Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who is this JazzBird?

It's springtime, and the JazzBird has returned to my back yard. Does anyone know the common name of this remarkably swinging warbler? I love the way it integrates long and short notes and approximates the jazz 4/4 triplet pulse.

This audio clip includes several of its solos spliced together. Kind of like the way Dean Benedetti recorded Charlie Parker solos, only I have provided noise reduction ...

Please listen to the clip and leave a comment if you recognize this mysterious avian hipster.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Helping sources make sense

In my Intro to Journalism class on Wednesday, April 21, I showed a news video by KYTV in Springfield, Mo., about a fire at an apartment complex on Sunday, April 18, in the nearby town of Republic. I showed the video as part of a lecture about the leveling effect of the Internet for news presenters of all media. However, the lesson from the video took on an ethical dimension.

The KYTV report gave details about the fire: no injuries, 16 residents displaced after losing nearly all of their possessions.

The video included an interview with a couple who lost their home and property. The reporter set up their appearance on camera:

The flames spread pretty quickly, leaving several families without almost everything.

The couple then appeared in the video, each of them draped in a blanket. The man had this to say:

All we grabbed was my shoes, her purse and a cell phone — and my dog. And that was it. That’s all I got. We just lost our premature twins two months ago, and they’re sitting in urns on a stand in there, and it’s gone. It’s gone. What am I supposed to do? I just lost everything I own in there.

The “premature twins” remark, coming out of nowhere, provoked nervous laughter in the classroom, along with eyes popping and jaws dropping. It was a “TMI” moment, so to speak, a strange and unexpected glimpse into the lives of these two people. Several students said, in more colorful words, that the presentation made the couple look foolish.

Did the news video have to have this effect? In the reporting and editing of that video, could the man’s confessional moment have been treated in a way that preserved his dignity and also drove home the emotional impact of loss?

If the answer is yes, then the solution would be to expand the voice-over set-up in this way:

In one case, the fire intensified the sense of loss for a couple who were already grieving.

I think this extra line would have put viewers on notice that something unusual was coming. It’s a simple solution to this ethical problem of fairness. In any news presentation, you can’t just switch people on and let them talk. All quotes — print, broadcast or online — need context; otherwise, they can’t make sense.

By the way, I respect KYTV’s news department. This kind of thing could have happened to any news organization in the heat of deadline. The rarity of such an event at KYTV demonstrates the quality of its work.

Also by the way, I flubbed the teachable moment in the classroom. I’m writing this post to catch up to what I should have said at the moment when eyes popped and jaws dropped.