The look of hyperlocal news

What does hyperlocal news look like? The answer is, it depends on where you look. MediaShift’s Mark Glaser has put together a useful guide to what constitutes hyperlocal news online, examining how it’s gathered, produced and sustained. He defines it simply:

Hyper-local news is the information relevant to small communities or neighborhoods that has been overlooked by traditional news outlets.

Glaser’s inventory includes self-moderated citizen media sites, “reverse publishing” sites backed by mainstream media, hyperlocal blogs, aggregation sites like Topix, annotated maps, mobile journalism, and even email lists and forums. The open question, he says, is whether any of these approaches can be profitable.

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The power of video

Dwayne Dail’s story would be compelling in any medium. Wrongly convicted of rape, he spent half his life in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him. But Dail’s story is even more powerful told in his own words, with still photos and video, the way photojournalist Shawn Rocco of the Raleigh News & Observer tells it. I almost never click “full screen” to watch an online video. I did for this story. Turns out it’s the first time the newspaper has offered a full screen option. (Thanks to Richard Koci Hernandez for the link.)

The story behind the story by Rocco’s colleague, Travis Long, is a must read. Here are just a few of the lessons he shares:

  • Persistence pays. When Dail was released from prison, Rocco stuck with him “while all the other photographers and news crews packed it in to file their stories,” Long says. The relationship they developed led to this story.
  • Planning pays, too. Long and Rocco took the time to outline the five-minute video before beginning to edit, using sticky notes to create a storyboard.
  • Collaboration counts. A three-person team put the main multimedia package together.  Two worked on the video edit; one built the Web layout using an existing template.

There’s much more to the package than the outstanding main video. My only criticism is that it’s not well promoted. The “additional material” link at the bottom of the video frame doesn’t begin to convey what’s behind it: additional interviews, audio files of Dail reading letters he wrote home, photo galleries and documents. And I’d like to have controls on the video and audio files, but maybe that’s just me.

Linking in

A couple of years ago, I heard WNBC “tech guru” Sree Sreenivasan recommend the free social networking site LinkedIn as indispensable for journalists. I didn’t join then but I have now, and I’ve discovered a few things. First off, it was easy to create my profile. The hardest part was deciding which information to include and make public, but the good news is you can change your mind and your profile any time.

The bad news is that building a list of contacts can become time consuming. Whenever someone agrees to join your network you can browse their contacts and decide if you want to invite any of them to link to you. It’s fun to play “Where are they now?” and reconnect with people you haven’t heard from in years, but it’s easy to get lost in a rabbit hole of searching and clicking.  And I’m still waiting for the “indispensable” part. What exactly is the point of all this linking?

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Users want video

OK, so you’re wondering what’s the news here? We know people like video online. Well, the marketing and research firm, Horowitz & Associates, put out a news release this week that says 6 out of every 10 high-speed Internet subscribers watch or download video at least once a week. More than one third of them watches or dowloads news video at least once a week. What’s different is how much these views and dowloads have increased from 2006.


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Graphic video concerns

A police chase leads to a head-on collision. Two people are killed. And it’s all live on TV. It’s happened before, and it always sparks a debate about how stations decide what to air and when. This time, it happened in Phoenix when police were chasing a suspected bank robber and local stations’ helicopters were following the action.

KPHO-TV aired the chase and the crash live.  But news director Tom Bell told the Arizona Republic that his chopper photographer panned away immediately after the impact, and live coverage switched back to the studio. The video did not air again.

[Bell] decided the footage was too graphic to show on the newscast. The station included the video on its Web site Wednesday but included a warning label. On Thursday, the video had been edited, ending just before impact and picking up shortly after the crash.

A competing station made a different decision, according to the paper. KNXV-TV did not take the chase live, and later aired video of the pursuit and aftermath but not the crash. And instead of keeping the unedited video online, the station created a slide show. What lessons can be learned from all of this?

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Aggressive or offensive?

The case of KDFW-TV reporter Rebecca Aguilar should raise questions in TV newsrooms everywhere. Aguilar was suspended after a parking-lot interview she did with a 70-year-old man who had killed two people trying to break into his home-based business in separate incidents.

After viewers complained vociferously, Aguilar was suspended. But the station’s actions are drawing criticism, too.

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Declaring war on errors

The founder of the Web site Regret the Error (slogan: Mistakes Happen), Craig Silverman, has a new book out by the same name. It’s not just a compendium of hilarious newspaper corrections, although there are plenty of them, including these winners:

* “We spelt Morecambe, the town in Lancashire, wrong again on page 2, G2, yesterday. We often do.” (The Guardian)

* “Mr. Smith said in court, ‘I am terribly sorry. I have a dull life and I suddenly wanted to break away.’ He did not say, as we reported erroneously, ‘I have a dull wife and I suddenly wanted to break away.’ We apologise to Mr. Smith, and to Mrs. Smith.” (Daily Mail)

As Carl Sessions Stepp’s review in American Journalism Review points out, Silverman’s book also offers a series of recommendations to improve accuracy.

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Newspaper video catches up

I spent some time recently exploring what television and newspaper Web sites are doing with video and came away convinced that newspapers are catching up to TV more quickly than folks on the TV side might have anticipated. Yes, a lot of the video on newspaper sites isn’t great. Some of it’s atrocious. But it’s getting better fast.

How much better? This fall, the Detroit Free Press won a national Emmy for the video portion of its “Band of Brothers” project about Marines returning from Iraq. The feature is one of several highlighted in the latest American Journalism Review, which looks at what newspapers have learned about online video.

Some people argue that Internet video, which is shown mainly in small boxes on small monitors, can get by with fewer pixels and a less polished appearance than TV visuals. Some think a less smooth quality actually looks more “real” online. “It’s overstatement to say the rougher the better,” says the Tampa Tribune’s Janet Coats, “but there is a certain veracity if you haven’t spent so much time making it refined.”

That may infuriate some photojournalists, but it makes a certain amount of sense. Continue reading

Web video not yet a TV alternative

A new study says Internet video is years away from drawing a major audience, while television viewership continues to grow. Reuters reports this prediction from the consulting firm Bain & Co: U.S. viewers on average will spend nearly two more hours per week watching television by 2012, while Internet use outside the workplace is expected to increase by less than half an hour per week.

The data could be sobering to TV networks and Web media companies, which are investing heavily in Internet video sites and testing ways to make money off them through advertising. David Sanderson, head of Bain’s global media practice, said the prospect for Internet video to become a viable alternative to the broadcast, cable or satellite signals into viewer’s homes could take five years or more to materialize.

Sanderson says Web technology “isn’t quite there” for video, while TV users have more and more choices for video-on-demand and the ability to watch other programs when they want to, thanks to digital video recorders. While the Internet should become a more robust outlet for video in the future, people today are mostly using it to watch clips of shows they missed on TV, Sanderson said.

Online video may not be a TV alternative yet, but it’s definitely gone mainstream. According to new data from ComScore, 75 percent of Internet users watched a video online in September 2007. Average number of videos consumed in the month: 68 (about 2 per day). Thanks to OnSquared for the summary.