Neal Augenstein

Sometimes old school is better –finish your sentence

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2015 at 5:37 am

 In the old days — the 1990s — radio reporters and anchors played soundbites on cartridges, or carts. They looked like the 8-track tapes your parents may remember.

I’m not advocating going back to that ancient technology, but I am longing for the way journalists crafted their stories around their soundbites.

Since the cart sometimes wouldn’t play when the journalist pressed the On button, scripts were written to deal with that inevitability.  Lead-ins to soundbites came at the end of a sentence, so if there was silence because of cart failure, the audience wouldn’t know, and the anchor would move on to the next story. 

That meant that a journalist might have to get creative, and change his or her wording if the soundbite started in the middle of a sentence, or didn’t contain a complete thought.

It’s called “writing around sound.”

Nowadays, reporters and anchors often lead into their soundbites without finishing their sentences, stopping at an awkward point and inserting an actuality that starts in the middle of a sentence.

I recall hearing a reporter leading into an MOS soundbite stopping after saying a football quarterback’s first name, because the person on the street’s response began with the quarterback’s last name.

How jolting to the listener. And unnatural.

A person listening to audio on the radio or online has to be able to follow the storytelling flow effortlessly. It’s difficult or impossible to rewind to hear something that was missed or confusing.

So, it’s important for reporters and journalists on all platforms to make it easy for users to hear and understand their story, the first time they hear it. Sometimes that involves taking time and creativity to make the story flow.

In this case, old school is better.

 

How to live-tweet a dangerous police standoff

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2015 at 10:53 am

One of the benefits of #iphonereporting is that the journalist can quickly share photos, videos, audio reports and text descriptions of an ongoing dangerous situation.

Yet, misusing the power of a mobile device can have deadly consequences.

Armed with an iPhone, content creation apps,  and social media,  a reporter is able to provide a vivid picture of a SWAT standoff to a huge audience within seconds, but those modern tools need to be tempered with old-school journalistic judgment and restraint.

As an example, let’s say an armed man is holding a hostage inside a home.

policetapeExperienced reporters know that a journalist should avoid describing operational details of the standoff, while it is happening.

Describing SWAT team movements, tactics, and strategies in real-time may result in an action-packed Twitter feed. It may also result in people being killed.

What not to do

A reporter who photographs and tweets, or simply describes seeing a police sharpshooter crawling across a roof to get into position is putting several lives at risk.

Describing the location of SWAT members provides information to the hostage-taker that could jeopardize the operation.

A distraught hostage-taker, intent on making a point through the media, could fire at the sharpshooter, or kill the hostage.

If a reporter has a law enforcement source who is willing to share police strategy — for instance, attempting to lure the hostage-taker toward a window — tweeting that information might be a “Twitter scoop,” but it could also sabotage the plan to free the hostage.

The responsible way to live-tweet a standoff

So, what should the reporter report online and on the air as the standoff is happening?

  • Any information gathered at a news conference is considered “on the record.” As always, it is not a reporter’s job to simply parrot what law enforcement says, but in a standoff situation police sometimes communicate with a hostage-taker through the media. The decision of whether to repeat the police  message verbatim lies with you and your news director. In a life-or-death situation, most news organizations will comply.
  • Tweeting images of the standoff gathered behind the police crime scene tape is fine.
  • Describe how the standoff is affecting the neighborhood, including traffic tie-ups, school lockdowns, and neighbor reactions to the situation. If neighbors mention the hostage-taker or the hostage’s name and background, don’t just tweet that information without verifying. Hold onto that information until the appropriate time, generally after police have released it. Consider how family members would feel if they heard the details from you, rather than authorities.
  • While the situation continues, gather photos, videos, and natural sound that can be tweeted and reported upon after the standoff is resolved.

Remember, bad or dangerous information that you report on Twitter will likely spread faster than you can imagine, and is nearly impossible to retract.

Will your journalistic reputation or someone else’s life be put at risk by your Twitter scoop?

Consider the ramifications before hitting Tweet.

5 years in: How #iphonereporting has succeeded, failed

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2015 at 3:53 pm

apps

Here’s the introduction to an essay I’ve contributed to next month’s MoJoCon. An e-book containing essays from all the presenters will be provided to all who join us in Ireland.

This past February marked 5 years since I decided to try to do all my field reporting with mobile devices.

So far, so good.

Many aspects of #iphonereporting have changed between 2010 and 2015 — some for better, some for worse..

As I prepare for the RTE International Mobile Journalism Conference, March 27-28, in Dublin, one clear change is the growing number of journalists utilizing, or at least curious about, using mobile devices for creating content in the field.

Many reporters who still use legacy TV or radio gear for their broadcast packages are supplementing those reports with content created on mobile.

Sadly, it’s become clear that few app developers believe there’s a healthy enough market to create apps specifically for journalists.

While “apps designed for journalists” are becoming fewer and fewer, storytelling opportunities are increasing because of the influx and improvements of general interest apps like Twitter and Instagram.

These and other apps harness the power of the phone’s camera and audio, in intuitive ways that make it easy for anyone to record, edit, and share content.

In my opinion, the biggest opportunity (and challenge) for journalists is to embrace the notion that “old school news packages” are no longer the only way to reach your audience, and that there are now more, and easier storytelling avenues.

A well-crafted report, created on these new storytelling apps and shared through social media, may seem like an extra burden and waste of time for a radio or television reporter, yet I’d suggest it’s a new and valuable way to connect with, and expand your audience.

 

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