Choices students made for Blog Post 1

Sometimes I am surprised to see how students dealt with an assignment. I had some surprises when grading the first blog post assignment for this course (Blog post 1: Analyze a “beyond radio” story).

The phrase “beyond radio” refers to a chapter that students were supposed to read in the book Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production. The chapter describes many things that NPR is able to do on its website to enhance the stories that are broadcast on radio.

A number of students selected stories that had NONE of these enhancements, other than perhaps one photo or other image added to the Web story.

How does that make sense? When the assignment says, in part: “discuss the ‘beyond radio’ aspects of this story on the website,” it would make the most sense to choose a story that had some of those aspects.

Two examples (these are good choices):

(1) Can We Learn to Forget Our Memories?

Unusually, this story includes five links within the text, and all of the links lead to websites outside NPR.org. These links add information to the story.

The most interesting “beyond radio” thing about this story, though, is that the transcript of the radio story is quite different from the text story. Most students found that the NPR text story was usually very similar to the audio from the radio broadcast. (Most text stories on the NPR site do have a complete transcript of the audio.)

Comparison of the audio, the transcript, and the text story in this case provide very good lessons about the best way to tell a story on different platforms. One important element is the nat sound included in the audio. In this case, that nat sound is NOT “sound effects” (such as hammers, car engines, seagulls at the beach, etc.) but instead sound captured on site at the 2012 USA Memory Championship, including groans and applause from the audience. The nat sound brings the audio story to life.

The text story is structured much differently and adds a lot of new information not found in the audio story.

(2) Mekong Flows Along Troubled Myanmar’s East

This story is one of five in a series broadcast in 2010, when NPR’s Southeast Asia correspondent Michael Sullivan and freelance photojournalist Christopher Brown traveled along the Mekong River from the Tibetan plateau in China to the giant delta in southern Vietnam. In class, I showed the interactive feature accompanying this story. Outstanding “beyond radio” aspects of this story include the 9-image photo slideshow at the top of the story page, a map, and the interactive itself, which is linked to an image embedded in the story text.

Photos. And radio. That’s “beyond radio.”

Something else you can’t do on radio: The other four stories in this series are linked to this one.

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Tips for learning about your camera

My main list of basic advice (for indoors shooting, note especially ISO and white balance):

Photo quality tips for point-and-shoot cameras

Do not think you need a DSLR. You don’t:

Photojournalist covers the Olympics with an iPhone

This is the same article I linked in your assignment:

Get the Most from Your Point-and-Shoot Camera

The way you steady the camera — with your hands, or with a tripod or monopod — makes a big difference in all low-light situations:

How to hold the camera

I hope these tips will help you. But don’t forget your Kobré textbook! There are lots of great tips there as well.

Photo 1: Practice photographing people indoors

IMPORTANT: All photos submitted for this assignment must be shot between Friday morning (Sept. 28) and Tuesday at 9 a.m. (Oct. 2). Photos must NOT be edited in any way before uploading.

The ability to deliver good images from a variety of real-life situations — this is useful in many journalism jobs.

Almost every digital camera has a variety of settings that will enable you to capture good, clear, usable shots indoors. Learning how to use these settings to get the best results will require you to practice with your camera. Read more of this post

Blog post 3: Introduction to photojournalism

After reading chapters 1 and 15 in the Kobré book, choose two or three different points from EACH chapter (total: four to six points) to discuss in your blog post.

In addition, use two specific photo examples from either one of these sites in your blog post:

NOTE: You must NOT embed any of the photos in your blog post, because they are copyrighted. However, you should LINK directly to any individual photo you refer to in your post.

Requirements for your blog post:

  1. The length must be (minimum) 300 to (maximum) 500 words.
  2. Write intelligently so that a prospective employer, reading your post, will think you are smart.
  3. Clearly comment on at least two distinct points from EACH chapter (minimum: four).
  4. Link to at least two specific, individual photos, and make clear what they are examples of.
  5. Write an appropriate and interesting headline for your blog post.
  6. After you publish your blog post ON YOUR OWN BLOG, copy the URL of your post page and paste it in a REPLY to this post, here, on this blog. If you paste a complete URL on a line by itself, it will automatically become a working link. That is what I want.

DEADLINE: Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 9 a.m. (Your reply posted here must be submitted before 09:00:00 in order to receive credit. I will have to approve your comment before it appears, so don’t panic if it says “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”)

How to add tags, description, etc., on SoundCloud

One of the ways we show that we are professional is by adding appropriate and smart text to our audio, video, and other online media. This kind of smart text also helps with search results.

In SoundCloud, you can add these things while waiting for your audio file to upload:

Write or specify the following to make yourself seem like you know what you’re doing:

  1. Title
  2. Description
  3. Type
  4. Genre
  5. Tags (10 or fewer, so you don’t appear to be a spammer)
  6. Use rights (license): Specifies what other people may and may not do with your file.

If you’re doing a podcast or a radio program, you might want to upload the logo for that program or station in the image area.

This is how your sound file page will look with all the right stuff:

Edited audio interview 2: Conduct & produce a good interview

NOTE: READ Kern, Chapter 13, BEFORE you edit your interview! Also REVIEW Kern, pp. 219–223. These pages will help you think in a professional manner when you are making editing decisions.

Conduct an in-depth interview with a UF international student. Details about your interview subject and the topic can be found here:

Pitch (document) for interview 2

DO NOT conduct the interview until AFTER your pitch has been explicitly approved by your instructor.

After you have posted the interview link here, you will also SEND THE LINK via email to your interview subject. We want your subject to hear your edited interview and make comments.

Overview:

Edit the interview (using any audio editing software) to a length of (minimum) 90 to (maximum) 120 seconds.

Note: Getting the length right will affect your grade. If you want to edit a longer piece, like the examples in the Blog Post 2 assignment, you may choose to do so — but all the same requirements (below) apply. If you choose the longer format, the minimum length is 4 minutes 0 seconds, and the maximum length is 6 minutes, 0 seconds.

PLEASE NOTE that any other length is not acceptable.

If you are new to editing, you should download this PDF and read it: Super-Fast Guide to Audio Editing (6 pages, 290 KB).

Save the file as a mono MP3 and then upload it to SoundCloud. Note: Listen to the full MP3 before uploading to make sure the sound quality is good. Double-check the length before uploading.

TITLE on the SoundCloud page:

DO NOT put the student’s name in the title!

Write a short, accurate, interesting title on the SoundCloud page (there is a box at the top of the page for the title), but do not include the person’s name. We don’t want these to show up in Google when someone does a name search on the student.

Any reference to an assignment or class is NOT going to make your title interesting.

Other SOUNDCLOUD requirements:

  1. Write an interesting and brief description of the content of your interview — without giving away any key story points. In other words, don’t spoil the story by saying too much about it. Also, please use ONLY your student’s FIRST NAME in the description (again, so this will not Google for their name).
  2. Include in the description the full date of your interview and where it took place (Gainesville, Florida, is acceptable).
  3. Add several appropriate TAGS to the piece. No more than 10 tags, because more than 10 tags is like spam.
  4. Set the use rights for your interview. In this case you probably want All Rights Reserved to protect both your work and your interview person.

How to turn in your assignment for a grade:

Upload to your SoundCloud account. Write and add all the stuff specified above. Make sure you click the SAVE button at the bottom of the page.

After you publish your file on SoundCloud, open the publicly accessible page for that file alone, copy the complete URL of that page, and paste it in a REPLY to this post, here, on this blog. If you paste a complete URL on a line by itself, it will automatically become a working link. That is what I want.

This is an example of a correct LINK to an individual sound file:

http://soundcloud.com/macloo/a-historian-finds-a

Note: The contents of that file are similar to your assignment but NOT EXACTLY the same.

Requirements for the edited file:

  1. Your edited interview must NOT include your own voice. No intro. No questions. Nothing.
  2. It must be interesting and also coherent (not rambling, not disjointed).
  3. It must make sense as a stand-alone audio piece.
  4. IT MUST BE A STORY.
  5. It must include a complete ID of the subject (in the subject’s own voice). This means the interview subject must say something like “I am” or “My name is,” followed by his or her first and last name, AND something that identifies him or her, which in this case is probably something about his or her current student status. MAKE SURE the student says what he or she is studying AND the name of the university. MAKE SURE THESE ARE CLEAR. Ask your student to say it all again, slowly, if the first (or second, or 10th) time is not easy to understand. Foreign accents can be hard to understand, but when someone speaks slowly and in a relaxed way, it’s usually okay.
  6. DO NOT START WITH the ID. Start with something that is interesting enough to make a total stranger feel like listening to more of your story.
  7. The length of the edited mono MP3 file is explained ABOVE, under “Overview.” The length is part of these requirements.
  8. SEND THE SOUNDCLOUD LINK to your interview subject. Your instructor MUST receive a verified comment from your interview subject within ONE WEEK of the assignment deadline. The verified comment can appear on your SoundCloud page with the interview, or the international student can send the comments directly to me at my UF email address.

DEADLINE: Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m. (Your reply posted here must be submitted before 20:00:00 East Coast time in order to receive credit. I will have to approve your comment before it appears, so don’t panic if it says “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”)

Note that you have the classroom at your disposal. So a very clever thing to do would be to all meet there between 2 and 5 p.m. on Tuesday and listen to one another’s interviews. You have until 8 at night to make some additional edits.

Fixing the ‘permalink’ URL on a WordPress blog

A lot of the students here have generic URLs for their WordPress posts. This is something a savvy person wants to change, because the generic URL makes you look like a WordPress novice. Like you don’t care about your blog.

Changing this is very easy.

If your URL to a blog post looks like this, you should change it:

http://mysite.com/blog/?p=123

The number at the end of the URL is what makes you look like a noob. Here’s how to change it:

The most common choices (below) are:

  • Month and name
  • Post name

If you want to try a custom structure, find the heading Structure Tags on this page:

http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Permalinks

Pitch (document) for interview 2

Your “audio interview 2” will be an interview with an international student at UF. The interview must NOT be conducted until AFTER you have made your pitch, orally, in class, on Sept. 11.

COME TO CLASS (Sept. 11) PREPARED TO MAKE YOUR PITCH.

You cannot conduct the interview until after your pitch has been approved.

The pitch assignment includes both a printed document and a presentation by you in class. “Presentation” is a little exaggerated. What it really is, is a pitch — to the instructor and your fellow students. (Covered in Kern, Chapter 12. READ IT.) If your pitch fails, you will have to re-do it within 24 hours. If your pitch fails miserably, you will have to find a different interview subject AND write a new pitch.

IMPORTANT: Before you identify your intended interview subject, COMPLETE the Blog Post 2 assignment. It will help you think about STORIES.

Choosing your interview subject (rules and requirements):

  1. The student must be enrolled full-time at UF now, in fall 2012, and living in Gainesville.
  2. The student must NOT be enrolled in the College of Journalism and Communications.
  3. The student must be in the U.S. on a current and valid student visa. Therefore, the student CANNOT be a permanent resident (Green Card holder) or a citizen of the United States.
  4. The student must have grown up in a foreign country or countries. Ideally, the student came to the U.S. specifically to attend UF. Note: U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States are NOT foreign countries.
  5. DO NOT select a student who went to grade school, middle school or high school in the U.S.
  6. It is okay if the student is from an English-speaking country — but those students might not be the most interesting ones to interview.
  7. The student must not be your friend or your relative, including by marriage.
  8. The person can be either a graduate or an undergraduate student.

The story (requirements):

The story you produce from this interview (or interviews) must concern some aspect(s) of this international student’s experience in the United States. It does not need to be school-related. It’s pretty open.

It’s a story you will need to discover by talking with your subject! (BEFORE the interview!)

What listeners should hear in your story is something new, something they did not know before. Listeners should have a feeling or a realization about the people from other countries who come here and live among us. Something warm and happy, or horrifying, or shocking, or sweet and wonderful. You’ll have to explore, by asking open questions.

So this is not about hard news or facts. This assignment calls on you to find a story in a person, and get that person to tell you about it.

Some people don’t have any stories. Make sure you find an international student who has at least one good story to tell.

The pitch document:

This must be printed before class and handed in during class.

The pitch itself (one paragraph of text) must be able to convince an editor that this person has an interesting story.

Your pitch document must include:

  1. The international student’s full name,
  2. Age,
  3. Home country,
  4. Type of visa he/she holds for U.S. study,
  5. College at UF,
  6. Major,
  7. Current degree program (e.g. bachelor’s, master’s, etc.),
  8. ufl.edu e-mail address, and
  9. Cell phone number.
  10. The story idea. Be specific.

Being a real journalist:

You need to find your interview subject, have some conversations, gain his or her trust, and explain very clearly that even though you will be conducting this interview for a class assignment, the edited audio file will be on a website where anyone can find it and listen to it.

It is essential that you not downplay or gloss over this fact. As a journalist, you MUST be able to get someone to talk to you with the full knowledge that he or she is doing so in a very pubic and exposed way. This person should be comfortable with you and willing to let you record and use his or her personal material.

The pitch you give in class:

Read all of the assigned pages in Kern for this week and use that information (especially the part in Chapter 12) to pitch your story. You will NOT be reading to us. You will be briefly and convincingly trying to convey why this story is worth hearing. You should be able to do it in 5 minutes or less.

DEADLINE: Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 1:55 p.m. (in class).

Blog post 2: Analyze an audio-only interview

There are 9 edited interviews here: http://transom.org/?p=28138

Choose ONE of those interviews, and do two things before you start writing the blog post:

  • Read everything on the story page (some of the reporters had an interesting experience in finding their interview subject).
  • Listen attentively to the complete interview without stopping the audio. Most of the interviews are 7–8 minutes long. If you use headphones, you will probably pay more attention — so I recommend using headphones.

After that, analyze the story you heard in the interview, and write a blog post containing your analysis.

In your analysis, be specific about:

  1. Audio quality. Is it clear and crisp? Is there any background noise? Is there any nat sound? Anything wrong with it, from a professional standpoint?
  2. Sense of the story. Is it easy to follow, or confusing? Is it interesting? Why or why not?
  3. Editing decisions — such as use of reporter’s voice, narration, natural sound, and/or music. Are these things present or not present? If absent, would their inclusion improve the story? If present, might the story be better without them? I want to see evidence that you’re thinking about how someone creates this edited final product from a longer (often much longer) interview.
  4. Was this person (and this story) a good one to choose for an audio story? Why or why not?

You might find you need to listen to the story several times to crystallize your thoughts about the story. I encourage you to do so. Really. You will learn more.

If you really don’t like the story, maybe you should choose a different one. It depends on you. Sometimes we can learn a lot from a story we dislike. But sometimes we are so stuck on how much we dislike it, we can’t really do a good analysis.

Requirements for your blog post:

  1. The length must be (minimum) 300 to (maximum) 500 words.
  2. In the first paragraph, include the TITLE of the story you analyzed, and LINK that title to the story’s individual Web page.
  3. Include everything in the analysis list above this. (You can include other things too.)
  4. Write intelligently so that a prospective employer, reading your post, will think you are smart.
  5. Write an appropriate and interesting headline for your blog post.
  6. After you publish your blog post ON YOUR OWN BLOG, copy the URL of your post page and paste it in a REPLY to this post, here, on this blog. If you paste a complete URL on a line by itself, it will automatically become a working link. That is what I want.

DEADLINE: Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 9 a.m. (Your reply posted here must be submitted before 09:00:00 in order to receive credit. I will have to approve your comment before it appears, so don’t panic if it says “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”)