Update: Teaching Copyright and Fair Use with Obama “Hope” Image

Last week, Shepard Fairey, the visual artist who created the iconic Obama HOPE image, was sentenced to probation and fined $25,000 for tampering with evidence in a copyright dispute with the Associated Press. The sentence brought an end to a three-year-long legal battle.

In 2009, Fairey sued the AP arguing that his artistic transformation of an image by photojournalist Mannie Garcia was protected under the doctrine of fair use. The AP sued Fairey arguing that he misappropriated its rights to the image when he created and sold posters and other merchandise with the likeness. In February 2012, Fairey admitted that he had destroyed documents and lied about the source of the image.

I have used the case study in my journalism courses to explore the issues of copyright and fair use and have written about it on this blog.

In April, my lesson plan, The Obama “Hope” Poster: A Case Study in Copyright and Fair Use, was published on the J/I Educator website, a collection journalism and communications teaching resources. In the exercise, students learn the background of the image, listen to audio interviews with the plaintiffs, examine court documents, and debate the merits of the case.

What’s New In My Online Journalism Courses This Year

This fall marks my fifth year of teaching online and multimedia journalism courses to undergrads. Each semester, I overhaul and revamp my courses to try to keep them as fresh and up to date as I can. Here are a few new things for this year:

1. Focus on state of the industry
I’ve concluded that my students need a better understanding of what is going on in newsrooms and publications and where the news industry might be headed. I’ve added the website Nieman Journalism Lab: Pushing to the Future of Journalism as one of the primary texts for my class and the starting point for class discussions.

2. Going mobile
With a small grant from the Instructional Technology department at my university, I’ll be working to integrate smartphones and tablets into our journalism curriculum. Students will study best practices for creating news content for a variety of mobile devices, use smartphones for reporting assignments, and experiment with mobile reporting hardware and news apps. At the end of the project, we will create a mobile journalism field guide for our student reporters.

3. More video
Video skills are increasingly required for many entry-level jobs and even internships. This year, I’m using Kenneth Kobre’s new Videojournalism textbook for my multimedia workshop. Also members of my class will be assigned to work in teams with broadcast journalism students from an On-Camera Field Reporting class.

4. More entrepreneurial
Inspired by my recent research project on the entrepreneurial experiences of the founders of Technically Media, my students will be trying out new revenue models for student publications and marketing their work to other news organizations.

A Quick Multimedia Reporting Checklist

I put together this simple checklist for my students and other beginning multimedia reporters. It includes basic advice and techniques for shooting photos and video and recording audio. It fits on one double-sided piece of paper. It isn’t designed to be a comprehensive field guide, but rather a quick reminder of key items and concepts that can be easily forgotten in the craziness of working as a backpack journalist.

I’ve posted it here in three versions: 1.) As a blog post with links to tutorials and further reading. 2.) As a PDF that can be downloaded and printed. 3.) And as a word document (.doc) that can be modified and personalized.


Before You Go

  • Do your research. Become an expert. Know what you do not know.
  • Coordinate with other reporters. Are you reporting alone or with a team?
  • Set up interviews. Confirm specific times and locations. Bring phone numbers.
  • Prepare interview questions.
  • Consider the location and the challenges it might present. (Outside? Artificial light? Noisy?)
  • Think through possible visual and audio elements. (What is there to see? Are sounds important to the story? Is there action?)
  • Sum up your story in one sentence that clearly states who, what and why. Revise it as you go.
  • Be flexible. Be willing to explore an angle that you have not considered.
  • Make sure your equipment is prepped and organized.


Primary Tools


  • Tripod
  • Microphones
  • Headphones
  • Cords and cables
  • Lenses
  • Filters
  • Lights
  • Extra memory cards
  • Chargers
  • Batteries


  • Laptop or iPad
  • External hard drive (if you are shooting a lot of video)
  • Equipment manuals
  • Heavy-duty tape (when you have to improvise)
  • Zip-lock bags (in case of weather)

Tips for Reporting


  • Double check spelling of names, ages, and contact info for all sources.
  • Note location, date, and time for media gathered.
  • List the essential facts of story (5 Ws).

Still Images

  • Shoot more than you need. Get closer.
  • Compose using the rule of thirds. Shoot horizontally.
  • Shoot wide, medium, close-up and extreme close-ups.
  • Shoot details (eyes, hands and personal items).
  • Compose clean portraits of sources.


  • Find a quiet place for interviews.
  • Always wear headphones. Check your levels.
  • Record 30 seconds of room tone for easier editing.
  • Place microphone a few inches below or to side of mouth to avoid “plosives.”
  • Get an ID for each interview: Name, age, hometown, and occupation.
  • Encourage subject to answer in complete sentences. Ask people to repeat themselves if necessary.
  • Be silent. Don’t say “uh huhh.” Maintain eye contact.
  • At end of interview, ask, “What else should I know?”
  • Record ambient sound effects. Identify the sound into your microphone before recording it.
  • Don’t stop recording until you are in your car. Sometimes the best stuff happens after the formal interview.

Video Interviews

  • When possible, use a tripod.
  • Use microphone and headphones. Check your sound levels.
  • Set white balance for each location.
  • Pay attention to head and nose room in composition. The subject should not look directly into the camera; they should look into frame, not out of it.
  • If you are not using additional lights, make sure sun or main light source is over your shoulder.

Video B-Roll

  • Shoot a variety of shots and angles.
  • Shoot in sequences. The five-shot rule is a good guide.
  • Hold each shot for 10-15 seconds.
  • Avoid pans or zooms.
  • Let action move across frame rather than moving with it.
  • Shoot an opening and closing shot.

Recommended Reading: Three New Multimedia Journalism Books

If you are a multimedia journalist, teacher or student, here are three recently released books I recommend adding to your summer reading list.

Videojournalism: Multimedia Storytelling by Kenneth Kobre
I recently reviewed half a dozen new multimedia journalism textbooks, and this one by renowned photojournalist and author Kenneth Kobre is my favorite. In addition to techniques for shooting still images and video, gathering audio, and writing scripts, it provides strategies for identifying, evaluating and structuring various kinds of stories. Unlike many text-heavy textbooks, this book is visual and uses stunning photos, graphics and illustrations. And unlike some textbooks that charge extra for online resources or require that you adopt the book for access, this one has an open website with dozens of multimedia examples and resources.

The Data Journalism Handbook by Liliana Bounegru, Lucy Chambers and Jonathan Gray
Data journalism is an emerging field of reporting focused on gathering, sorting, analyzing and presenting vast amounts of electronic information. This open-source book is a collaboration of 50 journalists and programmers and offers data journalism case studies from news organizations like The New York Times, Financial Times, Guardian, and Chicago Tribune. The print version ($24.99) is scheduled to come out in July 2012, but there is a free beta version online.

Inside the Story: A Masterclass in Digital Storytelling by the People Who Do It Best by Adam Westbrook
In this book, 20 successful digital storytellers like Brian Storm, Amy O’Leary, Bob Sacha, Andrew DeVigal and Richard Koci Hernandez share the secrets of their craft in 200 words entries. It isn’t a traditional “how-to” book; it is designed to inspire and challenge and all of the proceeds go to the microloan organization Kiva. The 45-page book, which was sold online for just a few weeks, is not currently available. But the project’s organizer and editor Adam Westbrook wrote in an email that he plans to re-release it again later this summer. See insidethestory.org for updates.

Alex Blumberg’s “And What’s Interesting…” Storytelling Test

I recently stumbled upon a 2005 article by NPR radio producer and journalism instructor Alex Blumberg that offers some great advice for determining if a reporter is on the right track to a good story. I’ve been using it regularly in the classroom. It’s simple, concrete, and has helped my students focus their reporting.

Blumberg calls it the “and what’s interesting” test. He writes:

You simply tell someone about the story you’re doing, adhering to a very strict formula: “I’m doing a story about X. And what’s interesting about it is Y.”

So for example… “I’m doing a story about a homeless guy who lived on the streets for 10 years, and what’s interesting is, he didn’t get off the streets until he got into a treatment program.” Wrong track. Solve for a different Y.

Y = “… and what’s interesting is there’s a small part of him that misses being homeless.” Right track.

Y = “… and what’s interesting is, he developed surprising and heretofore unheard of policy recommendations on the problem of homelessness from his personal experience on the streets.” Right track.

Y = “… and what’s interesting is, he fell in love while homeless, and is haunted by that love still.” Right track.

Y = “… and what’s interesting is, he learned valuable and surprising life lessons while homeless, lessons he applies regularly in his current job as an account manager for Oppenheimer mutual funds.” Right track. In other words, who the hell knows what you might find out. Just don’t settle for the story you already know. Find the exciting or surprising or unusual moment, and focus the story on that.

Here are some other takeaways from the article that I’ve found particularly helpful for students:

  • Don’t confuse a location or premise with an actual story.
  • In order to find a story, you need someone to talk to and a situation to discuss.
  • Trust the first question that comes to you. Figure out what question you want to answer or what story you want to hear. If the question seems obvious, chances are it’s a story.
  • Just because something is a story or takes the form of a story doesn’t mean it’s an interesting story.
  • Don’t pursue a story just because it’s story you’ve heard before. In fact, do the opposite. Look for the story that is the most surprising and unexpected.
  • People often tell you the boring part first. Sometimes they think it is exciting or think it’s what they are supposed to tell a reporter. Dig deeper. If you are bored, your audience will be bored.
  • Everyone has a story, but it’s not always that interesting or something you can adapt. If you don’t have a story, find someone else.

A Multimedia Storytelling Lexicon

What is multimedia storytelling?

It’s more than just a combination of text, photos, audio, video and graphics. Stories are fashioned through narrative structures, devices and techniques designed to draw the audience into the characters and events.

Inspired by the writing coach Jack Hart, who created “A Storyteller’s Lexicon” for The Oregonian newsroom, I decided to write out a multimedia storytelling vocabulary and some examples of how various news projects employ them.

Here are some of the common approaches and elements found in engaging multimedia news stories.

Anecdote – A personal account of a series of actions.
Example: Julio Diaz shares his experience of being robbed in a surprising, two-minute anecdote. (StoryCorps.org audio)

Character – An individual who undergoes change or takes action.
Example: Photographer Luis Sinco goes beyond the iconic image of the “Marlboro Marine” and takes the viewer on an intimate journey into the soldier’s emotional and psychological struggles. (MediaStorm.com audio slide show)

Complication – An event or development that forces a character to respond or react.
Example: When the Gulf Oil spill hits the small town of Venice, Louisiana, the residents must decide whether to stay or leave. (News21.com video)

Contiguity – How all of the media elements on a page or website work together. The best multimedia pieces combine text and visuals in meaningful ways and avoid extraneous elements.
Example: The Highrise Project is a series of interactive documentaries about urban residential buildings that pays particular attention to the integration of text, images, video, sound, design and animation. (National Film Board of Canada interactive documentary)

Curate – Gathering, sourcing, verifying and redistributing information or social media elements to track an event.
Example: Andrew Carvin uses Twitter to cover major international events. (NPR social media)

Data Story – An application that allows users to search and access data a variety of ways.
Example: The Dollar for Docs news application lets readers search pharmaceutical company payments to doctors. (ProPublica database)

Detail – Distinct observations, facts or moments included for the purpose of conveying character or plot.
Example: This story of the world’s largest religious festival in India is told through intimate snapshots of the spiritual pilgrims. (Bombay Flying Club)

Dialogue – Conversation between two or more characters that allows the audience to see and hear characters interacting with one another.
Example: The back-and-forth between two adult daughters and their father who has Alzheimer’s disease helps provide insight into a family’s struggle to hang on to memories. (StoryCorps audio and photo)

Dramatic question – An overarching question posed at the beginning of a story; audience wonders how it will end.
Example: An award-winning 2007 article by columnist Gene Weingarten starts with a question, “If the world’s great violinist performed incognito in a Metro station, would anyone stop and listen?” (Washington Post article and video)


Continue reading

Using Narrative Nonfiction to Teach Multimedia Storytelling

This semester, I am trying something new in my advanced multimedia journalism course. In addition to studying examples of interactive journalism, completing a series of online trainings and tutorials, and conducting their own multimedia reporting assignments, my students will be reading Susan Orlean.

I selected Orlean’s book Saturday Night, which was first published in 1990 and was reissued this year, as one of the primary texts. Saturday Night is a collection of magazine-style feature articles that start with the question, “What makes Saturday night so special?” In her attempt to answer that question, Orlean travels the county and cruises in muscle cars in Indiana, polka dances with seniors in Maryland, interviews homeless people on the Lower East Side, and spends the night in a missile silo in Wyoming.

So what does The New Yorker-style narrative nonfiction have to do with multimedia journalism?

I’m planning to use the book in several ways to help students explore aspects of digital storytelling.

Finding Stories
Most of the subjects in Saturday Night are pretty ordinary, but Orlean’s eye for detail and skillful prose creates wonderfully vivid portraits of everyday life. My students’ assignments will have a similar goal: to find surprising and compelling stories about people and events that rarely make the news.

Insight into the Reporting Process
Orlean is a rigorous reporter and researcher, even when she is writing about a waitress or a babysitter. Also Orlean’s use of the first person provides occasional glimpses into her own process and how she interacts with subjects. My students are always wanting to know how a reporter finds a particular story or conducts herself when she’s doing a story.

Narrative Structure and Techniques
When I think back on own journalism education experience – in a time before the term “multimedia reporting” was invented – I learned the most about the art of storytelling in my magazine writing classes. We studied writers like John Hersey, Gay Talese, Jimmy Breslin, Joan Dideon, Calvin Trillin and Lillian Ross. We learned how to structure a story, set a scene, select the most telling details, and incorporate quotes and dialogue. I’m hoping to bring a feature writing sensibility to the students’ practice of multimedia journalism.

Understanding Multimedia
My students’ assignments incorporate text, photos, audio and video. A key challenge is understanding when to use a particular medium to tell the story in the most engaging way. I have created several exercises in which students will brainstorm how they might translate one of Orlean’s profiles for the digital age. We will storyboard an article and discuss how it might be presented as an interactive feature on the web. Students will apply those concepts to their own work.

A Source of Inspiration (I hope)
This is an experiment. I know that many of the techniques of magazine writing do not translate to gathering audio or shooting video. Students will have three minutes to present a story, not 5,000 words. And many of the cultural references in Saturday Night are dated (i.e., in the future “people will eventually work from their homes via computer workstations and modem hookups.”) However, I’m hopeful that a book like Saturday Night is still capable of inspiring the next generation of journalists.

At the end of the semester, I’ll post an update of what I learn.

Resources for Incorporating Mobile Reporting into a Journalism Course

I’ve been hunting for resources that might help in adding mobile reporting assignments to my exiting courses. Here is a round-up of some guides, tips, articles and advice from instructors and journalists in the field.

Mobile Journalism Reporting Tools Guide – A guide to dozens of services, hardware and apps for on-the-go reporting with social media, photos audio, and video. Compiled for the Reynolds Journalism Institute by Will Sullivan, self-described “journalism nerd.”

7 Tips For Teaching Mobile Media To Journalism Students –  Staci Baird reflects on her experience teaching a course at San Francisco State University, including the suggestion to “forget about offering an entire class that focuses solely on mobile media unless you’re going to concentrate on the technical side of things and students are actually going to create mobile websites or apps.” Also here is a list of links from Baird’s talk at a mobile symposium. (Knight Digital Media Center)

Contemporary News Media – Staci Baird’s syllabus from San Francisco State University

“I teach mobile” Facebook group for journalism educators

A website of an experimental Mobile Reporting course taught by Jeremy Rue and Richard Koci Hernandez at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

Reporting live from the scene of breaking news… on an iPhone – Equipped with just an iPhone, a NPR reporter pulls off a broadcast that “might have required days of planning just a few months ago.” (Nieman Journalism Lab)

A reporter’s tale of using Motorola Droid on the job – Nathan Gonzalez, a cops reporter for the Arizona Republic, describes how he used his phone to report each aspect of a law enforcement gun raid. (Technically Journalism)

Former Newspaper Photographer Becomes Mobile, Social Journalist – How Jim MacMillan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, made the shift to mobile. (Poynter)

How One Radio Reporter Ditched His Equipment for an iPhone 4 – Neal Augenstein offers his tips and shows off his homemade jury rigged iPhone mic clip. (Media Shift)

Why I Am Adding Brian Stelter’s “What I Learned in Joplin” to My Course Reading

A screen grab of Brian Stelter's Instagram photo page. He used the photo sharing app to report on the aftermath of the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri.

I am adding “What I Learned in Joplin,” a personal blog post by New York Times reporter Brian Stelter, to the reading list for my fall Online Journalism course.

In the post, Stelter’s reflects on his experience of trying to cover the aftermath of the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri in May. Due to unreliable Internet and phone service, Stelter did much of his reporting using social media – texting, tweeting, and posting photos via Instagram.

Stelter’s post has generated some spirited debate on journalism blogs, including Jeff Jarvis questioning if traditional news articles might be a luxury in the Internet age and Michael Ingram’s response to Jarvis, “No, Twitter is Not a Replacement for Journalism.” While I find this debate intriguing, I am including Stelter’s article in my course for more practical reasons.

Here are some things I like about his experience and blog post:

It’s About Reporting
Stelter covers TV and media for the New York Times and was traveling to Chicago to cover the final episode of the Oprah Winfrey show a few hours after the tornado hit. On the plane, he decided to delay his trip and go report on the devastation of the small town. He lacked preparation and experience, but he followed his instincts.

It seems like an obvious choice, but on the night Osama bin Laden death was announced rowdy student-led celebrations broke out on my college campus, I observed a range of responses from my journalism students. Some continued to study for exams. Some stayed in their dorm rooms and followed it on Facebook and Twitter. And some grabbed cameras and went live on the campus TV station to report the story.

Old Advice for New Media Reporting
Many of the things Stelter lists as his lessons learned sound like a nagging journalism instructor or an Intro to News Reporting textbook. Carry extra pens. Bring backup batteries. Avoid the pack of reporters. Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes. McDonald’s has WiFi. All obvious, but essential, advice.

Using Social Media as a Reporting Tool
With his cell phone, Stelter was able to send out short bursts of texts and photos. He tweeted and snapped photos as a form of note taking, but also to relay that information to others.

He writes:

I parked a block from the south side of the hospital and approached on foot, taking as many pictures as possible, knowing I’d need them later to remember what I was seeing.


I started trying to tweet everything I saw — the search of the rubble pile, the sounds coming from the hospital, the dazed look on peoples’ faces. Some of the texts didn’t send, but most did. Practically speaking, text messages were my only way to relay information.

And because he created this record of online information, it could be easily incorporated into the overall news coverage. A link to Stelter’s Twitter feed, which has more than 60,000 followers, was put on the homepage of NYTimes.com.

Revisiting Tweets to Create a Stronger Story
Stelter’s tweets from the scene tell their own unique story. There are concrete facts, descriptive scenes, and quotes from survivors and rescue workers. But Stelter also notes the limits of this kind of reporting and storytelling. He writes that it would be helpful to have an editor “rewriting the reporters’ tweets and reworking them into the live news story.”

He also writes:

I believe it’s true that ‘my best reporting was on Twitter,’ but only up until a certain point on Monday, probably around 11 p.m. local time. After that point, with a more stable Internet connection, I was able to file complete stories for NYTimes.com, not just chunks of copy.

At that point, Stelter could incorporate his reporting into a front-page story that provided a richer overview of the events, not just brief snapshots.

“What I Learned in Joplin” also has a simple, yet effective, story structure. Stelter begins with an anecdote that contains concrete and vivid details. And then he has a moment of reflection (“What I Learned”) when he explains the point of the anecdote. He repeats this refrain – anecdote and moment of reflection – seven times in the blog post.

By revisiting his tweets and experiences, Stelter turns even “a stream of consciousness” blog post into a compelling narrative.

Three Resources for Exploring the Narrative Structures of Digital Journalism

The standard conventions of print news writing are tried and tested. The narrative structures of digital and multimedia journalism are less so.

“That’s why innovation in a newsroom isn’t just learning how to shoot and embed video or using Twitter to cover a live event,” Ronald Yaros wrote in American Journalism Review. “Innovation must also include developing, testing, and using new story techniques that keep audiences engaged.”

To better understand and teach multimedia storytelling, I’ve been hunting for narrative metaphors and structures for online news.

Here are three resources on the subject that I have found useful:

Alternate Story Forms

Alternate story forms break down information by theme and organize stories into chunks that can be scanned and understood easily by readers. Suitable for the web and often for newspapers and magazines, alternate story forms include:

  • Q&As
  • f.a.q.s
  • glossaries
  • checklists
  • timelines
  • quizzes
  • games

A Poynter News University online course on alternate story forms, developed by Andy Bechtel of the University of North Carolina, is a great resource for exploring the topic and learning which stories work best for which formats.

The online course itself is a nice example of the use of alternate story forms. It employs tightly written text boxes, interactive exercises, and animation. And it that allows the user to explore the information in a non-linear manner.

PICK Model for Online News

Multimedia is often defined as the use of various elements: text, audio,  photos, video, graphics, and animation. But a group of researchers at University of Maryland define multimedia journalism as a cohesive experience.

They analyze how a webpage or website combines media to create a narrative environment for the user.

To explain their findings, researchers developed the P.I.C.K. model. It focuses on:

  • Personalization – How content in a multimedia story relates to the user’s needs and interests.
  • Involvement – The degree to which technology enables users to participate with choices, responses or content.
  • Contiguity – How text, words, graphics, and animation are presented together.
  • Kick-outs – Minimizing anything that competes with the users’ attention and compels them to go elsewhere.

The goal is to move beyond simply throwing together text and video and understanding how everything works together. One finding is that text is still key in explaining how all of the story elements relate to one another.

Journalism in the Age of Data

Data visualization is the display of complex information through graphics and animation. It has become a standard way to display election results, geographic locations, and complex statistical or financial data.

A great resource for exploring the subject is Journalism in the Age of Data, a video report and website created by Geoff McGhee. It includes interviews with journalists at the New York Times, MSNBC, and BBC, examples of how newsrooms are collaborating on projects, and websites for beginners like ManyEyes and Flare.

It also presents an overview of the research of Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer from Stanford University, who study the narrative structures of online news data visualizations. Their research analyzes dozens of examples currently employed by online news organizations and looks for common narrative devices and story elements.

They identify seven basic narrative genres in data visualization:

  • magazine style
  • annotated chart
  • partitioned poster
  • flow chart
  • comic strip
  • slide show
  • film/video/animation

They also describe how newsrooms are adopting the storytelling techniques of film, graphic design, animation, and video games to cover the news.