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Cesar is the author of the standalone novel “The 13 Secret Cities” the book series "How to Kill a Superhero" (under the pen name Pablo Grene). He is also the creator and publisher of Solar Six Books.

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Filtering by Category: Journalism

Podcast #19: Your role as art director if you self publish

Editor

In today’s episode:

  • I reveal a special suprise about 9 Lords of Night, which you can see with your own eyes here.

  • Your role as an art director if you are a self publisher and entrepreneur.

If you like the show, leave us a review in iTunes here. Thanks. If you want to support this show, visit my Patreon page. Got a comment? Send us an email at our contact page.

Beyond Built: A short documentary

Editor

This past winter, I asked Dave De Young, if I could make a short documentary (under 10 minutes) about Quads , the legendary gym located in Chicago, which Dave founded. his gym and how he runs his business. I am happy to say that the project is now in the editing stages and will release in late May or June to my YouTube channel.  


If you would like to contribute to this project, please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber. Thank you. For any questions regarding the project, please email me at editor at solarsixbooks.com.

Podcast #16: Sarah Kendzior

Editor

In today’s episode:

  • Sarah Kendzior is a columnist for The Globe and Mail, and has contributed to Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, Quartz, Slate and Politico. Sarah received her Ph.D. from Washington University. Her research focuses on authoritarian states. She tweets at @sarahkendzior. You can also quickly find all her articles and writing at SarahKendzior.com.

If you like the show, leave us a review in iTunes here. Thanks. If you want to support this show, visit my Patreon page. Got a comment? Send us an email at our contact page.

I use Snapchat as a reporting tool for journalists

Editor

Photo illustration by Cesar Torres, original photograph by  Terri Monahan

Photo illustration by Cesar Torres, original photograph by Terri Monahan

This year at Medill I have been fortunate to lead a group of graduate students in covering news events using Snapchat as a new type of camera. The work they have done has been astounding, and now is the right time for me to talk about what we have discovered so far.

Snapchat is unique, not just because it takes photo and video in an upright vertical format that drives traditional video pros insane with frustration, but because it offers production tools right inside the still image or video footage. You can add text, stickers, make your own stickers, and also verify your location by using Geofilters, among others.

It’s clear that some of these very limited features offer a huge amount of creativity to tell a story digitally.

I have found these production features very freeing, mostly because they are severely limited. For example, controlling fonts and font sizes is not very precise, and as a result, the "snaps" end up with a DIY, handmade look that is unique to the platform. There are no cropping tools, no color correction or image-editing options. What you see is what you get.

What's more, snaps and snap stories vanish. There is no archive, unless the journalist saves the video and re-posts on their site or a YouTube channel, which is probably a good idea to do. At Medill, we save the Snap stories for that day and archive. We sometimes post them as part of stories, like this one.

The more I use Snapchat with news teams, the more it makes me think of a particular technology from the past: The Polaroid camera.

Snapchat is possibly the equivalent of the introduction of a photo format like Polaroids, more than 75 years ago. Although the Polaroid did not get co-opted by newspapers or magazines as a photography tool, many artists favored it and worked with its limitations over the years. The Polaroid was an instant camera with a film exposure that would permit you to scribble on it as it developed. What's more, the print had a small margin at the bottom where a photographer could write an identifier, the date, whatever struck his or her fancy.

As my students experiment further with telling stories on Snapchat, it's clear that some of these very limited features offer a huge amount of creativity to tell a story digitally. We can tell stories in, colorful and animated ways that show a sense of humor, or a stronger sense of motion. We can show a sense of place that a broadcast crew or a more advanced camera can't. We can be spontaneous, and cover breaking news as it happens. At the same time, experienced journalists can uphold the values of the profession by seeking to tell these stories strongly with the who, where, when, and why. That means that introductions to Snap stories need to be strong, well told, well reported and researched. The reporter also remains as the responsible party to move us through a story with clarity, fairness, and objectivity. We need to cite sources, and yes, we can even cite the sources with a sticker or emoji.

I believe that journalists can go to new places with this type of camera than we could before. The camera is built into a smartphone, and as long as the mic is high quality and the sound is good, we can see some really amazing stories emerge. Yes, the bad news is that native mics are really crappy and don't give Snapchat journalism stories the right production values to be taken more seriously. Get yourself a decent mic for your smartphone. I recommend the Giant Squid Omniderectional Mic for entry-level journalists.

I should also note that there is also a learning curve on shooting video and photos in Snapchat, and making a good composition of high quality for journalism purposes also requires teaching, practice, and repetition, in order for it to improve. In other words, not all reporters know how to use this type of camera well, but they can learn.

Is Snapchat nothing more than a fad? Its parent company Snap has high hopes for the platform, asking for lots of money from media companies to run their content inside the platform, but not all analysts are bullish on Snap. The tech startup is slated to launch an IPO, and I personally think it only adds to the tech bubble we are currently experiencing as startups receive valuations that are beyond rich. The video space on social is crowded, and well, no one can actually predict what will happen. In the meantime, I think it's worth it for journalists to keep experimenting and using it. It certainly is more dynamic than a single shot that I could take with a DSLR, and in one single tap on my screen, I can distribute it to friends, or thousands of viewers.

I'll report again on how things are going with this experiment in a few months.

You can follow the work my students are doing at Medill on Snapchat at medillreports, and you can follow me at killsuperhero, or use the snapcode below.

Podcast #12 Updates on 9 Lords of Night and the launch of 13SC Apparel

Editor

In this episode:

  • Updates on the podcast, and why I was absent for a few weeks
  • Updates on 9 Lords of Night by Cesar Torres, due out in 2017
  • The launch of 13SC Apparel, a clothing line designed by Cesar Torres that is bringing community to Chicago strength sports
  • Other updates

For more info, visit cesartorres.me

I'll Be Teaching at the Medill School of Journalism this Fall

Editor

I have some very exciting news to share today. I will be teaching news reporting and digital storytelling this Fall at The Medill Content Lab at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern in the graduate program. The Content Lab provides a fast-paced immersion into a news and editorial environment for graduate students. Medill at Northwestern is my alma mater, so this opportunity is extra special.

I will be teaching graduate students 2-3 days during the week in an environment that very much resembles a real newsroom, and in the process, I'll also be working alongside faculty and mentors from my days at Tribune Interactive, as well as Northwestern from my undergrad years. The future of journalism rests on the alchemy of disciplines of news writing, video story telling in short and long form, podcasting, and the smart use of user experience and human computer interaction. Add to that mix the rigor of the Medill School, and you get a very challenging experience. I can't wait to meet the students in my class, and to learn more about them, and what kind of stories they will tell and report. If you live in Chicago and you want to grab lunch downtown, that means we can do that, too, since the graduate school campus is located there. It's going to be a great Fall Quarter.