Saturday, July 01, 2006

I generally don't "blog live" from events, but Steve Garfield inspired me to give it a try during his presentation today... He was posting to his "Off On A Tangent" blog while telling a Media Giraffe session about blogging, including audio with cellphone and video with a snapshot camera.

(He also has a link to his Mom's blog, named My Mom's Blog, by Thoroughly Modern Millie. [Hey, my Mom was a Millie too!] Steve mentioned that her blog gets more comments than his. He demonstrated posting audio through, a pay service that he's involved with, which takes his phone-in audio and posts it to his blog. (He and others mentioned other services, some free, that help people post sound to their blogs, including Odeo, videoegg and loudblog.)

In the same session, Paul Grabowicz from Berkeley said he is skeptical about news organizations that have gotten into online multimedia simply because of the "fear factor" -- not really as a way to do a new kind of quality journalism. Newspapers should not be forcing reporters to add amateurish video to their plain text news stories, he said; they shold use video or audio when it's the best tool for the job, and they should take advantage of the computer itself. For example, his students are working with the UC Berkeley architecture department to tell the story of a jazz and blues club mecca in Oakland -- by building a video game re-creation.

Paul also had a healthy attitude toward "citizen journalism" -- that citizen journalists should be featured on professional news sites, sometimes driving the stories, with the professionals pitching in to get answers the citizens couldn't get.

I agree with him 100%, although I don't mind the idea of news organizations experimenting with audio and video just to develop a better understanding of the tools. But computers can do so much more by being computers, not just a digital printing press. If a story involves a lot of data, the best a newspaper can do is to include an enhanced table or graph, USA Today style. The same paper's online department, on the other hand, should have the tools to post an entire searchable database, perhaps with relational links to other databases.

Some great examples of database techniques have been shown at this week's conference, especially by Adrian Holovaty of the Washington Post and

Robb Montgomery of gave examples of creatively doing more with less and taking advantage of software on the Web. His examples included the Virginian Pilot's video only site, combining professional and neighborhood videos, New York Times readers contributions to coverage of the New York transit strike that used Google maps "mashup" of readers' reports, an MIT "zipdecode" project, and his own "snapshot camera" video from Moscow.