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Digital Storytelling Track

Posted by Seth Putnam on September 14, 2008

We are storytellers, plain and simple. But one of the major hurdles facing journalism today is that the advent of the Internet has made everyone else storytellers, too.

With the explosion of user-generated content, everyone has the capacity to be a gatekeeper, and that has left those attempting to make storytelling their living–their art, their craft–wondering how to respond. And responding they are. Friday morning, in the Fred Smith Forum of the Reynolds Journalism Institute, several speakers presented on projects that they have spearheaded to address journalism’s approach to storytelling in the digital age.

Roger Fidler and the “Digital Newsbook Project:”

Fidler spoke about “introducing a new way to deliver, access and read in-depth special reports.” These will come in the form of electronic books and be available for sale and download onto electronic readers like the Amazon Kindle. Unlike the breaking news and developing updates commonly found on the Web, these newsbooks will fill the of longer form enterprise stories and allow the consumer to delve more deeply into an issue that interests or affects him or her.

Predecessors of the newspaper, newsbooks are actually a throwback to the 15th and 16th centuries when those in power would publish and distribute information they considered newsworthy (for instance, reasons for going to war.)

“We’re going way back and taking it forward and making it digital,” Fidler said.

Since 2007, 16 of these “eBooks” have been published and are currently on sale for $4.95 a pop.

Matt Thompson and “Epic 2014: Progress Report:”

In 2004, Thompson and Robin Sloan, formerly of the Poynter Institute, created an eight-minute movie (Epic 2014) that attempted to describe our mdia consumption habits. It focused on three things: cheap and easy distribution, cheap and easy production, and a proliferation of mobile consumption.

Now, four years later, Thompson is attempting to further explore what he considers to be the most important word in journalism: context.

With regard to content produced on the Internet, the focus has mainly been to break news and update developing stories. Consequently, a lot of pertinent content has the potential to get lost in the shuffle (case in point: this blog). With that in mind, Thompson will spend the next nine months as an RJI Fellow creating and encylopedic webiste that hosts a database of related stories so that relevant background information is available and doesn’t only last the three to four minutes users stay on the home page.

Brian Storm, founder of MediaStorm:

Perhaps the most exciting–and well attended–presentation was Storm’s talk on his company, MediaStorm. MediaStorm is a multimedia Internet-based publication that offers in-depth profile stories that employ photo, video and audio tools to shed light on basic human struggles: coping with death, coping with war, maintaining friendships, caring for sick loved ones, navigating new marriage and more.

The paramount idea that Storm tried to get across to his audience was that a committment to storytelling should always trump the medium through which the stories are told.

“It’s not about the delivery mechanism,” Storm said. “It’s about journalism and transmitting the stories. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to tell stories.”

To put it into perspective, Storm speculated on what it must have been like to be the owner of a horse and buggy business when the first automobiles came on the market. Storm said that, instead of batting a cynical eye, the business owner should have been quick to embrace the new development because of a key fact: He isn’t just in the buggy business; he’s in the transportation business.

So it is for journalists. We aren’t in the still camera business, or the radio business, or the newspaper business; we’re in the business of telling stories.


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An Emotional Ending to an Exciting Event

Posted by Bill Prosecky on September 14, 2008

The closing ceremonies of the past week’s Centennial celebration were nothing short of another knockout for the Journalism school. Dean Mills of the Journalism school was the first speaker of the night. Mills, like much of the audience, seemed to still be in awe of the grandeur and excitement that had taken place over the previous three days. He expressed his sincere thanks not only to the students of the J-school and the alumni who had returned, but also to Suzette Heiman and Ashlee Erwin, the two ladies, who, as Mills stated, were the real people behind this entire celebration.

Following his speech, Mills introduced the first segment of the evening, a video presentation of “Telling the Story, Fair and True”, with musical accompaniment provided by the MU Department of Music. The video featured famous historic images of the past one hundred years, including those of President Truman holding up the newspaper reading “Dewey Defeats Truman”, of Dr. Martin Luther King delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech, of an airplane in flight about to crash into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, and, in perhaps one of the most striking images of the entire ceremony, split-screen images of soldiers lifting the flag at Iwo Jima and of firefighters lifting the flag at Ground Zero on 9/11. Dean Mills summed up the presentation by calling it an “extraordinary convergence piece.”

The second presentation of the night was a reading by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko of a poem that he commissioned specifically for this occasion, entitled “The Lead Honorarium”. Yevtushenko not only read the poem, he performed it, displaying moods of anger, sadness, and disbelief, as he conveyed the stories of several Russian journalists who had been murdered, many of whom were close friends of Yevtushenko. His performance was nothing short of powerful, as his voice boomed throughout the arena and into the hearts of the audience members. Dean Mills, afterward, stated that maybe if poetry was performed that way in America, then maybe we would all be a little more interested in poetry in this country.

The final presentation of the night was an encore showing of a video entitled “Coming Home Again”, which had also been shown during the opening ceremonies on Wednesday night. The video showed images and videos of the MU campus and of famous MU alumni. Dean Mills wrapped up the presentation with a tongue-in-cheek comment that he wishes to see us all back here in the next 100 years.

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Coming Home Again

Posted by Kiki Schmitz on September 14, 2008

Journalists, it’s been said, are pretty good at thinking on their feet. If an interview goes sour, a good journalist can lighten the mood and put the subject back at ease. If a headline won’t fit, a good journalist can replace the lengthy line and still set their story apart. If a centennial closing ceremony performance is accidentally interrupted mid-song, well, a good journalist can cover for that too.

Dean Mills is a good journalist.

Still fresh from belting out the National Anthem, and mouths open to begin the Alma Mater, four members of the University of Missouri’s Mizzou Forte a cappella group were cut short, as the announcer introduced Mills before they could sing a note. As the audience, realizing the error, began to boo, the announcer, identified only as “Rod,” said eloquently, “Oh!” (Editor note: He was referring to Rod Gelatt)

Shuffling back to center stage, the quartet sang and the crowd cheered. Mills, taking the stage for the second time in two minutes, quipped “we were just trying to build demand for that wonderful singing group.”

Mills went on to recap the centennial celebration, covering discussion forums and international guests, flying in from France, Denmark, China and elsewhere to make the event. He extended thanks to the alumni, current faculty, and students for their efforts.

“We promised a good time, “ said Mills “and I hope we delivered. I have heard a few complaints about the sessions though—apparently, they were all so good, people couldn’t figure out which one to go to.”

And while the attendees had a hard time picking and choosing, there were still those that couldn’t make the event at all. Alumni Jim Lehrer of PBS sent a video message apologizing for his absence and expressing his “congratulations to the school and all [his] fellow alumni.”

Even the locals came out to show their J-School pride, with Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman addressing the crowd and joking that the city tries “to provide enough fodder to keep the journalists happy.” Hindman welcomed back alumni to what he called their student hometown. “I hope you like what you see.”

Mills returned to honor Suzette Heiman and Ashlee Erwin, who started planning for the centennial over three years ago.

“It was a real honor and a privilege, “ said Heiman, “to be able to do this. Thank you.”

From here, the focus shifted to the Telling the Story, Fair and True program, performed by faculty and students from the University of Missouri School of Music, under Conductor Edward Dolbashian. The orchestra played as more than 200 photos from the Pictures of the Year International competition appeared on screen. In the background, student narrators read from Walter William’s “The Journalist’s Creed.”

Pictures flashed by, images of Mother Theresa and Muhammed Ali flanked by penguins and polar bears and nuns having fun. There were pictures from womb until tomb, little league victories and cheerleaders crying, Albert Einstein with his tongue out, and a baby with spaghetti on his head. The final pictures, a juxtaposition of the famous Iwo Jima flag raising and a similar shot taken at ground zero following 9/11, lingered on screen, as the orchestra rose to an ending.

As the violinists took their bows, Mills returned to introduce poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Yevtushenko penned a tribute to Russian journalists killed in recent years, victimized for reporting the truth.

He spoke passionately, apologizing for his “inevitable Siberian accent,” and began his poem first in Russian, than ending in English. Yevtushenko’s reading grew more and more emotional, as the audience stilled and the orchestra sat silently behind him. His intensity increased, until he was nearly shouting the word “shameful,” used to describe mafia killings. His words still echoing, he finished, nodded slightly, and extended a “thank you,” before leaving the microphone. The crowd rose in standing ovation

As the evening drew to a close, Mills addressed the audience one final time. No need for a quick witted response, Mills opted for a simple, fitting send off.

“We assume you’ll all be back in a 100 years. Thank you very much.”

And with that, a centennial themed slideshow began to play. The background track, written by alumni Jenn Schott and Jack Smith, brought back memories of high school graduations. As the lights went up and the crowed filed out, the lyrics seemed fitting.

“This is where it started, where it all began. Writing my first story, dreaming of the glory out there, somewhere, waiting for me. This is where I come from, this is who I am.”

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Your Brain on Media

Posted by Kevin Bailey on September 13, 2008

I took my time moving from Newspaper Next to Your Brain on Media and as I walked in the room I realized my mistake.  All the seats were full and so was the floor.  I managed to squeeze in the door as Paul Bolls began his presentation.  Paul talked for the first 30 minutes of the presentation and introduced Mizzou’s PRIME lab (Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects).  Kevin Wise and Glenn Leshner followed Bolls and showed some of the projects they are currently working on and the results and how they are able to pair them for easier viewing.  All in all it was a great presentation that was worth the crowd.

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President’s Roundtable : Photo Blog

Posted by Dak Dillon on September 13, 2008

The President’s Roundtable featured a variety of guests discussing a variety of topics pressing in the journalism field. Below are a few photos from the event that capture the discussion… Click Read More for more.



Jesse Auditorium

Jesse Auditorium

Read the rest of this entry »

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RJI Dedication

Posted by amseibel8 on September 13, 2008

So walking to RJI, I’ll admit, I was confused. I had never seen this building before, where is it? What is exactly is this dedication about? Maybe it was my lingering fatigue from my two-day migrane I had that caused my confusion, but as I was walking, suddenly…Oh, yeah, that must be it…

Hundreds of people trickling in and out of the building, the futuristic, amazing architecture of the building in front of me, yeah this was probably it. I noticed the sign outside of it, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. Wow, okay so this is where I’m going to be studying journalism for the next for years? Not bad.

So what is this dedication going to be like? I had no idea. To be honest, it really just clicked in my head that this is the opening of this institute. Again, the fatigue taking over. So anyways, who are all of these people here? Looking around, I notice a lot of students, a lot of alumni, and a lot of people sitting in the front in chairs, who I assume are the celebrities and the important alumni we’ve been hearing about (later on I’ll find out that I’m right).

Right away I noticed the architecture and the structure of the building I was in. It was amazing: glass walls, glass podium, multiple levels, an upper level walkway, crisp, clean, newly painted, white walls. It’s very modern looking. You can also see the lower level, complete with dozens of new Mac computers. I am informed that this is the Futures Lab. It looks awesome. Just looking around is exciting.

The ceremony is pretty short. Dean Mills (Dean of Mizzou Journalism School) introduces everyone and gets the ceremony going. He used the “modern, light, open interior” to describe the hope and inspiration for RJI. The second speaker was actually the most inspirational for me. Lauren Zima (President of MU Journalism Scholars) spoke of her experience as a student and the ways they have paid off. She had just come back from a study abroad program also. Adult speakers are good, and in this ceremony they were fantastic, but Lauren really touched me because watching an actual student speak about how she was actually following her dreams, thanks to the J-School, gave me a lot of joy and excitement. She continued to talk about the new technology that will be available at RJI and that will make our J-School even better. Seriously, if you’re a J-School student, let me just tell you, you should be VERY excited to go here.

More speakers continued to come up. Pam Johnson (Executive Director of RJI) introduced a video featuring different people in the journalism world (who were all present, some also work here) who talked about their amazing goals to advance journalism, as technology is also advancing. They also talked about renewing the journalist creed for the new century. All of the goals they were talking about were basically revolving around changing journalism with the changing technology, and to use technology to figure out how people want to get their news.

After the video, the speakers kept getting bigger and better. First the Chancellor of MU came up, Brady Deaton. He said a quote that was my favorite throughout the entire ceremony. In regards to the new institute and all of us who will be roaming its halls, he said, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” And he is very right. Us journalism students need to step up, but with RJI I have a feeling it won’t be too hard or painful.

President Gary Forsee, Cheryl Walker, Mayor of Columbia Darwin Hindman, Governor of Missouri Matt Blunt, and finally Fred W. Smith all spoke with fantastic and exciting eloquence. As a teenager still, I get bored easy. And I can honestly tell you, they really were great speakers, not to mention these are very important people. After all spoke, Dean Mills, the Governor, and Fred W. Smith walked to right in front of where I was standing (I had no idea I had such a prime standing spot) to something covered in a black cloth. They unveiled it, a statue of Donald Reynolds, symbolizing the dedication of RJI. Now, the rush to the cooler of Tiger Stripe over in the corner!

Pretty darn cool, I must say. All of you J-School students should be extremely excited to come to RJI. I had no idea about it until I went to the dedication, so I imagine that none of you have even seen it yet. Trust me, though, it’s amazing.

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Former War Correspondent Credits Mizzou for Success

Posted by Spencer Pearson on September 13, 2008

Just before the dedication of the new Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute Friday, my colleagues and I had the pleasure of meeting former foreign correspondent Seymour Topping (BJ ’43).  Seymour was happy to tell us how Walter Williams’ School of Journalism was able to prepare him for a successful reporting career.

Mr. Topping was attracted to the University of Missouri because he had interest in serving as a foreign correspondent in China.  Walter Williams had set up schools of journalism in China, and the University had its own paper, The Missourian, which offered hands-on experience to students.  These factors convinced Mr. Topping to enroll at Mizzou.  His studies were interrupted when his ROTC group was called to serve in WWII.  He served as an Army officer until the end of the war, then returned to Columbia, MO to graduate in 1943 and embarked on a very eventful and successful career.

Seymour Topping began his career as a war correspondent in China during the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War.  He also had the privilege of covering the Cuban Missile Crisis and the trial of U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers during the height of the Cold War.  In 1966 he returned to New York and became the foreign editor for The New York Times. Mr. Topping gave all the credit for his success to the School of Journalism.  He told us that the only training he received before going to China was working at The Missourian under Gene Sharp.  This experience equipped him to follow his dreams farther than he ever could have imagined.  His career is just one of many examples of the influence our school has had on the world of journalism, and his story will continue to inspire generations of students to carry on the future of journalism.

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Beastly Mizzou Photojournalism Alumni

Posted by ljbdmb on September 13, 2008

Yesterday I attended the “Carrying Photojournalism’s Practices to the Marketplace” event in Lee Hills Hall and all I can say is I was incredibly impressed. As a student considering the photojournalism track, I was both in awe and intimidated when I first walked into the auditorium. It seems everyone had some kind of hard core camera equipment and computer on them and looked just generally intense, making me feel a little bit like a twelve year old with my little notebook and pen. We were told there would be four speakers, each talking for about 18 minutes about their careers.

First up was Brian Smith, who basically proved to be the Bon Jovi of the photojournalism world. Shortly after graduating from the J-School he worked for the Orange County Register where he covered the Olympics. What was so distinctive about his photos in the Olympics shoot was that the angles were so unique. In a lot of ways they looked more like art than sports photography. He said his philosophy during that shoot was to “be where nobody else is going to be”. Since his early days as a journalist he has photographed countless celebrities and public figures, including DMX, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Venus Williams, Shaq, and Antonio Banderas just to name a few. In a good month, he’ll have FOUR cover photos on the newstands. Outside of celebrity photography, his work has been extremely varied, including sports shots and special interest pieces. In all of his photos I was struck by how striking they were. The colors are so vibrant it seems unreal, almost as if he has people placed in front of a painting. The angles are also stunning, again making his photos sometimes look more like art than what you generally expect in a journalistic piece. Throughout his presentation he gave really good advice about how to become a successful photojournalist, and perhaps more importantly how to be happy with the career. One point he emphasized through his talk was not to wait until you have your dream job to shoot like a rock star. In terms of making a living, one of his biggest points was to “OWN YOUR WORK”. In his career, he’s made a lot of money from photos that he’s kept the rights to. He told everyone in the audience to always remember to shoot what you love, and perhaps more importantly dare to be different.

Next up was Jean Shifrin, who got her start at a paper in St. Joseph and then went on to work at a studio in Kansas City. She worked for a while at the Kansas City Star, and then at a paper in Atlanta until 2005. One of her photojournalism stories was a piece about grandparents raising grandchildren, and what was so striking about it was that she made pictures incredibly intimate. After working for newspapers she decided she wanted to start her own business where she could focus her work on what she loves: documentary photography and children. Her goal is to capture personal moments in people’s lives. She photographs and binds “day in the life” and “year in the life” coffee table books filled with pictures of children and their families, as well as doing studio portraitures. She also does pro bono work in India, photographing the lives of people in a leprosy camp in India for a non profit organization.

Jennifer Loomis was next, who has had a very diverse career. The common thread through her presentation was the idea that you always need to figure out why you care about a story. While working for a paper in Evansville, Indiana, she independently researched and wrote a story called “For the Love of Jeffrey”, which was about a grandfather taking care of his disabled grandson who was having difficulty with his Medicaid. Her story ended up uniting the community, and many people donated time and money to help him and his grandson. She wrote a story about Japan about life for the elderly in nursing homes, and has also worked in East Africa. Today she takes family and maternity portraits, and continues to believe that “good photography is about making connections”. She says what moves her most about taking nude or semi nude maternity photographs is that the women often leave feeling much more beautiful and confident than they’ve felt since the start of their pregnancy. She concluded her presentation by reiterating her point that all photographers should remember to make photographs, not just take photographs.

Last up was Mark Perry, who entitled his portion of the presentation “Photojournalism, Museums, and the Long Haul”. The main point he kept making through his talk was that photojournalists should always be aware of “how time changes photographs”. He explained that ten, twenty, thirty, or more years after you took a picture, it’s meaning may be totally changed. The example he gave was of a photograph of a group of old men sitting in front of what to us looks like an old car. Thus, we see it today as a picture of old men and old cars. But when the photo was taking, that car was the hot thing on the market, so to viewers back then it represented the relationship between the past and the future. He also discussed the importance of holding on to all of the pictures you take, because what may not be usable now could be extremely valuable in the future. Years ago, he photographed life at a leprosy colony in the Midwest, but found that he couldn’t get the pictures published because the story was too real and hit too close to home. But now, years later, those same pictures hang in a museum. He then proceeded to give advice about how to get your pictures into a museum. He said the first step is to recognize that “museums treat their collections like their children”. Secondly, he said to “do everything possible to make yourself worthy of inclusion in that family”. And finally, he said it was important to develop relationships with individuals in power at the museums, who can vouch for you and your work. He concluded by saying that throughout your career, always remember to “make your assignments possible”, and not just see them as yet another piece of work.

The entire session lasted almost an hour and forty-five minutes, so as you can imagine when walking out of the auditorium my mind was crammed with advice, anecdotes, and new information about photojournalism practice and the profession itself. I hope I’ve done all the speakers justice with the little amount of space I had. If at all possible, I would REALLY recommend that whoever is reading this Google the images of these individuals!

-Lauren Breckenfelder

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Posted by Daniel Maxson on September 13, 2008

Through all the excitement about new media and user-generated content, there is one common complaint. For most users, the internet is far too complex. It’s simply too difficult and time-consuming to sift through everything to find information we’re casually interested in.

BeWiki is the answer to this complaint. Developed by Jeff O’Dell, the concept behind BeWiki is to automate the process of information gathering. Instead of requiring the user to go through thousands of search results and sift through what’s useful, BeWiki brings the relevant results to the user, then takes feedback. The more it’s used, the more streamlined the process becomes.

This can be useful for hobbyists. Some examples presented were photographers, fishers, doctors, and classic car enthusiasts. Of course, the individual user has much more defined interests, but that’s the point of BeWiki.

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Ambient Content: What is it?

Posted by Daniel Maxson on September 13, 2008

On September 12th, Marc Kempter introduced as to ambient content, a new form of media.

Ambient content is an answer to a problem. That problem is that a large TV is just a silent black box when it’s not being used. It doesn’t contribute much to the ambient mood of a room.

Marc and his colleagues hope that their ambient content can change that. For those familiar with ambient music, this is the next step. The TV screen can play a non-intrusive video that can either entertain or blend into the background.

The general reaction from the audience was, “Well, isn’t this just like a screensaver for a television screen?” But Marc pointed out that the significant difference was that a screensaver is not meant to entertain. In contrast, ambient content is a piece of art. It is meant to contribute to the overall mood in a room.

Two examples he gave that will be familiar to regular internet-users were that of the fireplace and aquarium screensavers. They take the place of a screensaver, but they can also be a piece of art. He argued that those are just the first primitive examples of ambient content, and that soon ambient content will actually be sold in video stores and through online sources such as iTunes.

When asked who would produce the content, he explained that at first the tools will only be available to commercial producers, but that developers of the tools are working very hard to make the tools accessible to everyone, in keeping with the age of user-generated content

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