Robb Montgomery has one of the best jobs ever. He flies around the world teaching multimedia to journalists (see also Camp Video Journalism). Right now, he’s on a three-month world tour. Last week, he was in Prague.
Today was Day 2 (Visual Reporting) of this training at The Toronto Star and covered creating embeddable slideshows, clickable graphics, interactive maps, and data visualization.
To start the day off, Roger Gillespie, The Toronto Star’s Senior Editor in charge of training and development, and his colleague Kathy Vey gave a detailed presentation on some of the visual journalism examples used at the star, from image galleries to Google maps. They also talked about the just-launched redesign of TheStar.com (which I really like).
Robb then demonstrated how to create embeddable slideshows using Vuvox and FlickrSlidr. Additionally, he explained how to use these services to create a visual narrative. It’s not so much the tools as understanding how to tell a visual story in a compelling manner: either taking photos or selecting the right ones to create the story.
I’ve done some research and other very popular choices to create embeddable slideshows from photographs include: Animoto, ClipGenerator, Stupeflix, PhotoPeach. Additional online software which does the same sort of things are listed and reviewed on MakeUseOf.com.
Not mentioned, but now in the arsenal of news organizations and media labs around the world: Soundslides and SoundslidesPlus, “a rapid production tool for still image and audio web presentations” which markets itself as allowing “storytellers to concentrate on the story, rather than the application. Created for journalists and other storytellers on deadline, Soundslides is designed to make quick work of slide show production.” Soundslides, which retails for U$40 let’s users create audio slide shows, import captions and have control over their template. SoundslidesPlus, which costs U$70, has additional features such as full-screen playback, pan and zoom, and ‘lower third’ subtitling ability. An educational discount is available. There’s a detailed manual available and a support forum. And here’s a page where people showcase what they’ve created.
In journalism, a great many stories are data-driven. Reporters collect facts and statistics, often in spreadsheets, which then need to be presented in a coherent manner. One of the best ways to do this is with charts, graphs and maps. During the research and collection process, good software can include such programs as Microsoft Office (specifically Excel), open source OpenOffice.org (specifically Calc) and free Google Docs suite which Robb used to demonstrate a number of possible uses for reporters.
Here are some links of potential interest from my bookmarks: There are a lot of tools and templates to present and manipulate the collected data. There’s a lot of helpful information - including tips, tricks and tutorials - on the Official Google Docs Blog.
Google Docs can be used offline. Here is is a link to getting started: Google Docs basics. The Google Docs community is vibrant and there’s even a video channel.
Google Maps are a powerful tool which many news organizations have begun to utilize. They can be used to show crime in a neighbourhood, a local festival, or event. etc. Here are a few examples: Toronto neighbourhood map (The Toronto Star) and Murder: New York City (The New York Times).
Mashups are “web applications that combines data and/or functionality from more than one source”.
There are many types of mashups, such as consumer mashups, data mashups, and enterprise mashups. The most common type of mashup is the consumer mashup, aimed at the general public.
Data mashups combine similar types of media and information from multiple sources into a single representation. One example is the Havaria Information Services’ AlertMap, which combines data from over 200 sources related to severe weather conditions, biohazard threats, and seismic information, and displays them on a map of the world; another is Chicago Crime Map, which indicates the crime rate and location of crime in Chicago.
Enterprise mashups focus data into a single presentation and allow for collaborative action among businesses and developers. This works well for an Agile Development project, which requires collaboration between the Developers and Customer proxy for defining and implementing the business requirements. Enterprise Mashups are secure, visually rich web applications that expose actionable information from diverse internal and external information sources. (source: Wikipedia)
People really seem to like maps and mashups. While they may not be totally aware of how it is done, they find graphical information to be both interesting and informative which is why news organizations have been working so hard to integrate data visualization into their sites.
There are a number of other mapping and charting solutions available to journalists. Many of them are free or have a low-cost, and more importantly, they’re easy-to-use. Two popular choices are Fusion Charts and amMaps / amCharts.
FusionCharts “is a data visualization component for generating dynamic Flash charts that can be embedded in web and desktop applications. Built using ActionScript, FusionCharts is essentially a collection of SWF files that automatically generate charts based on data and configuration settings provided in custom XML format”.
amMap is a tool for creating interactive Flash maps while amChart creates interactive Flash charts. Both have a free and paid version. The only limitation of the free version is that a small link will be placed on the maps and charts. Although the programs are in Flash, the Flash program is not required, and neither is a knowledge of Flash. Data is entered in a separate text file and information can be drawn from existing files such as XML and CSV, both of which can be exported from spreadsheets.
Read more about amMap and amCharts in SoloJourno.com’s review.