Periscope surfaces at #IRE15

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Jim MacMillan

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I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above: We put on a “Periscope for Journalism” pop-up panel during #IRE15 last week in Philadelphia.

With the popularity of new live-streaming mobile video applications emerging over just the past few months, I began leading small presentations at journalism conferences and newsrooms here in Philadelphia.

But last week, one of the largest and most esteemed gatherings of our profession came to town for the Investigate Reporters and Editors (IRE) 2015 national conference.

While IRE had no plans to address streaming journalism, they did offer the opportunity during the conference to apply for time to present pop-up panels on emerging topics.

And my effort to lead “Periscope for Journalism” won a place in the program, based on votes from journalists in attendance.

My pitch for the panel began:

The sudden popularity of live-streaming mobile video applications has been creating new possibilities for journalists. But once again, the emerging platforms present a new set of ethical and legal complications.

I promised a quick presentation and demonstration before moving to a “lively conversation about the challenges and responsibilities of real-time mobile broadcasts.”

And I had the great fortune of finding two remarkable colleagues to join me:

Josh Cornfield is the New Jersey News Editor for The Associated Press. He works with a team devoted to finding and telling both breaking news stories and high-level enterprise.

Susan Phillips covers energy and the environment for the multi-media public radio project StateImpact Pennsylvania. She holds duPont and Murrow awards and spent a year at MIT as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow.

Next, I went on a bit of a social media campaign for votes and then attendees, promising more than just fun and games.

During the panel, we discussed several topics which have been emerging here at and I pointed out a pair of how-to posts — on broadcasting and discovering streams.

A couple of notable examples included reporting from the recent Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia by local photojournalist Joe Kaczmarek, and streams from the Baltimore riots by Paul Lewis, the Washington correspondent for The Guardian.

Josh Cornfield said that he followed Kaczmarek’s live report and called it the “first real reporting anywhere that there were fatalities.”

Cornfield said that — as with all social media reporting — he took that information “as a tip, not as something we’re going to put on the wire,” but that it also prompted him to send an immediate “heads-up” to the AP’s Philadelphia newsroom.

Cornfield said that whenever news is happening there’s a “pretty good chance” you will found something you can use on Periscope. For instance, Cornfield said that he found reporter from a newspaper in York, Pa., streaming live from a press conference after a recent double shooting.

Susan Phillips had not yet produced her own broadcasts but said that as the subject of streaming she found the medium “much more visceral” than tweeting and could imagine additional advantages, such as streaming directly to social media audiences while simultaneously conducting a stand-up report for an anchor back in the newsroom.

Live streaming apps also “brought up a lot of legal questions” for Phillips, who discussed the reasonable expectation of privacy as well as copyright concerns, for example when streaming from concerts.

Meanwhile, Associated Press Philadelphia reporter Mike Sisak streamed our panel on Periscope and then stepped up to the microphone to read questions from his live viewers.

Cornfield took another question on the need to make corrections when a subject on Periscope misinforms your audience, explaining that the correct response would be “a matter of scale” but that you should “let the same audience” know what happened.

More audience members added tips for using Periscope to send your newsroom quick notes from the field, brought up more copyright questions and raised the concern that live-streaming apps could have a chilling effect on public officials — who may become reluctant to share background information at news scenes.

I am predicting only that this won’t be the last journalism conference where these questions emerge.


Journalists consider Periscope at Barcamp News Innovation

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Jim MacMillan

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I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
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Above: Screen grabs from my demonstration.

Journalists gathered at Temple University all day Saturday for Barcamp News Innovation, our region’s national one-day un-conference on the future of news.

As one of the organizers, I waited until all of the early attendees planned their sessions and then scheduled mine on “Periscope for Journalism” during the last remaining hour — which doesn’t always pull the biggest crowd at a voluntary conference on a Saturday afternoon in the spring.

Yet, I found myself leading a session with about a dozen in attendance, including journalists from The Associated Press, WHYY, and The Scranton Times-Tribune, as well as journalism professors, students and more.

A quick survey revealed that some participants had already been producing Periscope videos, others had been just watching, and a few more had just seen articles which left them thinking they needed to know more.

I scrolled though to share my experiences and talked about discovery, curation, sharing, saving, ethics, rights and the shortcomings of the nascent live mobile video movement. And I talked about developing a new workflow for live redistribution but I have some work to do before sharing much more.

I learned from others in the room about the challenges of multitasking and adding yet one more social media responsibility while on the job. And we talked about leaderboards inside the new apps, which obviously drive eyeballs, although I hadn’t been giving them much consideration.

Finally, I led a live Periscope demonstration, using my phone, laptop, Quicktime and a projector — to share the process on a big screen.

Shortly after I left, one of the attendees looped me in on a Twitter conversation about Facebook integration for Meerkat, another possible game-changer.

Below, @PhillyCodeHound Seth Goldstein caught preaching about Periscope:

@jimmacmillan at #bcni15 talking about live streaming.

A photo posted by Seth Goldstein (@phillycodehound) on