In 2000, the United Nations established the Millenium Development Goals to address some of the most pressing challenges the world was facing at the beginning of the 21st century. The eight ambitious goals the UN proclaimed included eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, reducing child mortality and combat preventable diseases like HIV/AIDS and Malaria.
According to the 2013 Millenium Development Goals Report, poverty rates have been halfed. Yet, one in six – about 1.2 billion people – still live in extreme poverty. We still have a long way to go to reach all the goals set more than a decade ago.
Yesterday, almost 200 civil society groups from six continents urged the UN to include government accountability and independent media in their plans. In the statement, the organizations argue that access to information and independent media is essential to development. The United Nations is currently devising a new global post-2015 development agenda that is to replace the Millenium Goals.
Specifically, the coalition recommended the United Nations to
- “establish a specific goal to “ensure good governance and effective institutions” and
- “include as components of this goal a clause to “ensure people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information” and to “guarantee the public’s right to information and access to government data”.”
This appeal accomodates the importance of a free press for a free society. In the statement, the group says that “systems that allow people to hold governments accountable are fundamental to achieving economic growth, social equality, and environmental sustainability.”
In this day and age, we possess all the tools and technology to eradicate poverty and achieve the seemingly lofty goals the UN devised 13 years ago. However, if the new UN goals are to be (even) more successful than the Millenium goals, then journalism needs to be part of the equation.
All people, everywhere, deserve and need a free press. Without it, free and open debate and discourse, the foundation of a democracy, is impossible. Frequently, journalists are muzzled because they uncover corruption and inconvenient truths. In my home country Germany, prosecuting reporters and forcing the press into line prevented millions of people from learning and potentially opposing an unparalleled atrocity. Dealing with fascist Germany and the Holocaust taught me that a democracy is not history in its final state but merely a temporarily secured form of existence. Journalism must be practiced without restrictions, for when a country’s journalists are silenced, its people are silenced.
Journalism is surpressed in many countries around the world. In Turkey, the parliament is about to vote on a law that would “allow the government to block individual URLs without prior judicial review”, according to an article pubslished by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The “radical censorship measure” would also force internet data retention of up to two years and consolidate Interned Service Providers (ISPs) into a single association. Turkey holds the sad record for most journalists in jail of any country in the world.
A free press is the bedrock of a democracy and the prerequisite of many other civil liberties. Journalism plays a vital role in the balance of power between a government and its people. Organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists are helping countries and journalists report without reprisal so that they can help establish stable, sustainable societies. Only if journalists can inform people accurately and freely are citizens able to make their voices heard, participate in the political process and instigate change.
So what does this have to do with you?
Well, all too often, the news media’s lopsided reporting neglects topics that seemingly have nothing to do with us. There are many incidents and topics auch as press freedom violations or Freedom of Information issues that ought to be brought to people’s attention but don’t get airtime because they allgedly are not newsworthy. So why not use your passion for media to contribute to making this world safer, more equitable and more sustainable? Are you passionate about media and international human rights? Do you want to further the common good? Then I have good news for you: there are plenty of organizations out there that allow you to pursue a career in journalism AND do something that makes a difference in people’s lives.
Here are a few groups, on top of the organizations who signed the statement that allow you to do work that truly matters:
- Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
- Society of Professional Journalists (we have a chapter at Lindenwood, join us!)
- Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
- Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
- Freedom of the Press Foundation
- Government Accountability Project
- National Whistleblower Center
- Radio & Television News Directors Association
- Reporters Without Borders
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
- Center for Investigative Reporting
- Student Press Law Center
YouTube is currently trying to add a new dimension to its already impressive portfolio as the world’s biggest video-sharing website. The company, which was purchased by Google in late 2006, is rapidly becoming a major platform for viewing news. According to an analysis by the PewResearch Journalism Project, the most searched term of the month on the website was a news related event five out of 15 months in 2011 and 2012.
Google was founded in 2005 by three former PayPal employees in February 2005. In 2011, it celebrated its one trillionth video upload and today YouTube is the third-most visited website after Google and Facebook with more than four billion views per day. The Pew analysis says that YouTube has created “a new kind of television news” that embraces an interplay of professional – and citizen – produces content. These are some of the key findings of the study:
- The most popular news videos tended to depict natural disasters or political upheaval – usually featuring intense visuals.
- News events are inherently more ephemeral than other kinds of information, but at any given moment news can outpace even the biggest entertainment videos.
- Citizens play a substantial role in supplying and producing footage.
- Citizens are also responsible for posting a good deal of the videos originally produced by news outlets.
- The most popular news videos are a mix of edited and raw footage.
- Personalities are not a main driver of the top news videos.
- Unlike in traditional TV news, the lengths of the most popular news videos on YouTube vary greatly.
The video sharing website has taken comprehensive measures to extend its relevance in the news world beyond huge global news stories and large-scale catastrophes.
YouTube has already become a vital source for newsrooms across the country. The benefits are obvious: Just about everyone these days has a camera on had at all times. According to this article on Newslab, most stations credit video to YouTube. It’s important to point out that case law in this area is still evolving, and it has been argued that the lack of attribution is a problem. “Almost every instance where we use it is a fair use instance where we are commenting on the video,” says news director Stacey Woelfel of KOMU in Columbia, Missouri. Many newsrooms are contacting the person who uploaded the video in an attempt to have more transparency and the correct attribution. Although contacting the poster is a key step in verifying the truthfulness of the content, it doesn’t guarantee it.
Tom Sly, YouTube’s head of news and education, says that YouTube is a very powerful platform, because it combines eye-witness reporting, broadcast television, the produced pieces by ordinary people, and the video on-demand component. While the possibilities are abundant, it doesn’t mean that news organizations have figured out what works best. As a matter of fact, they are still trying to figure out what consumers want.
Television journalist and talk show host Ed Gordon recently called YouTube ‘the Future of Broadcasting”. He recommends aspiring broadcasters to get on YouTube, because “in today’s world… it’s about producing and owning your content.”
One example of what YouTube offers is Vice. Founded in 1994 in Canada, the company later changed its name to VICE MEDIA, with divisions including the magazine, a website, a film production company, a record label, and a publishing imprint. Vice promotes the “Immersionist” school of journalism, in which journalists immerse themselves in a situation and with the people involved. Moreover, the final project tends to focus on the experience, not the writer himself. In August 2013, the Vice YouTube channel had three million subscribers.
Another Pew analysis examined how the 2008 presidential candidates used the web and social media. For Barack Obama in particular, YouTube became a venue that allowed the campaigners to post longer video than conventional political advertising. During last year’s campaign, on the other hand, YouTube was the platform with the fewest posts from the candidates of any of those studied. No video became extremely popular or went viral. As a matter of fact, the most popular video across all platforms during the time period studies was that of Michelle Obama, Malia and Sasha wishing the President a Happy Father’s Day.
This NewsLab article calls YouTube the “top dog” when it comes to online video. it describes the tech giant’s local news feature, which launched in 2009. When users sign on, according to the article, “the site automatically pulls together the most recent news-related videos posted within 100 miles of their log-in location and displays them under the heading News Near You.” This feature, however, doesn’t seem to be available in December 2013 any more. YouTube offers a variety of channels, including a News – Worldwide channel.
Let’s go back to the Pew Research Analysis from the beginning. The center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism examined 15 months with of the most popular videos on the site (from January 2011 to March 2012).
According to the study, the data reveal that “a complex, symbiotic relationship has developed between citizens and new organizations on YouTube, a relationship that comes close to the continuous journalistic “dialogue” many observers predicted would become the new journalism online.” The features of this new kind of journalism are:
- Citizens are creating their own videos about news and posting them.
- They are also actively sharing news videos produced by journalism professionals.
- News organizations are also actively sharing news videos produced by journalism professionals.
- News organizations are taking advantage of citizen content and incorporating it into their journalism.
- Consumers are embracing the interplay in what they watch and share, creating a new kind of television.
In the article, it is pointed out that clear ethical standards have not yet developed “on how to attribute the video content moving thought the synergistic sharing loop.”
With only three weeks left and twelve news packages and VO-SOTs under my belt, I feel like I accomplished a lot already this semester. At the same time, however, I feel like I still have a long way to go and a million things to learn. That’s alright though, because I know that this is only the beginning of my journalism career. I feel like the SuperSemester has equipped me with a lot of skills and tools that allow me to take the next step, and I am sure all the things I learned will be of tremendous help in the future.
On November 8th, I produced for the fifth and second to last time. The newscast was probably the best newscast I have produced yet, as there were few things that didn’t go the way I wanted them to. In spite of not having all the writers at my disposal, I managed to distribute all the work to the people who were present. I thought that communication among all of us was good as few people asked me questions, which shows that we have gotten the hang of the intricacies that the SuperSemester by now. The three-shot during the sports talk at the anchor desk worked well and I am a little proud to say that I once again tried something rather unusual as a producer. I wish the director would have told the camera to pan right and zoom out a little sooner on the three-shot.
Doing a good job producing requires printing and distributing rundowns and scripts on time. I will also keep more of an eye on video IDs, as two teases about the same story had different IDs. Once again, I will try to stick to the producer log even closer to avoid running late. Don’t be afraid to tell somebody to start working in case they are fooling around and to assign them to something even if you know that that person is not keen to do it. While you should always try to be empathetic, at the end of the day you are in charge and if you don’t get other people to do the things you need them to do, the newscast won’t come together.
I shot two VO-SOTs and one package during the last two weeks and learned a lot in the process. One thing that is important, especially when newscasts re-air or are put online is not to use the words yesterday or today or tomorrow – instead, use the day of the week or the date. Also, one ought to avoid using interview shots and too many signs as b-roll. One should focus on the action if possible.
You need to be persistent as a journalist. If you want to get the best story possible, you need to track people down and ask the tough questions. What’s more, you mustn’t give up the first time you hear ‘no’. When I shot my package about the pitching event, I really wanted to get an interview with Daymond John. I was told that I could have one question right after the event was over. Five minutes prior to the interview, however, Paul Huffman told me that Mr. John had to leave immediately and thus did not have time for me. I could have accepted it and would have still been able to complete my package. Yet the interview with Mr. John was an integral part of the way I envisioned my package. I sat down next to Mr. John’s assistant and told him that I acknowledged that Mr. John is a busy person and that I want to respect his time, but also that it would not take more than one minute and that I would greatly appreciate it. Et voilà, he said yes and granted me one question.
I learned that having to pick one question can be very difficult. I had quite a few creative (I thought) questions I wanted to ask him, but I decided to go with something safe since I only had one shot.
Checking your equipment before you go on a shoot includes your tripod. This Wednesday, my three-legged friend (or adversary in this case) suddenly decided to become a twin-pod, much to the agony of my camera. As a video journalist, you inevitably have to leave your equipment unattended or at least standing on its own sooner or later. While you should obviously handle your camera and other pieces of equipment with great care, it is virtually impossible to avoid accidents over time. Yet journalists should always see to it that they don’t leave their belongings unattended and that the risk of it being damaged is as low as possible.
As the semester is entering its final third, I feel as though I developed something that comes close to a routine. Equipped with basic knowledge and skills but also the awareness that I still have a long way to go, it feels like the challenge now is to maintain a certain quality and professionalism. After all, you are only as good as your last newscast.
My fifth package about Semester at Sea was the first one that I shot on more than one day. As a matter of fact, I shot it over the course of ten days, with action on four separate days. Unfortunately, it took more than 25 minutes for my package to transcode, which resulted in it not making it in time but having to do it after the newscast instead. Although it is unusual, I should have allotted more time to be on the safe side. Investing hours and hours of work shooting, and then not being able to finish your package in time and knowing that it is not the best it can be can be frustrating. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to come prepared (i.e. having a substantial part done) in the morning when editing a package for a newscast, especially on a Friday.
On October 23rd, I produced for the fourth time. By and large it was a decent newscast. I thought the “New Deal” approach worked well, because I knew exactly who I had at my disposal. It also made it easier for me to keep track of who is doing what. I think graphics-Ben is a great addition to the team as he makes sound graphics and is able to work independently. I should have kept more of an eye on things like sports and weather and started proofreading stories sooner so that we could have printed the rundown and scripts sooner as well. People who are working on their packages should get in at least an hour before everybody else to have a head start. Its extra stress and uncertainty for the producer and everybody involved if somebody’s running late with a package and nobody knows if it’ll be ready in time.
Next time I produce a newscast I will try to have a list of things I need to do which is not on the producer’s checklist to make sure I don’t forget about those kind of things. Once again, I will look to sticking closer to the checklist and making sure that everybody is on the same page.
Tension in the newsroom is almost inevitable in a fast-paced working environment that revolves around meeting deadlines. It’s important to understand that occasional frustration and snappy answers are part of working for television. While you should try to remain calm and courteous at all times, sometimes raising your voice is the only way you can express that something is urgent or to get something done. One should never take it personally and in case it bothers you until after the newscast, you should talk to the person once the stress has subsided.
I anchored for the 6th time this Wednesday. Since I only had to write stories that day, I had plenty of time to get ready and read every story at least once. I felt fairly confident and thought I did alright overall. My interaction with fellow anchor Taylor Gorton felt natural and I learned that saying her name during the weather toss goes a long way. However, I wish I wouldn’t have mispronounced two or three words. I feel as though I have yet to have an overall sound newscast that is highlight reel material.
Here are a few more things I learned over the last two weeks. When writing the text for VO-SOTs and packages, one mustn’t forget to complete “RUNS:…” and “Outquote”. Another intricacy one shouldn’t overlook is to insert the “MORE VO” command for VO-SOTs. Especially as a producer, is it easy to forget important subtleties, such as tease flags when writing one’s teases and adding the producer’s and director’s name in the closing credits. When doing a stand-up, don’t take voice over during the first 5 seconds, because your lower third might be superimposed over b-roll. (If you do, tell director to take lower third during the second time the reporter is visible.)
I had some issues with audio over the last two weeks, which gave me the opportunity to learn and improve a lot. I found out that audio channel one and three, as well as two and four are connected. Reporters are to use all four audio tracks for natural sound.
Finally, show faces, not spaces, meaning that when interviewing somebody, one should leave out everything that is not relevant to the shot. Moreover, center up on computer shots, and interview everybody left and right. What’s more, write down when the interviewee stands on the left and when he or she stands on the right. Knowing during which interview the person stands on which side allows you to add variety when editing. I found that it is crucial to listen and look at clips on location (framing, audio, video, etc.) so you can spot errors and, for instance, bad audio on the spot and, if necessary, repeat it.
As more and more details about the mass surveillance activities surface, various news organizations and journalists express concern about the effect ubiquitous eavesdropping has on journalism. Although research and articles are shedding some light on the effect spying has on our society and journalism, the disclosures seem to be far from being over and far more research needs to be done. One thing can be said already though: The little we know is reason for concern.
In an earlier blog entry from September 6th, I discussed the importance of news media in a democratic society and gave some examples of how institutions agencies have attempted to intimidate journalists. My article from September 29th shows why mass surveillance concerns us all. In this article, I will specifically enlarge upon the consequences of mass surveillance on journalism.
Needless to say, hampering a democracy’s press is hampering democracy itself. In a public comment to the Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies convened to President Obama, a group of scholars, journalists and researchers from Columbia Journalism School and the MIT Center for Civic Media say that mass surveillance “presents a grave threat to the effectiveness of an independent press.” The 15-page letter argues that there is a “discrepancy” between the NSA’s eavesdropping activities and the existing law and policy designed to protect the confidentiality of journalist-source communications. What’s more, a “climate of secrecy” established by mass surveillance methods is itself “harmful” to journalism, as sources aren’t able to find out when they might be spied on, or how “intercepted information might be used against them.” As the letter shows, the NSA does not have to adhere to the policy of the Department of Justice. The double standard is not only “intolerable”, but endangers the communications between journalists and their source. The review group calls for “one set of rules.”
Furthermore, the authors reject the logic of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which asserts that collecting information on everyone is no different than doing the same on specific individuals. “The surveillance of essentially everyone has effects far beyond the surveillance of journalists alone. […] For a free press to function we must also protect the means of communicating with a journalist.” The comment also says that sources have become nervous about talking to reporters, as reported by journalists from various news organizations including the New York Times and the Washington Post. Summing their appeal up, the groups states that “mass surveillance is a serious threat to the constitutionally protected function of a free press, and therefore to democracy itself, because it impinges on the ability and confidence of every possible source who might talk to a journalist.” The possibility for journalists’ communication to be monitored everywhere and anytime poses new challenges for our profession.
At an online news association conference in late October in Atlanta, media professionals were told that they needed to learn about secure and safe communication, meaning they have to use encryption and good security practices. Jonathan Stray from Columbia University reminded participants that while encryption is vital, it doesn’t protect the metadata, i.e. sender, recipient, time, and more. Stray called journalists “targets” who are working in a “high-risk” profession, while media lawyer Nabiha Syed said the bigger problem is that we are missing “clear and transparent procedures that protect right.”
On August 18, David Miranda, partner of Guardian interviewer of whistleblower Edward Snowden Glenn Greenwald, was detained for nine hours and questioned at Heathrow airport. A controversial British law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals. Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
In the middle of October, a British Parliamentary committee announced it would investigate The Guardian’s reporting on Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks as part of a broader counterterrorism inquiry, while a poll found that more British citizens oppose the whistleblower’s leaks than favor them. At the same time, however, a Pew Research poll shows that the public values the watchdog role of the of the press more today than before the Snowden leaks. In an August survey, seven in 10 agreed that news organizations “keep leaders from doing things that shouldn’t be done”, up from a low of 55 percent a decade ago.
Former Independent editor Chris Blackhurst criticized The Guardian’s publication of the leaks, arguing that they’re not much of a story and that if government authorities contend that they’re not in the public interest, “who am I…to disbelieve them?” Glenn Greenwald responded in an article on his own, attempting to refute Blackhurst’s arguments. Greenwald said Blackhurst’s opinion is a “predominant mindset among many in the media class.” Moreover, he said that that when journalists do talk this way, “they do us a service, as it lays so vividly bare just how wide the gap is between the claimed function of establishment journalists and the actual role they fulfill.”
On October 25th, the N.S.A.’s director, General Keith Alexander, accused journalists of “selling” his agency’s documents and called for an end to the steady stream of public disclosures of secrets. In a roughly 30-minute interview with the Defense Department’s “Armed With Science” blog, Alexander says “it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000 – whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these – you know it just doesn’t make sense.” He added: “We ought to come up with a way of stopping it.” It doesn’t get much more obvious that this does not comply with the First Amendment.
The Snowden revelations have sent a chill through those reporters covering national security issues. If the NSA can easily gather details about who a reporter phoned or emailed, that sends a signal to whistleblowers that their anonymity can no longer be protected. David Sirota, columnist, journalist and author, shows in his article Obama’s war on journalism how the U.S. President prevented a Yemeni journalist from being pardoned by calling Yemen’s leader. After Abdulelah Haider Shaye exposed his government’s coverup of a US missile strike that reportedly killed “dozens”, he was sentenced to five year in prison. In Sirota’s article, New York Times media correspondent David Carr says that “suggesting that there is a war on the press is less a hyperbole than simple math.”
The CEO of the Associated Press Gary Pruitt recently said that there has been a “chilling effect on newsgathering“.
On the plus side, the disclosure seem to have animated a plethora of media outlets to do in-depth reports and dedicate many of their staff and resources to the effort to inform the public. To which extent they feel genuinely convinced that this topic deserves all the attention or if they merely jumped on the bandwagon is, I believe, secondary, because all the reports enable readers and viewers to really educate themselves about the surveillance activities. Another positive development, which is in keeping with the extensive coverage, is the international debate Snowden’s leaks have sparked.
However, there seem to be grave detrimental effects on journalism as governments and agencies around the world fear that their inner-most secrets may be revealed. I believe we are at crossroads, both as a society and journalism. Will the vast majority of journalists, sources, and potential whistleblowers be too afraid to speak up? Or will courageous, idealistic men and women not allow governments and institutions to intimidate them and emulate people like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald? It’s up to every single one of us.
The past two weeks, especially the second week, were a great learning experience, for I did two packages, one VO-SOT and anchored in only five days. It was all about coming in early and just getting it done. Needless to say, I learned some valuable lessons in the process; I feel as though writing, editing and wrapping around on three consecutive days really allowed me to develop a certain routine.
During the shoots for both of my packages that week, I once and for all learned that pre-production is absolutely vital. Every reporter has to double-check and triple-check the equipment. You need to have the mindset that something won’t work and really expect the unexpected. I learned the hard way when I realized that although I had the Lavalier microphone with me, I was missing the clip. Naturally, this had a negative effect on my audio, especially because people around the interviewee were talking. When I shot the boxing match, I didn’t have a lavaliere microphone with me at all. During the shoot at the memorial for Rift Fournier, I also struggled with the tripod, as I was given the wrong one, which was a lot different from the one we usually get.
Reporting from a memorial is not an ordinary task, but one that was a valuable experience nevertheless. It was certainly not easy to keep my emotions in check and focus on my job, because after all Rift and I knew each other. When asked to do a package on a funeral or a memorial, reporters should ask themselves if they can cope with those kinds of situations, especially if they knew the deceased person. There are some things every journalist should keep in mind: Don’t claim to understand the pain, be patient, forgo the facts, avoid exploitation, and be sensitive.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to avoid errors, be it audio level being too high or too low or forgetting to white balance the camera, is to have a checklist and go through all the different steps to ensure you get the desired result. Especially when time is scarce and things become hectic, you have to maintain your composure and not lose sight of important things. Even if it takes a while, always white balance and balance the camera and get a critical focus.
My VO-SOT was about comedy magician and hypnotist Josh McVigar. For some reason, my camera wouldn’t white balance during the shoot, although it had worked outside Butler Hall just ten minutes earlier. I tried everything but couldn’t get it to work. Luckily, the shots turned out to be alright. It was definitely the most entertaining and fun shoot yet.
One thing I need to improve is my interviewing skills. Especially when you are still an inexperienced reporter, it’s important to write down some questions and do some research prior to the interview, as it will make you feel more comfortable and confident. Interviewing is an art in itself and needs countless hours to be mastered. One certainly needs to be empathetic and a good listener.
I produced for the fourth time this week. By and large it was a decent newscast. I thought our new system worked well, because I knew exactly who I had at my disposal. It also made it easier for me to keep track of who is doing what. I think graphics-Ben is a great addition to the team, as he makes sound graphics and is able to work independently. I should have kept more of an eye on things like sports and weather and started proofreading stories sooner so that we could have printed the rundown and scripts sooner as well. People who are working on their packages should get in at least an hour before everybody else to have a head start. Running late with a package means extra stress and uncertainty for the producer and everybody involved. Plus, nobody knows if it’ll be ready in time.
Next time I produce a newscast I will try to have a list of things I need to do which is not on the producer’s checklist to make sure I don’t forget about those kinds of things. Once again, I will look to sticking closer to the checklist and making sure that everybody is on the same page.
Tension in the newsroom is almost inevitable in a fast-paced working environment that revolves around meeting deadlines. It’s important to understand that occasional frustration and snappy answers are part of working for television. While you should try to remain calm and courteous at all times, sometimes raising your voice is the only way you can express that something is urgent or to get something done. One should never take it personally and in case it bothers you until after the newscast, you should talk to the person once the stress has subsided.
My fourth time anchoring went well. I thought I had good presence and spoke with authority. The interaction with David Schlaeger felt natural and reading each story out loud at least once proved to be of great help once again. The teleprompter seems to be getting better as the semester progresses, which makes the anchors’ life a lot easier.
Over the past two weeks I was able to refine my reporter, anchor, writer, and producer skills and learn a great deal more about how newsrooms work in general. Now that we have entered the grading period, I have a higher sense of urgency and also take things more seriously. Getting a grade for a package or a VO-SOT feels like getting feedback from your producer or director after a newscast.
My second VO-SOT, which aired on September 27th, was fun shooting and editing because it was easier to do now that I have done it once already. I nevertheless still have to learn a lot, which I saw when I started editing. Not only was my interviewee slightly out of focus, but the white balance appeared to not have worked correctly as some of my shots had a blue tint. I learned that it is important to leave one to two seconds at the beginning of the sound bite so that the audio person has enough time to raise the volume and the viewer doesn’t miss the beginning of the interview. Apart from that I realized how important sequences are and that shooting b-roll takes its time.
My third VO-SOT was about the C-SPAN bus visiting Lindenwood. Although I arrived at the bus ten minutes before it opened its doors, I should have made it there even earlier to get shots of the bus before anyone got there, which would have allowed me to focus on interviews and b-roll of students inside and outside the bus afterwards. An hour and a half looked like sufficient time to me, but in the end I was hectically trying to conduct my second interview and get some additional shots of the bus. When my VO-SOT aired on the next day, I got in early to make sure that I’d be able to finish it before I had to leave at 11 O’clock. In spite of having over two hours, it was a close deal. I wish I had had more time to look at my text and the b-roll. I wrapped around my VO-SOT like I did for my first package and enjoyed that a lot, because speaking while standing enables you to use more gestures and it also feels more natural. Whenever you use at least two different interviews, I need to make sure to place the two interviewees in the opposite side of the shot so it doesn’t look repetitive. The challenge with that, however, is that you cannot look at the monitor of your camera when the person is standing on the left. (Since you need her to look to the right, you must stand on the right side of the camera.)
My third time anchoring was definitely the best one yet. Not only did I take the time to read every story out loud at least once, but I was also better prepared in terms of taking care of the small things, such as having a water bottle at your feet and making sure that my jacket looks undulated. I felt like I was talking with more vigor and that my interaction with Taylor was relatively genuine. We were both happy that the teleprompter did a good job keeping the lines we were reading close to the top of the monitor.
I produced for the second time the very next newscast after I produced for the first time. Similarly to the first time, by and large I was happy with the outcome of the newscast. Downloading and sending the FBI footage to airspeed worked well. Everybody communicated well and kept me updated about the status of their stories. Looking at producer’s checklist more regularly would have helped me knowing what I still need to do amid all the other things that were going on. Luckily I realized in time that we were missing Alex for sports so that I was able to call him and tell him that we needed him. I once again learned that the earlier you get to the station the better. My second VO-SOT aired on that day, so I got there at 8 O’clock sharp to make sure I could finish it before everybody else needed me. Besides that, with all the little things that required my attention, I tried to make sure to sit back regularly and think of the big picture and what I need to do to make the newscast a success as a whole.
Now that almost five weeks of the SuperSemester are in the books, I can say that I have a much better idea of what producing newscasts specifically, and working for television in general entails and demands. I have done every task and assumed every role at least once by now, which enabled me to gain a good understanding of the workflow and what it takes to work in a television newsroom.
I was pretty happy with the outcome of my first package last week. My report was about civil rights advocate Nadine Strossen, who came to Lindenwood to speak about mass surveillance and its implications on our civil liberties. To start things off, I made sure that Mrs. Strossen was available for an interview. It turned out that she had very little time after the presentation and asked if we could instead conduct the interview during a short time slot before the speech. Being flexible and starting early are certainly two key attributes every journalist needs to have. Although I had enough time to pick up my camera, shave, dress up, write down a few questions and a stand-up, get ready and go to the Anheuser-Busch Leadership Room, I underestimated how long all of these things were going to take. In spite of getting to there in time, I was a bit stressed and promised myself to arrive even earlier next time.
I took one of the lines from the interview for my stand-up, which worked nicely. Coming up with a good stand-up is certainly an art in itself, for it requires quick thinking, considering how it will sound when the package goes on the air later, awareness of your body language, and clear, understandable sentences. Plus you have to get a sense of what information is important. Having somebody assist you with the camera certainly makes things easier.
Despite white balancing my camera in the beginning, I did not think about how the LED light could affect the internal circuit of the camera, which resulted in shots that had a blue touch when the LED was on. I also learned that bringing an extra P2-card is a sage thing to do, as you never know how much footage you need to record. With limited time during a shoot, the last thing you want is having to delete clips because your card is almost full. The next time I interview somebody in a closed room or at night, I will make sure that there is sufficient room between the wall and the person to avoid having shadows in the shot.
The shooting part was followed by the long post-production phase which took longer than I had anticipated. Overall I spent about roughly ten hours on my package, but I was entirely worth it. I think the most important lesson I learned is that like in video production, pre-production is the most important part of shooting a package.
This Monday, I anchored for the second time. I realized that it is paramount to have read every single story out loud at least once. In order to so that, anchors need to start going through their scripts at least 35 minutes before airtime. Although I was lucky that I was able to tell the stories I had not read without any errors, it felt unprofessional and could have easily backfired. Another valuable lesson I learned was that it is essential to keep looking into the camera until the floor director indicates that the technical director has switched to a different camera.
Sometimes small things are important, such as making sure to keep a bottle of water under the anchor desk if you have trouble speaking when your lips become dry (like me), or ask somebody if you are presentable, although I would argue that the producer and the maybe the floor director should also keep an eye on that.
On Friday September 13th, my first VO-SOT aired. I was happy with the result, considering that it was my first one. It took me a while to learn the structure of a VO-SOT and how to enter the different commands in iNews, but now that I have one under my belt, my second VO-SOT was rather easy to do.
My first time producing was challenging yet rewarding. When I heard that the 49ers were coming to practice at Lindenwood, I thought it would be cool to do a live shot from Hunter Stadium, where the football team would practice later that day. Although we weren’t allowed to break the news on the three O’clock newscast, we recorded two different sports teases and two different live shots, one without the big news for the live newscast and one for the evening edition that included it. I was thrilled about everybody being very supportive, that my idea was acknowledged, and that we pursued it regardless of the strict policy. Seeing my plan become a reality actually encourages me to try more sophisticated things next time I produce.
When the latest disclosures of former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden were made public on September 5th, the world was able to see that the U.S. and British intelligence agencies are capable of cracking the encryption designed to provide online privacy and security. The British newspaper The Guardian, The New York Times and ProPublica reported the case.
As the NY Times points out, encryption “guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the emails, web searches, internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world.” In a collaborative effort with the British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, the National Security Agency has attempted to break into protected traffic of popular Internet companies such as Google, Facebook or Yahoo. After a summer of seemingly unexpected and unprecedented revelations about how the N.S.A. and other agencies were eavesdropping its own people and its allies, this is considered only the latest chapter in a series of worrisome events that undermine privacy and fundamental liberties.
Since its inception in 2000, the highly classified program code-named Bullrun has allowed the N.S.A. to hack into computers of companies to snare messages before they were encrypted. In spite of losing a public battle to insert its own “back door” in all encryption in the 1990s, the N.S.A. employed the method regardless. Nadine Strossen, professor of Law at New York Law School, was not surprised by this. Having been an advocate for civil liberties all her life, she, unlike the general public, was aware about not only the existence of the surveillance program, but also about its extent. “What’s really dismaying to me is that every time you think you have a victory, you don’t really because the agencies just go ahead do it anyway“, Strossen said.
There are numerous other examples similar to Bullrun that show how the N.S.A. is apparently not subject of adequate scrutiny by the government and seems to play by its own rules. In the aforementioned NY Times article, cryptographer Paul Kocher recalls how the N.S.A. “lost the heated national debate in the 1990s about inserting into all encryption a government back door called the Clipper Chip”. Although the use of the Clipper Chip was defeated, the N.S.A. clandestinely availed itself of the tool anyway. In 2002, the Bush administration initiated a program called Total Information Awareness, or T.I.A., which received a considerable amount of press in the wake of 9/11. According to a NY Times article from 2002, the underlying idea of the T.I.A. program is that “the best way to catch terrorists is to allow federal agencies to share information about American citizens and aliens that is currently stored in separate databases.” T.M.I. was a trailblazer of the massive domestic surveillance scheme called PRISM, which remained secret until early June this year, when information about the program, leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, was published by a number of media.
When the N.S.A. was founded 60 years ago, encryption was an obscure technology. Now that we are entering a “golden age of spying”, it has become “ubiquitous”, cryptograph Kocher declares. “Today they are conducting instant, total invasion of privacy with limited effort.”
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said the actions will “further erode not only the United States’ reputation as a global champion of civil liberties and privacy but the economic competitiveness of its largest companies.”
So why were people surprised and outraged when they heard about the data mining program this summer? Strossen believes that the government doesn’t make it easy for us to find out. “The information flow between the people and the government is exactly the opposite of what it should be. We should know what our government is doing but we don’t because of undue secrecy and they shouldn’t know what we do but they do because of undue surveillance.”
Strossen also believes that the lack of knowledge has a lot to do with people not being aware of events in general and the fact that both the private sector and government have hidden information about the extent to which they are getting information. “At worst”, she denunciates, “they have outright lied to us”. When Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper was asked in a hearing in the U.S. Senate earlier this year whether the N.S.A. was collecting data on millions of Americans, he replied: “not wittingly”.
Strossen, who served as president of the A.C.L.U. for 18 years, underscores the importance of civil liberties in a democratic society. “Without fundamental freedoms, in particular speech, thought, press, and association, which are all 1st amendment freedoms, we would not be able to advocate for any other right, we wouldn’t have access to information, we couldn’t communicate about our government and we couldn’t criticize it.” In other words: We wouldn’t have a functioning democracy.
Another worrisome development is how most people seem to be more concerned by surveillance and data mining by the private sector than they are by government. A September 5th survey by the Pew Research Center found out that internet users “are more intent on trying to mask their personal information from hackers, advertisers, friends and family members than they are trying to avoid observation by the government.”
Strossen, who has more than 250 published works, attributes this trend “to a believe or even hope on the part of most people that if the government is getting information it’s to protect me from terrorist attacks, whereas if the private sector is getting it, it’s just so they can market to me and I’m not interested in that.”
The latest revelations, however, clearly show how getting information from private companies is a vital part of intelligence agencies’ strategy. Although major tech firms like Microsoft and Google insist that they “provide user data to government only in accordance with the law”, the classified documents indicate that the agency’s success depends on the collaboration with the internet companies. According to one of the documents leaked by Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum in Russia after he had spent over one month at a Moscow airport, the N.S.A. spends more than $250 million a year on a project that allows it to “actively engage the U.S. and foreign IT industries to covertly influence and/or overtly leverage their commercial products’ designs” to make them “exploitable”.
Amid these alarming developments, Strossen insisted that the state of our civil liberties when it comes to surveillance is actually better now that the surreptitious proceedings have been confirmed. After this summer’s disclosures, one could think that surveillance has become worse over the last ten years. In the light of the fact that the eavesdropping has been going on for at least a decade, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Strossen says that although it has been “really bad, at least since 9/11”, at least it didn’t get worse. “The fact that we know about it thanks to whistleblowers such as Snowden is actually a big improvement.”
„To me, Snowden is a patriotic hero“, Strossen says, adding that she feels “much more encouraged today” than she was prior to the revelations.
What’s more, the Pew Research Center survey revealed that 86 percent of people surveyed have taken steps to remove or mask their digital footprints, while 55 percent say that they are worried about information available about them online, a figure that was only at 33 percent in 2009.
In spite of most people being relatively passive, the civil libertarian says that “there has been an amazing amount of uproar and criticism”. Moreover, quite a few people have “signed letters of protests and petitions.” The A.C.L.U. and other organizations have not only been gathering signatures online, but they have also been encouraging people to communicate with members of Congress, which led to a recent Congressional vote to cut back on government’s authority, which came very close to passing.
Strossen strongly believes that the government should strengthen whistleblower protection. Guarding journalists who are under attack is something she calls “essential”, because “if we do not have the basic information then there is no way we can fight back at any level.” Apart from that, Strossen supports several bills, which are pending in Congress right now, that cut back on the government’s power. She is also a fierce proponent of revising and reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which became effective in 1978. Generally speaking, the activist argues that we need reforms that would “bring the law back into line with the 4th Amendment.”
Strossen, who has received Honorary Doctor of Law Degrees from six different universities and colleges, claims that there is no evidence that the N.S.A.’s “extraordinary new powers” have been “necessary or effective” in fighting terrorism. Her and other experts and authorities call the surveillance program “a colossal waste of money” and the data mining approach “junk science”. Furthermore, she believes that with congressional oversight and judicial review it is possible to channel the government’s resources more effectively. “We’re burying any potentially relevant leads in data that nobody has been able to search through” Strossen says, adding that the “problem is not lack of information but lack of ability to analyze and coordinate information.”
“The Super Semester will be unlike anything you have ever done.” This sentence, uttered in our first class by instructor and professor of Communications Jill Falk, made me excited and anxious to find out what this cluster of courses is all about.
Almost three weeks into the semester, my excitement and enthusiasm have not diminished. Now that we are actually immersing ourselves in writing, producing, shooting and editing, I feel as though it is only getting better. Although none of us has been through the full rotation cycle at this point, I have already experienced how the work we are doing is challenging yet rewarding. Television is a fast-paced working environment that revolves around conveying the most recent and accurate information to an audience in a conversational yet professional style. I also learned that producing a newscast means adhering to deadlines and industry standards.
Working for television can get hectic at times, especially in the two hours leading up to a newscast. I personally enjoy the sense of urgency one automatically gets when it is crunch time. The energy of everybody around me being focused and working toward a common goal rubs off on me. During the second week, we received breaking news regarding one of the stories we covered that day just three minutes before we went on the air. In order to give our viewers the most current version of the event, we had to slightly alter the story. I felt the pressure while the clock was ticking mercilessly, but I managed to include the latest information in the story, finishing with just a few seconds remaining before the start of the newscast. I was a little proud of myself having stayed calm and having kept my cool. Frankly, the little time I had was not sufficient to check the facts or properly attribute what I wrote. I believe, therefore, that regarding breaking news the challenge is not only to include it in the newscast in time, but, more importantly, making sure that the information is accurate and attributed to a source (and the correct one of course).
The feeling I often have after a challenging newscast is one of pride and elevation, especially if I have made a major contribution to the success of the show. It makes me feel like I have accomplished something, one of the reasons being is that I have not done this on my own but with a bunch of equally motivated people who are eager to learn something and develop their skills. In my experience, the required teamwork, the accountability and the hard work television news demands bring out the best in people.
So far I anchored once. Going into the newscast, I was not particularly nervous, and as the show progressed, I was able to relax more and started feeling more comfortable reading the stories. While I thought I did a decent job considering that it was my first newscast, having watched the DVD I now know that I still have a long way to go. For instance, I have to interact with my co-anchor better and more often, I have to understand the nature of a story and adjust my facial expression accordingly, and I have to work on my intonation and enunciation. Furthermore, I learned that it is essential to read your script aloud, best with your co-anchor, to avoid hiccups during the show, and, if necessary, to ask how to pronounce unfamiliar names or places. It is also important to be at the anchor desk at least 15 minutes prior to the newscast.
While I am also keen on writing for newspapers and for the web, the thing I like about writing for television is immediacy and timeliness. Naturally, not every event presented in a newscast happens shortly before airtime, but news tends to be more topical; Even if a story started developing the previous night, including the latest development in your show gives your work an aura of relevance and yourself a feeling that you have your finger on the pulse.
Switching between different styles of writing, i.e. newspaper, blogs and television is definitely something I have to learn this semester, for every art of writing has different rules and requires dissimilar skills. The conversational, declarative, unadorned and to the point television approach differs greatly from the more formal, eloquent and in-depth way to write for a newspaper. Blogging, on the other hand, also has its own rules and tendencies. What I like about writing for television is finding a way to tell a story in a way so that the audience can relate to it. In doing so, using empathy can go a long way, for when you try to imagine how an incident might affect somebody, you have a good chance to come up with a compelling, captivating lead. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that you should try to be as catchy as possible. After all, sensationalism does not have a place in serious, investigative, quality journalism. Instead, the goal is to grab the audience’s attention by telling them why a given matter concerns them.