Looking back at 2015

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*this post was written in January, but an error while upgrading WordPress corrupted my blog. after much trial and error, I was finally able to resurrect the blog and hope to keep it going now thats its back.

I returned to The News Journal at the beginning of 2015, after a brief hiatus while working as a multimedia specialist at Rowan’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey. In my five years at The News Journal, I’ve always been pleasantly surprised with the passion with which our executive editor pursues stories that matter, and 2015 was no different.

In April, a 7.8M earthquake struck Nepal 50 miles northwest of the capital Kathmandu. Two weeks later, myself and a reporter were on a plane headed to Kathmandu with a group of doctors and nurses to help assist with medical aid efforts.

Workers salvage a desk from a collapsed building in Kathmandu, Nepal Monday, May 11, 2015.

The year also saw the vice president’s son, Beau Biden, die of cancer, the Pope visit Philadelphia, local football player turned cancer advocate Devon Still and his daughter Leah use their story to inspire people across the country and the usual assortment of local flavor, high school sports and quick and dirty portraits.

The Biden family arrive for the funeral service for Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington Saturday.

Priests travel down the parkway to give communion to the faithful lining the streets to witness Pope Francis' mass Sunday.

Using Time Machine to back up an external drive

Whether you are working with thousands of photos, hours of video or semesters of lesson plans, securing and backing up your data remains critically important. If you have all of your data stored on the hard drive in your computer, this can be as easy as plugging in an external drive and setting up Time Machine (on a Mac). More likely, if you work with a lot of photos and video like I do, you have most of your data on an external drive. In an ideal world, you would back these up using some sort of Network Attached Storage RAID array. Coming from a newspaper environment, I know this isn’t always a reality. Sometimes all you have are a few externals lying around. Did you know that you can also set up Time Machine to back up one external drive (a media drive or capture scratch for example) to another external?

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To do this, we will first go to our Apple Menu Items in the top left, and select the System Preferences. From there, open up Time Machine. Once in the Time Machine preferences panel, click on “Select Disk…” and choose the drive that will serve as the Time Machine backup.

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Next, click on “Options…” in the lower right corner. This will bring up a window showing you what drives are excluded from the backup process. By default, your external drives will be here. Your backup drive is automatically excluded from the backup process, as it wouldn’t make sense to back it up to itself. However, we DO want to backup the Media drive, so let’s remove it from this list by selecting it and hitting the minus symbol as shown below.

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As currently configured, Time Machine will try and backup the Media drive along with any internal hard drives. But we only want to backup the external Media drive, so let’s add our internal drives to this exclusion list. Click on the plus sign next to the minus sign you used earlier, and then find and exclude your internal drives.

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In my case, I have two internal drives that I needed to exclude from Time Machine backup. Once complete, you can hit “Save” and then turn on Time Machine.

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Adding graphics to non-visual stories

It can be easy to get stuck in a rut creatively. As a videographer/photographer, I know what my editors like, and shooting to their tastes can ultimately save me time. However, doing so means that I am not challenging myself and making sure that I am growing as a journalist and artist. More than anything, #turbovideo training was a much needed wake-up call to challenge myself and see what new skills I can learn and how to apply those skills to my work.

One such challenge was to work harder to find graphically interesting ways to present non-visual stories in video. While it is nice to think that video is only done when the subject matter is appropriate, more often than not, video is becoming an expected part of many stories. This is especially true of Sunday packages and any series. How then, can we create video that remains visually engaging when all that we have are talking head interviews? Turbovideo trainer Brian Kaufman addressed this by making printouts of photos and racking the focus on them in the studio. He would also take static objects, like stacks of paper, and move the camera around it.

Here at The News Journal, we have been playing around with digital solutions. The example below is from two videos. In the first, a follow-up to the New Castle Courthouse shooting, I used Google Earth for a fly-over to show where David Matusiewicz took his children when he kidnapped him, and then a waveform generated in After Effects to visualize the radio traffic on the day of the shooting. The examples from the second video include more After Effects work, mainly animated graphs and charts to visualize the number of foundations headquartered in Delaware.

Building a photoblog

In 2012 I set out to teach myself how to build custom WordPress themes in order to finally launch a much talked about, but never realized photoblog at The News Journal. Right off the bat, we knew we wanted to shy away from a Big Picture-style photoblog. It’s already been done, and done well. Also, we don’t have a dedicated photo editor who would have time to curate images from the various wire services.

Instead, our first thought was to build a blog that would highlight the work being done by our staff, and have it fed automatically through their smartphones and photo services such as Flickr, Instagram and TwitPic. I wrote about the blog theme last year, but unfortunately, it never took off.

Fast forward a year and I decided to try and tackle a photo blog again. This time, with a community-centered blog that encouraged outside contributions, highlighted photo communities and events in the state and no longer relied on what is an already overworked staff for content. The new photoblog, now titled First State Focus, launched last week and is easily one of the projects I am most proud of here at The News Journal.

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