Friday, May 28, 2010

Googling yourself

I just spent 2 days at a conference in Toronto aimed at helping teachers learn to use new technology to make their students learn better, and be more engaged. One of the speakers was Will Richardson, who is a college professor in New Jersey and has 48,000 readers for his blog. He asked us how many of us Googled ourselves regularly, to see what others can see about us when THEY Google us?
So I did it --today, to see what comes up. And the amazing Internet found the first letter to the editor I ever had published, when I was 11 in Montreal. And it also found when I won a World Book Encyclopedia from the Montreal Gazette for submitting a question to Ask Andy about How teeth grow from the gums?
I have those old yellowed clippings in my memory box at home, but now I can also share these online, thanks to Google. Cool!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Teaching Audio skills at Camp Versatile Journalist 2010

The Toronto Star has this post on my talk (one of several "experts" at Camp VJ 2010) in Toronto.
Nice feedback!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gathering Audio for multiplatform journalism

I am placing my links and some screen caps and some handy tips here for you at Camp VJ to use when gathering audio to tell your stories.

The main reason to gather audio is to provide emotional credibility to your print stories (brings a sense of presence to a story). Think of the reporter covering the crash of the Hindenburgh." Oh the humanity"


There are hundreds of AM and FM radio stations still operating in Canada, and radio is still pulling in millions of listeners, in both real time, and on demand.

CBC Radio has an App for the Iphone to listen wherever you are. So do a lot of radio stations, like 680 news. (see screen cap above)

Lots of people are still listening to radio (in their cars, at work, in dentist's offices) and many more are listening to it ondemand on their MP3 players and Iphones and Ipods.

The best tools for radio sound gathering are dedicated audio recorders and proper microphones and, headphones!

How to hold the mic, how close to hold the mic (6 '' from the person's chin is a good rule of thumb) and how to listen so your audio is clear and free of distortion and unwanted noises, is explained in a lovely British way by the BBC's own training centre, in this short animated segment.

It needs flash to play. If it doesn't play, you can read the handout here: in text version.

I like to use the Marantz PMD field recorder, and a Dynamic microphone by Shure or Senneheiser for interviews.

You also need a good shotgun mic for ambient sound, crowds, and general outdoor work.

ALWAYS wear headphones. Always test batteries and bring spares.

Record in WAV format if you wish, although it will take up a lot of memory on the SD cards. You can also record in MP3 format.


Professional radio stations use professional digital audio editing software. The CBC uses Dalet Plus, a multitrack editing platform.

680 News and many other private stations use BURLI.

Some like the BBC use Cool Edit, Jazz FM uses News Boss. There's also Audacity, which is free.

Reporters who travel alot and file from foreign assignments like Adobe Audition, costs about $400.

You can get a 30 day free trial at home.

Mac based editing use Protools and ...non professionals also use GARAGEBAND, which is easy and friendly.

Apple has a tutorial on GARAGEBAND.

Best reason to get decent mics and recording material is: so you can make great podcasts like the Lost Podcast with Jay and honour of tonight's episode (second to last) of LOST.


Here are my lecture notes with handy links ; enjoyCOLLECTING AUDIO: by ellin bessner

Lots of ways to collect audio when covering a story: from your cellphone, (poor quality) from you Ipod or Iphones, from a dslr, from a videcamera, from a dedicated portable audio recorder and microphone. also on the phone. (poor quality)

depends what you want to do with the audio.


I am going to approach this first from the traditional standpoint of radio stations and there are some
600-900 or so at least out there on AM and FM, as well as tons of online radio internet radio stations. The Canadian Press audio feed serves about 500 customers in Canada..who use their audio clips and news interviews --

We still have millions of people listening to radio –in real time, on line, on mobile platforms like the CBC app on iphones, and on demand…

If its an interview, and you want to post a good chunk of interview, or of a speech or a press conference, where its mostly the newsmaker talking, not you—say one or two minutes, then you don’t need to mic yourself..just record the audio close to the mouth of the guest. this is the easier and takes very little editing.
its fast too. you have to transcribe your taped iinterview anyway to write an online print story, so you will remember the most dramatic clip or clips, and post those online.

If you want to record a bunch of short “streeters’ where you interview a bunch of protestors or a bunch of witnesses to an explosion like we did at the Propane explosion in Toronto 2 summers ago…and then you edit these together one after another after another, without any narration by you, then again, you need to mic only them.

If you want to do a more production heavy voicer—like we do at CBC RADIO NEWS, where you have to not only record sound of the scene, but also your narration and mix it all with the short excerpts from the mayor and the dalai llama visiting him, then that takes time to write and produce. I admit personally I don’t listen to many short voice reports on my computer or my ipods. I would listen to a long interview or Q from Jian Ghomesi’s feature interview, and I would download a panel discussion from some longer show. And podcasts, of course of my favourite tv show LOST.
these are done in studio quality studios, with good microphones, not out in the field.

National Post does a lot of podcasts where reporters talk about what they are covering or debate issues current like the city mayoralty race etc.

I think audio – to be honest – is less attractive to many people unless its longer form – because why would readers or consumers want to listen to a 1:30 news report (unless they are my mom and dad who have to listen to my newscasts?) when they can watch the event on You tube on their mobile devices? while they are commuting in traffic. My commute takes 1 hour each way so a 1.30 minute story goes by too fast. but a longer piece of tape –like WHAT WAS SAID on As it happens, is great, because you hear the newsmaker giving the speech – you hear Tiger Woods press conference…in case you missed it during the day when you were at work or out of the office with no access or no time to watch the live event.

No matter what you decide or your editor decides you need to do with the story, collecting good quality audio is easy –and you can use a bunch of different accessibly kinds of equipment to do it. MAIN thing: what kinds of mics to use for what situations, how to hold the mic, how to handle a mic, how to listen while you are recording. (text version:

show my own powerpoint about mic handling if BBC doesn’t work:
(BBC TRAINING funny videoJ)

Some newsrooms use EDIROLS,
others use MARANTZ

like the cbc and we at Centennial College and UTSC journalism. We also use several kinds of mics—cardiod for interviews, shotgun mics for outdoor work and crowd noise or street sounds…omni directional mic if you need to do both.

shure and sennheiser and excellent choices

My students use a combination of our MARANTZES and their own cheaper consumer type dictating digital recorders like Radio Shack, Panasonics etc which you can buy at The Source or SONY stores. Video IPODS have lovely quality 44,100 kh cd quality audio. Its not good enough for CBC’s transmitters, but it is for internet radio.

How to edit depends on what software you want to use:

At CBC they use Dalet Plus which is a multi track editing system – its exclusive and expensive.

Some of the other more popular ones are Adobe Audition, also multitrack editing, much like its predecessor SOUNDFORGE. It comes with a 30 day free download trial.


Audacity is free to download

there is also Burli, used by 680 News, and NewsBoss at Jazz Fm among others.

On the MAC side, there are a ton associated with Pro Tools and even Final Cut Pro has a way to export only the audio after you are done with the video. (how to export audio from FINAL CUT PRO)

There is Garage band, which comes with every mac, easy to use –my kids can use it.
you need I tunes of course for playing back.

Once you gather the sound, and edit it
you will have an incue, and out cue, a file that runs several minutes long, and you will need a place to host it so folks can download it.
You should save it as an MP3 file, which is smaller and takes up less space then WAV files to download.

If your news organization has its own server and protocols how to save stuff and post, then you can do that. If you are posting it to your own website, you need to either make sure your website like wordpress has enough power /upgraded version where you pay a fee each year to allow audio and video to be posted --- or, you can create free hosts on websites like, post the mp3 file there, and it gives you a url link that you then post to your own website or blog. Easy and free.

We do this on the Centennial College wordpress journalism news site:
this story by Amanda Kwan I posted the written version, and added her mp3 interview with the man who raises water buffaloes –first to boxnet, then added the link here.
no cost to me.

and we also do it on the Toronto Observer website, the online news site of the school of journalisms course work: the students post online stories, photgalleries, video, and audio.

I have handouts:
1) how to edit with Garageband
2) how to do Podcasts with garageband
3) how to edit with Adobe Audition

How many times did Harper say the same thing in Holland

At Camp VJ we learned to use clouds to analyse speeches and make a visual cloud.
Here is the speech taken off the PM's website.

created at

1. Customize your cloud's style by editing the CSS where it says CUSTOMIZE below.
2. Insert this code in its entirety into your webpage or blog post.

This code and its rendered image are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. (


created at


Thanks to Minister Blackburn for that kind introduction and for his excellent work as Minister of Veterans’ Affairs.

I’d like to welcome also Prime Minister ─┤an Peter Balkenende, I understand you’re on the campaign trail, it is much appreciated that you would take the time to join us here today. Mayor (Han) Polman (Mayor of Bergen op Zoom) CDS General (Walter) Natynczyk. It’s also a pleasure to have British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell here with us, Minister Van Loan, ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests, students, and above all, distinguished veterans:

It is my profound honour on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians to greet you today. To greet you here, at this place of solemn remembrance, where the intense sadness of a distant time is lifted by our deepest national pride. One does not measure the worth of a man in gold, nor the legacy of a country in centuries. Certainly, our beloved Canada is not ancient among the nations. However, by their actions, our forefathers have decided this for the generations that came after them:

They have decided that our priceless heritage should be one of standing on guard not only for our country, but for the underlying principles that make it great: freedom, democracy and justice. Thus it was at Vimy, more than 90 years ago, when Canadians stood firm against imperialism.

And thus it was in 1944, the year the First Canadian Army tore this land from the tyrant’s fist. This army, more than 175,000 Canadians reinforced by Dutch and allied forces, fought its way from Normandy to Rotterdam, field by field, canal by canal, dyke by daunting dyke. They crossed deep, boot-sucking mud. They passed over ground heavily mined. They navigated flooded lowlands, the water sometimes too high to wade through, but too shallow for boats. And around them, and before them always, the dreadful rattle of the machine gun.

More than seven and a half thousand Canadians gave their lives so that the people of the Netherlands could live again. Here, in the Bergen-op-Zoom war cemetery, 968 of them rest forever. A sceptic would ask why? These Canadians did not fight for their country’s gain. It was not for the sake of our power in the world, for the riches of our citizens, or even hatred of the foe they faced.

No, this army of Canadians fought then for the only thing their country fights to this day: That which is right. For the right of human beings to share in the freedom and peace that we as Canadians enjoy. For that alone, Canadians have answered the call. And for that, we are eternally proud.

Ladies and gentlemen, when the living comes to salute the dead, our words speak loudest to those whose lives still lay ahead of them. In this, the age-old act of remembrance, we gather not to call out a requiem for those for whom we speak it, are not here. Their gallant souls are long departed, gone from the site they last beheld not far from here - to a place far gentler of which it is said, “There shall be no more death, Neither sorrow, nor crying, Neither shall there be any more pain.” No, they shall rest in peace. We have come together to greet their comrades, while yet we may and to declare to new generations that, in such a place as this, you may understand how our land, Canada, gives birth to greatness. Would you know what heroism is? Look here. Would you know what it means to be a citizen? Look here. Would you, a lifetime awaiting you, know how you should live? Then look here, and look about you. Where only heroes rest. Where only those remain, who drank the full cup of a citizen’s duty.

Where, a lifetime ago, young men freely and of their own accord, relinquished the years they had been given, to free a people and to lift a curse. Yes, my friends, in a place such as this, surrounded by the graves of so many brave young souls, the past speaks wordlessly to the future. In the face of such deeds, words seem small acknowledgement.

Nevertheless, to those remaining members of this once-mighty army here with us today, we say thank you. We salute you. And, we honour you. You, and those of your comrades who lie around you here.

We also honour our Dutch hosts for their alliance with us in Afghanistan these past years, and for their eternal friendship.

The bonds of our friendship were forged under fire, bonds that have been reinforced ever since in so many ways.

Let me name just two.

First, our comradeship in arms in Afghanistan these past few years, where together our countries have continued to uphold our highest ideals.

And then, every spring in our nation’s capital, there is the eternal celebration, of our friendship, christened by the gift of your beautiful tulips.

They are a reminder that, during the war, it was our country’s privilege to offer shelter to members of the Dutch royal family.

And, at this very moment, they bloom triumphantly.

I’d like to close my remarks with a quote from a letter written by the editors of a Dutch weekly, a farewell to Canadians returning home after the war: “… our dear Queen, her child and grandchildren are safely in our midst again [.] That was your work. We can say again what we like to say… We have coal for our stoves and food for our children. That was your work.”

All of this was the work of those you see before you, and of those who you do not see, but who are with us nonetheless.

We owe the dead only this, to live today as nobly as they gave their lives.

We shall remember them.

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map from camp vj of my house where i grew up and walked to school

View Ellin's house where I grew up in a larger map

Camp VJ Toronto

I am attending a 3 day workshop at the Toronto Star called Camp VJ where we are learning the latest in RSS, blogging, crowdsourcing and the new online journalism techniques which I will then be able to pass on to my students and colleagues at Centennenial College. I'll also be teaching at the workshop tomorrow called Gathering Audio.