Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reinventing the News: Spikey Em

Boston Globe reporter Emily Sweeney spoke to my journalism class this week about her work in online video and other mulitmedia projects. Sweeney graduated a decade ago from my university, and her return to my school really reinforced how much journalism has changed in the last ten years. A Globe reporter for the last seven years, she is also the New England President for the and Society for Professional Journalists.

In our financially troubled times, Sweeney has carved a niche for herself by being the Globe's video reporter. She started the first video blog for the newspaper in September 2006. Like Steve Garfield who previously spoke to my class, Sweeney's video skills are definitely rough. But online video for newspapers are a new field, and many older, established newspaper reporters, while excellent journalists, don't have the basic knowledge of computers young people have. Her early interest in technology has made her a go-to girl for Globe videos.

Many of Sweeney's videos are simply things she finds entertaining or interesting, very rarely hard news. Sweeney, who goes by the moniker Spikey Em due to her ultra-gelled hair, showed our class a few of her projects, including a video about Boston slang. While some of the vocabulary she features are universal (since when is "book it" only used in Boston), her video is an example of the World Wide Web's local appeal. Though this video has the potential to reach all corners of the globe, publications have had the most success by appealing to a local or niche market through the Internet.

Her videos have been a learning process for her too. In her video last year documenting the decline of Bingo's popularity in Boston, she narrated without any script. She has since learned that a script is necessary for any video work, no matter how comfortable you may think you are with the subject. For more tips of the trade, Sweeney has authored a How-to Multimedia guide for journalists that appeared in Editor & Publisher and Quill Magazine in 2006.

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