Congratulations to the Spring 2017 1-Year Broadcast Journalism students, who graduated last Friday! A distinctive, and talented, group if there ever was one. They came to NYFA from (starting on the left) the Philippines; Guatemala; Alaska; Spain; France; New Jersey; Queens, New York (via Nigeria), Queens and Croatia.
Emilie Olsson is now working with Bonnier News in Stockholm, Sweden. When I asked her about the company, she wrote: “They also own Expressen and TV4. So I am a videoreporter at a magazine, web TV channel. Doing health, travel, food, cars and lifestyle.”Bruna Beloch spent the past weekend covering the massive Rock in Rio music festival. And by the smile on her face, I think she had a good time. It also seems to be something of a family tradition, as her grandmother covered an international song contest for Correio da Manhã (I think it’s a newspaper) 60 years ago…Last week, Kecia Gayle was out covering New York Fashion Week, which included attending the Laquan Smith Spring 2018 Collection Fashion Show. (That’s Kecia in the middle.)Finally, on a personal note, a big “thank you” to the Zhejiang University of Media and Communications, for the opportunity to participate in the dedication of their new film production center in historic Wuzhen, China last week. It was a fascinating day…
How can you effectively convey the scope, and the human tragedies, associated with a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey? Last week, in the middle of all of its traditional coverage, the digital edition of The New York Times had one of the most effective, and frightening, infographics I have ever seen.Please, take a moment and look at it. Each red dot is a rescue. Each dialog box contains the words off an actual emergency call.Even as coverage of the impact of Hurricane Harvey continues, news organizations have a responsibility to look beyond today’s headlines. The Nieman Lab at Harvard has posted a fascinating study of ways to cover ongoing climate change with urgency and creativity. Audiences think they have “heard it all before.” Journalists have to convince them that they haven’t. That takes skill and “smarts.”Sticking with the Nieman Lab, which is a great journalism resource, Time magazine, one of the great institutions of 20th century American journalism, is fighting to remain relevant (and in business) in the 21st century. Nieman tells the story of one common-sense technique to engage audiences by getting them to participate in the fact-finding process. Something as simple as an online survey can pay big dividends.One of the mainstays of the news business are “follow-up” stories. You might remember an item I wrote awhile back about the new partnership between NBC News and Snapchat. The goal is to reach audiences that traditional NBC News programming don’t. Axios reports that the early results are impressive, as the daily news program NBC distributes via Snapchat — which does not look, or sound, like anything else NBC does — seems to be a resounding success.Friday was graduation day for the 8-week Summer Session students. They leave having created some impressive stories, as well as developed and deepened a wide range of production skills. One graduate had a job interview before she graduated. That says a lot about how hard our students work.Congratulations!Instructor Zack Baddorf continues his “sabbatical” in central Africa. Currently he in Kaga Bandorio, which he describes as “a town held by rebels way out in the bush in the Central African Republic.” Zack is shooting video for the International Rescue Committee, which is fantastic organization. He is documenting health, child soldier reintegration and women’s socioeconomic activities in a place where it is brutally hot, and not enough power for a fan let alone an air conditioner.Which is a good excuse to go whitewater rafting on the Nile…The Weekly Update is briefly going on hiatus, as I am going to China where I am wrapping up my on-camera work for a cultural documentary series, shooting material for another documentary project, as well as representing NYFA. (In fact, as you read this, I am likely on the very long plane ride from New York.) The Weekly Update will be back on September 18.
Those of you who are especially observant — and I am sure that includes all NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduates — may have noticed that this edition of the Weekly Update arrived quite late on Monday. (Or, for those across the International Dateline, on Tuesday.) The reason was that I spent the past weekend shooting material for an upcoming documentary project called “Shanghai: 1937.”Earlier this year, I was in China shooting the host segments for the international version of the CCTV cultural documentary series “Masters of the Century.” While there, I lectured at the Beijing Film Academy, in my capacity as the Chair of the NYFA Broadcast Journalism program. And I also did groundwork for “Shanghai: 1937.” (Broadcast journalists invented the concept of “multitasking.”) The first week of September, I will be in China shooting original interviews and scenic footage for “Shanghai: 1937,” as well as again visiting several universities representing NYFA.The Battle of Shanghai took place during the late Summer and early Fall of 1937. It has been called the last battle of World War I, and the first battle of World War II. Largely unknown outside of China, it set the stage for later Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong and the Philippines. But for four long years, China stood alone.This past Sunday, I interviewed a 92 year-old witness to the Battle of Shanghai. Her name is Liliane Willens, and she is the author of the amazing book “Stateless in Shanghai.” She and her family were Russian Jewish refugees, allowed to live in Shanghai but unable to leave, as they had no citizenship papers or passports.Monday morning, I interviewed military historian Edward Drea. He is one of the editors of “The Battle for China,” widely considered the definitive work on the Sino-Japanese War. He was formerly the head of the Research and Analysis Department at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C. and taught at the U.S. Army War College.In Shanghai I will interview Prof. Su Zhiliang of Shanghai Normal University, an expert on the Battle of Shanghai. Prof. Su has lectured throughout China, and overseas, and is the author of numerous books, monographs and journal articles.I’ll also be shooting at key Shanghai locations including the Sihang Warehouse, where a company of Chinese troops — given what seemed a suicide mission — held back a Japanese army.In the end, however, this is a story of shattered lives and enduring dreams. The events of “Shanghai, 1937” continue to echo today and underlie many Chinese attitudes and beliefs. If you want to understand contemporary China, you must first understand its history.
In journalism, we always try to “get ahead of the story.” That is, not just report what has already happened but also cover what may well happen next. TVNewser had a great feature recently on how ABC News was out in front of one story by an astounding 38 years. In February 1979, Frank Reynolds — the anchor (presenter) of ABC’s evening newscast — wrapped up a story about a just-occurred solar eclipse with a unique tag:
“So that’s it – the last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent in this century … Not until August 21, 2017 will another eclipse be visible from North America. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace. ABC News, of course, will bring you a complete report on that next eclipse 38 years from now.”
And he was right. In fact, a friend and former coworker of mine anticipates cutting at least one eclipse story for “Good Morning America,” ABC’s morning news/chat show.Back in the 21st Century, BuzzFeed and Twitter have announced a new morning news show of their own. It follows successful Election Night coverage last November, and not surprisingly will reflect the attitude and style of these two digital information giants. What is surprising is how in some ways the program will be similar to current network programs, only with more attitude and edge. It was also be “linear,” similar to conventional television, as opposed to a “non-linear” approach that lets viewers pick and choose what they want.
On the other hand, CBS News — often seen as the most “behind-the-curve” operation when it comes to cross-platform distribution — has incorporated video-on-demand (VOD) functionality into their CBSN digital news platform. It can be watched either in linear or non-linear fashion. In addition, some CBSN content can now be seen on the main CBS broadcast channel as well.Speaking of cross-platform distribution, here is a story that NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduate Grace Shao did last week for China Global Television News (CGTN). It was fed out as part of regularly scheduled linear programs, integrated into an online posting, and distributed across a number of digital social media platforms. It’s a pretty good story too!
We end this edition of the Weekly Update with good news about Evgenia “Genia” Vlasova, who many of you know as a classmate, a TA or an active freelance multimedia journalist. She can now add the title “NYFA Instructor” to her resume. Genia is taking the lead with the Personal Journalism course, and will also be teaching the 12-week Evening Broadcast Journalism workshop this fall. She came to NYFA with seven years of on-air experience in Russia, and combined that with all she learned here in the 1-year Broadcast Journalism Conservatory program. Tireless, upbeat, knowledgeable, talented, Genia is a great addition to the Broadcast Journalism faculty.Congratulations, Genia!(Picture courtesy of our regular camera instructor Daniel Hernandez.)
So, who is a journalist? In some countries, you need to take a test and get a government license. Here in the United States, all you have to do is say you are a “journalist” and you are one. Still, typically we think of someone who works on TV or radio, a newspaper or magazine. But how about a guy driving a for-hire car, interviewing customers for a podcast? That’s the theme of a report on the Columbia Journalism Review website. It tells the story of a TV journalist who has reinvented himself as a digital journalist. It is an interesting read, and listen…These days, if you are looking for a story about “journalism,” you may find yourself scanning an online publication like TechCrunch. That’s because technology is now firmly embedded in journalism. (Or is journalism firmly embedded in technology?)The latest example is how Time, Inc. is moving all its websites (it has a bunch) to a new, in-house platform that will allow all of them to be the same yet still be different. It’s also a move to get pages to load faster on mobile devices…On Friday, we said “good-bye” to the Summer Session 4-week Broadcast Journalism students. This year, we had students from South Africa, New York City, Connecticut, New Jersey, Russia and Brazil. They deserve congratulations, given the tough schedule necessary to make sure they get the basic skills necessary to be Multimedia Journalists. And while it isn’t the same as “12 weeks on Paris Island” (any former Marines out there?), I think you still can term it “boot camp.” (But without the drill sergeants…)NYFA Broadcast Journalism instructor Zack Baddorf continues his “sabbatical” in central Africa. Today The New York Times published his latest report, which examines the recent electoral victory of Rwanda President Paul Kagame.I always tell our students we offer a skills-based program, and that you can use these skills in any number of ways. NYFA grad Kecia Gayle is a contributor to the digital news site Hollywood Unlocked. She was doing her red carpet thing this past Saturday night, when she covered “Black Girls Rock! 2017,” a leadership awards show sponsored by BET (a cable channel).Kecia wrote:“Ok, so I had to pinch myself to see if this was real. Not only did I get to interview some of the most amazing celebrities, but I got to hear some great and powerful messages from black women who truly rock, like Maxine Waters, Yara Shahidi, Solange Knowles, Issa Rae and plenty more. It was definitely a night to remember.”
Recently I wrote about how NBC News has developed a daily news program for distribution exclusively via Snapchat Discover. And while I can’t tell you how big an audience the program is attracting, I can tell you that it has generated a lot of positive notice. USA Today, for instance, went so far as to say “we may have seen the future of TV news this week.” That’s a pretty bold statement, even with the qualifier “may.” What’s obvious is that this program is unlike the prime time “NBC Nightly News.” And while I will always be a prime time kind of guy, folks half my age (one-third?) are looking for something very different.
Meanwhile, ABC News — which is located about 16 blocks north of NBC News, here in New York — and the millennial-focused news site ATTN: have entered into a production partnership. ABC has lots of full-motion video content, and ATTN: has a very different distribution platform (and audience) than ABC. The award for the most out-of-touch headline of the week goes to The Street, which headlined their report on the partnership “Disney’s ABC News Using Social Media To Target Millennials.” Isn’t everyone?
There is still plenty of discussion about the BBC’s seemingly skewed salary policies, that result in male presenters getting paid more than their female counterparts. Rachel Burden had an op-ed piece on The Guardian website provocatively titled “I’m paid a lot of money for doing my job – but the BBC must act on gender equity.”Daniella Gemignani came to NYFA from Sao Paulo to enhance and expand her skill set. Now that she is back home, she is working for Brazilian media giant Globo. Recently she was on-air, conducting an interview with film director Michael Bey about the latest installment of the “Transformers” science-fiction series, which just opened in Brazil. A few months ago she was sitting in class, and now she is on-set with a famous Hollywood director.
Some of our Summer students were doing a news story on NYC subway track fires last week, so they went to the experts when it comes to firefighting — the FDNY. And not only did they get some great information, but t-shirts as well. All in all, not a bad day! The team is from (left to right) New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
One topic that goes around-and-around-and-around here in the United States is the toxic relationship between the administration of President Donald Trump and the American news media. I normally don’t include items on this subject, as they would crowd out everything else. But this week I am making an exception…ABC News is launching a new digital program called “Briefing Room.” It is a response to the Trump Administration’s decisions to hold daily audio-only press briefings off-camera, or invitation-only office briefings, or no briefings at all. The show will stream live on ABCNews.com and the ABC News YouTube and Facebook pages. So even when the White House restricts access, or refuses to even hold formal briefings, there will be a “briefing” none-the-less.NBC News is gearing up a new digital daily news program called “Stay Tuned” that will be distributed via Snapchat’s Discover platform. Aimed squarely at folks who get their news on the phone, this four-minute program will air twice a day on weekdays, and once on weekends. Media reports say it will have a staff of 30, which makes it a substantial undertaking.Note that I saw this story on Refinery 29, another example of a platform where all different types of content are gathered. The pop-up ad on the page I grabbed had an ad for Nordstrom, which is an upmarket department store. (It was a fluke … I’m not really all that fashionable.)As my current and former students know, I love a good graphic. So, staying with the theme of digital distribution, Bloomberg has been working to speed up load times for its content. (Because a slow load often translates into a bored viewer leaving a site and looking for something else.) Note the graphic that accompanied an article on the subject in Digiday. Those of you of a certain age will recognize the American cartoon character Wile E. Coyote. Even if you don’t know the cultural context, it is still funny. (Isn’t it?) But if you do know, it says a lot about how even a generally straight-ahead news publisher sometimes decides to have some fun.I got so much feedback from the NYFA Viewbook galley proof I posted last week that I decided it made sense to post another. Current students and alumni will recognize the studio we use to produce “NYFA News.” We employ a green screen effect to insert the co-anchors into a “virtual set'” which is made up of only zeros and ones, but looks like a network control room. The two co-anchors come from Brooklyn and Kunming (China).NYFA grad Daniel Fideli is hard at work back home in Brazil, where he is working with the sports channel SPORTV. (The channel is owned by the Brazilian media giant Globo.) Daniel holds a special place in NYFA broadcast journalism history, thanks to an epic journey he and a classmate took through the New York subway system in order to retrace the footsteps of the heroes of the 1970s cult movie “The Warriors.” (The film takes place in a dystopian New York at some point in the not-so-distant future: 2016.) It was one of the most unique student projects I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of student projects.
Former NYFA student Linda Zhang had the lead story recently on KION News in California. The station broadcasts to two separate cities on two different channels. (Plus cable, of course.) The story is about a seaside community where the beach sand was literally being “mined,” then sold. An agreement has been reached to end the mining, and save the beach.Nice work, Linda. And working “on deadline” too!And we end with a “postcard” from NYFA instructor Zack Baddorf, currently on sabbatical in the Central African Republic. For 90 seconds, join him as he goes “Flying Down the Chinko” in an ultralight aircraft.
Nothing seems quite as dated as “yesterday’s tomorrow.” That may turn out to be the story of Snapchat. Not so long ago, it was seemingly everyone’s media darling. Now it is facing substantial doubts, especially with investors. A year ago publishers who couldn’t get into Snapchat Discover started private accounts, so they could benefit from all the buzz. Now Digiday reports that publishers are migrating to Instagram. Proving once again, there are no “sure things.”There are, however, media heroes. Global Voices posted a fascinating story on how Syrian journalists living in exile are providing hope for their homeland, at a time when that quality is exceedingly rare. What we do, as journalists, does make a difference. It’s not always life-changing, but even the most modest story is important. And you don’t have to travel to the ends of the Earth to have an impact. Just look out your window. There are stories out there just waiting to be told.Editing instructor Elizabeth Chatelain, when not teaching NYFA students, has been working on a spectacular PBS documentary called “Life on Parole.” It is about former prisoners in the state of Connecticut, and follows them as they navigate the challenges of their first year on parole. It’s a collaboration with The New York Times, and Beth was an associate editor on the project. It airs tomorrow (7/18) on the PBS “Frontline” series (check your local listings for times). Outside the United States, check the “Frontline” website.Here is a galley proof of the Broadcast Journalism title page in the new NYFA Viewbook. I think it pretty well captures the essence of the program, demonstrating that our students are trained to be multimedia journalists (MMJs). This particular trio comes from Spain, New Jersey and Sweden.The new Summer session students arrived on campus last week, and they are already hard at work on their first stories. In fact, as you read this — assuming you are reading it on Monday 9a-5p NYC time, or the equivalent international off-set — they are out in the field shooting!
As always, we have students from around the world and across the United States. Some of them are accomplished journalists back home, who have come to NYFA to increase and deepen their skill set(s). One is Amina Aslanova, who works for Moscow 24 in Russia. On Saturday — yes, they were in school on a Saturday in July — she shared with her classmates a story in which she reported from a race in which she was actually running…
There are certain themes that I return to again and again. One of them — which current and former students will quickly recognize — is “I have seen the future, and it is on the phone.” Mobile phone, that is. The latest evidence comes from the BBC, as it prioritizes full motion video in its news app. Studies have shown that post engagement soars when you include video. This is a great time to be studying Broadcast Journalism, as we specialize in creating short-form, non-fiction video. You can’t find a more relevant course of study. Not so long ago, the BBC redesigned all of its websites in order to optimize them for mobile.
And speaking of the NYFA Broadcast Journalism course of study, a skill we put a great deal of emphasis on is the ability to conduct effective interviews. Getting the right “sound bite” takes one approach, while asking someone to speak directly “from the heart” is something else entirely. One of my favorite interviewers is Audie Cornish, who is an anchor/correspondent for NPR. (Formerly National Public Radio, but they changed their name to simply NPR so they didn’t seem wedded to a dinosaur technology. Personally, I love radio. But that’s another story…)
The Columbia Journalism Review is doing a series on interviewing, and the most recent edition features Audie Cornish. (I’ll have more to say about Columbia University a little later.)Being a journalist isn’t easy. But some of the people who practice our craft are literally risking their lives to deliver the news. Wired posted an article about a journalist who is “defying ISIS one video at a time.” It is a tremendous read. Yes, it is an old-fashioned “article.” But don’t let that put you off. There are important themes discussed here. And while most of us never have to make the sacrifices that the journalist being profiled regularly endures, inevitably during the course of your career you will be asked to make difficult decisions. The question is: What will you do?So perhaps you were watching the National Geographic cable channel last night. The evening was called “Earth Live,” and it was a real-time, worldwide exploration of the planet’s wildlife. Absolutely amazing! Equally amazing, there were about 50 music segments in this “live” program, all of which were skillfully integrated by NYFA’s own Joel Spector. Joel is the audio wiz behind NYFA News, and he has been with the program since it started. We are incredibly lucky to have Joel, and he asked me to pass along a message to our current students: “Don’t over-modulate your audio! You can’t fix that in post-production!”
OK … He really didn’t ask me to say that. But if he did request me to say something, it would likely be somewhat similar. Our graduates can attest to that.Arrivals and departures are an essential aspect of our craft, and this week I announce the departure of our personal journalism instructor, Thor Neureiter. Thor worked with the Fall 2016 1-year students along with the Spring 2017 1-year class, and he did an outstanding job. How “outstanding”? So outstanding that he has been hired by Columbia University to direct their Video Journalism program. It is a great opportunity for Thor, though we will miss him. (And I still think, if you want to become a multimedia journalist, NYFA is the place to go.)
That’s Thor below, with a fellow attendee at the (non-alcoholic) “toast” following the graduation of the Fall 2016 1-year Broadcast Journalism students. And its a good thing that glass is filled with seltzer, as some of the other attendees were a bit on the young side. (Look carefully…)Good luck, Thor…Meanwhile, NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduate Christian Good continues his “world video tour,” this time shooting in Reykjavik, Iceland. And once again, he faces the difficult task of figuring out how to say “Good Morning” to the locals. “Góðan daginn, or something,” he writes.
On Friday, June 27, the first New York Film Academy teen and kids summer camp programs came to an end. As students waited for their graduation ceremony to start, they took selfies while their parents banded together.
As the lights dimmed, the acting students presented their one to two minute monologues. Their head shots were projected before the video began. Filmed against a white background “audition style,” each actor chose a unique piece to perform.
Then, the student’s short films were screened. Their backdrop was the Universal backlot, the same place “Hairspray” was filmed. Students were given a challenge to make a movie without dialogue. They wrote, directed, filmed, and edited their own productions from start to finish.
Their instructors and councilors were in attendance and issued certificates of completion. In their farewells they offered words of encouragement. Camera Instructor Bart Mastronardi offered the wise words of Helen Keller: “Life is either an incredible journey or it’s nothing at all.”
“In five days you’ve done an amazing job. This is one of the best one-week programs. You’re all so ambitious. Parents and grandparents keep pushing these kids. They really appreciate it. Even if they don’t always show it,” said NYFA Instructor Martin Thompson.
After they collected their certificates each student was given a copy of their work to use for reels or to share with friends and family. The graduates and their families finished the night with cupcakes and dancing by the pool.
Head of programs Ale Salinas described the programs objectively in her farewell, stating, “Some of you may have learned that this isn’t what you want to do at all, that’s valid, too. But I’m being honest when I say we’re going to miss you.”
The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate all of the students in finishing their first film. We look forward to the seeing second film real soon.