed working the 550D: very happy with what I got for the price and also glad to have the flexibility to take photographs and produce audio slideshows with a single camera.

Meanwhile the debate over whether video journalists should use DSLR cameras continues; the detractors – for example Cliff Etzel in this post – label it a “fad” and accuse users of a “lazy” obsession with shallow depth-of-field:

There are many who have become enamoured with the so called uber cool extreme shallow depth of field flavor of the moment, equating it to creative license and thus making it their top priority, and in the process, losing sight of the first rule of solo video journalism:  It’s the story, not the gear.

And of course Cliff is right, it’s the story not how the pictures look…but personally, I think it’s possible to care about both.

What do you think?

How do we shape the future of journalism? Easy!

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 23, 2010

Image: I Can Read

Things are moving forward in journalism. Slowly, but we’re definitely seeing things happen in 2010, which were only words in 2009.

New companies, products, ideas; but there’s still a lot to do.

So it’s the time to ask yourself: do you want to play a part in the future of journalism, or just play the bystander? Do you want to be the one who produces something no-one has conceived before? The one who answers a problem we never thought could be answered?

The challenge is a big one – but  guess what, to shape the future of journalism you only have to do one thing: show up.

Showing up means launching the digital magazine you’ve been daydreaming about for months; it means actually buying the domain name for that new hyperlocal you’ve got your heart set on creating, and then learning how to put the website together; it means deciding you will go to South America and report on that issue you know is going unreported, and setting up a way to crowdsource the cash.

It doesn’t mean endless hours brainstorming, planning, scribbing, daydreaming. It means doing.  

Get excited

Three great articles floated my way this week which really sum up what I’m trying  to say. First video journalist Michael Rosenblum reminds us the innovators of history have rarely been those in the establishment already:

The ‘professional scientists and engineers’ of 18th century Britain did not invent the first steam pumps, the working steam engine or the railway engine.  That was left to the ‘amateurs’, who thankfully, did not need the permission of the ‘professionals’ to get access to the tools of experimentation.

They were drawn to their craft and their avocation, as well as their later vocation, by pure passion and interest. And they delivered a very good product.  A very good product.

In other words, you don’t have to have a BBC email address to play big in journalism. You don’t need the New York Times behind you. You just need passion, interest and a willingness to get your hands dirty.

Show up

Next, Nick Williams of Inspired Entrepreneur points out that what ever you want to get paid to do, the place to start is to show up – even if it means doing it for free at first.

I am a massive advocate of showing up and doing what you love for free to start with. The key is the showing up part – because the money can’t usually follow until you’ve shown up, you can’t get paid in theory for something you haven’t done in practice. I know I would not be where I am today had I not been willing to show up for free at the beginning of my career and at various points since.

In other words, once you start doing something, things start happening for you. You won’t make it as a multimedia journalist sitting on Twitter all day – it’ll only work out when you show up with a camera and the kit and start telling a story.

Let go

Thirdly, Mark McGuiness of Lateral Action has some great advice to make showing up even easier: ‘you can’t plan for magic’:

Plans are good for some things. Buildings. Savings. Exercise. Some bits of some businesses. But they have their limits when it comes to creativity. After all, if you’re only going to execute on a plan, you haven’t really created anything, have you?

Preparation is fine. Research is fine. Practice is fine. Rehearsal is fine. Learning your craft is fine. But there comes a point when it’s time to face the stage, the page, the canvas or the blank screen.

In other words don’t wait for your whole plan to make sense before you start. Does your online magazine need a solid business plan before you write the first page? No! Do you need to have funding guaranteed to make an audio slideshow about a cracking story? Hell no!

You can sit around forever waiting for the business plan to realise or the money to appear, and all the while the future of journalism is moving on without you.

So get excited, show up and let go. And it’s yours.

Storytelling in the digital age

Posted in Adam, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 19, 2010

It’s one of human kinds oldest acts, against the most intense technological revolution in history. How do storytellers adjust in the digital age?


For answers, turn your eye to the Digital Storytelling ’10 conference today in London. I have teamed up with the people from Not On The Wires to put together an afternoon of inspirational speakers and events for journalists, academics, entrepreneurs, digital experts and students.

Fact is, there’s a big need for a conference like this. Why are journalists still telling stories in old ways with new technologies? As Alex Wood will explain in his opening remarks, why do TV journalists put traditional print on their websites, and why do newspapers put mimics of TV news packages on their websites?

Speakers include the multimedia producers SoJournPosse and Duckrabbit, as well as technical pioneers like Demotix, Blinked.TV and UltraKnowledge.

New ideas for the Future of News

The day wraps up with the March edition of the UK Future of News Meetup, where we’ll be using some unusual techniques to drum up lots of new ideas for journalisms big problems.

Follow the hashtag!

To keep up with events today, follow the hashtag #ds10 from 1300 GMT and #fong from  1830 GMT. There’ll also be live streaming, with all the details right here.

A rare work update…

Posted in Adam by Adam Westbrook on January 8, 2010

It’s been a busy start to the New Year here at Westbrook towers.

First off my article about prisoner votes campaigner John Hirst is featured in this week’s Big Issue In The North. It follows this audio slideshow I produced in 2009. If you’re in the north of the UK, I’m sure a (very) cold Big Issue vendor would appreciate your custom. Meanwhile some of the images from this slideshow are appearing in a documentary, The Fear Factor, due for release in March.

My new e-book, Newsgathering for Hyperlocal Websites is due for release next week. It’s a practical manual packed with advice on how to turn your hyperlocal blog into a solid newsgathering operation, holding powers to account where the mainstream media have failed. It’s got a discounted opening price, so make sure you subscribe to the blog for details!

Elsewhere the lecturing work carries on, with dozens of short films my students have made due for marking by the end of this month. I hope to be returning to Kingston University’s journalism department for other events in 2010.

And I’m being kept busy with various conferences. I’m looking forward to speaking at Journalism.co.uk‘s News: Rewired event in London on the 14th January; tickets for that have now sold out. I’m also due to speak at a couple of planned events in London, and I’ve been invited to take part in some exciting international festivals in the spring as well (more details soon).

All the while January’s Future of News Meetup in association with POLIS is now full, with a waiting list building. We’ll be hearing from journalists at the Financial Times and one of the team behind the Berlin Project about innovation  in multimedia. If you would like to sign up to future meetups or try to make January’s event, click here to get involved.

Right here there’s lots of plans for the blog, with lots more practical advice and analysis of developments in journalism due in 2010. You’ll find me contributing to a host of excellent blogs and websites in 2010, including Duckrabbit, A Developing Story and Journalism 2.0.

And ahead, I some exciting multimedia plans stewing, and I’ll be looking for collaborators in the near future – keep your ears to the ground! In the meantime, I’m always available for various freelancing work, so just click on Contact Adam to get in touch!