Saturday, November 15, 2008

From Print to Web Interactives: How to turn your brain around

Moving from Print to Multi-media

Christina Pino-Marina told our Interactive Journalism class today that the future of journalism lies in interactive media. And the best interactive journalists can do it all.

"I started out as a news assistant at USA Today, and also worked at Univision. I had a sense of what TV was about, but always wanted to write."

Johanna Neuman of the Los Angeles Times was Christina's first mentor. She encouraged her to go to a smaller paper where she could write like crazy.

"It felt like a step backward, but in hindsight it was a move forward," said Christina. "Going from DC to El Paso", she says, "was a learning experience."

Becoming an Online Reporter

When job came open at, it caught her eye because it was a reporter position.

"They hired me to do breaking news - general assignment writ large."

As boring as some of those things were, it was key coverage for WashingonPostOnline.

"The hybrid nature became known right away. I went out with a photographer and covered (DC Mayor) Adrian Fenty - I thought I would be the reporter and he would edit photos."

She says it didn't work out that way - the experience redefined what it meant to do video.

"Some thought it should mirror TV, and the other camp, mostly photographers...were taking the reins and saying we don't have to do it that way. I was exposed to slideshows, writing captions... There is no set formula."

First Big Assignment

It was the 2000 presidential election. Christina reported to work early. "I was there at 6 in the morning, with the understanding that site traffic would built around 7, 8 or 9am. I woke up and....we didn't have a president."

She was sent to Palm Beach, Florida - the story was changing fast and she didn't have time to keep up with it. There was a huge demand for filing online every hour, as the nation waited to learn whether the next president would be Al Gore or George W. Bush. She learned it was actually faster to file audio reports. Those first audio reports, she says, were really rough.

"We were redefining what it meant to file a story. It was still hard to picture that in addition to filing a print story, there was an audio story," she said.

"All of you will be called on to file for TV or radio, at some point in time."

Learning on the Job

The story doesn't necessarily have to be told in print, audio and video format on the website.

"Overtime, it became apparent we were duplicating efforts....just because you can do them doesn't mean you have to do them...we were bombarding our audience with different have to do what's best for the story and audience."

"I thought I was better than I was - the more I learned, the more awful my earlier video seemed, says Christina.

"Video should be respected. There should be a little more rigor when it comes to editing video and posting it...I didn't show marked improvement until after a year....when I went to a week long bootcamp...I went as a advice is find people who are harsh and listen to them."

The Future: Solo Video Journalism

While the story might be a team effort, Christina says online journalists learn that one person may have to do the work of a TV crew.

"You're doing the lighting, the sound, the editing....its a lot to expect one person to do all that well, so you have to really think in layers...but what has revolutionized this is the equipment...the technology has enabled this change."

She says writing is a great foundation to have. And she suggests studying video.

"It not only helps you communicate with other people, but helps strengthen your structure and your ability to visualize."

The advantages of Solo Journalism:
  • The autonomy - print reporters aren't learning editing. The story comes together when you're editing piece.
  • When you're the one doing it (reporting/editing), you really feel those mistakes and you don't do it again.
  • You become better at making decisions.


-Ronald Reagan's Funeral

Christina played a video piece she produced the day of the funeral, when the Governor of Kentucky's plane strayed over US Capitol airspace and everyone was evacuated. It won first place in the "White House News Photographers Association" "Eyes of History" contest in spot news division.
"There was much more footage, but these were relative parts." They were so busy, she had to hand tape off to interns who ran it back to the office.

-Madrid Train Bombing Anniversary

Christina's video features interviews with people standing outside the Embassy of Spain - those at the memorial stood for one minute of silence.

"Normally with video, you don't have so much silence. I edited it that way to give you a sense of what it felt like to be there."

"When I covered the Virginia Tech shootings, I didn't have to cover press conferences - my concern was how do I shoot this in a way that is timely but that makes it look like something different from CNN. Its really difficult working solo and you'll probably end up working all-nighters."

-Blog/Video series on Mexican Elections

For this online feature, Christina produced 3 pieces and says it took 3 weeks to a month to produce them. She used a combination of self-produced video footage, video from Mexican television, and still photos. The election was between Luis Obrador and Felix Calderon. It also featured "Tu Rock es Votar," the Mexican version of "Rock the Vote" and she interview MTV's Latin America correspondent.

"Are the interviews too long? It's hard to tell," says Christina. "At time I was coming from a print sensibility....but when compared to NPR, they let those interviews go."

-A Life Lived in 4/4 Time

This feature started out as a magazine piece, then, Christina says she changed direction. Its the story of Lennie Cuje, who went from Hitler youth to jazz musician, inspired by Lionel Hampton.

"We were encouraged to think in terms of multiple ran on TV. A lot of the footage came from the National Archives where, she says, many things are in the public domain.

"I probably could have done radio version...magazine version...if I hadn't been so exhausted...those are the things you're going to have to start doing...they're going to want to see it in more than one way."

Christina says it took more than a year to produce this story. It won the RIAS Berlin Kommission's award in 2007 in the new media category.

"This experience was really special...I had never had something like this."


  • Record Your own voice and play it back
  • Conversational writing
  • Summarize your story in a sentence - take a tip from Hollywood - become clearer
  • Read story out loud - record it and then listen to it
  • Stand up to record - energy level in voice is different than when sitting down
  • Don't rule out on-camera presence
  • Start small - do interview clip - good basic foundation to have
Suggested Tools

  1. Shotgun Microphone
  2. Wireless Microphone- makes interviewees feel more comfortable
  3. Video camera
  4. Digital recorder
  5. "Final Cut Pro Workflows: The Independent Studio Handbook" by Jacob Osder
Christina Pino-Marina is a videojournalist who teaches online journalism at the University of Maryland and at George Washington University. She's worked at USA Today, El Paso Times,, CNBC, etc. She was nominated for an Emmy for a video about Mexican elections.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And maybe thats why they lost

Trying to get my paper finished for J-class. I'm writing about how the different political campaigns used the internet and social networking to get out the vote. Called the Fairfax Democrats. identified myself as a grad student, and talked to a nice young lady who gave me names and numbers and also recommended good book to read. Called the Fairfax Republicans and got a lady who told me I had to call the Republican National Committee for information. When I told her I wanted a local angle, she told me to call the state Republican party in Richmond and then hung up the phone. Called them, left message. No response.

They finally canceled "Mad TV". Its been a while coming, but that show used to be funny as hell. RIP Mrs. Campbell, Stewart, and Mrs. Swan.

"My Own Worst Enemy" and "Lipstick Jungle" were also canceled. Didn't watch 'em.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The White House dog silly season continues. According to a Reuters article, Peruvians are offering their national dog to the Obamas. A bald, often toothless breed that, while hypoallergenic, also appears regularly in "world's ugliest dog" contests. The Director of the "Friends of the Peruvian Hairless Dog Association" says they want to give Obama's daughters a puppy, to be named Machu Pichu. Those poor girls just didn't know it wasn't going to be left up to THEM to pick their own pet. Welcome to the White House.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Getting Back to our

Lynette Clemetson, Managing Editor, The, came to our Interactive Journalism Class today.

"The Root" is owned by the Washington Post Company....politics, etc from a variety of black perspectives. The web is egalitarian, anyone can come to the root - everyone is welcome to the party, but you should know what you're getting when you come to the Root. I began at the root full time in January.

How did "The Root" happen?

The idea for the site grew out of conversations from Henry Louis Gates and Don Graham, of Washington Post - they're both men who like good-spirited debate. There were a lot of signals on the web that niche publishing was the way to go. Part of the strategy for Post was to experiment in targeted web sites. There was a changing demographic, post -civil rights, highly educated black market. The idea ...was a cool idea, right after launch it became an incredible idea. ....We've done a lot of politics this year, because the year demanded it. You figure out what your audience wants, what they demand.

Here we are this week with President elect Barack Obama. ....understanding how to find your voice and serve your audience...Don't do sports or entertainment....we're not BET or Black Planet....not Tom Joyner....those sites are by and large entertainment sites.

They tried and failed....

Many sites.....tried to emulate print - and didn't succeed. Mentions "Emerge" magazine and "Savoy" both tried to reach new black demographic. The models on the web lean toward entertainment because people were afraid you couldn't sustain serious on the web.

Celebrity and gossip are the way things are going....but we've had nice steady growth for a web site....surveyed readers, wanted more politics, books and health.

Shows us page, "5 Hairdos Obama Shouldn't Have".

We do have some fun.

(here looked at "Election 2008" on Root)

Says European papers wanted to reprint Henry Louis Gates column, "In Our Lifetime", bringing up interesting legal issues.

"Obama's Missing Fur Coat" story was mixing of pop culture and analysis.

Standard news piece - profile on Michele Obama, was Roots take on Michele. How do you bring a web prospective and "Root" prospective. Must understand clearly that you;'re not delivering news and shouldn't try to beat newspapers at their own game.

Quite frankly, if you look at the downturn in the industry, a lot of newspapers and cable channels don't have that many black reporters anymore.

We've benefited from the downturn in the business.

Who and What is "The Root?"

Who is "The Root". We are a start up and are very very small. There are five of us.
We have no reporters - we're an all freelance publication. We have regular writers, freelancers who write for us every week. A lot of our content - somebody e-mails us an interesting idea and we decide to run it. Sometimes we just take a pass because we call up somebody quickly and they can't do it.
"If somebody works for somebody else and has a job, we can only make so many demands. That is a weekly reality."

Most smaller websites do a significant portion of traffic from pushing it out and from those coming in sideways. We do a lot of ours...sideways. Regular readers of TR are a pretty thoughtful bunch. The pieces that you write generated toward your group, can get another response from another type of audience.

Root Founder

Henry Louis Gates column - if its picked up on MSNBC, can get pretty hateful comments. IN the end we decided people know what the web is and you have to foster conversation and have to foster views - it would be out of synch with the web to turn comments off.

I know some websites have a horrible time with this....don't know if we get a more educated readership, but we haven't had any instances yet of true abuse, where you have to ban someone from the site.

People who wander in, get tired, because its not their space, and they just go away. People like to talk to people who are just like themselves....

One of our regular writers....wrote a beautiful piece, and his mother read it, but she didn't get that when she was e-mailing him, that it wasn't a personal email. She didn't know she must posting comments to the entire web universe.

We're an opinion site - its commentary and analysis, so the same rules don't apply as to newspaper sites. Even the analysis comes with a first-person slant - its a website that delivers its content with voice. But there are a lot of reporters with full time jobs who write for us, Charlayne Hunter Gault...but it never crosses into opinion.

More Root: Jack White piece - "A Thank You Note to White Voters"

When people come to a site like ours, they want honest talk about what we are feeling. We debate, we don't rant. If someone sends in something that's a long screed, with no grain of argument, we'll pass.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Robber Barons back down

Spent another hour on the phone today. They insisted I talk to the actual twit who spoke to my son. He promised to send my money back. We'll see......

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Robber Barons at it Again

Was balancing the checking account last night, trying to figure out why we didn't have enough money to pay our bills, when I noticed something odd - I had paid our Bank of America Credit Card in September and October - but there were also 2 bank-issued checks to the same credit card in September and October. We didn't approve those! Called BOA today, after an hour and several holds and transfers, they informed me that my 19-year old son had answered the phone in September and approved the rather large telephone transfers. WTF!? They asked, didn't he have access to the checking account and/or credit card? Hell, no. Needless to say, I want my money back!

A new damn day

I'm going through withdrawal. No more daily press releases from Bob Barr or the DNC No text messages from Michele or Barack - even Alec Baldwin. I was even averaging around 3-5 Robocalls each day. Danny Glover called me Tuesday and urged me to vote. The Richmond Republicans invited me to a rally. Now what? I feel like I've been dated and dumped.