By the way, I’m looking for work in digital/multimedia/interactive contents after the summer, queries are welcome.
The year is almost over and I have the need to put things into some perspective. So, despite considering it as one of the worst years I had in my life, I’m going to look at the things I did, and try to prove myself it wasn’t really that bad.
Professionally, the first half was good, I was teaching in a training program created by Porto University, instructing journalists from Cofina, one of the biggest portuguese media groups. I worked with over 200 journalists and editors and it was a really rewarding experience. I think I changed some minds and helped many improve their skills. The rest is not up to me.
I also worked as an instructor with the team of P3, a new youth oriented news website, which was a different challenge because they were online only, thus with a whole another approach to content production. And my teaching days were then over.
I had to go back to be a student and finish my overdue MA final project. It wasn’t that good, and I could make all the excuses in the world because I really have a few good ones for not doing better and they would all be true, but the fact is I could have done better. Still, I had a commendation over it and I got an upgrade in my degree. So far it hasn’t impressed anyone.
I wanted to develop a few projects but with all the problems I had this year some were postponed and I had to give up on others. I wanted to open my own business as a multimedia journalism producer/ consultant, but there’s a crisis going on, and people around here weren’t very impressed with my credentials. I have far better recognition abroad than in my own country, which kinda pisses me off. The fact is, I didn’t create my own job, nor I have one to complain about.
Meanwhile, I invested in video content, using a HDSLR, all my efforts can be seen here (only those uploaded in the last 3 months count). I did a short doc about a cultural association I work with, and most of the stuff I made is based on the events we have there, like concerts and exhibitions. It’s a good testing ground and I’m planning to use what I’ve learned to create more journalistic stuff.
O ano está quase a acabar e tenho a necessidade de pôr as coisas em perspectiva. Apesar de achar que este foi um dos piores anos da minha vida, vou olhar para o que fiz e tentar provar que afinal não foi assim tão mau.
Profissionalmente, os primeiros meses foram bons, fui formador num programa criado pela Universidade do Porto para a Cofina, onde trabalhei com mais de 200 jornalistas e editores das várias publicações do grupo e foi uma experiência fantástica. Acho que mudei algumas mentalidades e ajudei muitos a melhorar as suas capacidades. O resto não é comigo.
Também dei formação à equipa do P3, o que foi um desafio especial porque eles estão exclusivamente online, logo com uma aproximação completamente diferente na criação de conteúdos. E a seguir acabaram-se os dias como professor.
Tive que voltar a ser estudante e acabar o meu projecto final de mestrado. Não correu lá muito bem e podia dar todas as desculpas – e até tenho algumas muito boas e que são verdade – para isso, mas sei que podia ter feito melhor. Mesmo assim, passei com louvor e tenho agora um grau académico melhor. Até agora ninguém ficou lá muito impressionado com isso.
Quis desenvolver alguns projectos mas com todos os problemas que tive este ano alguns foram adiados outros esquecidos. Queria abrir o meu próprio negócio como jornalista multimédia / formador /consultor, mas há uma crise lá fora e as pessoas não parecem muito impressionadas com as minhas credenciais. Tenho melhor reconhecimento noutros países do que aqui, o que me deixa um bocado lixado. A verdade é que falhei em criar o meu emprego ou a arranjar um de que me possa queixar.
Entretanto investi na produção de vídeo com uma HDSLR, podem ver aqui alguns dos resultados (só os dos últimos 3 meses contam). Fiz um pequeno trabalho sobre a associação de que faço parte, e muitos dos videos são sobre coisas que por lá vão passando como concertos e exposições. É um bom tubo de ensaio (!), e estou a planear usar o que aprendi para fazer conteúdos mais jornalísticos.
I also wrote some interesting posts for the blog (check list below) and started a monthly column in a computer magazine, and did some articles for P3 (people there like me, what can I do?). I wrote an article about documentaries in this non-linear world, and a post at Innovative Interactivity about what features a news product should have.
Escrevi ainda uns posts interessantes aqui no blog (ver lista abaixo) e comecei uma coluna mensal na PCGuia, e fiz ainda alguns artigos para o P3 (o pessoal lá gosta de mim, que é que posso fazer?). Escrevi ainda um artigo sobre documentários neste mundo não linear, e um post convidado sobre as características que um produto jornalístico online deve ter.
- The upward spiral and the tornado effect: monitoring the spreading of news
- The failure of the single product business model
- #MAProject: Basic concepts – The JTeam and Views to a Crisis
- The Rise of the Zombie Articles (or why staying up late doesn’t make you smarter)
- O DN tem uma nova redacção, mas tem uma orientação para o online?
This was one of the longest, strenuous years I have ever experienced. Even though I was able to accomplish some goals, they look meaningless in the overall outcome. I’m broke, unemployed, I have no perspectives. It has always been one step forward and three behind. I had to give up on a lot of things, and basically I feel like it’s 2001 for me (another bad year) but with a heavier burden. I wasn’t expecting this.
My projects are moving slowly, there is no money or time to devote myself fully to them. I’m starting 2012 on basic survival mode, but that’s the outlook for millions of Portuguese people this year. Going abroad is a possibility, I understand Nando’s is always hiring. There’s a lot to decide in the upcoming weeks.
Still, I’m on the market, I’m trying to sell training and consultancy programs for local and regional newspapers, I’m available as a freelancer both for national or international media, and I’ll be presenting a few more ideas if things don’t get any worse.
2011 won’t be missed, too many bad things have happened, but such is life. I’m finishing way worse than I started, and I’m considering other options for my future, because life is unstoppable in its motion and either you roll with or get crushed. I’m a roller.
Death to 2011, I’ll look back on it with a bitter taste in my mouth.
Ponto de situação
Este foi um dos anos mais longos e extenuantes que vivi. Apesar de ter atingido alguns objectivos, tudo parece inútil no balanço geral. Estou basicamente falido, desempregado, sem grandes perspectivas. Foi sempre um passo para a frente e três para trás. Tive que desistir de muita coisa, e sinto-me de volta a 2001 (outro ano péssimo) mas apenas com um fardo ainda mais pesado. Não estava mesmo à espera disto.
Os meus projectos pessoais estão a andar devagar ou parados, não há dinheiro ou tempo para me dedicar a eles. Vou começar 2012 em modo de sobrevivência, mas sou e mais uns milhões de concidadãos. Ir para fora é uma possibilidade, também se lavam pratos lá fora. Há muito para decidir nas próximas semanas.
Por enquanto, estou no mercado, a tentar vender programas de formação e consultadoria para media locais e regionais. Estou disponível como freelancer para publicações nacionais ou internacionais, e tenho mais algumas ideias na manga se isto não piorar.
Não vou ter saudades de 2011, aconteceram demasiadas coisas más, mas é a vida. Termino o ano bem pior do que quando comecei e estou a ponderar outras opções para o meu futuro, porque a vida não pára, ou a acompanhamos ou somos esmagados pelo movimento.
Morte a 2011, vou-me lembrar deste ano com amargos de boca.
As some of you might now already, I finally finished my MA in Online Journalism that I attended last year at Birmingham City University (UK) under the guidance of Paul Bradshaw. I had to postpone the delivery of the final assignment so this is why I’m getting my diploma now. And now I can say a few things.
I want to thank everyone who supported me in this great experience, from my colleagues in Birmingham who helped me out and had fun with, especially Dan Davies and his wife Jules who received me in their home in the first night I got there and put up with me through out the year, Caroline Beavon that is like my British sister, Ioana Epure who is amazing in everything she does and Mikel Plana, though he dropped out mid course he is related to some of the best and funniest moments I had there.
And there are many others, with whom I still try to keep in touch despite the distance, but life sometimes has other plans. I expect to see most of you again in the future, if things turn out for the best for me. To you all my deepest thanks and appreciation for those amazing moments.
I’d also like to thank all the staff at BCU that had to deal with me now and then, to the teachers who asked the right questions and made me look at things from a different perspective.
I realized in the last year something had changed in me, and although sometimes I don’t know what it was, I know “why”, and I feel I’m better because of that. Now and then people come and ask me about the course, and I always say it’s worth the shot, and that they at least should consider seriously the option of doing this MA.
The most important of this thank you list is Paul Bradshaw, who has been really patient with me in these last 18 months. I remember clearly the day he asked if I want to be part of the first class of his MA: my life was not going well, I was broke (again) and considering giving up all things journalism. I went for a run that day to sort things out in my mind and establish a plan, feeling like Indiana Jones rescuing his hat in the very last second.
I asked for a loan because I never had the money to pay for something like this, and so I joined the inaugural class of this course, that was brilliant because Paul got us in touch with real people, real situations and real work environments. This business is changing too fast to grasp all the novelties, but he managed to keep us up to speed. He’s a brilliant guy and I respect him a lot. So, thank you so much Paul, this meant a lot to me.
Closer to me are others that I already thanked for everything they did. You know who you are because I already told you how much your support meant to me. But I have to publicly thank my parents, who have always been there for me. My family is not average middle class, make that lower middle class, we don’t have a car, we don’t own a house, they make the minimum wage but still managed to make things happen. And of course, in this picture there’s my grandmother that always saved the day when I was in a financial distress. She passed away this summer and I feel I never thanked her enough.
To tell you the truth, I say the year I spent in Birmingham was the best one of my life, despite the hardships, frustrations, failures and micro-disasters along the way. I can say the opposite of 2011, it’s been one of the worst years ever, and though I had a magnificent work experience with Porto University, too many bad things happened through out the year, and my final project resented that. The final result isn’t brilliant, but I have to be honest, for a moment there I though I wasn’t going to make it. I wanted to pass with flying colors, but it’s amazing as it is.
The future from here looks dark, I’m broke (my financial records are a roller-coaster from hell), trying to survive in a dying economy in a country where hope is something that faded long ago, and I’m stuck with a loan for the next 7 years that I can’t pay. And there’s the regular expenses, like a roof, light, water, food, internet. I’ve been here before, but this time it’s a bit more complicated. But I’m trying, and I’m not leaving my hat behind in any circumstances.
Anyway, it’s done, there are no regrets, quite the opposite: I am better, happier, richer as a person (and hopefully financially too anytime soon), and this is a huge achievement for me, probably the biggest one so far, because no one just hand it over to me, I’m still fighting for it.
As I’m trying to finish my MA Project, I realized that when I write my final Production Report it will be more about failure than success. But this could also be because I haven’t got much feedback on what I’m doing, so I’ll just put it all out in the open. Tell me what you think.
The starting point was to create an informal team of journalists, specialized in multimedia and interactive narratives, that would follow specific production guidelines to tell marginal stories to main issues. This was also my main idea when me and my MA colleagues started developing Hashbrum, a hyperlocal website dedicated to cover the “neglected stories of Birmingham” (looking back through the filter of recent events we could have done so much more), but we failed to follow that line, although the basic concept was there.
When I say “informal”, I mean “not fixed”, the team would vary from story to story, since every story needs different skills and sensibilities. It could also work as an external Multimedia production company embedding journalists from established media brands. Another example of this would be Spot.us, and the way they change journalists and editors for every story. Having the people and the tools, this would be a team of journo-mercenaries (at least we would admit that), although mimicking the A-Team for journalism doesn’t look that good after you’ve seen others doing the same for other (probably more successful) businesses.
And this would be it: a pool of eager, talented, skilled journos ready to step into action armed with multimedia and interactivity and witty remarks. This also has a more broad organizational model, but for now this is enough.
So, what would be the J-Team’s first assignment?
Views To a Crisis
While living in the UK, I noticed that most of the information about the standards of living, the economical and social situation in Portugal we’re skewed – to say the least – and, above all, inaccurate. Portugal looked worse a year ago from the outside than it really is nowadays, and I thought about how much speculative journalism can affect the image of a nation. Not that the news were wrong, the facts were just a bit blown out of proportion. If we consider that many media groups are cutting back in correspondents, and that the international media doesn’t care for local media if they can’t understand it (i.e., speak in a foreign language) maybe they will never be able to deliver an accurate account of what is really happening. I’m not saying that I didn’t see a good coverage from some British media about the risks Portugal was facing, but I wondered how they could paint such a bad picture and how much of that was cause or effect.
Not trying to imply foreign media in Portuguese mismanagement, my idea was to have a more human approach to the subject, and turn those doom and gloom numbers into real faces and places, and share their stories of perseverance, misfortune, readjustment or evolution in a critical economical environment, and show them to an international audience by making that content available in Internet’s lingua franca, English.
But once back in Portugal and having being in touch again with the national media industry, I realized the “real” country wasn’t just misrepresented by foreign media: Portuguese newsrooms, due to their own hardships, have been concentrating their coverage on the mainframe issues and falling into the number and statistics trap. Not all, fortunately, but we are being fed the crisis every single time we look at a newsstand, or listen to the radio or watch the TV news, and sometimes it all looks like a damned math problem. Well, it is, but I hated Math. And since major news outlets are cutting back on their own local correspondents, I got that feeling that something was skewed all over again, with most of the message being conveyed from and directed to major urban areas, most specifically Lisbon, which does not reflect the realities of the rest of the country.
In my research for outliers from this type of coverage, I came across with an initiative by Público, one of Portugal’s leading newspapers, that developed an interesting approach to depict the effects of the crisis in regular people. Their approach is to follow five different families from different parts of the country. Called “A year in the crisis“, their goal is to have first person accounts using dynamic languages like video, set against background analysis provided by data and critical reports. It’s a very solid concept, and that meets many of the ideas I have for my own project. They are trying to figure out what has changed in these people’s lives and how they are adjusting to cope with all the setbacks created by an economical downturn, while keeping the stories human.
My idea is a bit more broad though. These families are sharing their experience, but I also care about the young graduates who are thinking about leaving the country because they can’t find a job, or those who are going back to their hometowns since they can’t afford living in great urban areas although the job offers are even more scarce. Or how some are demonstrating their discontentment through urban art, or how they are helping others in more dire situations. And I also want to know how life is for those who have always lived through their own crisis, that this one will only aggravate. Others are creating new opportunities reinventing their own life and career options, and many are trying to keep doing the same things they always did before: there weren’t any big losses in the Summer music festivals that happened all over the country, for example.
This would be complemented by a comprehensive set of data visualizations that would show how the situation has evolved, how it has its toll in different parts of the country (I’ve been trying to create a map of unemployment by municipality), and provide tools so each user could relate to specific data sets, using calculators or queries. I’ve been playing with some data viz tools and the only thing I can show now is a sunburst graph depicting the money the government has spent in its executive responsibilities. It has no framing or further explanations, it’s just a technical experiment.
A set of production guidelines still has to be established, but these depend on the range of the content, how it will be produced, and under which business model it will fall under. But business models will soon be discussed here too.
I have been trying to establish partnerships with other people and organizations – some related to independent media – especially aiming at the non-profit model, but I’m open to suggestions. And if you feel you have what it takes to be a part of it, registrations are open. Well, not real registrations, just send me an email if you’re interested.
What do you make of this? Would foreign media be interested in a coverage “from the ground”, and would Portuguese media also be available to work in the production of this type of contents and use them in their own platforms? What flaws do you see in this concept?
I’m all eyes and ears.
So the deadline is approaching fast to deliver my final assignment and finally finish my MA. I’ve been trying out lots of different types of visualizations, especially under the guidance of Nathan Yau’s Visualize This, which I recommend because it has a great practical side to understand data visualizations and how to start building them.
I have been taking a self inflicted crash course on Excel, Google Refine, JSON, ScraperWiki and Java, not to mention R, Protovis, Processing and other assorted tools, trying not to build readable charts but also making the interactive without resorting to Flash. During my quest for interactive tools I rediscovered Jit, which can be a great starting point to have interesting types of data visualization.
In this specific situation I used data referring the executive expenses of the Portuguese Government in the first half of this year, and worked around the Sunburst model available on Jit. I had to work two different levels of data with JSON to get these two dependent rings. Ia also thought about doing it as a Treemap, but this seemed to be more clear. It’s still a mockup but you’ll get the idea (hopefully).
Click on the image to check the vis and let me hear from you.