Chaos continues to chase journalists experimenting with Periscope

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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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We haven’t seen this level of technophobia following the emergence of any social media tools, platforms or innovations impacting journalism since the emergence of Twitter itself.

According to Jack Smith IV at mic.com: “TV newscasters are terrified of Periscope.”

Meet the People Who Lost Their Jobs for Livestreaming

And that’s just the latest. Check out some earlier posts addressing the conflicts emerging around live-streaming video:

• Do video streamers belong in the penalty box? Or are raised phones “the new applause?”
• Issues taking shape around live streaming video

What do journalists think? I got a little feedback during some recent workshops:

• Periscope surfaces at #IRE15
• Journalists consider Periscope at Barcamp News Innovation
• Streaming journalism review

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Streaming journalism review

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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: Bastiaan Slabbers, Kevin McCorry and Shai Ben-Yaacov of WHYY launch Periscope streams.

Here’s an update from my first six weeks of blogging about live-streaming mobile news video applications for journalists, which I gathered to make a presentation Tuesday at WHYY in Philadelphia. Check the smaller badges below for links to posts with more information:

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Weekend reading: Latest reports on streaming video

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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: I covered the Ride of Silence with Periscope earlier this week in Philadelphia.

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Tornados kill. Are streaming video viewers responsible for risks taken by live storm chasers?

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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: One Periscope user streamed from a shelter, many were streaming while watching TV reports and one faker was rebroadcasting disaster movie footage as tornados swept across Oklahoma Wednesday afternoon.

It’s a new facet on an old question. Some have always wondered how audience response might shape the behavior of those reporting the news.

But now anyone delivering live news video can see the exact number of viewers, read their comments and see other feedback in real time.

So, isn’t it a solid presumption to make that some tornados chasers might get a little closer to the storm — or stay out a little longer before taking cover — when they know there are more viewers online?

And how much risk would they take if there were no viewers?

These questions came to mind as I watched live streaming Pericope reports from a series of tornadoes reported Wednesday afternoon in Oklahoma. At least a dozen homes were destroyed and a dozen people were injured, according to reports from the New York Times and Reuters.

I watched about a dozen storm chasers Wednesday and I captured frame grabs of their reports, but I didn’t learn anything. So, I haven’t included them here.

Taking personal risks also creates the possibility of draining emergency response resources during a crisis. And the expense of rescue and medical care can also become a burden on the public.

The traditional counter-arguments still apply. Americans enjoy freedom of the press and some reporters are defending the public’s right to know what’s happening. Perhaps learning more about tornados could help us learn how to better protect people.

So, I am not suggesting what anybody should do, except that viewers should consider the impact of their participation.

Many of the commenters I saw in the live streams clearly had the best intentions, telling those out in the elements: “Hey be careful!” “Hide!” or “You should take cover.”

Watching people putting themselves at risk left me feeling dirty and I tried to trick one user into a shelter by commenting that it would be more interesting to see the inside, but he didn’t take the bait.

Other commenters reacted more reflexively, with “OMG!,” “Wow!,” “SCREWED” or “That’s crazy!”

And some resorted to gallows humor, asking “Who are the next of kin we should contact?” or promising “$20 if you run around naked in the tornado.”

I have to agree strongly with media write Staci D. Kramer, who tweeted:

But I think I may have watching the same stream that prompted journalism student Nate Geary to tweet that he was “pretty sure I just witnessed two kids get sucked into a tornado live on periscope.”

I know I saw the signal drop from a car in which two young men seemed much too close to some severe weather.

And I am almost certain that I was watching the same video that led Breaking News founder Cory Bergman to tweet:

I thought at first that the video might be legitimate, and seeing someone so close to a twister made me feel physically ill. But then I discovered a ridiculous user name on the related Twitter account, with very few followers and nothing but a few spam tweets previously in the stream.

So, I continued searching:

I found many users streaming related news and weather reports from TVs in their living rooms. And I found behind-the-scenes studio streams from TV stations, with reporters standing in front of green screens.

I found one stream reportedly coming from inside a shelter at Oklahoma University. It looked legit but I didn’t stop to verify.

More than a few other streams came from what I might call “outposts;” with people pointing their phones out of windows of their homes, offices or hotel rooms.

And it was a tornado aftermath report that prompted me to create this site a few weeks ago.

Finally, I also noticed that a couple of storm chasing streams were featured at the top of the “Global” directory within the Periscope app — but I don’t know if that list is human-curated or driven by viewer counts.

In either case, people were putting those streams in the spotlight — including this viewer, but I don’t think I would do it again.

What do you think?

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Are you a streamalist? Here’s how to get started:

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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: I grabbed these frames Tuesday night when I spotted Argentine “periodista mochilero” (backpack journalist) Marcos Alvarez — or @PiodeMarcos — promising a 360-degree Periscope view of Times Square.

This site was designed to recognize and analyze the potential impact and opportunities created for journalism as more smartphone users embrace popular new live streaming mobile video platforms.

But when does streaming become journalism? Does it matter if the person holding the phone is a traditional or credentialed journalist, or is it sufficient if a citizen journalist is simply meeting the standard practices of the profession at the moment?

And what if video created without journalism in mind earns news value simply by virtue of its content? Will there be pressure for faster verification because it’s live?

We’re going to have to discuss intellectual property too. And a future post will explain my techniques for recording video for redistribution.

But for now, let’s just look at the steps you need to follow in order to start producing live streaming video news:

• You will probably want to use a mobile phone with a broadband connection, but working with a tablet with a camera and using wifi might be sufficient at times. Early apps favored iOS over Android but that appears to be evening out quickly. I haven’t yet seen any reports on possible broadband data costs, but an unlimited plan like I have is probably not a bad idea.

• Then, you’re going to need a Twitter account to work with Periscope of Meerkat — the hot new apps. Existing Twitter accounts will do, or you can set up a new one.

• Periscope and Meerkat can use all of the accounts on your Twitter app, but toggling among them can cost you precious seconds when you are reporting live.

• Next, you will need to download the free Persicope or Meerkat apps if you are an iPhone user, or Tarsii if you are on Android. Then, you need to sync the new streaming app with your Twitter accounts. It’s really simple.

• In the latest version of Periscope, first-time users will be met with a quick, explanatory tour. This may be true of other apps as well.

• Before you start streaming on Persicope, you can toggle a button on the screen to determine if you will tweet the link — or not. (Why not?)

• There’s also a button which allows all users to post live text comments — or just people you follow. I can imagine wanting to limit trolls, but until you have an audience of your own, you might learn more about the process by letting everyone in on the chat.

• Note that the chat button seems to cause some confusion. The default (grey’d out) position lets everybody in, and highlighting the button permits only your followers. A lot of users seem to mistakenly presume the opposite.

The most important step for drawing participants to your stream is probably your response to the pale text area near the top left corner of the broadcast screen, which asks: What are you seeing now?

• The title text you enter will determine what your followers will see — which is especially important if they have set up push alerts. But this text will also populate the tweet created on your account by the video app, if you have selected that option.

• While Periscope affords space for more than 100 characters to title your stream, the app will also add “Live on Periscope” to your tweet — and a link to the live video — so, it will append the rest of your text. In other words; keep it short.

• When you are ready, click: Start Broadcast!

• Just remember that you are live — across the globe — and while the Periscope archives your video for just 24 hours, others will find ways to record if they want.

I haven’t figured out the maximum duration, but I streamed a video for nearly 45 minutes recently on Periscope without interruption. It seems as if only the first 100 viewers can get in on the chat, even when you set it up without limits.

There’s a lot more to learn and discuss, including when users seem to log in and out, how they engage with text messages, the meaning and value of those hearts on your stream and much more. But you should have what you need to get started now.

Looking ahead: if we are going to call our work journalism, we should adhere to the principles, and keep law and ethics in mind. Here are some guidelines to think about for now:

• Principles of Journalism – Project for Excellence in Journalism

Code of Ethics – National Press Photographers Association

Best Practices – Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma

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Welcome to Streamalism

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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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Latest posts by Jim MacMillan (see all)

I’d have to be crazy to tell you that anything is the next big thing, but one signal has tickled me enough to launch this site.

When I share my enthusiasm for the recent outbreak of live crowdsourced mobile video streaming, I get a lot of sideways looks and disparaging comments.

And it reminds me of how I felt when I started working with Twitter for journalism, a little while ahead of some others.

As with all other social media content, journalists are going to have to figure out discovery, curation, authority, ownership, rights, legitimacy, terms of service, sharing, ethical dilemmas and much, much more.

But unlike much of anything we’ve seen before, the audience will be watching a great volume of crowdsourced news as it happens.

To begin, I am going to start working with Periscope, Meerkat, Stre.am, Ustream and Livestream, while catching up with live streaming developments on Youtube Live and perhaps everywhere else. Time will tell.

To get started, let’s think about this: With the new DJI Phantom 3, you can now stream live video footage from your drone to the internet:

If you use this link to buy yours from Amazon, you will also be supporting Streamalism.org at no additional cost.

Meanwhile, let’s get the conversation started.

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