Recommendations for technology use in the Quinnipiac Chronicle
Dear senior editor,
Boom or Buzz? This was the question we constantly asked ourselves while evaluating high-tech tools for journalists. The idea was that these new technologies- virtual reality, drones, wearables, gaming, and sensors, are suddenly being talked about as the next big thing. We had our reservations, but in the end determined that each tool is just that: a tool. Sometimes you need a screwdriver while other times you need a hammer. These tools are fitting in certain circumstances, not in all, and not always.
Now, the question is this- When do you use these tools, and how?
In this paper I examine missed opportunities to utilize each tool mentioned above. All examples are from the Chronicle, the Quinnipiac newspaper. Accuracy of facts is dependent upon the Chronicle. This essay aims to point at missed opportunities and has less of a focus on the accuracy of information.
Story one: “Student Arrested for Drug Possession”
My suggestion? Body Cameras.
This tool falls into the wearable category. The story is about the recent arrest of Kyle Shapiro. Hamden Police searched his dorm room and found 1.367 pounds of marijuana, .8 grams of cocaine, 8 vials of Hashish and $9, 518.
Body cameras have been highlighted for their ability to capture footage in instances such as police brutality. The public, and journalist in particular, are interested in the potential of this footage to expose the truth. Body cameras could be used to show the search of Shapiro’s room. Reading the article I was left with questions. On a college campus, the first line of defense is assumed to be residential life or campus Security. When did the police get involved? Was the search a surprise, or was this an ongoing investigation? If it was a surprise, what did that look like? Moreover, measurements are hard to imagine, and for many, visualizing what over a pound of weed, and nearly $10,000 looks like (imaginably in denominations of 10s and 20s) is an unexploited aspect of the story.
There is a growing interest in crime and investigative shows. This is because viewers enjoy being led through background information like family and work life, the people involved, and the intricate details of the story. Viewers are involved in the evolution of the account, which is largely told through an officer’s eyes. Stories done for news cannot be nearly as extensive. However, adding the elements of body cameras allows the consumer to see the story literally from the officers point of view. The goal is to take us to the scene, show the gravity of the situation, and what that atmosphere felt like.
Shapiro’s court date is scheduled for Dec. 14. When cases go to trial footage is made available, but in the event that a case does not go to trial it is not. Departments do not have to make the footage accessible unless compelled to do so in a criminal or civil court proceeding. The use of body cameras could potentially be a great asset in future stories, but there is still much legislation and debate around what police officers are obligated to disclose.
Story two: “Hilltop lot parking problems increase”
My Suggestion? You guessed it… Drones!
Drones are valuable because they do an excellent job at showing the landscape and size of an area. For people who are not familiar with Hilltop, it may be hard to imagine what it actually looks like. It’s plausible that one could take the name quite literally and picture a grassy hilltop. It’s not. Yes, it’s an elevated area, but not quite the spot Jack and Jill would be hanging. Hilltop is better known as sophomore parking (or as I like to call it, lucky sophomore parking). The lot is not big enough for all sophomores to park there, so those who do not have Hilltop parking get stuck with Westwoods parking. Westwoods parking is located at an off campus site, essentially making shuttles necessary for students to access their vehicles. That’s why Hilltop is preferred.
So here’s the issue: An inefficient parking system. Students who do not have lucky sophomore parking park where they shouldn’t; Students who get picked for lucky sophomore parking don’t have a car.
Here’s where Drones come into play: Viewers need to see how big Hilltop parking is and its proximity to sophomore dorms. Visuals like these allow the consumer to get a better understanding of the situation. In this story, it illustrates the clear advantage that hilltop parking provides to students. Also viewers want to see the distance between Hilltop and Westwoods, (which by the way is also located on top of a hill). Most importantly viewers need to see what Hilltop chaos actually looks like. This story begs for visuals, in specific visuals at an elevated view.
Drones can play a key role in enhancing the consumer’s experience, but their use can sometimes come with obstacles. This was a common classroom discussion, and was even addressed by one of our guest speakers. Kent Golden warned us about FAA rules to follow and things you should “Know Before You Fly”
1. Fly aircraft bellow 400 feet
2. Don’t fly beyond line of site
3. Don’t fly near airports
4. Don’t fly near stadiums or people
5. Take lessons
6. Don’t fly anything that weighs more than 55 pounds
7. Don’t fly for commercial purposes
Story three: “Moore’s operation”
This one? Sensors.
Sensors is one of the more ambiguous categories. It can virtually be anything that records data.
The men’s basketball coach’s ability (or lack of) to get the team to NCAA tournament has become a topic of debate. He has been the head coach for eight years. Past interviews questioning his ability, and the fact that the coach is the fourth highest paid Quinnipiac employee, were also noted
My first thought was to track data on Coach Moore. I thought maybe I can track how much time he spends at school, how long he holds practices for, or how long he spends preparing for games, but then I realized that collecting this data wouldn’t really say much. The time Coach Moore spends completing certain task, whether it’s extensive or short, doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity, efficiency, or success.
Educators are measured by the success of their students. Some states require high school students to take standardized exams. The test scores are then used as an attempt to evaluate an educator’s ability. Coach Moore is being scored on one thing: getting the men’s basketball team to the NCAA tournament. There are numerous factors that go into making it to the NCAA, and quite frankly teachers could say the same about test. Students preforming poorly on a test doesn’t mean a teacher is unqualified; a team not making it to NCAA tournament doesn’t mean a coach is unqualified. Whether tests or NCAA tournaments measure success is an entirely different conversation but, I do think that students or in this case basketball players speak volumes about their educators and coaches. Players can still be used as a way to evaluate a coach, but with a different method
Here’s how we would use sensors to track players, and in turn Coach Moore:
After some researcher, I found an app called the Shot Tracker. The Shot tracker is made of three components: a wrist sensor, a net sensor, and the ShotTracker app. As the name suggest, this app tracks a basketball player’s shots. It evaluates the performance of a player by looking at the overall amount of attempts a player makes, and the amount of those attempts that were successful.
With this device we are telling a bigger story than wins and loses. Instead, we are showing a player’s personal progress, and his rank in comparison to others. Currently players are tracked for how many shots they make, but not how many shots they miss. They’re also only tracked during games not practices. This puts players who don’t see regular playing time at a major disadvantage because they have no reports of progress to refer to. Undoubtedly, shooting is only one aspect of a player’s ability, but it’s a step in the right direction.
All players would be informed that they were being tracked to avoid privacy issues, a provision that should always be practiced.
Story Four “ Over 60 Students attend Nobel Peace Summit”
For many college students, getting the opportunity to travel abroad is exciting, eye opening, and enlightening. Unfortunately, not every student immerses himself or herself in another culture, missing the opportunity to experience the value that comes with that. In this case, a group of 60 students got to experience two great things, traveling to another country and being apart of the Nobel peace summit. What if the occurrence of those 60 students could be shared with the entire Quinnipiac community?
Virtual reality has the ability to share the reality of one person or group with the rest of the world. Using the Google cardboard set and the Vrse app, viewers can feel like they are there, wherever ‘there’ may be. 360 video would not only capture the summit, but the total essence of the trip by including components such as traveling. It could also capture a third component, one that is missing in the article all together.
A huge aspect of the actual story is missing here. The world summit was located in Barcelona, which means Quinnipiac students were abroad during the recent Paris attacks. So the fear is that while students were over seas, they could’ve potentially been subject to a greater danger being relatively closer. The Story takes up the entirety of page three and does not mention the Paris attacks once. Instead, the piece solely focused on logistics of the summit, which group of students went, and what the summit entailed. This is all valuable information but VR could have been used, supplying consumers with that missing piece to the puzzle.
I do however worry about ethical dilemmas. The Paris attacks were and still are a sensitive issue. The choice to broadcast information of this nature can often present ethical dilemmas. This is a choice that would later be left up to the producer and reporter, but it would be worthwhile to have that footage as an option. Perhaps VR of the vigils would be an appropriate alternative.
Story Five “Rev Your Engines, students start car club on campus”
To many men, cars are their little toys. Knowing this allowed me to recognize that telling this story in the form of a game could be a great opportunity to enhance the story and further engage its consumers.
Fun stories can be told in a fun way. A group of men made a hobby and love for cars into an organized activity on campus. It’s a growing group of people, a group that enjoys both the outer and inner beauty of an automotive.
The biggest challenge of telling a news story through a game is to make it engaging, gratifying, and at the same time informative.
Racing cars don’t really seem to tell the story here, but what about a game that required participants to put together the makings of a car? On the side would be a small blurb about the car with basic facts. The objective of the game would be to put together a car. It would be timed, because games are only fun when there’s a point system or time stress. After an image of what the car should look like when put together correctly appears, the car would come apart into about 10 pieces (not too many because simplicity works best).
Other possibilities for a game could be correctly naming a group of cars, or putting together the workings of what goes on under the hood.
At the end of the game, information about joining the club would be made available.
If done right, games can be effective. However, it would be necessary to hire programmers to develop the game for it to be highly effective. Journalists are not developers.
So those are my five pitches senior editor. I truly believe that trying new things in the newsroom can increase readership and viewership. These are only five missed opportunities in one publication, proving that there is an endless amount of possibilities. Stories can be told in more interesting and informative ways.
A character of good writing is imagery; a character of good storytelling is also imagery. These tools produce imagery in a new exciting way. Choosing not to utilize them (when fitting) does nothing, but bring an injustice to news junkies.