Cheap Multi-Media Journalism

Multi-Media WIKI Mashups for cheap journalists

AEJMC 2007

Robert R. Mercer, M.A.
Journalism Department
Cypress College

Rachel K. Mercer, B.A.
NPower, Seattle

Publishing online can be a very expensive process. For $15,000 one can purchase Ellington Software and put it on a $2,000 server and be just like the Washington Post. It’s a really class-act developed in Lawrence, Kansas, with a full multimedia tool box for hosting most any media. And you have complete control over your product.

Or students can publish online relatively free using College Publisher signing a barter advertising agreement for a minimum of two years. College Publisher hosts hundreds of college online publications. However, the tool box is “klunky” though the owner, MTV, keeps trying to upgrade this “VHSesque” software that bought out and killed the “Beta-Max” of online student publishing in 2005. Also, as happened with the John Hopkins University April Fools edition, College Publisher will censor syndicated content when other college member editors complain. Remember, College Publisher staffers are NOT journalists. A bottom-line entertainment company owns it.

Or, in the tradition of convergence journalism in which we teach that any student at any time can publish from anywhere, there is the “Wiki” and the “Mashup” in which free websites, linked together with coding, create a single multi-media new site any group of students can use create a moment’s notice and continuously update without a newsroom or even staff titles—everyone is a Visualjournalist and everyone is an editor.

The most basic element is the Wiki. Names originally for the Wiki-Wiki bus that circles the Honolulu Airport, this “quick-quick” form of editing allows stories to go up as soon as the reporter—or the reader for the most trusting publishers—has the story, the photos, and/or the video. Alerts go out to other staffers as soon as a story is posted and anyone can immediately check the piece for accuracy, spelling and libel. Everyone needs an editor and, in the case of the Wiki, everyone, including the editor, gets an editor.

Here's a link to an article about Wikis:

Yeah, yeah, yeah—how do you know it’s accurate? You don’t, but your total readership does. Mob intelligence—academically called collective intelligence—kicks in and by the time every visualjournalist-editor has looked at it, statistically it likely will be as editorially clean as having a copy desk. Consider the peer-reviewed content analysis of Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia by the science journal, Nature. The results averaged out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia.

To learn even more, view Charlie Rose’s interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

There are many Wikis offered free online to those wishing to create an online newsletter.
Here's a link to a website that offers small free Wiki's, that student staffers with authorization can update with text and photos from any computer connected to the internet:

Sites limit content, so archiving alternatives need to be considered. But if a site does not have much storage, staffers can just change content frequently, archiving to a server or disk drive regularly.

Here are some examples of what is possible with a Wiki and the different uses:

Once you have your Wiki publication, you want to add video and Flash and SoundSlides and any other media file your students create. You can FTP your media files to your own server using FileZilla and create a link to them by pasting code into the Wiki template—or you can create a Mashup.

First the video codes. QuickTime seems to create the most reliable files for streaming videos (.mov) and podcasts (.mp4).

For streaming video, note the width and height in the code have to match your video’s width and height.

<param name="src"
<value=""> <param name="controller">
<value="true"> <param name="autostart" value="false"> <param name="scale"
<value="aspect"> <embed width="320" height="240" controller="true" autostart="true" scale="aspect" src="" border="0" pluginspage=""

For Podcasts, the code is created by simply copying and pasting the code of another Podcast, replacing all the information with your information—just the <text<. To add your next podcast (called an item), copy the previous item and replace the information again. No, you don’t need Apple PodCaster to do something this simple.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<rss xmlns:itunes="" version="2.0">
<title>Cychron Podcast (Standard)</title>
<copyright>&#x2117; &amp; &#xA9; 2006 Cypress College</copyright>
<itunes:subtitle>Cypress Chronicle Official Podcast</itunes:subtitle>
<itunes:summary>write a summery.</itunes:summary>
<description>Welcome to the official Cypress Chronicle Podcast. The Podcast is intended to help our students be more successful in their educational efforts and to better enjoy their time on campus. Use this feed if you're not playing on an iPod or listening directly in iTunes; otherwise, enjoy our enhanced feed with bookmarks and links.</description>
<itunes:name>Cypress Chronicle</itunes:name>
<itunes:image href="" />
<itunes:category text="Education">
<itunes:category text="Higher Education"/>

<title>Cypress Chronicle - The J.C. </title>
<itunes:subtitle>The J.C.</itunes:subtitle>
<itunes:summary>Cypress College student film which spoofs The Office</itunes:summary>
<enclosure url="" length="55955591" type="video/x-m4v" />
<pubDate>Mon, 23 Oct 2006 23:59:59 PDT</pubDate>
<itunes:keywords>Cypress College, college life, Cypress, California, education, higher education, photography, Guiness Book of World Records, El Toro, MCAS El Toro</itunes:keywords>

<title>Cypress Chronicle - CNC live</title>
<itunes:subtitle>Spring 2006 CNC Live Broadcast</itunes:subtitle>
<itunes:summary>Spring 2006 CNC Live Broadcast</itunes:summary>
<enclosure url="" length="55955591" type="video/x-m4v" />
<pubDate>Mon, 30 Oct 2006 23:59:59 PDT</pubDate>
<itunes:keywords>Cypress College, college life, Cypress, California, education, higher education, photography, Guiness Book of World Records, El Toro, MCAS El Toro</itunes:keywords>


Then post this document into the same folder with the Podcast video. Paste the address of this document into your web page or Wiki page template. You’re a Podcaster.

So you don’t have a server, and you need to post video of the campus fire in five minutes. Go to YouTube.Com and create a quick account for your Wiki publication, and then post your video. YouTube demands you keep the video file under 100 megabytes and that it play less than 10 minutes. YouTube.Com converts your video to a Flash 8 file. It also generates the embed code below that you place inside your text page template. When your page opens, the video plays inside your web page. It is not a “pop-up” but an image inside the page.

<object width="425" height="350"> <param name="movie" value=""> </param> <embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="425" height="350"> </embed> </object>

The above video was created on a $200 digital photographic camera. Within minutes, you can have any unedited video up on YouTube and an email alert to your readers with the address. Note that YouTube.Com is also a Mashup, hosting Google Maps to show the geographic location where the video was shot.

You can even embed videos from other sites when these sites provide the code to place inside your text pages. For example, here is the code for the video of Charlie Rose interviewing the founder of Wikipedia.

<embed style="width:400px; height:326px;" id="VideoPlayback" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" src="" flashvars=""> </embed>

Google maps has just announced mashups for consumer and commercial websites. You can integrate the maps into your website to explain where a story occurred, the route of the bike race, or where the shoreline will be in your ocean-front community as global warming progresses.

We are not teaching technology. Every day a new technology appears. Obviously, your students will know about it long before you do. The trick is to challenge students to look at each new application they discover and ask how it can be applied to journalism. The latest philosophy of converged media is to learn everywhere audiences acquires their news; and be at each of those distribution points with your news organization’s product. We are still teaching journalism. It’s not that the news has changed, just how it is delivered.

Bell Gardens Star and Review, 1962-63

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