Kojo In Your Community: Benning Road

I’m always excited when the Kojo Show team taps me to do live social and photos from a Kojo In Your Community. Tonight’s event at the Dorothy I. Height Library on Benning Road about homelessness was just wonderful. So much passion, so much enthusiasm, and a shared sense that it’s an issue that can only be grappled with by a true community.

Here are some cutting room floor shots. Love that they used my best stuff for tweeting the show.

Live Streaming the Immigration Ban Protests

Headed to Lafayette Park on Sunday to cover the immigration protests after seeing 14,000+ responses on their Facebook event page. It wound up turning into a march! One of my videos found its way into the NPR Two-Way Blog.

I caught a good chunk of it on Periscope:

Interestingly, I didn’t have the same luck using Facebook Live. My suspicion is that in situations like this where data is constrained, Periscope has a lower floor for video quality, so you’re better able to sustain a connection.

With Facebook Live, it’s non-stop warnings about connectivity issues. So even when the stream is working at a reduced level, it’s difficult to tell as a shooter.

Going to explore other options for boosting signal, because I imagine this is going to be a recurring issue with all the protests planned for D.C. this year.

WAMU’s New Audience Editor: Me!

I’m pleased to announce here that, effective Jan. 1, I will be assuming the title of “Audience Editor” at WAMU 88.5.

It’s a tremendous opportunity for me. Earlier this month, I was offered the position of Associate Producer on NPR’s digital desk, but Andi and JJ and everybody at WAMU made a hard pitch to keep me on and I just couldn’t say no.

In a lot of ways, the new job will be a crystallization of the direction I’ve taken in the station. My objective will be to both be the point person executing the social media strategy as well as the advocate pushing for greater integration of digital best practices into our already-stellar broadcast journalism.

And while growing into a new role was certainly part of the attraction, I think for me the greater pull comes from the ambitious vision that my boss Andi McDaniel has laid out for our newsroom looking at the next five years. We’ve suffered from a lack of resources for a long time, so to finally have an institutional structure in place that prioritizes the kind of work I like to do is tremendously attractive.

I hope it pays off!

Hosting WAMU’s Inaugural #MorningEditionBookClub

I still haven’t fully processed this, and team #WAMUBooks won’t meet for a debrief until Friday, but hosting a book club at the WAMU Media Center was an incredibly cool experience. Our listeners are straight-up awesome, so it was fantastic getting to riff off a piece of award-winning fiction like Lauren Groff’s “Fates And Furies.”

Like I said, we haven’t fully processed everything, but in the cursory glance I took of our surveys, every single attendee said he or she would do it again.

Is this how we grow the next generation of public radio member? In-person, eye-to-eye, guerrilla-style? It may be!

Of GoPros and automated video

Rachel and I recently returned from an amazing once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip to Chile. The highlight by far was the five nights we spent “glamping” outside of Torres Del Paine National Park down in Patagonia.

We got a GoPro for Christmas last year and, outside of a handful of smaller hiking and kayaking trips, haven’t had much of an opportunity to put the thing through its paces. This trip was the perfect use for it and I have to say I came away pretty impressed.

The resolution that this thing is shooting at is absolutely incredible to me given its size. And the wide-lens fisheye thing it has going is absolutely perfect for our purposes. We both wanted to be in the photos and video we were shooting as well as getting all the natural grandeur of the Chilean wilderness.

Probably my biggest beef with it is that it’s difficult to use to take photographs. I got a monopod (don’t call it a selfie stick!) explicitly for this purpose and figured that hitting the shutter on burst photo mode would still give us time to frame a nice photo before it finished taking shots. Not so. I also had the unenviable habit of making a squinty face whenever I checked that it was on, which didn’t look so great in 1080p.

But anyway, cutting together footage was a curiosity once we were back stateside. I had used GoPro’s video editor with some success in the past so that’s what I used on the first pass. Unfortunately, their templates are pretty limited, so if you want to get more creative with the music or the cuts you have to start from scratch. Here’s how it turned out:

I also recently started using Google Photos, and their platform has this near-magical “Assistant” that swoops in and programmatically creates animations, collages, stylized Instagrammy stuff and, yes, video. Check out this montage it created and tell me its not as good or better than the GoPro software.

Live events, the final frontier

Yesterday I spoke with former federal prosecutor David Locke Hall about his new book “Crack99: The Takedown Of A $100 Million Chinese Software Pirate” for a WAMU event at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle.

I was nervous about getting out from behind my keyboard and doing a live event in front of people, but I genuinely believe this is what public media needs to be doing in order to stay relevant in this flattened age of ours.

There are only a couple events left in our initial run, but I trust there will be a Pt. 2 and I’m excited to be part of it.

From radio documentary to online story in three months

I had the distinct pleasure this summer to work with WAMU 88.5’s education reporter Kavitha Cardoza again on the latest in her “Breaking Ground” documentary series. We got off to a pretty good start last year, but with some experience under my belt and enough social capital to keep people from outside the newsroom from meddling, I feel like I was able to faithfully recreate her radio documentary into a pretty solid web product.

The story this year focuses on Christopher Feaster — a DCPS student that Kavitha reporter on back in 2012 as an example of a kid that was beating the odds. Unfortunately, he dropped out of college after receiving a full ride, but we were able to use him as a lens to explore the structural issues faced by lower income students on college campuses.

Lower Income, Higher Ed

It’s not entirely clear whether these documentaries will continue, but I’m hoping I get to do at least one more with Kavitha and that we’ll be able to figure out a way to make the web presentation take a central role in the story.

WAMU’s riff on the #MorningEditionBookClub

One month later and with five shows under our belt, I am willing to call our non-cast (don’t call it a podcast!) effort a rip-roaring success. Here are the five episodes for your listening pleasure:

Due to overlapping vacation schedules, Jonathan, Tayla and I still haven’t talked about the potential future of this project, but I wanted to try and distill a few short takeaways from the experience:

  1. Think broad. Our most successful segments in terms of listens were the ones that were applicable to the widest number of people. Our conversation about “A God In Ruins” itself only got a couple dozen plays because a comparatively tiny portion of the potential audience has read it and can relate.
  2. Let the conversation flow. We got better about this as our recording sessions went on, but the instinct to stick to the script actually makes a podcast less interesting to listen to, I think. Chasing down threads of conversation or genuinely reacting to what others were saying led us to gold.
  3. Air traffic controlling is hard. We worked on this almost entirely in our own time, which meant juggling a full work load along with trying to coordinate guests, put together online posts, doing promotion and actually booking studio time. I think we got better at this, but if we want to continue this experiment, we need to get downright systematic.
  4. This stuff is crazy fun. It’s an excuse to interview cool people, research things we’re already interested in, and sit down and have a chat with friends. (Or work colleagues, as Jonathan calls us.)

I think I’ve got the podcast itch, you guys. It remains to be seen how or whether I will scratch it.

Because talking about books is crazy fun

I’ve long thought there was a gap in the podcast market for a show about the experience of reading and being a book nerd. There are plenty of Diane Rehms and Terry Gross’ out in the wild doing incisive interviews with book authors. But what about the nerds in the trenches, joining books clubs or feeling feels about the short list for this year’s Booker Prize?

My WAMU compatriots Jonathan Wilson and Tayla Burney and I are trying to step into the void by taking part in the #MorningEditionBookClub. We are a long way from being genuine podcasters, both in terms of our skills and our goals, but sitting with these two in a studio and just gabbing about books is fun enough that I don’t find myself caring too much. I think that’s a valid yardstick for success, no?

Join Us For The ‘Morning Edition’ Book Club – The Kojo Nnamdi Show

We’ll see.