A Day In the Life of a Type-A Teenager

It isn’t surprising that most teens are notoriously busy: the pressure to get into a good college is enormous.  Harvard College received 37,305 applications for its Class of 2019 for example.  With competition so fierce, it is understandable that young adults in high school will pull out all of the proverbial stops to increase their chances of securing a wonderful future.

Omika Jikaria is no exception and this audio slide-show, part of the New York Times 1-In-8-Million series beautifully captures the intensity of being a Type-A teenager.

At the time this audio slide-show was created, Jikaria was a student at Stuyvesant High School in New York City.  The entire slide-show feels like a day in her life.  We see photos of Jikaria getting ready for school in the morning:

Omika Jikaria, Credit: New York Times
Omika Jikaria, getting ready for school. Credit: New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/1-in-8-million/#/omika_jikaria

Or this photo, which was perfectly timed to appear just as Jikaria started talking about cheerleading practice:

Jikaria_Cheerleading
Omika Jikaria, Credit: New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/1-in-8-million/#/omika_jikaria

This picture really reflects the many contradictions in Jikaria’s life.  She is a teen, a beauty queen and a cheerleader who doesn’t watch television.  It was interesting to hear her talk about not watching television as I looked at a photo of her with her back to a tv.  It was an interesting juxtaposition:

Omika Jikaria, Credit: New York Times
Omika Jikaria, studying. Credit: New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/1-in-8-million/#/omika_jikaria

In fact, many of the pictures seemed to underscore the busyness and relative productivity of her life!

The Guardian’s ‘Scotland Stories’ Glimpses At Postwoman’s Life

Nearly a year ago the question of “Should Scotland be an independent country?” was in contention and would dismantle the 300-year political union formed with England. Though the Scottish independence referendum was still voted to reject making Scotland its own entity, over 1.6 million Scots voted to separate from the United Kingdom — a portion of the population that was highly reported on but captured best by The Guardian.

Photo credit by Murdo MacLeod/ The Guardian.
Photo credit by Murdo MacLeod/ The Guardian.

Amanda Murray is one subject of The Guardian’s nine-part “Scotland stories” series highlighting Murray’s job as a postwoman, a job that would change seals if Scotland was to change flags. The Guardian, a England-born news publication as old as the state of Louisiana and Old Ironsides, produced this series of audio slideshows seeking to depict the everyday-life citizen of Scotland, in this case in the Outer Hebrides.

Early morning scenes of the rolling Scottish hills and the drizzles at daybreak that make the hills so lush and green open the audio slideshow. Murray’s introduces herself in soft tone that welcomes the listener to follow her throughout her day — a technique The Guardian photographer Murdo MacLeod counts on to keep viewers engaged.

Most comment writers enjoyed MacLeod’s take at traditional photojournalism. Though, some like user ‘nationwide’ disagreed.

Contrary to ‘nationwide’s’ comment, that so-called “radio-with-pictures format” is what makes it so watchable. Following a similar style to broadcast television, her words are matched with a photo visually detailing her day. Her dialogue is matched with key natural sound such as rain, trucks and others about the daily commute.

MacLeod produced eight additional audio slideshows including: Christine Maciver, a sister at Bethesda hospice and care home; Jelina Berlow-Rahman, human rights lawyer; and Ani Yeshe Zangmo, a nun at the Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist monastery

LA Times: His body a prison

His body a prison

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Spencer Sullivan

I’m not sure why but the majority of audio slide shows—or at least out of the few that have been introduced to me or I have seen—seem to take on a somber tone, like waiting for death.

LA Time’s audio slide show: “His body a prison,” fits perfectly into that mold.

“His body a prison” is about a man, now 48, who in 2001, after having neck surgery, received too much pain medication and became a quadriplegic after being improperly watched.

Sullivan was a nurse himself before becoming a hostage to his own body; his parents moved from Atlanta to Laguna Hills, where he lives, to look after him 24/7.

The slide show starts with just a black screen and white words detailing Sullivan’s history, and a knock on the door begins the natural sound.

It’s his mom checking up on him.

“Hi Spence…how’s it going this morning?”

You can just make out Sullivan respond, “Hey mom.”

The slide show goes on with a still image of Sullivan lying lifeless on the bed—his eyes look full of pain as he speaks over his own body saying that he used to work every day in the ICU.

“And then she overdosed me,” Sullivan says with a still image of, probably his father, placing a pill in Sullivan’s open mouth.

Sullivan’s mother, Carol Sullivan, audibly cries as she talks about her son and what he was before he became a quadriplegic.

“He’s still here but… the ache in my heart from what we’ve lost,” his mother cries.

The juxtaposition of the idea of Sullivan being a strong, working, walking nurse, to solely being cared for by his parents and a caretaker, is powerful. We know he used to take care of people himself, but now all we see is Sullivan lying helplessly on a bed while caretakers help him bathe and urinate.

“Yeah, I’m angry…but you have to accept things,” he says.

Over the natural sound of Sullivan’s caretakers taking him in the pool, with water splashing, he says, “I wish I’d be able to walk…but I don’t think that’s in the cards for me.”

It seems that this audio slide show purposely juxtaposes many contradictory images and statements to show the life Sullivan wishes he could have back, and the one he does have now.

I think the fact that Sullivan’s character is, unfortunately, not cheerful or optimistic adds a great deal to this audio slide show. On the surface, it seems, many people who have suffered trauma portray a positive façade. But through his speaking, his tone of voice and his face, we can see his real thoughts and emotions—as heartbreaking as they are, they make for a compelling story.

Storyline: Audio Slideshows Made Easy(ish)

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a picture with spoken words, explaining the picture worth? Exactly the number of words it takes to explain it? I will leave that to the philosophers. In the meantime, an app called Storyline is making it possible to create audio-visual slideshows, on-the-go.

I gave the app a try this weekend at the Brooklyn Flea in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. You can check it out here.

The interface is fairly seamless. Storyline asks you to pick a photo source (I used the camera roll on my IPhone) before asking you to pick whatever photos you want to include in your slideshow.

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Once you have done that, you add a title and author.

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Once you have done that, it takes you to the first picture in your slideshow with a button below it to begin recording your voice.

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One problem some might have is the requirement to record the audio for every picture at once, while swiping to the next picture. You either need to write a script or be really good at narrating on the fly. The time limit of two minutes is a big hindrance in itself. The app says you can have up to 20 pictures per slideshow, but I found it impossible to record a good storyline with anything more than 10 or so. The fewer pictures, the more in depth your narration can be.

On the whole, this app has some serious potential in the newsroom, or outside of it, to be more precise. For example, if I had been in Manhattan this past weekend, I imagine I could have used Storyline to create a gripping slideshow, covering the aftermath of the explosion that destroyed three buildings in the lower east side.

The value of pictures or words cannot be measured by the pompous, headcheese ramblings of philosophy professors. Pictures and words get their value from those who read, view and listen to them. Storyline will hopefully give more people a chance to make their valuation.

Liz O. Baylen’s Audio Slideshow “Waiting for death” Sets the Precedent for Visual Journalism

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN

Edwin Shneidman was waiting for death and Liz O. Baylen made sure we knew, in her deeply moving audio slideshow titled “Waiting for death” for the Los Angeles Times.

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN

In order for an audio slideshow to be successful, as with any form of journalism, hooking the reader initially is imperative. The creator must be conscious of not solely the photo and not solely the words, but how each compliment the other in their presentation. Baylen does this successfully with Shneidman’s opening statements –

* Heavy breathing *

“I was saddened today by something you two could not have known and for a moment, startled, at the deterioration of the statue.

I hadn’t seen it in months, and all of a sudden, it’s falling apart. And it’s a paradigm of me.”

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN

Baylen accompanies these statements with pictures of what Shneidman refers to – the mossy statue, its decaying detail, his pale, wrinkled face – which all adequately capture the sadness in his voice. It makes the audience listen and the images help them to understand his situation. 

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN

What made this piece particularly compelling was how Baylen aligned the slowness of his speech with the slow rotation of photos and their simplistic composition. While Shneidman reflects on when he was rushed to the ER, Baylen displays a photo of a blender and toaster as Shneidman states, “It was a perfect time to die.” This presented a powerful dichotomy between the simplicity of the photo and the weighty content of the interview.

This theme carried through the slideshow, many of Baylen’s photos were not of Shneidman, but of the contents in his house – his kitchen table, an outlet, outside chairs – items to represent the detachment he feels to them and to living. 

Baylen ends on Shneidman’s quote, “It’s as simple as that” an ironic statement which encapsulates the irony of the piece. Death is not simple, nor is the conscious act of waiting to no longer live. This statement alone drives the piece home. Baylen ends with a portrait of Shneidman, reminding the reader of the man behind the story. 

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN

Meerkat vs. Periscope: Two Cases of Time-Wasted

Two of the most popular iPhone apps out right now have allowed mobile reporting to happen instantaneously. Periscope and Meerkat, two new live-streaming video apps, are duking it out in the court of popular opinion to see which one will stay around and how relevant they’ll be to news organizations.

The two offer pretty much the same service with only a few minute differences.

Home Page
The home screens of the two apps. Periscope on the left shows a constant stream of random broadcasts from random users, while Meerkat on the right allows you to see only the broadcasts of people you follow.

On both apps, users are greeted with a home screen of other live broadcasts. On Periscope, you receive a constant feed of new broadcasts from random users of all topics and then have the option to go to the “People Tab” and see the most loved users. But, on Meerkat, your home feed is comprised only of the broadcasts of people you follow, whether they be people on the Leaderboard (similar to the most loved users on Periscope) or other users that you know and choose to follow.

When you decide to start broadcasting, the process isn’t really any different between the two. You are prompted to give a title or a brief description of your broadcast and just start filming. Periscope gives you an option of whether you want to put the broadcasting link on Twitter, while Meerkat immediately puts out the link. Both show you all of the users watching and the comments that they have about the broadcast, most of which aren’t of any substance, in my opinion.

Broadcasting
The broadcasting page for the two apps are built in the same way.

I feel pretty torn about this app because I think that it has potential to be a great journalistic tool. Mobile reporting was already pretty much instantaneous and these two apps take that immediacy to the next level.

I can see these apps coming out in breaking news scenarios like riots, security threats, rallies and so on. When word needs to get out, a direct broadcast from a cellphone beats every other medium. Both apps allow you to save the broadcast to your camera roll when you’re finished with them, meaning that reporters could put the live video out as a news event is happening and then upload the video onto other social media and their website when they get the opportunity. It’s just expanding the possibilities for getting out your story.

Popular
The two apps allow you to follow certain people and see who has the highest amount of viewers and likes on the app.

But I also have some doubts about the effectiveness of the apps. Right now, it seems like all of the users are still testing them out, and few people are using them to produce broadcasts of substance. By clicking on a wide variety of vague or detailed titles, I usually end up watching someone opening their refrigerator, or just keeping the camera on their face and responding to all of the live comments (which usually end up getting very creepy, very fast).

Meerkat, which allows you to manually follow people, could be an effective tool for journalists if their viewers only follow news organizations, a lot of which haven’t created accounts yet. But Periscope just provides an overwhelming and continuous display of random broadcasts. I have followed specific people, but haven’t figured out a way on Periscope to only see those individual’s broadcasts.

So if someone posts something of journalistic value, some breaking news that the world needs to see in real time, how will it compete with the feed garbage (just to be frank) of titillating titles or puppies running around in circles?

I practiced the two apps myself by asking my roommate to tell me a little bit about her upcoming study abroad trip to Japan. The experience of pressing the button receiving comments in real time was pretty exciting. Except, because it wasn’t a breaking news scenario, it made me want to edit what she was saying and put it into a nice video package, instead of letting the world see the rough edits.

I think that these apps have great news potential, but that it will become even more useful for journalists once the hype has died down, and feeds aren’t being clogged with “Will put girlfriend in triangle neck hold for 2,000 likes.”

Until then, I don’t see the appeal of it.

Here is an example of a video that I broadcasted on Periscope:

Nicola Shannon Talks About Studying Abroad to Japan from Catherine Bonke on Vimeo.

‘The Lourdes of Twang’: Bringing a Story to Life Through Audio

The New York Times is known for its popular “One in 8 Million” audio story collection, which tells the stories of dozens of New Yorkers who have suffered from illnesses, have interesting jobs or are just your Average Joe. Apart from that Guitarcollection of stories, however, the Times has produced other interesting pieces that tell the story of an individual — and in the case of this blog post, a musical instrument — through sound accompanied by photographs.

Narrated by reporter Emily Rueb, “The Lourdes of Twang” goes inside the Martin Guitar Factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania to uncover the process and means it takes to create an instrument and brand that is used by musicians from Eric Clapton and John Mayer to a kid playing in his garage.

The factory sees 25,000 visitors annually and produces over 70,000 guitars a year. More than 500 workers have a hand in making these instruments, and without them the process would be difficult to say the least.

guitar2The pictures in the slide show matched the words being spoken, which was nice to see exactly what was being discussed. The viewer can see all of the stages of production, from the initial sanding and carving, to the “bookmatching” process that involves picking pieces of wood that are similar in color that will be placed on the back of the guitar. The audio component features interviews with those who are a part of the process, which broke up the narrator’s voice.

The best part of this slide show was the use of pictures and audio corresponding with one another in regards to the construction process. For a good portion of the slideshow, the audience can hear and see the sanding of the wood, the filing of the edges and the bending of the boards with no voice over. It’s as if you’re actually in guitar1the factory watching it take place. This added to the experience the viewer had and truly made this piece worthwhile.

The fact that this audio slideshow was about the creation of a musical instrument basically helped make the audio record itself. The tuning of the guitar, basic chords being played and other songs thrown in also added to the experience. This story could have easily been told through an article, but was done nicely as an audio piece, considering the topic on hand was an instrument.

Overall, audio slideshows have proven to be effective in telling a story in a new and interesting way.

Storyline: A good-looking app with potential

IMG_1949Storyline is a an app by Arcivr that allows users to create photo slideshows with recorded voiceovers.

My first impression of the app is that it looks very simplistic. I can say from experience that it is simple to use as well.

To create a storyline, users have to choose photos. An advantage of this is that there a number of sources to choose from: camera roll, Arcivr, Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox or Twitter. More that one source can be used for the same project, so the app is not limiting in that sense.IMG_1950

Then users title their work, add their name and can begin recording. In order to record over the next photo, the user simply has to swipe to the left.

After creating a storyline of my own, I found the app easy to understand and follow.

My project is saved not only on Storyline, where I can share it via text, email or social media. I was also able to download it to my phone’s library, which it not super necessary because from there it can be shared in all the same ways. It is a plus only because the app does not have to opened to access storylines.

The final project does not compromised the quality of the original photos.

Here is the storyline I created: https://storyl.in/e/b5WKR84dky#

In terms of whether this app would be useful to journalists, I do think it would be a useful tool if an outlet has an audience that responds well to audio slideshows. It would be valuable as a quick way to get an slideshow up, but an outlet would really have to trust a reporter to do it well and within the 20-photo limit. I do wonder whether an outlet would actually use the app though, if they have means that are of a higher quality. I think it is more of a tool for journalists as individuals to use on their own time.

IMG_2091There is really nothing more to Storyline, which can go either way in terms of appeal to potential users. Some, like me, may like that it is simple and straightforward in its purpose. That said, I could understand if others may feel the app is lacking, whether it be effects or filters to add to photos, or sound effects for the recording.

If anything, I see it finding a niche in a photography-geared storytelling community, but I do not see it displacing apps such as Snapchat or Twitter in terms of immediately sharing photos with followers among the masses. Taking the time to select photos record audio might be too daunting for smartphone users in this fast-paced world; however it does have the benefit of sharing more than one photo at once, which to me is one of its strongest selling points.

Unfortunately, the app does not have an embed code that works for WordPress.

Storyline by Arcivr: audio slide show app

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There’s yet another app on the market, Storyline- by Arcivr. The app allows you to take up to 20 of your photos from, Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter and your personal camera roll to make an audio slide show.

The app is simple to use, and pretty self-explanatory for the most part. First you pick a set of photos, then you can place them in the order you would like and lastly hit record and start talking.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 4.42.51 PMHowever, the biggest problem is that you have to keep talking. You can’t stop talking until you’ve scrolled through all of your photos. There is no way to stop recording and then start back up again from where you left off.

The app is also pretty minimal in its design. You can’t add music or effects to your photos.

I must have tried to create an audio slide show about five times and each time I either didn’t like the way it came out, or it was too boring because it didn’t have any nat sound or background music. Twice while I tried to create a story the app completely closed and I had to start from the beginning again, and by that point I just gave up.Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 4.42.59 PM

Storyline does have potential. As with any app, it is a work in progress and the company has to see what works and what doesn’t work.

Lets not forget Snapchat didn’t always have video. There’s still room for Storyline to make a name for itself in the app world.

For journalistic purposes I think it can be done for a story, but what would be a really compelling reason to use it? How would this app push the story forward and tell something other forms of media wouldn’t?

The only practical reason for a journalist to use this app would be in order to save time if they are on a tight deadline.Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 4.43.21 PM

It’s a fun app to play around with, but it has a ways to go.