The Web changes crime & coverage

Crime reporting is a staple of local news, so it’s important for journalists to provide context for their stories. At the 4th Annual Guggenheim Conference on Crime in Society, dozens of criminal justice reporters, criminologists and representatives of law enforcement gathered to talk about new research, policies and trends affecting criminal justice and the coverage of the system.

In a session on the impact of the Web in this arena, Doug Salane from the Center on  Cybercrime Studies at John College of Criminal Justice said that he continues to see more traditional crimes moving into the online world as computers and the Internet make things easier for criminals.

“For example, the “pump and dump” scheme to artificially raise the price of a stock – a botnet can send millions of emails about a stock for a very low price,” Salane said. Those emails encourage investors to buy a stock, which would pump up the price and allow the criminal to dump his own stock for big profit.

He also talked about a change in the way journalists need to look at hacking. “Hacking was individuals in the past, trying to prove something. Hacking is now more of an organized activity, largely emanating from outside the U.S., which makes it much harder to address, and the motive for most hacking is now profit.”

Salane discussed “carding sites” – Web sites, often based in Asia, that will sell all sorts of information about individuals for 80-cents an identity.

“This underground economy is growing at an alarming rate,” Salane said.

So, how does a journalist keep up with this growing form of crime? Salane points to the Internet Security Threat Report, which tracks the latest in Internet-based crimes.  The Bureau of Justice Statistics tracks identity theft, in particular, and will be issuing a new report in the fall of 2009.


Using nat sound online

In TV news, natural sound is the other part of every picture–even if the sound is silence. You have to capture it by getting a mic close enough to pick up good quality ambient sound. Then you have to use it, up full or under narration and sound bites.  It’s important, because while video can show what happened, it takes natural sound to help viewers experience what happened.

How you edit with audio makes a huge difference to the viewer’s experience. TV editors often use a technique that’s sometimes called an “L-cut” to sneak audio from the scene that’s coming up next into the scene that’s just ending. The audio foreshadows where the story is going and draws the viewer along, making the edit seem less jarring.

That same technique can be used effectively online when using full screen text in lieu of narration.  When text graphics pop up with no audio, the viewer may feel like the story has come to a dead stop. So try adding some natural sound from the video that’s coming up right after the graphic to keep your online stories moving.

Want an example? Check this video at the Washington Post.

[If anyone can tell me how to embed a Brightcove video, I’ll be happy to do it.]