Saturday, April 4, 2020

Smartphone Steller stories step up to replace traditional videos

   All hell broke out in March 2020.
   We experienced March madness, indeed, and not the basketball kind of madness, but the madness that is the biggest disruption of our lives - the pandemic.
   Restaurants and hair salons closed. Sports and concerts were canceled. Newsrooms turned into ghost towns as we worked remotely and from home.
   And yes, all schools went completely online. That means millions of teachers scrambled to learn how to use remote conferencing services like Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Canvas Conference and Zoom.
   We instructors also canceled assignments that became impossible to shoot during the pandemic, like the sports assignment in my photojournalism classes. No sports, no sports assignment. We had to come up with creative ways to replace those assignments, like substituting the traditional video story with the Steller story app using a smartphone.
   The following tutorial demonstrates how to produce a visual story using a storytelling app called Steller (search Steller in this blog for an earlier blog post), which debuted in 2014. I like this app because it allows you to use text pages, videos and still photos to tell a story. You can post up to 20 pages in the story, and then share easily on Twitter.
   This replaced the video story for three classes, and I can't wait to see what they come up with as they document how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their lives.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

NPPA hosts Facebook Live town hall meeting on COVID-19 precautions

NPPA story and Toledo Blade photos by Lori King
   Taped to the employee entrance door at the Toledo Blade newspaper is a health advisory that demands we must take our temperature prior to coming to work. Anyone who has a fever of 100.4 or higher must not enter the facility.    
Posted to the Toledo Blade employee entrance door.
   We are also encouraged to wash our hands often, don’t touch our faces, maintain social distancing, wipe down our gear with disinfectant, and isolate ourselves if feeling ill.
   These COVID-19 precautions are a new normal that photojournalists not only should abide by, but document. But how do we stay safe while covering a fast-spreading, potentially deadly virus?
   This concern, along with other critical issues facing visual journalists during this pandemic, was discussed during an NPPA Town Hall webinar on Facebook Live on March 22. The Zoom broadcast was open to NPPA and non-NPPA members and can viewed on the NPPA Facebook page.
   NPPA president Andrew Stanfill kicked off the Town Hall by describing the Coronavirus as the biggest challenge facing our industry in quite a long time.
   “It’s something that’s hitting us like the recession, and at the same time as being concerned about our people’s health, and how we cover this thing and make sure everyone’s safe while they are out there working,” Stanfill said.
   He said the NPPA is working to address these issues in several ways, and this webinar was the first one of them.
   Stanfill then introduced moderator Brett Akagi, news manager at KCTV5 News in Kansas City, who agreed that it’s more important than ever that we come together like this.
   Akagi proceeded to introduce the panel: Chris Post, the NPPA safety and security committee chair; Mickey Osterreicher, NPPA's general counsel; Joe Little, storytelling director at NBC-7; Jill Geisler, Loyola University Chicago; Julie Wolfe, news director at WHAS 11 in Louisville; Al and Sidney Tompkins of the Poynter Institute; Matt Mrozinski, KING-5 director of photography in Seattle; Katie School, of CNBC; Houston Chronicle photographer Marie De Jesus; and Cathaleen Curtis, photography director at the Buffalo News.
   Akagi said that everyone is thinking about safety these days, so his first panelist was Chris Post, a former emergency medical technician.
A passenger arrives to the Toledo Express Airport. 
   “What are some of the things we should be looking to do out in the field, whether we’re still photographers, videographers, reporters, anybody who has to go out there as journalists to cover this?” he asked Post.
   “As everybody’s well aware, social distancing and hand washing whenever you can,” Post answered.
A University of Toledo student moves out of her dorm.
   “That’s most important. If you start feeling ill, talk to your employer. Bring those issues up right away and communicate what’s going on. If you do come down with any sort of symptoms, distance yourself from anyone you work and live with. Those are the big things,” said Post.
   Post said he is concerned about violence toward the media, counterfeit masks and fake COVID-19 tests, and that he isn’t aware of any news agencies advocating for masks or personal protective equipment issued to their people who are out and about.
   “These are tough times, guys,” he said as he held up a white piece of paper with black-typed letters that read, ‘Hang in there everyone … I love you all.”
   Up next was Cathaleen Curtiss, who said she advises her photo staff to be very adamant that they keep their distance, not to go into people’s homes, and ask for phone numbers of all subjects.
   “It does interfere with spontaneity and those natural photos we all love to see, but I prefer they call ahead and meet the people on the porch or driveway or go for walks. I’m looking at this as a marathon, not a sprint. I want to keep them healthy and safe, and I want them to keep the people they run into healthy,” Curtis said.
   Marie De Jesus agreed that it’s a marathon, “and that we need to pace ourselves and be able to take it easy because what if the shit hits the fan for real? she asked.
   “The other day I went to a home and said, ‘Hey, you have a wonderful front yard, do you mind if we do the portrait here?’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, thank you!’ She was worried I would want to be inside the house.
   “I think those are the conversations we have to be having, and more than ever we need to establish the healthy channels of communication with our managers. This is the moment we need to go directly to the them and hope the managers are receptive, because we are the ones out there,” De Jesus continued.
   “The last few nights I sent my partner to another bedroom. Let’s start that aspect of simply taking care of me and my household. Cleaning my gear, not going inside of homes anymore. Thankful, our managers are okay with us saying no, and that has been liberating, because emotionally you want to be able to do the best you can, but at the same time have peace of mind that you are taking care of yourself, your family and sources,” De Jesus said.
A St. Luke's nurse tests a patients for COVID-19 in a drive-thru tent.
   “I know Maria said it’s okay to say no,” said Julie Wolfe, “but me and our company have put in some really strict safety rules, and they aren’t suggestions. Our policy is ‘you are not allowed to do this.’ Crews are so used to getting those great shots and sound, and every day I have people ask me, ‘Can I do this?’ and the answer is no.
A St. Luke's nurse disinfects her protective clothing.
   “What I try to tell them is that instead of trying not to get sick, assume you already have it and try not to spread it. It’s not worth it to spread it to that feature interview. If you talk to the mayor, governor and the health department all in one day, you don’t want to be the one responsible for infecting those folks. I think that mindset has been really helpful for them,” she said.
   “There is tremendous pressure and stress, and I feel responsible for my team and want to keep them and my community safe. We can be the pollinators and honeybees going from person to person, and I don’t want that to be us,” Wolfe said.
   Wolfe added that if we are going on tv every day and telling people to keep social distancing and flatten the curve, then turn around and do the exact opposite, that just breaks down our trust. It is important for us to live what we are telling people to do.
   As photojournalists continue to cover this pandemic on the front lines, the fear of becoming exposed is real. We are not immune. So, when asked by Akagi if he had any media members who have come down with COVID, Matt Mrozinski’s answer wasn’t shocking.
   “Funny you should ask that, because just today we had a staff member test positive for COVID,” he admitted.
   “It’s a very real thing here. We always knew that eventually this was going to happen to us. We try to take every precaution known to man, but I’m sure this individual won’t be the last. When we heard that news, we were obviously concerned. The person’s doing better now, but you start thinking about who did that person work with, who was the last person they came in contact within any way? Fortunately, there were very few people that reporter came in contact with, and the individuals who worked alongside that person are quarantined at home.
   “Some of the rules we had in place here really prevented this from being a lot worse, like keeping crews/pairings together as best as humanly possible and letting them work out of separate cars.
   “My goodness, this could have been through the newsroom. Yeah, right here at home at KING-5, we have it,” Mrozinski said.
   Joe Little, an MMJ in San Diego, said that from day one the pairings at his station have been assigned and will stay together for the duration.
A Toledo BMV worker keeps customers limited to one at a time.
“It’s that further level of containment,” he said. “No shared gear. No shared cars. No shared crews. And we have fewer and fewer people in the building. If one person goes down, we hope to keep it isolated. It’s a challenge because we can’t go inside homes and restaurants, and I can’t use my lavalier,” Little said as he bowed his head in frustration. “But we adapt, preserver, overcome, and we keep working.”
   Staying safe was certainly a hot topic, but there were other important and relevant discussions throughout the 1:40-minute webinar, like managers needing to listen to the fears of their employees; balancing positive and negative news stories; being mindful of addictions while being at home more; reaching out to people when you need them; and being aware of your rights when covering hospitals, and understanding HIPPA regulations.
   Akagi concluding the NNA first town hall by saying that we are going to get through this. We are going to survive.
   “We just need to keep our wits about us, and I know that this town hall has reached out to a lot of you and will help you out. We really appreciate everyone who tuned in tonight,” Akagi said.
   To view the NPPA Town Hall webinar, go to the NPPA Facebook Page.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Telling the visual story of our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic

Story and photos by Lori King
Toledo Blade Photojournalist
   The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic first started to really sink in when my daughter received a text from a friend that Ohio State was suspending face-to-face instruction and going online.
   Jolee was already home from OSU for spring break. We were in the living room watching TV when she looked at me with disbelief and read me the text. We thought it was a hoax, but moments later she received the official OSU email, and it was real. It was the evening of March 9.
Posted on the entrance door of the Huntington Center.
   During the next few days, the University of Toledo, Owens Community College, Wayne State University and Kent State University all shuttered their classrooms and went online for what would end up being for the rest of the semester. These are schools where I currently teach as an adjunct, so I am on the other side of this, and currently scrambling to modify or cancel assignments and change deadlines.
   We have since moved Jolee, 18, out of her dorm, and our other daughter Quinn, 20, a UT student, has chosen to stay with us rather than be alone in her campus apartment. We have our kids back.
   The school closings are probably what made it real for them, but for me it was when I covered the last home Walleye game at the Huntington Center on March 11.
   Loudly blaring from outdoors speakers above the entrance doors at the Huntington Center was a looping announcement: 
One of about 10 fans in the empty stands cheers for the Walleye.
“Tonight’s game against Cincinnati will be played with a restricted attendance policy. Only official team members and credentialed personnel and media will be allowed to attend tonight’s game.”
   It was even more surreal on the inside. If you’ve ever attended a Walleye hockey game, you know how loud and rowdy it can be. But on this night, there were only about 10 fans (family members of hockey players and staff) in an arena that holds 8,000 people. You could literally hear players yelling to each other, skates digging into the ice, and pucks hitting the protective net. The silence was unsettling.
   As Blade photographers on the front lines of this pandemic, I believe it is our responsibility to show the public what is happening out there. While most citizens are forced to hunker down in their homes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are out in the community visually telling the story of our lives.
Walleye GM Neil Neukam talks with Huntington's GM
Steve Miller on an empty floor, in front of a closed store.
For the past few weeks, we have been documenting men and women buying guns for self-protection, nurses testing sick patients for the Coronavirus, airport security agents disinfecting bins, BMV workers restricting access to their offices, college students prematurely moving out of their dorms, restaurant and store owners volunteering to pack food for delivery to the young and elderly, and panicked people stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
   To tell this story of worldwide disruption and fear due to this aggressive and deadly virus, photojournalists and journalists around the globe must be able to roam free, and given unprecedented access. That is the only way you can see and believe what is really happening.
   As a Toledo Blade photojournalist, and I think I can speak for my colleagues, as well, I consider it a privilege to show you how humankind is dealing with a virus that might knock us down for a while, but not out.
   We shall overcome, and I need my daughters to believe that.
Walleye goalie Billy Christopoulos makes a save against Cincinnati.
Walleye fan Ryan Shaffer boos Cincinnati. Shaffer is a family member of the Walleye athletic trainer.
Dan and Cheryl Milan, the parents of Cincinnati player Cody Milan, can literally sit anywhere they want.
The helmet of Cincinnati's Kurt Gosselin flies off as he fights Walleye's Tyler Spezia. Sometimes you just gotta fight.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Devising a plan: Going from face-to-face teaching to alternative delivery

Dear students,
Let me begin by saying if was a pleasure to meet you all in person. I know that sounds weird, but there it is. We can no longer take that wonderful, valuable in-person communication for granted. Some of you I might see soon, but others I won't … Sigh.
Because of precautions taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus, my classes have either went online for at least two weeks, or are finishing out the semester online. Rather than write four separate emails, I'm addressing plans for each of my courses here in one single blog post.
Fortunately, all of you are accustomed to me sharing everything on Blackboard/Canvas. That will make it easier for you to understand my online instruction moving forward. The following are positives regarding your course going online:
  • There are no more tests. So you don't have to worry about that.
  • The rest of the assignments can be done using your smartphone, if need be. That means you won't have to worry about getting access to the technology in the classroom. If you do need/want Photo Mechanic, Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, or Adobe Elements/Premiere, you can get a free 30-day trial!
  • You are already accustomed to submitting your assignments online anyway, on your website and social media.
I'm going to break down how each class will run during our mandated online course instruction period.

KENT STATE UNIVERSITY – Digital Media online grad class
No change in instruction.

Online teaching method for the remainder of the semester.
This means we will communicate online until at least April 6, which is when our first day back in class is scheduled. I'll go in and modify the due dates and instructions within the next few days.
The following are plans for the podcast and feature story assignments:

Visual Storytelling class tours Media Center, where podcasting magic happens.
Podcast assignment:
- For those of you who have already recorded your podcasts, hang on to the files and you will produce them when we get back to class. However, if you have software at home, or want to get a 30-day trial of Adobe Premiere Pro, or try the free version of Audacity, then go for it. I have tutorials on this blog. I can also help talk you through it. I've already emailed you the intro, outro and music file.
- If you have not recorded your podcast yet, you have two options:
  1. Wait until in-person courses at Owens resumes, then schedule your podcast with your guest and Herbey, or …
  2. Use your smartphone audio app or other recording device and interview a person of your choice on a topic of your choice. It can be on any subject, and with anyone. Maybe talk about how this stupid virus is interfering with our lives!
- You can all wait to produce the podcast show during class, if we come back. If we don't come
back, then I'll address that issue at that time.

Feature photo story assignment:
-You will have to change your story subject, obviously, considering on-campus stories are off limits for now.
  • So, you have two options:
  1. shoot a photo story of your choice, and produce it using your smartphone editing apps. You can actually do this entire assignment on your smartphone. There are still events going on around Toledo, as long as they involve fewer than 100 people. But this depends on your comfort lever. I won't force any of you to go out in public if you don't want to, or ...
  2. Wait until we get back to campus and do your original plan.
  3. Know that deadlines will be moved back to accommodate these trying times.

UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO – Photojournalism
Online teaching method for the remainder of the semester.
University of Toledo pj student Lori Cooper shows off her woody camera.
This means we will communicate online until at least March 31, which is when our first day back in class is scheduled. I'll go in and modify the due dates and instructions within the next few days.
The following are plans for the feature and sports assignments:

Sports assignment: Canceled. All of the sporting events are being canceled, so there is nothing to shoot, unfortunately.
  • However, I'll post the assignment so you can still get valuable information on how to shoot a sporting event.
Feature photo story assignment:
- You might have to change your story subject if you planned on covering something on campus. But there might be other things to shoot off campus, like pet adoption centers, unique restaurants, etc. Think outside of the box, and do something unique that will lend itself to visual variety.
- Since you are using your smartphone as a camera, you won't need the classroom to use the technology.
  • So, you have two options:
  1. shoot a photo story of your choice, and produce it using your smartphone editing apps. You can actually do this entire assignment on your smartphone. There are still events going on around Toledo, as long as they involve fewer than 100 people. But this depends on your comfort level. I won't force any of you to go out in public if you don't want to, or ...
  2. wait until we get back to campus and do your original plan. But you know what happens when you wait until the last minute ... 

WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITYDigital Photojournalism
Spring break is extended for students and all classes canceled until March 23. After March 23, we will resume an online method for the remainder of the semester.

Wayne State digital photojournalism students learn the power of manual.
Sports assignment: Canceled. All of the sporting events are being canceled, so there is nothing to shoot, unfortunately.
  • However, I'll post the assignment so you can still get valuable information on how to shoot a sporting event.
  • If, by some miracle, you find a sporting event that's still going on and you want to shoot it and post it according to the assignment instructions, go for it. Extra Credit!

Feature photo story assignment:
-You might have to change your story subject if you planned on covering something on campus. But there might be other things to shoot off campus, like pet adoption centers, unique restaurants, etc. Think outside of the box, and do something unique that will lend itself to visual variety.
- Since this is with your smartphone, you won't need the classroom to use the technology, and that's a good thing.
  • So, shoot a photo story of your choice, and produce it using your smartphone editing apps. You can actually do this entire assignment on your smartphone. There are still events going on around Detroit, as long as they involve fewer than 100 people. But this depends on your comfort level. I won't force any of you to go out in public with lots of people if you don't want to.

All students: Know that deadlines will be pushed back to accommodate these trying times. Come up with ideas for these assignments. Remember, you are a photojournalism student, so you have a unique opportunity to tell how this virus is effecting people's lives. Pay attention to the news, and if an idea comes to you, let me know!

The final assignment:
I'll let you know what I plan to do.

Stay tuned …

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Integrated Media: A new UToledo course for 21st Century journalists

Hear ye, hear ye:
Bright and early on the morn of Tuesday, August 27, at the obnoxious dawn hour of 8 a.m., I officially became a Toledo Rocket!  
I humbly and enthusiastically greeted 16 students who willingly (an elective) signed up for a new, curious course taught by an instructor they undoubtedly have never heard of. 
So let the collaborative learning begin!
   But seriously, I’m super excited and honored to introduce a new course in the University of Toledo’s communications department called Integrated Media, which is basically mobile journalism (MOJO). As defined by Mobile Journalism Manual, MOJO is a form of digital storytelling where the primary device used for creating and editing images, audio and video is a smartphone.
   This is the future of journalism, and the future is now.
Toledo Blade reporter Brooks Sutherland gets his MOJO on.
   In the summer of 2018 I was struck with the idea to teach this course because most Toledo Blade journalists are now using their phone cameras to shoot video stories. They literally stand right next to us photogs, both of us shooting our subject at the same time. This leaves no doubt that it's time for university journalism programs to prepare its students to walk into newsrooms ready and able for MOJO. 
   In full disclosure ... I first resisted the idea of journalists doing the job of photojournalists. After all, we are trained for visual work, not most of them. Many of us have photojournalism degrees, or at least a photography background. We have a trained eye and understand camera operations, but not most of them. 
   But these days that doesn't matter. Regardless of visual experience, journalists in newsrooms across the country are handed a smartphone and told to replace us. I dare say the quality of the content certainly suffers. And I question whether it's fair to either of us. But it doesn't matter, because that's the way it is these days.
   So, my ultimate goal for this course is to help students develop a MOJO frame of mind, and to guide them along as they construct and maintain a MOJO workflow for their smartphone storytelling. By exclusively using their smartphones to create and produce native content to disseminate on social media, they will hopefully learn to trust their phones for visual and audio content.
   During the first week of class the students set up a website, and linked Twitter and Instagram to it. YouTube will be added later. But before they start to put their work out there for the WWW to see, they will first learn to be responsible MOJOs by learning their ethical and legal boundaries, their copyrights, and, of course, the First Amendment. They will also learn AP style caption writing, and about audience engagement and analytics.
   Because this is a new course, I will have a learning curve, as well. I don’t typically shoot stories with my smartphone (iPhone 8) because I don’t have to. I use my Canon 5Ds and a Fujifilm X-H1 on most assignments, particularly when shooting sports. Let’s face it, the smartphone is definitely not cut out for replacing long, fixed lenses. However, there are times when I use my phone camera, particularly for breaking news. Timeliness is the key in those situations.
   That said, I need to practice what I teach, so last week I shot a simple, short video story on my iPhone (except the actual interview was recorded on my Fuji because I needed an external mic). That story is below:

   Can you tell it was shot on a smartphone camera? Can you tell the difference between the moment clips and the X-H1 interview? 
   Although I edited this story on a MAC laptop using Adobe Elements Premiere, I am teaching myself to edit on my iPhone using iMovie. I must be able to pass what I learn along to the students. But let's be real here ... many of them will actually teach me a few things! Yes, I expect to learn from them, as well, which is why I consider this class to be ‘collaborative.’
   So, stay tuned to see how this course develops in the next few months!
   Thank you, UToledo, for this great opportunity!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Going digital is trending: Rustle your local newspaper while you still can

   And so it begins - out with the legacy and in with the newfangled. It’s a slippery slope I never thought I’d be sliding down in my lifetime, but here we go.
   Beginning Feb. 25, the Toledo Blade newspaper ownership will cut its print edition down to five days, meaning readers who love the rustling sound a newspaper makes at the turn of a page will be reading in silence two days a week (those days are yet to be announced) Monday and Tuesday.  
   This move forces readers to go digital, and it will be quite a shock to those who grew up with printed newspapers.
   I worry that subscribers who don’t have a computer or wifi access will miss out on important local news of the day. I worry readers will get angry and quit reading it altogether. I fret that going digital will eventually lead to newsroom staff cuts.
The eBlade. Looks the same as the printed edition, but you can also view videos.
   And I’m sad that future generations of readers will eventually, over time, never know what it’s like to hear those rustling pages and smell that distinct odor of a daily newspaper.
   During the first day of my Wayne State and Owens Community College photojournalism classes last week, I took an unofficial poll on the subject. I asked how many of them actually read a printed newspaper, or even bought one. As you can guess, maybe 2 percent said they did.
   For that very reason, the first assignment for both classes was to buy a newspaper (either the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press or Toledo Blade) and identify the elements (flag, byline, refer). When the WSU students turned in their newspapers Thursday for grading (it's a part of the history lesson, believe it or not), a few told me they felt weird buying a newspaper. One student even said the clerk who sold her the paper looked at her funny. I guess it was an odd occurrence for a young person to actually buy a newspaper. 
   The reading habits of our youth, truth be told, gives us a glimpse into the destiny of newspapers. They are growing up in a digital world, and prefer the tiny screens of their phones, and having content in their pockets, accessible anytime, anywhere.
   It was just a matter of time, I suppose. Sigh. 
   I remember being totally dismayed when the Ann Arbor News, owned by Advanced Publications Inc., boldly cut its print edition down to just two days a week on July 23, 2009, ending a print run after 174 years.
   The Owens Outlook student newspaper went completely digital half a decade ago. As the faculty adviser to the Outlook, I was forced to embrace that move, because it was much cheaper for the college, and, let's face it, the bottom line is what’s driving this national trend.
   Full disclosure here: I actually read both digital forms of The Blade (eBlade and NewsSlide) six days a week, and not the hard copy. A few years ago, during a particularly frigid winter, I ignored my printed newspaper in the mornings, opting to read the eBlade on my 27" MAC instead. So, after some deliberation, I decided to help save the forest and cancel my hard print edition, except for Sundays. I still get the Sunday newspaper, and I look forward to those mornings when I walk down the driveway, pluck my paper stuffed with ads out of the paper box, sit at the dining room table and drink a cup of coffee as I rustle those pages.
Three ways to read the Blade:
The eBlade is an electronic PDF form of the newspaper that's, and it’s cheaper than the hard copy and free to those who subscribe to the printed newspaper. It hits the digital stands about midnight.
NewsSlide is a free mobile and iPad app that's exclusive to The Blade and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Though the app has some of the same stories that's in the printed edition, it also has original content produced just for this platform. NewsSlide is just a little over a year old. Just like the eBlade, it comes out once a day and is not updated. is the website, and it's constantly being updated with stories that run on the eBlade, NewsSlide and breaking news. There is a paywall for digital access. You're permitted so many free glances, but after that, it locks down.
   I begrudgingly encourage our dear readers to begin accepting digital newspapers, because corporate ownerships give us no choice. Unfortunately, it is our present and our future. I simply can't imagine a nation without printed pages of newspapers. At least now we have an option. 
   Consider this, though - yes, the way newspapers are disseminated is changing, but not its content. 
Local newspapers are more important than ever, and our free, democratic society will always and forever need journalists to educate and entertain the masses, shine the light on corruption, and report on our heroes.
   That said, I urge you to never give up on newspapers, no matter the platform, because our democracy depends on them.