New 'Innovation in Focus' series will show journalists how to tell stories using emerging tech

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The proliferation of new storytelling technologies can overwhelm journalists as they wonder which tools are worth the investment of time and money. Even the time to investigate can be a drain on budgets and staffing. 

A team at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute's Futures Lab is stepping in to help with its new video series "Innovation in Focus," which launched Jan. 15. The series is designed to teach, by example, how to tell a story using various emerging technologies. It also highlights challenges and opportunities, tips and tricks, and equipment costs.

Each month Futures Lab staff and Missouri School of Journalism students will produce two to three segments about a single technology topic or process. The first three segments, two of which are already produced, will focus on 360 video. Other topics will include drones, augmented reality, virtual reality, verification and mobile broadcasting.

For the first segments, two students will use the highlighted technology to produce a feature story with the help of RJI Video Editor Kat Duncan.

The first two segments:

Early adopters who have found success will talk about how they use the technology, as well as the opportunities and challenges, during the second segment.

A third optional segment will provide behind the scenes interviews with students who produced the first segment feature story including tips and tricks, says Duncan.

The series is targeted to freelancers, marketers and journalists in all newsroom sizes.

"The idea is that a single journalist could watch the series and learn how to use the technology to tell stories in whatever environment they're in," says Duncan.

"Newsrooms are getting smaller and, of course, there's a lot more demands on everyone's time," says Todd Feeback, McClatchy's regional video editor for the Midwest. "In order for newsrooms to test this technology out, buy it and experiment with it, the time's often not there. That can kind of stifle innovation."

Feeback says McClatchy has corporate teams that continually try out new technologies and ways to tell stories. A video team also provides instruction to McClatchy's journalists across the country on how to use the new technologies. But he says he thinks there can never be too many resources.

"I think that anything that really speaks to using these tools for storytelling and showing how it's done is incredibly useful," he says.

"Innovation in Focus" replaces the weekly RJI Futures Lab video update, which was produced from 2013 to summer 2017.

New episodes will be published on RJI's website and YouTube channel and will be promoted on RJI's social media accounts.

Journalists are encouraged to interact on social media to let staff know what they liked and what should be improved, says Ebony Reed, director of innovation and the RJI Futures Lab. 

"Success for us will be professionals interacting with us more, sharing what they want and need as we tackle these topics," says Reed. "We hope the series will serve as a brainstorming platform for some journalistic projects."

Jennifer Nelson is the senior information specialist at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. Previously, she was the news editor of the Osceola (Iowa) Sentinel-Tribune.

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