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Archive for February, 2012

What Melissa Carlson is doing is not only groundbreaking in her region, it’s groundbreaking in her industry. And it speaks just as much to the future of journalism as it does to the course of social media.

If you live in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area, you likely know Carlson as a KRNV Channel 4 news anchor. If you live in Australia, Austria, or the UK, however, chances are you’ve met Carlson on Google+, where she leads daily (Monday through Friday) 20-minute online Hangouts in her “CyberStudio” (watch a webcast here) with people around the globe. She picks four to five topics a day (it could be something serious in nature, such as the disturbing upward trend of shootings in U.S. schools, or something as lighthearted as the Pope starting a Twitter account), posts those topics on her Google+ page to generate interest, and hangs out with five to 10 people about 45 minutes later.

Only a week ago, Channel 4 started incorporating Carlson’s Hangouts into its noon telecast, dedicating about three minutes air time while they get a feel for the public’s reaction.

According to Carlson, KRNV is only the second television news organization in the nation to use Google+ on a continuous basis. The first to do so was Sarah Hill, a news anchor from KOMU-TV in Columbia, Missouri. I recently hung out with Carlson, who explains in the video below how the Reno station came up with the idea of incorporating Google+ Hangouts into its news coverage.

In my opinion, Carlson and Hill are vastly ahead of the news curve and exemplify where news in general is headed: more real-time “man off the street” interaction. As a society, we have become more interested in each other’s input and opinions, which is very much a result of our constant participation in social media. We like dialogue and are moving away from the one-dimensional news model, in which we hear the anchor’s words or read the writer’s story, but are unable to engage in a conversation. This is why the “comment” function is so popular on newspaper websites — the readers have a say in the subjects they’re passionate about.

In the next video I ask Carlson to rate the success, so far, of her Google+ venture. She is enthusiastic about the possibility of increased community participation in the news, particularly breaking stories.

You heard it from Carlson: “I think that this is the way that news will eventually go.” She mentions the Caughlin Fire, which devastated Reno in November 2011, but I also think back to the tragedy that transpired at the 2011 National Championship Air Races and Air Show in Reno. The videos of the plane crash, which killed 11 people and injured 70, were provided by spectators (who had uploaded them on YouTube) and shown continuously on local and national newscasts. So the common person is already participating in news more than ever before, aka “citizen journalism.”

Hill is a lot more matter-of-fact about the paradigm shift in news coverage. “News ‘anchors’ are a dying breed,” she wrote to me in a recent e-mail. “We are news ‘buoys’ now as we float between platforms and serve as a beacon to news content within the stream.” She elaborates on that concept in this blog.

“Google+ Hangouts expand our reach in the world,” Hill continues. “People don’t just want to get the news…they want a forum to talk about it. Facebook and Twitter are text-based engagement. Hangouts are face-to-face interaction in real time during a newscast.”

And, interestingly, this means traditional news sources are letting their guard down and relinquishing some control to an audience that has become accustomed to having a voice. “It is live television, so unscripted material has an uncertain factor to it, but at times that’s the allure of the program as you never know what’s going to happen. …It’s kind of like a coffee shop where news is served on the menu daily,” Hill concludes.

What do you think? Do you want to see the public have a bigger voice in the news? That perhaps begs the larger question: Just how do we define “news” today?

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Among other things, Kentucky Monthly pins its favorite cover images.

Earlier this week, a fellow editor in the International Regional Magazine Association (IRMA) Facebook group posted this Social Times article about Pinterest, specifically how it protects (or some argue doesn’t protect) photographers’ copyrights.

This got me thinking about a couple things: 1. The interest in Pinterest is exploding. 2. It sure would be tough to be a professional photographer in the 21st century, if you’re a stickler about copyrights.

I will soon start a Pinterest for Nevada Magazine, where I have been the editor since 2007. I know if I was to pin a freelancer’s photo, I would credit the photographer and provide their website (or another site that showcases their work), as is customary on our other social sites. But there’s no guarantee that the person who saves a photo off our website or one of our social sites will do the photographer the same favor. And even if a site doesn’t offer a “Save As” option with its images, the savvy Internet user can just do a screen capture to get around that.

It’s almost as if a photographer is a victim of how much he/she puts out on the web — if you post it, they will share it. “The real trick is seeing your image being used illegally in the first place,” says Rachid Dahnoun, who owns Rachid Dahnoun Photography based in South Lake Tahoe. “There is so much content out there that it might as well be a needle in a haystack. It is really tough battle these days.” But Dahnoun also points to a lucrative contract he recently landed via one of his Twitter followers. “If I didn’t have my images up on the web or in social media, that never would have happened,” he says.

I personally have a ton of photos that I’ve taken all over the web, mostly on Flickr (which has recently added a Pinterest opt-out code), but could care less if they’re shared. But then photography is not my profession. If I discovered that one of my stories was used (or plagiarized) on a site without my permission, I can say for a fact that I would be upset. So it’s easy for me to understand how a photographer could be outraged if they stumbled upon one of their photos on the world wide web that wasn’t accompanied by a credit.

So what are the solutions? For the sharer, especially journalism outlets, we should ALWAYS credit photographers. In fact, I rarely post freelancers’ photos on one of our social sites, period, unless it’s a cover image or a “PR” (unpaid) photo. The photographer should protect him or herself with some sort of branding, or watermark, if they’re concerned about people sharing their images. I would also suggest setting up “Google alerts” that would notify the artist if their name and/or business shows up on the web.

One thing’s for sure, Pinterest has found its niche in the social sphere. And just when I thought Nevada Magazine might be able to avoiding joining it, this just in from Kentucky Monthly:

…in less than a month Pinterest has become the fourth-largest driver of traffic to our website, only behind Google, direct traffic, and Facebook.

Are you using Pinterest or another image-dominant site to promote your magazine, newspaper, or other business? If so, how to do you protect photographers and other artists? Conversely, if you’re a photographer, how are you safeguarding your work online these days?

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