Vocal warm-ups

One way to improve your delivery is to warm up your voice before you record or go on live. How do you do that? A couple of years ago, I sat in on a session at the Michigan Association of Broadcasters conference by Arthur Joseph, who runs the Vocal Awareness Institute. He had the group humming, literally, as he had us all practice an exercise I can’t quite describe that helped make our voices sound less nasal.

A good warm-up begins with deep breathing, followed by targeted stretching and a series of vocal exercises. You might feel silly doing this, but remember that most of the vocal fold is a muscle. You shouldn’t go jogging without stretching, should you? Here’s one easy-to-follow warm-up routine.

Angela Grant, who runs NewsVideographer, has put together a terrific list of other online resources. Try her suggestion and record your narration cold, without warming up. Then do a warm-up routine and record the narration again. Compare the results and see if you think warming up makes a difference.

Editing tips from one of the best

Josh Shea at NPPA workshop, October 2007Digital editing allows you to do amazing things with video, but the 2007 NPPA Editor of the Year urges editors to show restraint. Josh Shea of KCNC-TV in Denver was one of my fellow instructors at this year’s NPPF Airborne TV Seminar in Rochester, N.Y., and Des Moines, Iowa. His advice is simple: keep it simple. Pay attention to screen direction, avoid jump cuts, and don’t worry about developing an editing “style.”

I don’t have a style. Stories have a style…Good stories are not about me or the photographer. They’re about the people in the story.

Shea advocates what he calls “referencing” video, which he calls “the simplest way to make your story better.” What’s he talking about? Listen and learn.

TRT: 5:47

Content matters most

Kevin Sites in NepalKevin Sites, a pioneer in online solo journalism, says he learned a ton when he covered 20 of the world’s “hot zones” for Yahoo! And one of the biggest lessons came from the story that drew the strongest audience response–a report from Afghanistan that used no video, just still photos and text, because his video camera had been stolen.

The content still has to be there. It doesn’t matter how many gadgets you have. It doesn’t matter, you know, how mobile you are. If you’re not getting a true story, if you’re not capturing the essence of a person’s existence, you’re not going to have people come to the site. The other thing that I learned, I think, that was really important and also a little unsettling is that the delivery system that I was using to tell my stories was also the same system that people could use to respond to me. So they would read a story and either be moved by it or very angry and respond immediately. They didn’t have to pick up the telephone. There was no intermediary. They could respond directly.

Sites told the NewsHour on PBS that he thinks “sojo” reporting is here to stay. Some newsrooms may adopt it to save money, of course, but Sites says he hopes others will do it for the same reasons he did, on the understanding “that it provides mobility, it provides access, and a little bit different kind of a storytelling.”

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The new “News at Seven”

In our textbook, “Advancing the Story: Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World,” we describe a virtual newscast being developed by Northwestern University’s InfoLab (www.newsatseven.com). Now, a new customizable version of News at Seven is live on the site, albeit in a Beta launch.

Previously, the site displayed a virtual newscast in which the stories were pre-selected by folks working on News at Seven. In the beta version, you now get to pick what you want to see from a list of content areas, such as U.S. news, entertainment, gadgets, etc.

They’re still working the bugs out, though. For example, I wanted to see a little bit of everything so I selected 7 or 8 categories at once. After 15 minutes of waiting, I gave up on the show ever loading.

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Speling counts, gramer and punctuation too

Yes, I know the headline is misspelled (and yes, there are two s’s in misspelled). Does this matter to broadcast journalists? You bet it does. But it’s a relatively new concern, says KARE-TV reporter Joe Fryer.

We really didn’t need to worry about having perfect punctuation in our scripts for many years because no one ever saw them. But now we have to write web scripts, which means YOU get to see our punctuation. It’s not always pretty.

Joe makes a good case for sweating the details in this blog entry that had me cheering. Notice, I didn’t say “cheering aloud.” That would have been redundant, wouldn’t it? (Check here for the answer.)

Where are the journalism jobs?

Michelle Hord, director of off-air recruiting for ABC News, says the answer to the question–where are the journalism jobs–is just one word: Digital. “We have new terms like preditors, producers who can also shoot and edit,” she told the Future of Journalism Jobs conference at the University of Maryland. ” It’s all about being able to do everything.”

Jim Joyce, senior vice president of NABET (a union that mostly represents TV technicians), also works at ABC on the technical side. He says there are plenty of jobs “in acquisition, distribution and preparation.” “We have material being delivered on smart phones and with digital [broadcasting] we can send out multiple streams on secondary channels.” All of that content needs to be provided and transmitted.

Holly Neilsen, director of video enterprises for Gannett, says “the jobs are going to be there but they’re going to be really different and you’re going to have to be trained differently to do those jobs.” At Gannett, everything is multimedia. “We are reformatting all of our newsrooms to be multimedia 24/7. Everyone is getting new titles. There won’t be line producers any more.” As for backpack journalism, she says, it isn’t new but it’s going to be a big deal. “It may be unpopular but it’s reality.”

Blow up the newsroom

It happened a year ago at the Naples Daily News. Print reporters and photographers were all told that they no longer worked for the paper, says Phil Lewis, editor and vice president of naplesdailynews.com/Naples Daily News. They were all transferred to dot.com–which the company now sees as a kind of local wire service–and they file their stories first online. The newspaper staff is now 75 percent smaller, made up primarily of copy editors, designers and layout people. And the company’s approach to the news has changed dramatically as a result, Lewis told the Future of Journalism Jobs conference at the University of Maryland.

In the past, hurricane planning was always about how we would get the newspaper printed. Where will we print if we had no power? Where will we move the copy desk? This year, it was about how to tell people what is happening in real time. Our readers will evacuate to Orlando, they’ll be in a hotel room online on their laptops and we have to get them information.

Lewis wants naplesdailynews.com to become THE source of information for all of those people, wherever they are. “I think our site should post our stories and [link to] what everybody else has too,” including local television and social networking sites. That’s causing some angst in his newsroom, but it sounds like smart business to me and it could actually improve the quality of the journalism. As Lewis points out, if you’re going to make it easy for your users to see what else is out there, “we’d better be doing it best.”

Future of news jobs

A conference today at the University of Maryland underlined what we’ve been saying about the importance of learning new ways of thinking if you want to be in the news business. Ed Foster-Simeon, deputy managing editor at USA Today, put it bluntly: “The people who are most successful are comfortable with change.” And one thing you can count on is that change is constant.

Interacting with the Web used to mean reporters had to file stories earlier so they could be posted on the Web. Now, it means ‘I have to think about my story differently. What can I do on the Web that will enhance my reporting?’ It takes a different mindset. And the best beat reporters are thriving.

But a study released in conjunction with the conference suggests that in newspapers, at least, many existing employees aren’t taking all this change in stride. More than half said they are anxious about demands to learn new things in order to do their jobs. Seventy-three percent said they aren’t sure or don’t think they’ll be working at a newspaper five years from now. But keep in mind that the study only went out to union members and that the Communications Workers of America and the Newspaper Guild sponsored the survey. We don’t know if those same people think they’ll still be working in some kind of journalism because the survey didn’t ask. And we don’t know how broadcast journalists would answer the same questions.

But we do know that journalism jobs already have changed.

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Online = big picture + small detail

Here’s an update on some of the online innovation we’ve seen coming out of the CA fire coverage. 

Mark Glaser’s MediaShift blog, which is hosted by PBS, has pulled together an online guide for people tracking fire coverage.

We’d like to create a comprehensive resource guide, listing all the places you can find coverage of the fires, with an emphasis on social and citizen media. MediaShift associate editor Jennifer Woodard Maderazo put together a large collection of links, and we are asking that you add to the list by sending along any other resources you’ve seen online in the comments below. We’ll update the list over the next week or so, and give you credit for any important sources you add.

The list is a treasure trove of information for anyone looking for coverage ideas and innovation online.

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One news director’s advice

Students who really want to be prepared for that all-important job search can benefit from advice from working news managers. Over lunch at a downtown restaurant, Marshall Adams, program director and news director at KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh, Pa., told me what he looks for in applicants.

TRT: 5:51

Interested in an internship at KDKA? Check out their program and download an application form here.