NYT combines investigative reporting and visual storytelling to unravel the Las Vegas shooting

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The Times’ Malachy Browne explains:

The Times’s video unit, where I am a producer focused on visual and open data investigations, turned to a relatively new technique: investigative video reporting, or so-called video forensics, pioneered and developed by a small community of human rights groups and niche social journalism outlets over the last decade. Its greatest value is in documenting hard-to-reach places like war zones, but the tools can be used wherever there’s an abundance of visual evidence. (In May, a Times video debunked Syria and Russia’s claims about a chemical weapons attack; in June, another video identified 24 men, including members of the Turkish president’s security detail, who attacked protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s Washington residence.)

The approach makes use of every available piece of data in a given set of video files: the videos themselves and every pixel we see in the images, but also the audio tracks and the metadata — timestamps, geolocation information — embedded in the files. The files can come from social media uploads or submissions from witnesses themselves (most cellphone videos log the hour, minute and second they were recorded in file data).

The behind-the-scenes essay explained the process:

For our video investigation on the Mandalay Bay shooting, published over the weekend, I gathered and annotated dozens of videos and audio clips recorded at various locations — inside the festival, at the hotel itself and on Las Vegas Boulevard and Giles Street, where the police responded and concertgoers fled. And I searched social platforms and downloaded clips that were verified by wire services, ending up with well over an hour of footage and two hours of police scanner and fire scanner audio.

The bursts of gunfire, 12 in all, served as scaffolding for the timeline. And by analyzing and lining up the audio waveforms of 30 videos filmed by concertgoers, the Las Vegas police and bystanders, my colleague Barbara Marcolini and I reconstructed as closely as possible the complete 10 minutes of the assault.

Traditional reporting and information-rich visuals and graphics provided additional clarity and precision. The journalists C. J. Chivers, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and David Botti — all former Marines — vetted audio of the gunfire. Mr. Botti and Jon Huang, a journalist in The Times’s graphics unit, helped me count the number of bullets. Video and graphics editors Drew Jordan, Chris Cirillo and Nicole Fineman layered visuals over raw material to explain the evidence. And throughout the investigation, Times reporters in Las Vegas — Jennifer Medina, Julie Turkewitz, Adam Goldman, Mitch Smith and others — relayed information from on the ground.

Our investigation uncovered several key pieces of information. Perhaps most crucially, we were able to approximate the very second the first bullet was fired.


My proposed new ethics standard for drone journalism

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For most of 2017, I have been working with Matt Waite, the founder of the University of Nebraska Drone Journalism Lab and Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association helping journalists learn to safely and legally fly drones.  The three of us, along with Jon Resnick of DJI and Dr, Katy Culver of the University Wisconsin, have drafted a set of drone journalism guidelines that we hope will help you navigate your way through a tangle of local, state and federal concerns about the future of this technology.


Ethics Problems When a Photojournalist Alters Images

It was a stunning image, if only it had been real.

In this article that I wrote for Poynter.org, I explain why the image is problematic and why NPPA’s president said it is “not journalism.”

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The main question the dust-up raises for journalists is “how much disclosure is enough when you are presenting an image that isn’t real?”  Is it enough to call it an illustration? A compilation? A composite?  Or do we owe the reader a full explanation of how we did what we did and that this is not really what happened, but instead it is made up?

Why Photojournalists, Producers, Web Producer MUST know how to Report

In emergency coverage after Hurricane Harvey, newsrooms were pushing photojournalists and every other newsroom employee to find stories and report them.  Get on the air, get online, get on social media, but capture the story and tell people about it.  In this story that I wrote for Poynter.org, I explain how one Houston TV station tapped the skills of photojournalists to go live on the air and explain what they were seeing.

Zillo: An APP That Journalists Need and Most Have Never Heard of

zelloscreen.jpgAn app called Zillo is making it easier for journalists to track rescues and emergencies in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
This app is something like a walkie-talkie only it uses your phone. So up to 2,000 people can be in a group and talk without dialing a number or testing.
You can set up an infinite number of channels– each one specific to a need. So rescuers in Port Arthur have a channel, rescuers in a boat have a channel, animal rescuers have a channel.  Let me walk you through this and give you a demo.

The Best of the Eclipse Coverage

I always teach that the best stories provide both context and close-up examples.  This story from WTVF in Nashville does that.  It was a story that every TV station everywhere covered somehow so it is hard to find a way to make your story stand out.  But this story includes stunning images, authentic characters and vibrant writing that does not get in the way of the story.

Star Of The Show from Chris Conte on Vimeo.

Local Photojournalist Takes on Homeless Photo Project-News Director Encourages it

WTVF (Nashville) photojournalist Nathan Sharkey didn’t think there was much of a chance his local TV station would air an eight-minute essay about a local psychiatrist who works with the homeless population. When his news director saw the story she said “run it.”

It is a moving work:
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I asked Nathan a series of questions:

-What did you want this story to do/say/convey?
What did I want to convey: When I became aware of Dr. Fleicsh’s outreach program, I thought it was a unique way of helping the homeless. As journalists, we do thousands of stories on good people, and organizations, doing great things to help. Feeding them, cold patrols, clothing them, things like that, right? I had never heard of psychiatry offered as a good deed to the homeless community. When we see the homeless on the street, it is one of the first things that come to our minds, this person seems to be a bit off. But I feel our society does not feel comfortable talking about mental illness, it’s taboo. We don’t have a handle on how to approach it. I believe it is the reason many of them are locked up in our jails, or become homeless. They have exhausted their support network (family), and mental care is too difficult to consistently receive. I wanted the audience seeing this piece to get a better understanding of the dark places these people live with in their minds. Maybe we can look at the homeless with a different perception than the one we currently have. I also think we need to start treating addiction as a mental illness.
 -What did you learn while working on this story?
I began to realize that there are different categorizations of homelessness as a symptom of mental illness. Addiction, schizophrenia, PTSD, Child abuse, Bi-polar, all types of different issues that need to be treated in various ways. A daunting task to tackle for our society. Where do we begin? Surprisingly, according to a local sheriff, 30 to 40% of the jail population is suffering from some type of mental illness.

-Tell us about your thoughts on music, and about the music you selected
 This will be debated in our industry forever. When, or if we should use music. I chose to use music because I felt it helped with the pace and feel of the story. The “breathing”, and to take a moment to reflect.

-The subjects in the story seemed so comfortable around you. How did you ease them into being around you, you around them?
I kept my distance at first. I let them relax before I slowly got closer to them. Not everyone wanted to be a part of it, as you can imagine. But– listening to them, and their feelings was an experience they have never had before in some cases. It was something they were very willing to do. Remember, they go through life feeling mostly ignored, especially their thoughts.

-Since she is a psychiatrist, I wondered if the people she came into contact with would be considered patients and covered by HIPAA?
 Vanderbilt University Medical Center required signed releases with anyone who spoke with Dr. Fleisch on camera. Tedarius, the gentleman at the fountain, was someone I approached on my own. I wanted to get a perspective from him on the idea of a visit from someone like Dr. Fleisch.

-If you were producing this as a daily turn piece, what would it look like?
Obviously, the quality would suffer. You would not get the depth of the subject. A shortened version of her meetings with the homeless and possibly an interview with the sheriff about his experience, maybe?