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 Washingtonpost.com, 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 options...you 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 shooter...my 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.

CHRISTINA PINO-MARINA'S ONLINE WORK

-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 platforms...it 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."


HOW TO PREPARE TO BE AN ONLINE JOURNALIST:

  • 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, Washingtonpost.com, CNBC, etc. She was nominated for an Emmy for a video about Mexican elections.

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