Supplemental thoughts after week 5 is in the books

Our Monday class discussion focused on photography, video, quality control and looked at timelines. Following is a loose roundup of our discussion, some links that may be useful and a reminder on homework and deadlines.

As always, please don’t hesitate to tweet, email, call or text if you are having issues or are unclear on an assignment.


  • News analysis no. 2 – the Joe Paterno death watch. Should be posted as a blog entry on your class site and tweeted with a #dsanalysis hashtag. Details on the assignment page.
  • The rough footage from your video assignment should be done and loaded to Dropbox and shared to me. Assignment page
  • Photo galleries, using multiple apps or techniques, should be posted as a Page on your site. The companion blog entry rating the tools you used should be posted as well. Linking the two would be a wise choice. Assignment page


Yes, we are doubling up on CMP assignments this week. This will help us catch up a bit from the earlier holiday and also give us more time for the next two guest speakers we have in class.

  • Timelines – using multiple methods, will be due as a Page posting for class discussion. You will need a companion blog post rating your choices. Take note, this is a slight change in the assignment numbers and syllabus order – curation had been on tap. The pitch portion of this assignment is due Thursday at noon. Assignment page
  • Video – Your final, edited piece should be ready for class discussion, posted to a page. You will need to post to both YouTube and Vimeo and rate in a corresponding blog post for each. Assignment page
  • Team site – We finally got a little class discussion time for this assignment and I hope you are all on your way to a couple ideas. We will take more time to discuss what your team is thinking of covering, some of the story angles proposed as part of the coverage, group responsibilities and storyboarding. Please try to suss this out a bit with your team during the week and be prepared to chat with the class, brainstorm ideas and receive feedback in general in Monday’s session. We may take some time to look at the Pagelines theme as an option for the team sites if you want to load that into your sandbox installation.
  • Tumblr – Make sure not only to keep an eye out for digital storytelling examples and post to the class site accordingly, but to comment on these items when possible. Same goes on the commenting front for your classmates’ work as we start to finally populate sites with content. We won’t spend as much time discussing the examples as we have earlier in the quarter, but these are still a great resource to share with the class. I will generally try to post items that play into that week’s topic, but I also post other interesting – I hope – tidbits and even job openings. If there is an entry you strongly feel should be discussed in class, let me know somehow and we’ll make time.


We looked at a few examples of timeline styles in class. Many were created in some custom fashion or another using Flash, Javascript and the like. While you are not expected to build out a custom framework, you can take cues from these examples in how you might structure a timeline and which apps might best help you do that:

Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Visualization, 1969 (2011) from Yanni Loukissas on Vimeo.

What to timeline?

If you’re having trouble coming up with an idea for what to timeline, you’re in luck. A couple  gems to pick from:

The rich presidents of history, which we briefly looked at Monday.

Don Cornelius and “Soul Train.” I don’t have much prepared for you on this, but I will leave you with this video:

And then there’s the history of smartphones.


This has loosely come up as you work on your video and, in particular, your timeline assignments. What can I use, from a content standpoint, that I didn’t create.

We’ve watched videos and slideshows in class that make use of copyrighted material – mostly music – to various degrees and ends. And the slideshow assignment is less a reported entity, though you should have some original content in the piece, than a curation pulling in content from multiple sources. So how far is too far when it comes to using the work of others?

Working within the Fair Use doctrine is a tricky place for journalists. We have a little more leeway than the general public in some ways, but need to be that much more careful in others. Because use of others’ content in reporting, as parody, to illustrate a story about that person or entity or other similar endeavors are often part of the reporting and display process, the idea of Fair Use plays into our game to a degree.

But, since we are, generally, in a profit pursuit, using the work of others in excess can quickly be construed as a copyright violation.

Speaking broadly, there is no legal line in the sand that you can watch for and be careful not to cross.

Making this minefield that much more dangerous is that it has become nearly acceptable to mash up personal content with the work of others. If you compile a gallery of photos in your iPhoto app, you are nearly invited to add a musical soundtrack with contents from your iTunes. And all of this is easily posted to the Web, Facebook and elsewhere.

So what should your guideline be?

The first question to answer for yourself is perhaps more journalistic than legal. Is this necessary to tell the story? Are you adding music or video or other bits simply because you can? Or does it feed into the telling?

This should be no different an internal discussion in many ways than one you would have about adding content of others in a written piece. Sourced out and attributed, quotes and the like are obviously part of the storytelling process. But sprinkling bits of external content, or extended quotes gratuitously will obviously carry ramifications of various weights.

Posting a slideshow, to pick on John Kim, with a backing track of commercial music minutes long without reason is not just a copyright violation, it’s not adding to the story in a meaningful way. Obviously John’s work was more of a display of work samples than a news piece. And while not technically legal, it is much less egregious – though don’t try that as a legal defense.

On the other hand, if you were to use a few seconds of a song here and there as a blended part of the storytelling process, you’re certainly much more in the clear. I would highly recommend you credit the song and band somewhere – even just at the bottom of the post, perhaps with links. In addition to being good form, it’s also going to answer readers’ inevitable question of “what is that music.” If it drives them to buy a song on iTunes, so much the better.

If I were to do a writeup on one of your news service stories and excerpt the entire article, even with a link out, you likely wouldn’t be too pleased for myriad reasons. Same difference with multimedia content.

So my general advice is to use music and video from others sparingly. Not just to avoid legal ramifications, but as a question of news judgement.

As for the timelines, a slightly different story. With this assignment you will be compiling a lot of material in a curated report. While you will provide original content when possible, you’ll also likely need to add images and videos from elsewhere. And this is largely OK. Just make damned sure that you source and credit everything.

Beyond the simple good Web manners of linking out, this is creative work you are in effect borrowing in limited fashion to help tell a larger story. If the content is available in a publicly posted way – the Internet, for instance – you generally have that right.
For both these scenarios, caution and being overly inclined to citation are your best friends.

Creative commons

If you feel you need to use things like music, illustrative images and the like, you do have some options that don’t require breaking the law, or worse, paying royalties to a music company.

Content published under a Creative Commons license is available readily online for a variety of uses.

There are sites that offer free or cheap music – usually instrumentals of wildly divergent quality – for download and use in online projects. Often the only payment required is a credit or link.

The same is sorta true for photos.

Flickr has a host of images available. By doing a Creative Commons advanced search, you’ll find literally thousands of images with a gamut of licensing agreements. Some are completely forbidden to use without pay or a contract. But many are either free to use as is or with a simple credit or link back.

There are also numerous sites – iStock, Thinkstock and the like – that traffic in inexpensive clip art. Photos – and even video clips – are available for a few dollars.

Many news sites and popular blogs live and breathe on Flickr, Google Images and other art storehouses for illustrating their work. Obviously this class is about concentrating on creating your own content, but these options are always out there if you need an additive element or as you find yourself blogging down the road.

When in doubt, you can always ask me or another trusted advisor on the propriety of using a piece of content – preferably beforehand.


Following our chat about megapixels, image sensors and the like, I though some of you might find this Ars Technica piece on the megapixel myth helpful.

From Chris Forseman’s post:

Megapixels are the digital camera market’s equivalent of horsepower and megahertz—a single metric that consumers and marketers latch on to tenaciously, despite the fact that it hardly describes overall performance. Over the last several years, camera manufacturers have been pumping up the megapixels on each successive camera model, regardless of whether such increases offered any real benefits (hint: they usually did not).

See, throwing more megapixels at the digital imaging problem is akin to bumping up the processor speed on a motherboard with a slow bus and small amounts of RAM, or adding a turbo to a small engine on a car with lousy brakes and wobbly suspension. The number of megapixels in a camera’s image sensor is just one in a number of aspects that truly define how well a camera works.

In an image sensor, larger pixels mean better light-gathering capability. This translates to better low-light performance, better color accuracy, and in some cases better dynamic range. Sensors commonly come in a few different sizes: Full frame (24 x 36mm), APS-C (17 x 25mm), Four-thirds (13.5 x 18mm), and even smaller sensors on compact point-and-shoot models. As manufacturers cram more pixels on a given sensor, those pixels get smaller and smaller.

When in the market for an SLR in my day, the general feeling was to spend money on the glass and get the best body with what you had left. In a way, that is still the rule. But all the major camera manufacturers are putting out solid lenses now.

The smart camera money will go toward features and image sensor. Don’t get tied up with megapixels if you’re in the market for a camera. Do sit down and make a list of what you need and, if different, what you want:

  • DSLR or point-and shoot or micro four-thirds?
  • What will I primarily use this for? Pictures of necessity? Multimedia reporting? Lots of video?
  • What type of video quality am I looking for? 1080p, 720p, framerate, etc.?

Don’t feel like you have to get a big, expensive DSLR for high quality and full features. There are plenty of compact options that offer a size advantage and comparable stats. Where you will soon see shortcomings is in the things pro or pro-sumer DSLRs are meant for – high speed, low light and versatility.


Bring your popcorn as we’ll be watching your edited videos. We’ll also carve some time out to look at timelines and discuss the apps a bit more.

We’ll also take a closer look the idea of curation and aggregation – what’s the difference? – and using the fine Storify app. I highly recommend you follow @BurtHerman and @Storify on Twitter.

We’ll make time for some more team site discussion – specifically looking at your working ideas for the site coverage theme. We’ll also take a look at last quarter’s team sites if I can find them to give you an idea of where we might be going.

Time permitting, we’ll also dig into Photoshop a little bit for the purpose of building a custom header image and playing with type a bit.


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