Stations Turn to LIVEU at Conventions

Journalists no longer have to be hooked to a huge live truck to go live.  At the 2012 Republication National Convention, it was common to see journalists, especially TV journalists using LIVEU packs to go live instead.

The packs use cell phone connections to transmit Hi-Def signals.

READ MORE about how one photographer/editor used the LIVEU for both live shots and to feed stories back to the station and read his warning to journalists who are thinking about using these devices.


The Strangely Useful Live Helmet Cam That NewsHour Used

PBS NEWSHOUR tried out a live helmet camera at the RNC convention. A reporter wore a hardhat that was fitted with a GoPro camera and a Rode Shotgun mic. Then the camera and mic plugged into a device called a Live Shell.

Live Shell let’s you stream video onto YouStream without a computer.

The Live Shell is 68×120×26mm, weighs 106g and is officially approved by Ustream (it has the “Ustream Compatible” mark). It connects to the web via IEEE 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, a mobile router or Ethernet.

The device comes with HDMI, USB, and composite interfaces and can livestream video in 704×528 resolution at 1.5Mbps max.

PBS fitted the reporter with a portable wireless hub that she stuck in her pocket so the LIVESHELL would always have a wireless signal on which to transmit.

It looked silly but it worked.

Awesome Innovations from Convention Coverage

The Washington Post’s used the RNC as a platform to launch new interactive video analysis tool allows users to watch a speech and interact with the video.

  • Using data from the Post’s partner in the project, VoterTide, viewers can see what section of the speech was the most tweeted. Then, they can use the scroll tool to zoom into that section to see what caused the Twitter flurry.
  • As the speech rolls on, you can see what The Post has said about issues the speaker raises. The interactive provides quick links to Fact Checks and previous news coverage, analysis and opinions.
  • The site uses word clouds to show the words the speaker used most and the words that Twitter users repeat most.

READ MORE about why the Post dedicated seven staffers to put this project together and why VIDEO, SOCIAL and MOBILE are the key words to everything the Post does online. I interview the Executive Producer of Washington Post digital.

Not to be outdone, the New York Times also launched a muscled up Word Cloud.  You enter a word and the cloud shows you how many times speakers at the RNC used the word, THEN it pops up every reference that any RNC speaker used.

Big events like national political conventions seem to bring out the best in journalism innovations. In 1924, at the GOP convention, the first radio broadcasters announced Calvin Coolidge’s nomination. In 1940, the first TV station in the world transmitted live from the national convention. The 1940 convention in Philadelphia launched live television coverage through experimental stations in Philly and New York. The Philly station, which now is known as KYW, carried a stunning 62 hours of live coverage, a feat that would stretch the capacity of stations even today.




Using Tag Clouds to Examine Political Speeches

Sometimes it helps to visualize speeches, not just listen to them, to see which words a speaker uses over and over. One way to understand the context of a speech is to map the words from the text in a “tag cloud.”  So I created these displays which show the most used words in larger font. We plug in the exact text of the speech so you  can see the number of times each key word is used.

Ryan mentioned his mother eight times, mentioned America(s) 16 times and hit the words “crisis” and “debt” over and over. He pounded away on Medicare and mentioned Obamacare five times. The words work and working came up 12 times and emerged as one of his major themes-getting the country back to work.

Paul Ryan’s Acceptance Speech Tag Cloud

Four years ago, Joe Biden mentioned Afghanistan five times in his Vice Presidential acceptance speech. He also used words like “security,” “troops,” and “trust.”   But Biden’s linchpin word was “change.”  That is common word for challengers to use in political stump speeches when their party is not in office, as was the case for Biden and Obama in 2008.

Joe Biden’s acceptance speech tag cloud

At the time of her nomination, Americans barely knew Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  The governor stayed away from the war in her speech, but used the word “oil” eight times and “energy” six times.

Sarah Palin’s Acceptance Speech 2008 tag cloud

Looking back at those speeches four years ago, it is most striking that the words “jobs,” “recession,” “bailout,” “Medicare,” and “health care reform” were not mentioned in these keynotes.  It does give one pause to wonder what words will be top-of-mind hot issues in 2016 that we are not thinking about today.

Convention Bingo

So I was thinking– how could I help the teachers get their students to watch the nomination speeches this week and next.

It came to me–make it a game.

So I created the RNC and DNC convention bingo games with your pal Al on the page.

They could do it as a drinking game–but probably should not be something you recommend.

Have fun–let me know if it works– print them out and let the games begin.

GOP Bingo Card #1 (PDF)

GOP Bingo Card #2 (PDF)



Should Journalists Allow NAVY S.E.A.L. to Remain Secret?

Matt Bissonnette did not intend for you to know his name.  His publisher says he is one of the Navy SEALS who participated in the raid on the binLaden compound.  That’s right-his publisher.

Bissonnette wrote a book that provides what he says are undisclosed details of the assault that conflict with the Obama version of the story.  But the publisher asked journalists not to disclose the author’s name, and use a pen name Mark Owen instead.

For journalists, there is a question of whether to grant confidential status, even when they know for sure who this writer is.  Various military websites claim, without proof that he is trying to make a movie deal too.

-What privacy does he give up when he writes a book?

-Without knowing his name, how would the public know whether to trust the source?

-How should journalists weigh the need to know against the safety concerns that might come with being a public person who participated in killing the world’s most wanted man?

Interestingly, it was FOX News that first identified Bissonnette.

Fox reported:

The tell-all book also has apparently upset a large population of former and current SEAL members who worry about releasing information that could compromise future missions. One Navy SEAL told Fox News, “How do we tell our guys to stay quiet when this guy won’t?” Other SEALs are expressing anger, with some going so far as to call him a “traitor.”

And Col. Tim Nye, a Special Operations Command spokesman, said the author “put himself in danger” by writing the book.

“This individual came forward. He started the process. He had to have known where this would lead,” Nye said. “He’s the one who started this so he bears the ultimate responsibility for this.”

According to a press release from his publisher, Penguin Group, “Owen (Bissonnette) was one of the first men through the door on the third floor of the terrorist leader’s hideout and was present at his death.”

In the book, Bissonnette writes “it is time to set the record straight about one of the most important missions in U.S. military history.”

An experienced member of the elite Navy SEAL special operators, Bissonnette also participated in the highly publicized rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean in 2009. That mission involved a daring rescue that ended when SEAL snipers shot and killed three Somali pirates with direct shots to the head.

Bissonnette received the rank of chief before he retired.

CBS’s 60 Minutes chooses not to identify Bissonnette, even though his name is public now.  CBS disguised him this way.

When Companies go Straight to the Public

This seems to be happening more often–companies are posting their responses to media stories straight to the public. In this case, it is Koch Industries that has a problem with New York Times coverage. Koch posted an email exchange with NYT journalists asking specific questions about fairness and accuracy. I have to say, the Times comes off in the exchange as aloof.
Take a look and tell me what you think.

In another case, CNBC produced a blistering investigation of the Remington arms company, an old and trusted name in the gun industry.  CNBC claimed a very popular model of rifle has frequently fired without anybody pulling the trigger. CNBC documents injuries and deaths.

Remington didn’t respond for the project but did produce a remarkable online video response employing a former network anchor and high production values.  Gun blogs picked it up.

The NRA also produced a video talk show segment featuring a Remington spokesman. You have to wonder why this spokesman was not available to CNBC. He makes a compelling statement but went directly to the gun public: