Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Tag Archives: GateHouse Media
Up until September 2006, I spent my entire journalism career on the West Coast, and mostly with very little travel.
I knew journalists and newspaper people throughout California, and because of online e-mail lists and such, I knew a handful of people based in other parts of the U.S.
Frankly, I was largely ignorant of a lot of the good work going on in the Northeast.
In these parts, my co-worker Shannon Dunnigan is a heavyweight, but I knew nothing about her before joining GateHouse. I’ve also gotten to know Dan Kennedy, Sean Polay, Joe Michaud, Lisa Williams, Bob Kempf and Bill Densmore among many others (I know I’m forgetting several people) since arriving in New York. Hey, I barely even knew my own boss, Bill Blevins, before coming east.
Not long ago, I got to meet and spend time talking with John Wilpers, whom I’ve discovered in one of the sharper minds in online news. The other day, I got an e-mail from him indicated he launched a new blog. As I would expect from Wilpers, the topics are fresh, insightful and on target. Continue reading
Part of my job is to travel around the country and visit our newsrooms, where I make a presentation about our online strategy. The Rockford Register Star is an example of a newsroom that has totally embraced the web. They produced the video below to incorporate into the GateHouse training program.
[youtube GIJUyNHXrwQ nolink] Continue reading
Here is a chance to do something completely different.
GateHouse Media is looking for two ambitious, entrepreneurial individuals to help us reinvent local journalism.
The ideal candidate:
- A recent college graduate (or graduating this spring)
- At least six months experience blogging
- Capable of shooting and editing his or her own video
- Ready to do more than sit in an office and make phone calls or pull the latest agenda item from a city council meeting and try to turn it into a story
- Believes in local news and local community and sees a role for journalism in helping a community communicate and learn about what is happening in that community
In this job, you will have a chance to define a new role for community journalists. You will be doing more than trying to shove five W’s and an H into an inverted pyramid. This job is about figuring out what a community of people really wants from its local community site.
What we’re looking for is people who can work on their own, willing to try new things and not be bound “that’s how it’s always been done.” You will be expected to be responsible for coming up with new ideas for your site, both in coverage and presentation, and for growing audience.
We will provide you with the technology and tools to get the job done. We will expect you to grow readership and participation.
Chances are you will be required to relocate.
Applicants should e-mail me at howens -at- gatehouse media (oneword) dot com. Continue reading
When I started this video of the week thing, I said it would be hit and miss … as time permits and I think about it, sort of thing.
To make up for several weeks of not doing it, here’s three videos.
[youtube ueAOBzHMH28 nolink]
[youtube cjh2PmZf3Ss nolink]
[youtube GbaIqpbSv6c nolink] Continue reading
Local music: It’s a logical avenue into reaching a younger audience. It helps reflect what’s really going on in the community you’re sworn to cover. It ads depth of coverage to your newspaper.com.
And who doesn’t love a good music video? I’ve long suspected that the reason many reporters get excited about shooting video is they’ve watched a lot of MTV.
But you don’t see many music videos on newspaper sites.
The reason is simple, really. To do music video well takes time, and lots of it, good equipment, and costs can add up quickly, as well as real talent.
What you’re really looking at is significant expense and time away from doing the core business of covering news.
Yeah, but wouldn’t it be fun to make a music video?
The Canton Repository (a GateHouse Media paper) found a great lo-fi approach. During the photo shoot for its upcoming Battle of the Bands (a competition open only to bands comprised of high school students), the Rep filmed band members milling about the newspaper building, and in the photo studio.
The results are simple, elegant and engaging. The keys to success are good editing and well-composed shots of kids aspiring to the spotlight. All the videos are a reminiscent of Hard Day’s Night.
Some of the music ain’t bad, either.
Here’s my favorite:
[youtube ZykpCuFCBT8 Ya Dig? by PJ & The Whistlers]
Ya Dig? by PJ & The Whistlers Continue reading
Here’s an example of a GateHouse Media reporter who isn’t afraid of the new medium, is entrepreneurial and forward thinking — Jessica Gaspar, a reporter for our weekly in Hennrietta, New York, has started her own section on an independently run town bulletin board. She calls it Jessica’s Corner.
Jessica uses here posts to ask for story tips, get feedback on articles and promote her own weekly as well as the MPNNow.com web site.
Her posts are fun and lively and some of them generate a bit of conversation. She includes all of her contact information in all of her posts.
Many towns these days have these local bulletin boards that are usually frequented by the biggest news junkies and gossip hounds in town. It makes a lot of sense for a reporter covering that beat to become part of that community.
If Jessica happens by this blog post maybe she will leave a comment about how this has all worked out for her — the upsides and downsides and what she’s learned.
I’m reading an interesting book right now called Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages.
How we label and categorize things is important to how we understand our environment.
Nearly a year ago, Andy Dickinson did a post labeling three types of newspaper video: Disruptive, channel and multimedia. At the time, I suggested “attached video” was a better label than “disruptive,” being that disruption is a strategy not a category.
That post influenced a slide in my internal video training presentation. My three categories of video have been: Attached, story, and webcast.
Attached is that short video meant to embed on a story page. Story video is the full story, no text needed, and webcast is that sort of thing that usually has an anchor/host and covers more than one topic.
A couple of weeks ago, Victor DeRubeis left a comment on a post highlighting a couple of GateHouse Media videos.
Nice raw video, yes. But where’s the journalism? Where’s the editing? Where’s the context?
And somewhere, though I can’t find the comment now, somebody said of one of our videos that it was nothing more than a moving photo illustration.
That’s the comment that stuck in my head. It’s a V8-moment! The proper term is not “attached video.” It is a “video illustration.”
To me, these comments intended to be criticism are actually high praise. This is exactly what we’re after with quick-production, point-and-shoot video.
Story video may have its time and place, but unlike some, I don’t believe that is the sum and whole of what online video can or should be.
The point of quick-production, reporter-shot video should be to illustrate in a way that words alone cannot. Raw is good. Heavy editing is a waste of time. Context is a distraction. The point is not to capture the whole story. It is to illustrate a story.
That’s not to say that we’re doing all that well at that goal yet, but it’s still a style of newspaper video I believe in passionately. I believe we will learn. I believe we will get better. I’ve seen enough glimpses of how well this can work to believe that as quality and understanding (reporters developing the appropriate sense of when and how to use this type of video), it will prove a very useful tool both journalisticly and strategically.
For most news videos, any more time than that is just a waste because you’re not going to get enough views from any one video (there are exceptions, of course) to justify the time commitment, especially when you’re talking about reporters who also have print responsibilities.
I think this line of thinking is especially important at small newspapers (the kind I deal with every day) where publishers will NEVER hire a full-time videographer (or at least not until video advertising becomes a major revenue stream).
Andy Dickinson points us to a newspaper web crew in Nebraska that is regularly doing quick-production video and starting to get some traction with the local audience.
Online producer Eric Eckert tells Andy,
This year alone, we (3 staff) have produced over 450 videos which have received over 120,000 views. Most of the videos are, as you stated, 2-3 minutes long. The numbers differ though when you look at how long it takes us to make the videos. We usually spend 10-15 minutes shooting the video and I usually spend 15-30 minutes editing the video. In breaking news situations, like car accidents, we are generally shooting photos as well. We probably average getting a 2-3 minute report and 100 photos onto our site in less than an hour.
And in a follow up, Eric says,
Melanie has been instrumental with helping to get more videos out fast. She takes flack from time-o-time because she might say “uh” here or there, but we generally get the shot done in one take and that’s what we want. Our number one concern is to get the information out there.
Sure, we could spend a day making a report, but when it comes down to it, it looks real, you can tell she’s not robotically reading off a prompter and once again, we can have it online faster.
There are many advantages to putting the emphasis on speed-of-production:
- You can simply produce more content, and more content feeds the long-tail.
- More, faster production, means you’re going to learn faster. Learning is still the number one task for all newspaper video producers (remember what Ira Glass says about this?).
- More video means the audience is learning faster than your site is a go-to place for local video.
- Speed to publication is exceptionally important to online audience growth.
Eric’s newspaper is the York News Times. There are two interesting things about that. First, the York paper is a GateHouse Media property now; second, while it’s a GateHouse property, we’ve never had a direct discussion with anybody in York about our video strategy. York developed its approach while still owned by Morris. It’s great to see York being successful with its own homegrown strategy.
Here’s another example of the advantage of journalists always being armed with video-capable cameras.
There was a dramatic fire in Gloucester, Mass. Saturday morning. GateHouse Media photojournalist Kirk Williamson shot both stills and video (for the video, he used one of the Casio’s we issue).
Editor Chris Biondi posted this interview with Kirk.
How did you juggle between still and video? What was your thought process? As with all spot news it’s important to shoot the overall as you are going into the scene. This I did with my still cameras, shooting wide with one camera and long with the other. Once the paper and Web site are covered with stills (about 10 minutes in) I pulled out the Casio and started doing video overalls following the same routine. Wide overall, then tight action. In this situation it’s important to follow a pattern and not get all flustered with what is going on. After I had some video I went back to shooting stills and alternated back and forth until I went, looking for different angles, etc.
I would contend that Kirk would have had a lot harder time doing both stills and video if, after taking his stills, he had a complete video camera kit to set up (bigger camera, tripod, lights, mics, etc.). And having all that, there would be a real temptation to turn this into a “visual journalism story,” instead of simply showing what’s going on. And the whole process, including editing, would have taken exponentially longer. For this event, just being able to whip out the Casio and get a few frames to show the fire live-action is all that is needed. Continue reading