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01 Feb

The journalists’ (and my) struggle is real

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NOTE: Let’s get this cleared and out of the way. I am not a typical journalist. I don’t have a regular byline nor do I have a media company having to deal with angry voices that value perception more than reality. So, these thoughts are “easier” for me to express than others in our industry. I’ll also add, these are just my thoughts… often thinking, speaking or tweeting out loud as I try to grapple how I fit in the world around me.

BACKSTORY
This wasn’t a new internal debate I’ve been having. In fact, since the middle of the primaries, I’ve been asking myself – and any journalist who would let me bend their ear – the question about how I, or we, as a journalist am feeling about the the tone and coverage as the country began to select the next president.

I, as someone who aims to be an informed citizen, couldn’t tell what was real. I didn’t know what was fact or what was “fake news.”

And, to get this on the record, this concern wasn’t limited to one candidate. In the end, both the Democratic and Republican candidates had some significant flaws that should force any voting citizen a moment to pause.

But, let’s also be honest, one candidate said and behaved contrary to some fundamental beliefs I hold dear. I am unapologetically against racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and anything that leads to discrimination of others.

I, like I believe many people have, have always thought about “what would I have done” if… if there were a robbery, would I be a hero? If I saw police brutality what would I do? And, the ultimate hypothetical scenario, if I were around the time of Hitler, would I do something to speak up and defend the Jews.

I am also a Catholic (although I do not agree with many of the church’s political stance) and this past Sunday’s set of readings really affected me as President Trump’s executive order banning the travel of Muslim immigrants was happening.

All this got me to tweet. Not saying it was a good or bad decision, but here they are with some context.

I keep my faith to myself. I hate preachy people. But I thought there was hypocrisy and discrimination with the Muslim Ban and these readings really called it out.

I then tweeted out quotes from the readings, which I will spare you. But here is Tweet 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the series.

This was the tweet that would spark a Poynter piece about this struggle.

This is the moment where I went off my planned topic and decided to be more open and share my struggle with our current reality.

There were lots of “likes,” retweets and replies, including this one from Joshua Johnson.

This led to an exchange with Katie Hawkins-Gaar of Poynter, who asked if she could use my tweets for a piece she’d write based on this struggle many of us seem to be facing.

That led to this:

I will admit, I was and still am nervous for sharing. I took a risk in exposing myself. So far I haven’t gotten in trouble.

But others aren’t so lucky.

Lewis Wallace wrote about his struggle in this new reality too. But he was then fired from his job at Marketplace.

Clearly I disagree with this move.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know this is something we need to discuss and examine. This is happening. This is a reality. This isn’t something we can simply ignore or kick out of our newsrooms. This is the time for journalism to embrace the diversity of perspectives from every side and find a way to factor them into our coverage, ethically and transparently.

This is part of the new journalism, and it’s going to get uncomfortable and messy.

I am ready. Are you?

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22 Nov

From Glass to Spectacles: A kid’s POV

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Over the weekend I was able to secure a pair of the Snapchat’s Spectacles (formerly Epiphany Eyewear for wearable nerds with a memory) and have been putting it through its paces.

I have had a past with testing out wearable glasses before.

In testing them, I let my kid give them w spin too.

Here’s video my son captured while drawing — it’s circular video because of the unique (and pretty cool) Snapchat circular format:

For context, here’s video of my son playing while wearing Google Glass:

23 Jun

Virtual Reality is the future

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Well, I’ve not only seen it, but I have immersed myself into the future.

As I write this, I have just emerged from being inside (that’s the verb I will use) my newly acquired Oculus Rift for an hour. An entire hour.

The headset-caused wrinkles, an unfortunate side effect, are still fresh across my face.

I’ve been exploring augmented reality for more than five years, and virtual reality for two and I am in more awe now than ever before.

Yes there is hype around VR, but from what I just experienced — and have experienced before — there is a bright future ahead of us.

And if you’re in the content business — of any type — get ready for the next seismic disruption.

While I was “in” I played a VR platformer game called Lucky’s Tale, and instantly fell in love with the design and, more importantly, naturally fell into the user-interface and VR logic.

The game all around is, well, simply wonderful.

You will hear this time and time again with VR, but you have to experience it to really appreciate it.

After completing the first chapter of the game, I went back “home” (which is a gorgeously designed living room) and explored some other free experiences I had downloaded before.

I selected Dreamdeck, with is a collection of different short stories, experiences and scenes. I had done a couple before, but this time I was standing eye-to-eye with a dinosaur, was inside a fly/blood cell thingy, making faces at funhouse/tea party mirror, was in the middle of two robotic arms having a magical battle over a rubber ducky and, my favorite, observed a day in the life of a mini cartoon town (I tired to eat the plane).

Here’s the thing I want you to take note of: I used different verbs to describe the experiences. I did something, rather than watched something passively.

Lastly, I watched Oculus’ short film lost, a clear homage to Iron Giant. It was cute and who knew so much personality could come from the wagging of an iron tail.

Yeah, I’m in. I’m in deep.

Look, I am in the journalism business and if we take a step further back, I am in the (non-fiction) storytelling business. And VR is the latest tool in my arsenal aimed at informing my community by any ethical means necessary.

My excursion into the virtual world was a (much needed) break from producing VR Journalism experiences with my USC Annenberg students: Jovrnalism.

We find ourselves in post-production right now and, while tiring, we’re having a blast experimenting and defining this new style of storytelling.

VR is the future.

Well, for now. I see have my eye on the bigger prize, AR.

27 Feb

A 360/VR audio tour of Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park

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This 360/VR audio tour was made with Story Spheres and audio I produced for the launch of the sculpture park in 2007. I recorded then Art Critic Sheila Farr about individual art pieces, as well as the lead designers for the park.

Get the immersive experience via your phone (and Google Cardboard) by going to this URL: https://www.storyspheres.com/scene/3BFb9RY6

You can see the old (kinda broken) project here: http://o.seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sculpturepark/

19 Feb

Sixteen apps for 2016

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This piece was written for SPJ’s magazine, Quill. You can read it here: http://www.spj.org/quill_issue.asp?ref=2245

One of the first workshops I gave as a new professor was to introduce journalists to a few tools and applications I found on the web that they could use when producing a multimedia story.

Six and a half years later, that small workshop has morphed into a side project that has a collection of more than 100 types of tech and tools to help journalists be more digital.

The collection can be overwhelming.

But, as journalists adapting and working in his quick-moving digital era, we need to add some of these seemingly countless tools to our journalism toolbox.

As we launch head first into 2016 and beyond, here are some tech, tools and apps every journalist should be aware of. This is just a small selection from the growing list of apps. Make sure you share your recommendations, too. (Ping me on Twitter: @webjournalist.)

NOTE: As we know, technology moves fast. By the time this piece gets published, there may be a new thingy that we need to add, or an old thingy that needs to be removed. The real goal here is to be aware of the diverse tools and be open to how we can each integrate many of them into our daily journalism.

Let’s start with the basic set of mobile apps all journalists should have on their smartphones. I am talking about the pillars of journalism: writing, photography, audio and video.

Read the list here: http://www.spj.org/quill_issue.asp?ref=2245

19 Dec

My Nieman Lab prediction: 2016 is VR’s time

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Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 6.30.11 PM

Role up your sleeves, journo industry, because you need to start preparing to lead the next disruption. When it actually hits is nearly irrelevant, because there’s no doubt it will hit.”

You can read the piece here: http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/12/the-year-virtual-reality-becomes-reality/

06 Nov

NYT VR: It’s just the beginning of a long road

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IMG_0230

I watched NYT/VRSE’s VR mini documentary called The Displaced, through the newly launched NYT VR app and it is clearly a sign of things to come.

Here are some thoughts after I watched the piece.

First, like other VR apps, the app itself took seconds to download, but the actual VR content took more time. The Displaced was 329MBs and took a few minutes to download. How long? I don’t know, I set it to download and worked on other things.

Whether we like it or not, this is the current state of VR… streaming is still clunky, but, of course, it’s just a matter of time before the tech catches up.

Now the piece itself.

It was gorgeous.

There are some truly beautiful shots they got and could only capture through a 360 rig.

They displayed creativity by having diverse shots, ranging from static with a tripod to mounted on a bike to handheld by a kid run after another.

You can tell by the rig's shadow, it's not the GoPro setup.

You can tell by the rig’s shadow, it’s not the GoPro setup.

The stitching, which is one of the major challenges in video VR, was pretty impressive and, based on the shadows the rig left, this was captured and stitched through something more advanced that the “simple” 6-camera, GoPro rig. Perhaps a Jaunt VR or Nokia’s Ozo setup.

The audio was the “voice of god” style and was not 360, but it was still powerful to hear the children in their our voices and languages, telling their own stories.

Due to the languages, the piece relied on subtitles.

And, while they cleverly placed the subtitles around three locations, the text was still hard to read, at least via Google Cardboard.

Bonus: You can watch this piece holding your phone vertically and but’s a great experience. (Whether you like it or not, vertical video is winning!)

Now, the bad news.

Outside of the high-level understanding of the story – three displaced kids – I don’t know what they really said. I couldn’t quote it back to you.

This is one of those it’s-beautiful-like-Snow-Fall-but-I-don’t-remember-the-actual-story situation, which VR is going to face as it starts out.

Most VR offers the flash of new and cool through tech rather than substance of story, but this piece really tried to deliver the story. It has incredible shots and visually takes advantage of each 360 degree.

But it’s not a powerful piece like, say, Perspectives I: The Party.

The real test is whether or not people download the next set of stories and continue to use the app – with or without Cardboard. That’s a high bar that content I can’t remember may not make it over. It’s a high bar that we all have to overcome if we want this to truly take off.

I am excited for what’s to come and – from I hear through the VR community – you should be too.
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I spy the production crew (the only show you really see them).

22 Oct

You don’t need to be the NYTimes to do VR (posted on Medium)

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I wrote this piece reacting to the news that The New York Times and Google were partnering up to do a major VR push. Got a lot of social shared and recommendations via Medium.

nytimes-vr-google-cardboard

Yay! Here comes everybody!

It’s great to see the rush of people coming to explore the emerging tech of virtual reality. Yes, it appears the overly-hyped promise that under delivered for several decades has finally become a legitimate reality.

All thanks to a former journalism student turned billionaire and this smart lady.

I’ve been exploring different forms of VR dating back to my college days when I was fascinated by Apple QuickTime VT Studio, but I am no pioneer. I have been more into Augmented Reality (I still think it is the most promising future) since I became a professor at USC Annenberg some six years ago.

But after attending a local VR conference about a year ago, I knew this was going to be huge.

So, I created a course with the aim of exploring what the hell VR experiences could be in journalism.

Read more here: https://medium.com/@webjournalist/you-don-t-need-to-be-the-nytimes-to-do-vr-be4efb00ff74

09 Oct

My teaching style inspired another professor

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When I started the semester last fall, I put my faith in gnomes and underpants.”

The opening line from a MediaShift post written by Prof. Stacy Forster.

It was an analogy I’d heard over the summer from the University of Southern California’s Robert Hernandez at the Poynter Institute’s Teachapalooza seminar. Hernandez said he approached student projects like the gnomes in a South Park episode approached a business plan.”

I’m honored that my style of teaching inspired another professor… and their project sounds pretty bad ass!

Go read her piece! http://mediashift.org/2015/10/how-wisconsin-students-took-the-lead-on-water-quality-projects/

24 Aug

Hurricane Katrina and VR Journalism

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Tech has always been dorky. Long before Google Glass, nerds were looking like geeks in the name of innovation.

I’ve done my share of looking foolish, but I do it in the name of journalism.

This week marks the start of my latest innovative, hackathon style course… this year it’s Virtual Reality Journalism. (Last year it was Glass Journalism and Augmented Reality Journalism before that.)

This week also marks the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

There are a lot of things to remember and reflect on, especially in regards to journalism. I remember the amazing work done by the Times-Picayune/NOLA.com, that literally saved lives.

But, perhaps because I am a dork, I mostly remember this photo:

VR is something that I’ve always kept my eye on. My experience began with Apple’s QuickTime VR Studio and I managed to work that tech (paired with ambient sound) into some multimedia coverage I did at the Seattle Times.

Those links are pretty much dead, but the Bering Sea and the Olympic Sculpture Park were two projects I did this with.

That said, the first time I saw 360-degree video in news was ten years ago when MSNBC’s special Katrina project Rising from Ruin.

I saw the video and was blown away (video no longer works… they killed it, I think, for their year anniversary).

But they kept this page… a page I looked at in awe.

Direct link: http://risingfromruin.msnbc.com/2005/11/you_write_the_c.html

It never occurred to me to reach out to the guy in the photo (Ashley Wells / @DangerWells), but I did today:

He replied:

While impromptu and we both don’t have the time, I asked him for an interview. I’ll keep you posted.

π