What you can learn about writing and storytelling from PETA’s too-hot-to-handle Super Bowl ad


Can this movie make journalism “cool” again?

While we are at it, let’s list the best journalism movies of all time.
I would put films like Citizen Kane in the lineup.  And of course Spotlight.  How about “Broadcast News.”
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I would also include a movie called “The Paper.”  It included a great line from Robert Duvall’s publisher character:

“I hate columnists. Why do I have all these columnists? I got political columnists, guest columnists, celebrity columnists. The only thing I don’t have is a dead columnist. That’s the kind I could really use.”


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ProPublica generated this list, in no particular order.

Absence of Malice (1981)

Ace in the Hole (1951)

All the President’s Men (1976)

A Lynching at the Curve, by Ida B. Wells (1892)

Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

The Insider (1999)

The Parallax View (1974)

I would  not include silly films like “His Girl Friday.”  Or worse, “Anchorman.”
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How to tell the story of a mystery

When you are reporting a story that is filled with twists and turns, the writer dances a delicate dance of what to reveal and when to show it.  This story by WFAA’s Jason Whitely is a great example of how to string the viewer along with a steady feeding of rewards all the way to the end of the story.

I especially like the way Jason does not try to tidy up the end of the story. The fact is we do not know how the couple came by the painting, so don’t speculate.

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.