Archives for posts with tag: narrative journalism

One of the greatest things about blogging on is that it costs nothing unless you want to buy a preminum theme or extra storage space in the cloud. One pitfall is that its architecture is set up to really, really like using single jpegs, tiffs, docs and the like but it doesn’t work with folders full of files. That’s problematic for SoundSlides creators. Solution: Post about your SoundSlide and link to Google Drive.

A turn-of-the-century mp3 player.

A turn-of-the-century mp3 player.

Of course, if you’re a student or university employee, you have space available on your drive. But I’ve never played with that space and I’m much more of a storytelling and journalism guy than a tech guy, so even with a lot of coaching I was about to tear my hair out. But I know that the folks at Google make it ridiculously simple to do things that would have required all-nighters and copious quantities of caffeine to produce back when I was an undergrad. And as it happens, Fortunately, I ran across this great post over at the Journo Tech blog called “Using Google Drive as a Web Host.”

Really, this is a brilliant solution. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and I get to keep all my hair now. As a sample, I’ve posted a quick-and-dirty slideshow I created using SoundSlides to merge photos of magazine covers from a research project about a magazine I’ve come to think of as the antebellum South’s version of The Economist: De Bow’s Review. It’s nothing fancy: just 11 photos of covers of the magazine from just before the Civil War. I shot the photos at the Special Collections and Archives section at Ralph B. Draughon Library at Auburn University last summer for an article that’s just been published this week by American Journalism. As for the music, a scratchy turn-of-the-twentieth-century recording of the Neapolitan Trio performing Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” that one’s used under Creative Commons License. I obtained it at Free Music Archive, which is an outstanding resource for historical music that is so old it has passed out of copyright and into the public domain. Word to my students: You can get into big legal trouble if you violate copyright. There are so many who have pirated downloaded music that it’s hard for the recording industry to keep up with all of them, so its default position often seems to be to simply give up. But as a content creator online, you are MUCH more visible to them. As in, when you link to their stuff, it’s like Frodo putting on the One Ring and attracting the gaze of Sauron. So be careful what you use, because you might get a cease-and-desist letter (at best) or a hefty bill (at worst).

If you’re interested in Old South journalism history, you might want to give it a look here. It’s titled “Brave Old Spaniards and Indolent Mexicans: J. Ross Browne, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, and the Social Construction of Off-Whiteness in the 1860s.

Just a side note to my brothers and sisters in the world of journalism and mass communication history: Soundslides is not that complicated to master. You could easily record your own narration about your research project to accompany the slides, or you can tuck the information that would go into your narration down into the captions and let the music serve to create a feel for the time period. Yeah, I know. If you’re like me, you have a stack of papers to grade and a research agenda to pursue. But multimedia has power to make what we do accessible to people who might otherwise not pay much attention.

The audio slideshow was the first truly multimedia storytelling form in the world of online news. It originated in newspaper newsrooms at the beginning of the Internet era in the 1990s. As we work from learning to use the simple Web 2.0 story form (blogging on WordPress) toward the most complex (creating video stories), students in JRNL 3510 this week are completing their 10-picture photo galleries on their blogs, complete with captions. Audio slideshows are the logical next step after this assignment.

Our next major assignment in Multimedia Journalism will be an audio slideshow created in SoundSlides. An audio slideshow consists of still photos and audio. The highly recommended audio recording gear for this assignment is the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder. It’s lightweight, but it provides excellent sound quality and reasonably fine input control for the mobile journalist. AmazonB&H Photo and New Egg have them for between $95 and $100. I’ve had great luck with all three vendors.

As one might logically assume, photojournalists were the pioneers of the audio slideshow. Because they were mostly visual thinkers and not audio producers, photojournalists’ earliest audio slideshows typically used one continuous interview clip, a single linear narration recorded by the photos’ creator, or a song as an audio “backdrop” for their stories. This was an important step toward integrating visuals with sound. But in its early stages, the audio slideshow often consisted of two separate stories on slightly different tracks: one visual, the other audio. One complemented the other, but they didn’t tell the same story simultaneously. Our goal is to develop integrated stories in which the audio track speaks about or provided context for the visuals simultaneously visible onscreen.

Thus, the audio slideshows we create will use some of the logic of writing for TV. In a television voiceover script (or VO), producers use the SWAP method: Synchronize words and pictures.That’s what you’re going for here: The audio track could stand by itself. Or the sequence of photos with captions could stand by itself. But the voices and sounds in the audio track must be relevant to each of the images onscreen while the audio track can be hears. Sound and images sync together.

The best way to understand this story form is to view and listen to great examples. Here are a variety of them from major news sites, including the British Broadcasting Corp., The Guardian, Australian Broadcasting Corp., and the New York Times. They come from Maureen Fisher’s list of examples on a class blog at Temple University.

A Surgeon in Somalia

The Dog and the Whale

Down the Local

All Round the Houses: Confessions of a Milkman

Disappearing Acts: Turning a Bowl on a Pole Lathe

The Mobile Nurse: Rebecca Wilner

Skulls, Strings and Philosophy: An Exploration into the Life of a Tattoo Artist

Mulch Fest

Cut in Half

Burlesque Art

Kitten Rescue

I’ve already distributed this assignment via class email, but here it is online as well. Your assignment is to critique two audio slideshows that inspire you. Your post must meet each of the following requirements to receive full credit:

  1. They must be relevant to your blog topic.
  2. They must have captions on all photos.
  3. Provide their titles. In the titles, link to them using inline links. Don’t just type the URL in your post. It’s unprofessional.
  4. Identify the people who created them. Include the name of their news organizations.
  5. Briefly describe and critique their content. How well do they synchronize sound with pictures? Is each image onscreen long enough for you to “read” the image? Or are they up for too short of a time? How well are the captions written? Use “Writing photo cutlines (aka captions).pdf” as your guide to good captions.
  6. Briefly explain the journalistic value in their content.
  7. Explain what you find inspiring about them.
  8. Ask your readers a question related to the content in one or more of the slideshows you identify.
  9. Assign categories and tags to your post.

Deadline: Post by 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24. Email link to your post

Example of the kind of slideshow I want you to write about:
The Girl in the Window: Danielle, 6, was rescued from unfathomable living conditions. Can the love and care of her adoptive family compensate for a lifetime of neglect? An audio slideshow by the Tampa Bay Tribune.

Some good places to find audio slideshows to critique:
New York Times Multimedia/Photos page online: The Times has wonderful examples of audio wedded to beautiful photography with excellent captions. But be careful what you pick here; lots of simple slideshows with just photos and captions live here. For this assignment, please remember that you must critique slideshows that have audio tracks as well as captions for each photo. A Google advanced search can help you find that.*

National Geographic: I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again: This is the gold standard for technically excellent and vibrant photography.

Online News Association Social Shares: Top Audio/Photo Slideshows:  It’s only appropriate to tap the wisdom of a very wise ONA crowd to locate the best multimedia journalism content online. If you go here, for this assignment, be sure to pick a photo slideshow. Do not pick video to write about; video will be the subject of your third mandatory critique blog post.

Jedi search tip for finding audio slideshows: You can also do the following search in Google to narrow the search results to nothing but audio slideshows on a given site by searching for the exact phrase “audio slideshow” and the word “site” followed by a colon and a url. Example of what to type in the Google search window: “audio slideshow”

Slavery is real and plays a huge role in feeding America, and it will continue if we keep buying everyday items from those who exploit immigrants, author John Bowe said tonight at Auburn University.

Bowe details the desperate paths that lead immigrants from Mexico, India, and other parts of the developing world to the U.S. in his book Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy.

Here’s one example Bowe gave Thursday in his talk to a full auditorium at Foy Hall: A couple of laborers in southern Mexico, “people from near Cancun, but not beach guys,” could barely find enough work to feed their families, so they get help from a coyote — a Mexican term for an immigrant smuggler — to cross the border into New Mexico, where the coyote puts them up in a shack until one day he says, “Do you want to hop in the van and go to Florida?”

Unfamiliar with the area, unable to speak English in a place where it’s the unofficial language of the land, ignorant of basic details about their location and therefore dependent on the coyote to tell them their next move, they agreed. Twenty-seven workers piled into a van rigged with super-tough suspension for the three-day drive with no food and no bathroom stops. “They told me they just passed a jug,” Bowe said. Their destination: Immokalee, Fla., which Bowe called “one of those places in the world that’s been belching out horrible things for a long time — it used to be African-Americans who were exploited there, and then it was the Haitians, and then the Caribbeans, and now, Mexicans.”

Immokalee is where they met a labor contractor nicknamed El Diablo, Spanish for “the Devil” — “He even looks like the devil, with bloodshot eyes,” Bowe said.

“So you want to work for me?” El Diablo asked. “I paid the coyote $1,000 to bring you here. Now you all owe me $1,000, and you’ll work it off. If you don’t, and you run away, I’ll pump you full of lead and throw you to the alligators.”

How modern slavery works

This is modern slavery, Bowe said, coerced labor under the threat of violence and under circumstances that make it almost impossible to escape. Tennessee Ernie Ford sang “I owe my soul to the company store” in reference to the plight of coal miners who overreached their credit by buying food from their employers. Something just like that accounts for much of the migrants’ economic dependence on El Diablo, who overcharged them for barracks-style housing, made them overpay for groceries at his wife’s store, and deducted those expenses from their pay and left each with $20 a week for their labor, which they felt duty-bound to send home to feed their families. “We realized we were in their pocket,” one migrant told Bowe. They were stuck.

Their poverty and suffering, Bowe said, have benefitted multinational beverage companies such as Tropicana and Pepsi and fast-food corporations such as McDonald’s and Taco Bell that enjoy lower prices on produce used in their products. Bowe said 80,000 to 90,000 migrant workers, mostly in the United States without authorization, pick oranges for labor contractors who managed the harvest for companies such as Lykes Brothers and Consolidated Citrus. These companies sell to Tropicana, which Bowe said posted revenue of $2 billion a year that helped pad the bottom line of its parent company, Pepsico, which posted $65 billion in revenue.

Bowe began to lose some of the audience when he showed a slide illustrating that wealth in the United States is so concentrated that the top 1 percent would own the northwest quarter of the Lower 48 states, an area from roughly the Oklahoma Panhandle to the Canadian border and from the Colorado-Kansas line to the Pacific Ocean.

“He’s interesting,” a woman muttered to her neighbor as she rose from her seat to leave Foy Auditorium. “But I don’t think I believe him.”

She was the kind of skeptic Bowe seemed most worried about: those who simply could not believe that slavery by any definition exists.

“That disconnect, where you hear something wrong and don’t know what it is, and you think this can’t be real, that’s how we think about slavery,” Bowe said. “And you don’t know about it so you don’t feel a need to do something about it, and that is what I wanted to write about.”

People are loath to do anything about this modern form of peon slavery, Bowe said, and have been reluctant to fix the system for hundreds of years.

“The enslaver always says, ‘I’m only trying to help these people from the Third World,’” Bowe said. Yet enjoying the fruits of others’ unpaid labor has its price. Bowe pointed to Benjamin Franklin, who said slavery ruined the economy by making it impossible for free labor to compete with slave labor and ruined society by making the children of slavers lazy, spoiled, entitled, stupid and arrogant.

What you can do to stop modern slavery

“I used to really suck at offering solutions to this,” Bowe said. But he recommended we all do three things to break the cycle of exploitation and reward for corporations:

  • Buy locally: Buy your food from local vendors and buy your clothing from local manufacturers. Bosses can’t mistreat their workers if they have to see their customers every day and their customers know what’s going on.
  •  Support activists: The Campaign for Fair Food engages in low-cost, highly effective lobbying by picketing outside the headquarters of multinational corporations that rely on exploitation by labor contractors. Recent targets include Wendy’s and Taco Bell, and activists are now focusing on Publix and Whole Foods. He pointed to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Student/Farmworker Alliance. “It’s cute that these companies are spending all this money on social responsibility, but most of it’s a waste of time. They’re like sharks: You can talk nice to a shark all you want, but it’s more effective to whack them on the nose, and they’ll go away. Milton Friedman figured this out a long time ago: Corporations are designed to maximize shareholder profits and won’t respond until they see their behavior drives away customers and embarrasses shareholders. Nobody wants to go on the record supporting slavery, so we’ve got that going for us.”
  • Become an activist yourself: “Get up off your ass and get involved,” Bowe said. “I know you want to think pressing a button on the Internet, ‘I oppose slavery,’ and that’s it, will do it. It won’t.” The Student/Farmworker Alliance plans actions in Atlanta and other major Southern cities in the coming weeks, he said, so go to their websites, make contact with protest organizers, and join the fight.

You don’t have to turn it into your mission in life.

“I don’t do this full time,” Bowe said. “I don’t have it in me to be angry 24/7. Your options are either kill the rich or help lift up the poor.”

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