Archives for category: Tips + Techniques

(This just happened to me, so in case it happens to you, I leave this here.)

Let’s assume you unpaired your Apple magic mouse/wireless mouse and you have no USB mouse, but you do have a keyboard that talks to your computer.

Go to your preferred Terminal application. If you’re not there already, press SHIFT-CMD-A to open the Applications folder. Press Tab on your keyboard to go into the Applications window. Start typing the name of your terminal application. Once it’s highlighted, press CMD-O to open the application. And then…

The command line becomes your friend:
open /System/Library/CoreServices/Bluetooth\ Setup\

That should pop open the Bluetooth Setup Assistant.

Make sure your mouse has power and that it’s turned on. The Setup Assistant should find the mouse. Click “Continue” and the OS will pair with your mouse. Voilà.

If you’ve never used your keyboard to navigate through your system, first, congratulations for somehow making it to this post. Then:

From the mouseless computer, CMD+Space to get to Spotlight, then type Terminal.

From Terminal, type:
open /System/Library/CoreServices/Bluetooth\ Setup\

Then connect as above. This will work for any Bluetooth device recognized by the Apple OS.

Today marks the start of Privacy Week. It’s timely, given the reaction to Facebook’s Open Graph announcement a couple weeks ago.

As we become more dependent on digital interconnectedness to stay in the know, it’s important to consider the data trail we leave behind — and not just on social networks. Earlier this year, President Obama signed signed a one-year extension of the Patriot Act, a law that was written in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, but which critics say gives the federal government unprecedented surveillance authority over private citizens.

“Having information about other individuals is a very important way of having leverage over them,” says University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone.

Watch the short film above. If you’re concerned about your privacy and want to take action, sign the Privacy Week petition to congress, and read the latest information from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). If you’re specifically concerned about Facebook, follow these instructions to opt-out of instant personalization or these instructions to permanently delete your account.

Ira Glass broke a lot of newswriting rules when he first started the radio show that would become the wildly popular weekly series, “This American Life.”

His stories weren’t fact-supplemental fact-quote or soundbite from a source, but anecdotes told the way broadcast instructors always urge: like you were telling your friends something fascinating.

If you like the “This American Life” sound and story structure, here’s something you’ll enjoy: a four-part video interview with Ira on how to tell stories.

Earlier, I embedded the first video in the series. Then I realized that’s the one you’re most likely to watch. But the really good one, from a content maker’s perspective, is the third segment. So here it is.

Ira Glass This American Life posterFor more about Ira and his show, read:

Photo: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid/Flickr

This weekend several members and supporters of the Society for News Design met to rethink and rebuild its multifaceted website. The site will have a new look, new features and better integration among its many parts.

Society for News Design hackathon weekend

Chris Amico’s Tools for News is now part of the website. You’ll find it at

William Couch is comping what will become the new member directory.

A host of people are working on a revised job listings page.

You’ll see changes happen bit by bit over the coming months.

Thanks to Tyson Evans and Matt Mansfield for organizing the hackathon.

Let’s say you have a really good story idea, one that would be best told through sound and visuals. How do you get it published?

Laptops in a coffee house by Mike Goldberg on Flickr

This is one of the most common questions I hear from freelancers, and one of the reasons why sites like Mediabistro and Freelance Success — both of which I used to write for — do so well.

So here’s a freebie.

During Beyond Bootcamp a few weeks ago, Meredith Birkett, senior multimedia editor for special projects, shared tips for how to pitch her. Every editor will have their own preferences; use Birkett’s advice as a guide. produces about six major projects and about eight dozen smaller, assigned projects yearly. They have plenty of producers in-house, but not a lot of roving journalists. That’s where you come in.

The Pitch

  • Do preliminary reporting on your subject, then pitch the concept for the piece by email. Don’t pitch a vague idea. Go in with something concrete. The MSNBC email convention is firstname.lastname AT
  • Describe the hook or the peg. Is it a national trend that your local story illuminates for everyone? Is it a quirky or wild story that someone somewhere else would care about? Is there a news peg? Is it an evergreen? Is it the kind of project that can be referred to several times within a given time frame?
  • Show the story you’ve found with photographs, audio or video. Summarize where you think the story will go and what you’ll do to round out the project.
  • Estimate how long it will take you to gather the raw assets. As a newcomer, you’re more likely to sell your story if it’s a small-scale project that takes no more than five days to get what you need. Veterans with a track record in producing multimedia stories may be able to sell projects that will take longer to gather.
  • Think about the technical restrictions imposed by where you’ll be going. How will weather affect your ability to get the story? Will there be electricity? Internet connection? Cell phone service? Mail service?
  • Send links to your work samples, or the URL of your portfolio site and be sure to describe what you were responsible for in each piece.

The Format
A multimedia story doesn’t limit you to a Soundslides presentation or Final Cut video. You could suggest a photo gallery with written captions and no audio, a flipbook, a timelapse video, or a report with an HD View photo.

If your project will span several days, you can propose a blog with photos. Be sure to describe how many posts and how many photos you plan to put up each day.

If your project shows the passage of time or dramatic change in a short period of time, a diptych or triptych could be appropriate. Freelance photographer John Wilkerson was able to sell his before and after photos of a city wiped away by Hurricane Katrina. They were used as part of a larger feature on rebuilding after the storm.

If you plan to use music, it’s best to use royalty-free clips. Music you hear on the radio comes with all sorts of perils, not the least of which are rights clearances, which are time-consuming and expensive. Don’t have a favorite royalty-free music site? You could try:

The Wrap
Once you’re finished gathering content, be ready to turn over all the unedited audio, photos and video the producer you’ll be working with so that person can edit the piece. The shop will need access to your raw assets even if you’ve already packaged your project.

Get to know the producer or editor who will be shepherding your project. A good working relationship is key to the success of your story. Ask (nicely) if you can review your piece before it goes live to check that all facts are correct.

The Money and The Rights
Regardless of what outlet you pitch to, Birkett says you should insist you get paid extra to do multimedia work.

The multimedia day rate varies, but Birkett says an average range is about $700-$900 a day, which includes travel expenses.

In exchange, buys exclusive North American website rights for a limited time. This means you could sell a reworked version of your piece to a website outside North America to run at the same time. Or you could sell the piece to an organization that would not run it on their website. And you could resell your piece within North America after the license has expired. In other words, you could turn your pitch into the holy grail of freelancing: one gathering effort, a multitude of salable stories.

Photo: mikegoldberg/Flickr

All stories can have a visual component, but some stories demand sound as well.

A couple weeks ago, seasoned multimedia pros Nancy Donaldson of The New York Times and Jim Seida of spent three days running journalists through an intensive workshop to teach them how to gather and compose audio narratives.

Whispering Secrets by Cameron Maddux on Flickr

Seida, who takes pride in his audio interviewing skills, shared his tips for getting great sound. From my notes:

  • Wear your headphones. It’s the only way you know what you’re recording. Many an interview has been botched by sounds that you don’t notice but which register loud and clear on your recorder — like cell phone interference.
  • Know your equipment. Read the manual. Practice using your gear. Carry spare batteries and know how to pull the dead ones out and put the fresh ones in. It sounds stupid, but you’ll look stupid when you’re fumbling around during the interview. Worse yet, you’ll be wasting the interviewee’s time and may get bad results because of it.
  • Prop up your mike hand. If you’re holding the mike (you will be if you’re alone in the field) and doing an interview of more than a few minutes, put your elbow on something to reduce fatigue and keep the mike from waving around.
  • Find the quietest possible place to do your interview. Seida says he once interviewed a man in a broom closet because it was the quietest available place and there were no alternatives.
  • Ask open ended questions and ask them in pairs. This tends to cause people to give you a full-sentence answer.
  • Make direct eye contact with your interviewee. Stay silent while the person is talking. If you want to react, use body language. Nod. Smile. And keep that eye contact going.
  • Record the sounds around you at your interview location(s). In journalese, this audio is called “natural sound,” “nat sound” or “wild sound.” What you capture acts as B-roll and gives atmosphere to your story. If you know of other terms, please leave them in comments. I’d love to hear about them.

Seida shares more of his tips in “Gathering audio to go with your pictures.” It’s an excellent read.

Other places to look for pointers and equipment advice include, MediaStorm and the National Press Photographers Association Web Multimedia section.

If you want to improve your interview skills, I recommend a lot of reading. Check out:

Photo: Cameron Maddux/Flickr