Monthly Archives: April 2017

Thoughts on Journalism: What I’ve Learned About Digital Journalism

As a journalism major with a background in classical education, I have always taken pride in my writing and ability to reason. And by writing, I mean that in its purest form: pen and paper.

But in the digital age, writing rarely applies to pen and paper, but rather typing the words you wish to share with the world. E-readers, such as Kindles, are replacing books, blogs are replacing hand written notes, and newspapers are shifting to online publications.

I was really against this move to the digital format, especially for journalism. Something about it felt it wrong, like we were loosing a genuine quality of our history and culture. But I’m sure my grandparents said the same things when the television was invented, and radio programming transitioned to television.

And while I still feel a special appreciation for print journalism, after studying the intricacies of digital journalism, I am learning how my writing can be even more powerful in this day and age than ever before. Throughout my journalism career at Georgia State University, I’ve studied for countless hours and the main thing I’ve taken away is that I have the ability to be heard and the audience is limitless.

Journalist have more of a voice, and a responsibility to tell the truth, now more than they ever have. In a digital era full of misinformation and fake news, it is our duty to forge a path for good and responsible journalism.

We also have the ability to learn and apply our knowledge in any area. Communication and a curious mind are the foundation for any investigative reporter, author, or researcher. We now have the ability to hold our leaders accountable and the platform to share our stories and reports with those that will listen.

This doesn’t mean just anyone can be a true “journalist” and report the truth. It takes determination and an inquisitive mind to tackle the skill set that a journalist must have. Knowledge of news, production, the Internet, editing, and distribution are key to a successful career. But with passion for the truth and determination to learn, anyone can succeed in this digital era, if they only work hard.

 

 

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Thoughts on Film: La La Land

My favorite film I saw last year was, without a doubt, La La Land. Typically, I avoid musicals like the plague. I find them cheesy and full of cliches. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with how much I loved La La Land.

After reading an interview on Provideo Coalition with Thomas Cross, the editor for the film, I gained an even deeper love and understanding for the film.  Cross, who was also won an Oscar in 2015 for his editing for Whiplash, is a genius when it comes to his vision and skills, but editing a musical was a whole new challenge. “Usually you make an edit decision based on a number of different factors which include emotion, story, continuity, geography, etc.  In the case of a musical film, you consider those factors but also have to consider how your cuts line up with the music,” said Cross in his interview with Steven Hullfish.

“Damien (the director) is very well prepared when he shoots and plans every shot and every move. When you get into editing, however, you invariably have to revise or refine. Sometimes you lift out a part of a scene. Other times, the you need to perfect a camera move or moment that was very difficult to nail on set. Either way, you have to find a way to put the pieces together to make sense emotionally but also to be in perfect solidarity with the music.” – Cross

After watching the film, I was impressed with the fluidity of the scene changes. But after reading this interview and re-watching the film, I had an even better appreciation for the film and all it accomplished.

The editing had a realistic approach, but with a slight lean toward the modernistic style. The whole film felt dream-like, almost as if you were watching the movie from above. It is very evident that the director, Damien Chazelle, and Cross worked very closely together to make sure the vision for the film was clear and understood. Cross even mentions in his interview how closely he worked with Chazelle during pre-production and filming to ensure the style for La La Land would be exactly what Chazelle had intended.

La La Land, was at the forefront of many award shows for film this year, and I believe is a great example of how hard a film team must work (and work together) to create a masterpiece.

Thoughts on News: How Fake News is Influencing Journalist

As the Internet continues to expand, it is also continuing to evolve the major news world. And as print journalism sales are trending downward, it makes me wonder how our news is changing, for better and for worse.

On the positive side, news can now reach anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Language barriers no longer prevent people from reading news, as online translators are at everyone’s fingertips. Articles can be shared instantly and the truth can be revealed, as the power rests more in the hands of the people rather than big news organizations.

But with that power, comes responsibility. With all this instant “news”, it is becoming increasingly difficult to filter truth from the “fakes news”.  According to PolitiFact, “The popular website BuzzFeed analyzed the interest in these fake stories and found that they got more shares, reactions and comments during the final three months of the campaign than real stories from the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN, for example.”

While there are fact-checking sites available those who want to ensure that what they’re reading is true, it seems nearly impossible and incredibly inconvenient to filter through the hundreds of thousands of articles shared on a daily basis. True researchers and journalist are working hard to have their writing published, but sometimes these great pieces are slipping through the cracks.

Social media platforms, like Facebook, are working diligently to come up with a better filtering system for the news articles that are shared on the site. But until then, it is the responsibility of the reader to do their own research and be aware of the digital world that is around them.

 

Thoughts on Post-Production: Editing

Once a project has been filmed and the production process is complete, the film then moves into post-production where the editing process begins.  The craft of editing consists of selecting, combining, and trimming sounds and visual images after they have been recorded.In classical, analog style editing, this was done at the end of the filming process and required a whole separate team. Now in the digital age, editing can be done side by side the film process.

The editing team has a lot of control over each individual clip, and decides whether how each shot if cut or faded, depending on the director and producers vision. This takes a lot of time and skill to edit large amounts of video and audio, especially under a tight deadline.

Like I’ve discussed in previous posts, editors will choose to follow a certain aesthetic that the director has set forth in the filming process. In realism, the editor will do everything in the editing process to make sure it looks as true to real life as possible, whether that means edited from the first person perspective or third person, viewing from afar.

In modernism, the editor will make the editing process evident, rather than trying to hide the edits like in realism. The editor can draw attention to a certain aspect of film by causing a dramatic edit that draws an emotional reaction from the audience. Editors in the modernism aesthetic are given a little more freedom and creativity to showcase their artistic side.

Postmodernism takes the editing process even further by piecing unlike sounds and images together to create dramatic scenes. The audience might even find the collages of video to be disorienting or hard to follow, but it is done on purpose to achieve a specific reaction to the scenes in the film. An example of a dramatic enactment that was staged as a direct cinema interview, was in Mitch Block’s No Lies.

One of my favorite films, Fight Club, definitely varies between realism and modernism editing aesthetics. While the film feels authentic and real in many scenes, there are times the editing process takes a turn toward the modernistic approach and creates dramatic, jarring scenes.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Production: The Producer

A producer is often the only key member of the production team who guides a project through all phases of production, from pre-production planning through post-production editing and distributor. The producer on a project is largely responsible for moving the entire process along, from drafting the proposal and gaining financial support, to assembling a team and overseeing the entire production process.

The role of a producer can be summed up as the middle man or liaison between those who financially support the project and the artists who are working to create the project. This can be a very stressful and hard job to fill, as it requires someone who can not only manage time and money, but also people.

Producers often rely on production strategies to help ensure that a project is successful in hitting each area of their job description. They must organize and come up with a plan to help them obtain necessary funding and reaching an audience. The development of a production strategy involves at least these four steps:

1. Turning a provocative idea into a funded and marketable media package

2. Defining the goals and objectives of the project

3. Researching the topic

4. Assessing the potential audience

Some famous producers have been Jerry Bruckheimer, Steven Spielberg, and Michael Bay. As producers are responsible for organizing their production team, you can always tell the producers style by the artists he or she chooses to help make their movie/television show.

 

 

Thoughts on Post-Production: Editing with Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015

With no prior experience using Adobe Premiere, I was incredibly nervous when I found out that I’d be editing and producing four different films through the program.

I would have definitely been lost without the help from the Lynda.com tutorials and would highly recommend them to anyone who is unfamiliar with Adobe. While there are plenty of other tutorials available for Adobe, the videos from Lynda.com are thorough and easy to follow.

The Adobe Premiere CC 2015 tutorial has a 15 minute video broken up into multiple sections for easy access to a specific question/problem the user might be encountering. The video begins with showing to Premiere opens and shows to load in your own video so you can begin working on your own project.

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The tutorial guides you through with the photos above on how to load your video, edit, and piece together to make your final project.

Thoughts on Production: Script Writing

Before my final semester at Georgia State, I had never filmed or produced anything in my life other than quick clips of videos on Instagram.

But after being heavily involved in my digital journalism class, I can most certainly say that is no longer the case, and I have become more advanced in knowing and understanding how film and video factor into journalism and news broadcasting.

My partner, Lindsay, and I made four different films for our class, each running about two minutes long. With each film, we also turned in a script, which was meant to help organize our film process and ease the struggle of placing b-roll and voice clips together. Much like writing an outline before a research paper, your script is meant to highlight each important portion of you film to ensure no information is missing or left out. As the backbone of your piece, it can also help identify problems before they arise.

With our first few projects, Lindsay and I got caught up in filming interviews, b-roll and and our audio clips, that we would end up writing our script after we filmed. This was definitely counter productive and provided little to no help on each project.

But with our last film project, we wrote the script a week early, highlighting all the questions we wanted to ask, places we wanted to film, and appropriate b-roll to capture. It certainly made the process much smoother and fluid.

In an article by The Balance, we used these tips often for our scripts:

  1. Write for the ear
  2. Avoid passive voice
  3. Use present tense where appropriate
  4. Write stories about people
  5. Actions verbs add verve
  6. Be careful with numbers
  7. Skip cliches and journalese
  8. Write to video
  9. Sell the story
  10. Move the story forward

With these helpful hints, our final project had a great script and an even better final video!

Thoughts on the News: Are We Trading Ethics for Ratings?

“If it bleeds, it leads…”

As long as there has been news to report, there has been conflict of individual privacy versus the people’s right to know. Often times, people have lost their right to privacy due to a heinous crime they’ve committed or if they are a risk to their communities, such as sex offenders, rapists, those with assault charges, etc.

But there are times in the media where I see journalism outlets sharing information that could (and often times should) be left out of story, but satisfies their audiences need to know. Plenty of families have lost loved once in tragic accidents, where there is no law broken or malicious intent and would not do a disservice to the community if it was not reported on. But in the recent news, local and even national news outlets have been sharing, what I feel, is too much information about families who deserve their privacy and respect.

A great example of this is the child that was attacked by an alligator and was later found dead in a lake at Walt Disney World. The reports were horrific and the world certainly needed to be made aware of what happened. But as soon as photos of the little boy surfaced, that family’s privacy was shattered.

Another similar example was the death of the 5 year old boy at the Sundial in Downtown Atlanta. While reporting the truth of the case is the duty of a responsible journalist, sharing the photos a minor seem insensitive and a complete invasion of a grieving family’s privacy.

Journalist have a duty to report the truth, but also have an ethical duty to protect the citizens of their communities. And all too often I see a failure to protect those who are the most vulnerable.

Thoughts on Television: Streaming Changing the Game?

Television shows now compared to when I was growing up in the 90’s have changed drastically. The way we receive information is almost instant, making our desire for instant streaming and downloading even more prominent.

With the rise of the internet and digital technology, this also means anyone around the world can produce their own videos and share them with any audience willing to watch. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO GO have also changed how audiences expect their television shows to look and sound compared to cable and network television.

While those involved in more traditional television production follow more classical rules for filming and post-production deadlines, the advancement of streaming services has allowed for more accessibility to high-quality shows, mini series, documentaries, etc.

“At a time when everyone in the TV industry is trying to guess what the future holds, it seems that technology and services which meet viewers’ new “on- demand attitudes” is the surest way to success,” said Eric Deggans in his article for NPR.

Film makers can now choose when their show will air, and without being concerned about meeting rating requirements, as most streaming services do not have restrictions on language, sexual content or violence.

As more and more households switch from cable to Netflix, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for television broadcasting.

Thoughts on Movies: Are Critics also Journalist?

At the time I saw the film, Get Out, it had a rating of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here are the rankings of some other films:

Moonlight 97% Current Oscar Winner
Pulp Fiction 94% Best Pic Nomination / Winner Best Screen Play
Return of the King 95% Won 11 Oscars including Best Picture
Goodfellas 97% Nominated for 6 Oscars

When I went to see Get Out, I was expecting a cinematic masterpiece. I had incredibly high standards for a film with such high ranking, and I was utterly disappointed to say the least.

The reviews for Get Out seem to amount from the critics being afraid to call the film mediocre for fear of being labeled out of touch, not culturally relevant and in extreme cases, even racist. I have long considered the art of film making and the review process sacred, thus my disappointment leaving the theater after seeing the film.

While Get Out wasn’t a horrible horror film, I certainly didn’t see the revolutionary contributions it made to world of film and production. The gush of “it’s so revolutionary,” or “it hasn’t been done in cinema” is quite a stretch. I was hoping for some intricate, tightly woven social commentary, which is suppose to be the main selling point. The problem is that “deeper meaning” was all hype and what you are left with is a film that should of been ranked about 70%.

And I wonder if, sadly, our cinemas quality will be determined by those on social media and not the keen eye of learned critics. Critics, like Journalist, should have a keen understanding of what it takes to report the facts based on experience, knowledge on the subject, and desire to tell the truth rather than tell what the masses want to hear.

Like the other highly ranked films above, it takes a brilliant director, production team, and writers to create revolutionary film. It is hard to create something that has never been done before, but there are films out there that show through technique and timing, it can be achieved. Unfortunately, Get Out didn’t do it for me.