Continuing coverage from Baltimore enables deeper look at live-streaming mobile video journalism

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above: Police deploy tear gas Tuesday night in Baltimore, as seen through the Pericope reporting of Paul Lewis, Washington correspondent for The Guardian.

After following live-streamed reports from Saturday’s march and Monday’s violence in Baltimore, we’re beginning to find more thoughtful responses emerging in response to the new practice.

A post on Medium says that: “While the virtual can never be a direct substitute for the physical, tools like Periscope can help to capture the golden moments of breaking news by helping journalists establish an authentic developing narrative.” Author Saul of Hearts, who also writes for Iside.com continues: “Precious moments such as (Paul) Lewisinterviews with community members display the power of #livejournalism.

Meanwhile, a post by Selena Larson at The Daily Dot points out that while a handful of journalists have been live-streaming from Baltimore: “Neither Periscope or Meerkat seems to have caught on with regular citizens,” and “haven’t quite lived up to the hype of being go-to sources of real-time news in conflict areas or protest zones.”

As Larson explains, sharing and saving is still very difficult with the latest mobile video apps, compared with “channels already popular among the masses—and, most importantly, their friends and family,” such as Vine, Instagram, and Twitter’s built-in video.

Meanwhile, while Mashable and Techcrunch both reported yesterday that Periscope picked up a million users within ten days of launch, The Verge reminded us that Twitter now reports having 300 million active users.

Finally, I spotted a couple of people tweeting last night that the BBC’s Newsnight apparently went live on air from Baltimore while using Persicope:

And then this morning, the BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan tweeted: “LIVE on #Periscope: #Baltimore police and troops at national harbour..

Is there a good reason why American news organizations aren’t taking the lead?

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There’s something happening here: Periscope in play during #FreddieGray protests in Baltimore

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above: Periscope users @dmitrisobol, @thefancyfriend and @alexandrafox5dc streamed live from the #FreddieGray demonstrations Saturday in Baltimore.

Large crowds marched through Baltimore on Saturday in protest following the case of Freddie Gray, who died earlier this month while in police custody. A handful of those present shared live video throughout the day using Pericope, a one of several popular new live-streaming applications.

“A day of mostly peaceful rallies to protest the death of Freddie Gray turned confrontational as dark fell over Baltimore on Saturday with demonstrators smashing the windows on police cars, blocking traffic near the Inner Harbor and shouting, “Killers!” at officers dressed in riot gear,” according to the Baltimore Sun, which continued: “The protest was the largest of daily gatherings in the week since Gray died. The 25-year-old had sustained spinal cord injuries while in police custody following his arrest April 12 near Gilmor Homes in West Baltimore.”

Periscope does not enable simple searching, sharing or saving — like Twitter or most or social media platforms — and user settings can make it even more difficult to find content. But there are solutions for discovering and curating user-generated reports.

Twitter’s Advanced Search page is a good place to start, where by adding “Periscope,” “live” and “Baltimore” in the “All of these words” field, you can see all of the related tweets.

(Working with the “Dates” and “Places” fields has not been yielding good results when searching for Periscope videos.)

When you get to the “Results” page, click the tiny “All” text-link near the top of the page to see a complete list.

You could also try replacing “Baltimore” with “FreddieGray” to see additional results, although tweets using both terms will appear in both sets of results.

However, this process is helpful only when Periscope users select the option to share a tweet before they “Start Broadcast” on a new stream.

Another effective method for tracking tweeted streams involves setting up search columns while using Twitter’s Tweetdeck desktop application, which Apple users can find in the App Store.

Then, you can set Tweetdeck to alert you with sounds and/or on-screen alerts when a tweet matches your search terms.

Archived videos from other users can be viewed only when using mobile devices — and only for 24 hours — but even under those conditions, some video pages inexplicably lack play buttons, rendering them useless except for confirming that the videos were streamed earlier.

In their haste to get rolling, it also seems as if many users fail to plant good search words in their titles, making them very difficult to locate. But if I spot a user share one video from an event, I then check their Twitter streams for additional live video links.

And some users continue to insist on shooting video horizontally, causing a little more confusion.

When you see what appears to be a cut between shots, the user has toggled from one camera to the other, either forward-facing or facing back at the user.

Periscope was clearly the app of choice this weekend in Baltimore. I spotted only one stream tagged #FreddieGray while searching Twitter for links to Meerket videos, but that screen showed only a view of the user’s TV as he watched news reports at home.

In every case, finding, saving and sharing live-streaming video has been much more labor intensive, and requires much more time and attention than other social media platforms.

But the effort can also lead to an important new layer of user-generated content.

We’re also going to need to get used to explaining those hearts on the Periscope screen when we copy the videos to other media.

Below: This video includes excepts from Saturday’s #FreedieGray demonstrations in Baltimore from users..

@dmitrosobol – an MBA, business strategist and “truth seeker” from Delaware,

@AlexandraFox5DC – a television reporter from Washington, and..

@TheFancyFriend – a fashion and lifestyle blogger from New York:

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You can’t unsee that: There’s no deleting the live experience

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Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at jimmacmillan.com
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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When Winnipeg Free Press photojournalist Boris Minkevich arrived at the fire scene yesterday, he pressed Periscope’s “Start Broadcast” button on his iPhone — which he had mounted atop one of his still cameras — and took us behind the scenes as he got close to the action.

As a former news photographer myself, I marveled at reliving the process — stepping toward a gate and pausing to check for resistance before moving into places that most people don’t get to see. And hearing his camera click when people, backgrounds and good light came together.

After I reached out, Minkevich tweeted one of his photos from the scene with a little explanation of his workflow:


And then there was the interview
. A fire department official explained that a grass fire had damaged some fences and sheds and had caused an estimated $10,000 damage.

He delivered the news in a perfectly appropriate but casual tone, the kind of response which might greet a reporter with a notebook.

Then, as he began to understand that his words were going out live, his cadence sharpened, he called the photographer “Sir,” and he repeated the information, more like it might be delivered to a TV crew with a big, shiny truck, a camera on a tripod and a reporter in a colorful blazer.

Then, shifting back to a friendlier tone, he suggested that the photographer should have told him he was live and asked “Are you going to delete the first part?”

Pioneering journalists – like Minkevich in this case — always raise a lot of questions and this exercise left me with many.

Why should tone matter, how did we get like this and — most importantly — what’s going to happen now that live streaming video news coverage is emerging with a new low profile, more easily and potentially much more often?

Do we owe it to our sources to help them understand that our coverage is now live, online and forever? Maybe we should all get phone cases that say as much? With a big red dot on the back?

With the sudden and rapid emergence of easy mobile live-streaming, journalists will face a new round of ethical, practical and legal questions.

We may have every right to stream comments from public officials in public places, but are we being fair if we don’t inform them?

Or, has it always been a mistake to presume sources understood that everything they say in front of a phone could wind up online, globally and forever?

Finally, Minkevich tweeted this photo of his setup:

Watch the report:

Looking ahead: In a future post, I will detail how I captured and shared this video but for now I will tell you that there is no simple solution at present.

I have figured out that you can view archived videos from Periscope users for only 24 hours — and only on mobile devices, not web browsers. So, that doesn’t make anything easier.

Meanwhile: What else is wrong with the latest live-streaming platforms, and what are the workarounds?

And what other questions are coming to mind for you?

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