Author Archive

Flash and Interactivity for Interactive Majors — Russell Chun

January 21st, 2009 by Kristen Watts

Russell Chun’s crash course in Flash was packed.  Chun is an educational media developer and the author of the Flash Visual Quick Pro Guides and the official Flash Classroom-in-a-Book guide.

Click here for his website.  

Here are some of the examples Chun showed the class of Flash on the web:

Picturing the Inauguration:  The Readers’ Album (

Inside 9/11 (

On Being (

And here are some of the links Chun shared to help students to get started.


Storytelling Sample Lesson

Introduction to Flash

Examples highlighting specific features:

Get ready to start making your own.

Spot News Photography — Jim Estrin

January 15th, 2009 by Kristen Watts

“Let’s go,” said Jim Estrin when news came of a passenger plane crashing into the Hudson River during his news photography class this afternoon.

Four students piled into Estrin’s car and headed down to the river.  

“We’re in the right place, but we’re an hour late,” said Estrin, when they arrived on the pier close to the Circle Line and it became clear that the plane had drifted south.

Still, it was an excellent opportunity to learn spot news photojournalism from one of the best.


  1. Get there as quickly as you can. 
  2. Ready your camera on the way.
  3. Get as close as you can.  Go into buildings to get closer or to get height, and use a telephoto lens.
  4. Act like you’re supposed to be there.
  5. Wear long underwear.
                       Jim Estrin, right, gives Rima Abdelkader tips             
                        Abdelkader, Estrin, and Igor Kossov                                     
                        Nick Loomis borrowed one of Estrin’s lenses for the shoot

Tomorrow’s session will include visits by several of Estrin’s colleagues at the Times.

News Photography — Jim Estrin

January 15th, 2009 by Kristen Watts

“What kind of typewriter did Hemingway use?” Jim Estrin, photographer at the New York Times for the last 20 years, asked his news photography class by way of an introduction this morning.

Nobody knew.  

“That’s because it doesn’t matter,” said Estrin.

Although his three-day photography workshop opened with the technical basics of photography, Estrin said that the less you’re thinking about the camera, the better.

“I’d rather see a mediocre photograph that makes me feel something than a perfect photograph that makes me feel nothing,” he said.

All the technical decisions, all the composition, is ultimately leading up to the moment – the human moment. 

Handy tips & links for mastering the basics (click for photos that demonstrate the tip):

  • Rule of Thirds: a method of composition.  Divide the frame mentally into thirds horizontally and vertically.  Place points of interest in the four intersections created by those thirds.
  • Layering the foreground and background 
  • Do not be afraid of shooting too much
  • Move around, change lenses, tight, wide, medium wide
  • Composition is ultimately the best way of seeing the subject.  Don’t forget that rules are made to be broken.
For portraits:
  • Just ask.  If you don’t ask them to do it, then you’ll never know if they would have done it or not.
  • Arrive early, look around at lighting, props, space
  • Put people at ease.  Make them trust you.
  • Click here for a series of recent portraits by Estrin.


And, here’s the Equipment Room-produced video on how to use the Canon Rebels, the school SLR cameras.

Students spent the afternoon shooting and reviewing a portrait assignment.  

                                    photograph by Heather Chin

Copy Editing Essentials — Jennifer Johnson Hicks

January 13th, 2009 by Kristen Watts

Jennifer Johnson Hicks is an assistant news editor at the Wall Street Journal Online.  At the end of the two-day copy editing workshop she led this week, she told students that she was willing to continue helping them to keep errors out of their work.  

“No one ever takes me up on this stuff, but send me your copy.  I would love to read it over for you,” Hicks  said.

Hicks came to class armed with a series of exercises and quizzes designed to test and hone students’ copy editing abilities.  

Here are some of the students’ favorite exercises:

Name that Face:  Copy editors have to be able to catch incorrect captions.  Can you name these public figures?

Headlines:  Hicks said that writing a headline is one of the most difficult tasks in copy editing.  Write a headline for this piece that is two lines of between 18 and 22 characters each including spaces.  Compare your headline with those on Newseum.  

Acronyms:  Knowing what acronyms stand for is crucial to avoiding mistakes like “ATM machines.”  What do these acronyms stand for?

Click here for more of the material Hicks covered in class.


By Kristen Joy Watts

The Digital Journalist — Lisa Lambden & Michael Rosenblum

January 12th, 2009 by Kristen Watts

This morning, during Lisa Lambden and Michael Rosenblum’s crash course in digital journalism, they asked students to discard many of the broadcast conventions they’ve learned so far this year.

Strict instructions from Rosenblum included:

  • have interviewees look into the camera, not past it
  • no b-roll
  • no establishing shots

Rosenblum sent students out to shoot at least 15 minutes of video this afternoon that they will later edit down to a one-minute piece.  


  •  It’s unethical and inefficient to shoot a 60-minute interview, then only use 30 seconds.  Instead, tell the interviewee that you will only be using a clip and ask them for their best quote
  • Spend at least 20 minutes observing and mapping out shots on-location before getting out your camera
When students return this afternoon they will screen their footage in front of the class.
Here’s a link to Rosenblum’s blog.  

Covering Personal Finance — Amy Dunkin and Toddi Gutner

January 7th, 2009 by Kristen Watts

Amy Dunkin and Toddi Gutner taught a workshop this morning on financial literacy and reporting.

Dunkin was BusinessWeek’s longtime personal finance editor and now works as director of special projects at the CUNY J-School.  Gutner covered personal finance at Forbes and BusinessWeek and is currently a contributing writer at The Wall Street Journal and the Conference Board, an economics and business think tank.

They enlisted two guest speakers – also prolific business reporters – to share some of their financial reporting wisdom with the class.  

Chris Farrell is economics correspondent for Marketplace and Marketplace Money, American Public Media’s nationally syndicated public radio business and personal finance programs, respectively. He is also contributing economics editor for BusinessWeek magazine.

Lewis Braham is a freelancer who has written personal finance stories primarily for BusinessWeek and the web site He has also been published in Fortune and various investment newsletters. He holds an MFA in creative writing from CUNY’s Brooklyn College.

Here, Chris Farrell weighs in on personal finance. Video by Chris Clemens.


After the jump:  Tips on how to write a great personal finance story.


Art of the Personal Essay — Paula Derrow

January 7th, 2009 by Kristen Watts

SELF magazine’s articles director and editor of the Self Expression column gave a three-hour workshop on writing personally.  

Here is her website, which she says focuses on her new anthology, a collection of personal essays by women about sex in real life.  Behind the Bedroom Door came out as of last week, and includes pieces by Susan Cheever, Hope Edelman and Lauren Slater.  It also includes some excellent examples of personal essay writing.

By Kristen Joy Watts

Voice Coaching – Mike Lysak

January 7th, 2009 by Kristen Watts

Broadcasting is the most simple, natural thing in the world, which is what makes it the most difficult,’s Mike Lysak said. And with radio, your voice is even more important, because you’re competing with other distractions for the listener’s attention.

Mike Lysak (left) coaches Jim Flood and John De Petro — Photo by Rachel Geizhals

Here are a few useful tips:

  • Try to be conversational and natural – you can practice by picking up a phone receiver and pretending you’re telling a friend the news story.
  • Remember: your voice is a musical instrument – use it! Control your voice’s tone, pitch, volume, speed.
  • As a broadcaster, be uninhibited. Block everything and everyone out, and just go for it.
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing and breathe through your nose (mouth breathing dries out your throat). Also, don’t drink milk before going on air – it makes you produce more mucus.
  • Make sure you articulate.
  • Relax, because when you’re nervous, your voice gets tighter.
By Rachel Geizhals

How to do the Intimate Story – James Estrin and Jane Gross

January 6th, 2009 by Kristen Watts

Photographer James Estrin and reporter Jane Gross of The New York Times were trying not to invoke the “old married couple” schtick.  After years of close collaboration, however, these journalists finish each other’s sentences and interrupt each other frequently, so the comparison is hard to avoid.

Gross and Estrin presented the following stories during the afternoon class:

At Life’s End: Oregon’s Suicide Option (05/31/04)

Alzheimer’s in the Living Room: How One Family Rallies to Cope (10/16/04)

Learning to Savor a Full Life, Love Life Included (04/20/06)

For the Families of the Dying, Coaching as the Hours Wane (05/20/06)

Safe From Persecution, Still Bearing Its Scars (08/05/07)

Gross and Estrin used the pieces they collaborated on to explain how to find the perfect subject and how to get them to participate.

“You’re not asking them to play a one-sided game of strip-poker,” Gross said.  “You have to be willing to take off some clothes, too.”  Be personal – find similarities between you and the subject.  And open up.

Gross said that she does most of her interviewing by observation.  She tries to disappear into the woodwork as much as possible.

Finally, Gross distributed an example of the outlines she uses to organize her reporting and stories.


  • Have the entire story in your head from the very beginning.
  • Anything in your notes that might appear in the story should be in the outline.


  1. Read through your notes twice, without a pen in hand.
  2. Go for a third read, this time with a pen to underline what might make the story.
  3. Read through it again and highlight any consistent and/or significant themes.
  4. Categorize your notes by themes; big quotes; what will be in nut graf; data/stats – facts, numbers, etc.; people – names, ages, and titles of sources; etc.
  5. Figure out your story’s order.

Gross promised that if you use her outline method you will never be left staring at a blank computer screen.

By Rachel Geizhals and Kristen Joy Watts