Harlan Neugeboren /
10.03.2007 12:00 AM
Training the Next Generation of Journalists
OK. So maybe it’s still all about content and character. Two years ago when I met Howard Schneider, the former editor of Newsday and the current dean of New York State’s first and only public, undergraduate school journalism, here’s what he told me. The goal of the school was to produce smart, well-trained students with a passion for the public interest and the courage to do the right thing in the face of ferocious competition. “Then let’s put them in a ‘newsroom of the future,’” he said, “where they’ll take their fundamental values and skills and produce content for every conceivable platform possible.”

It was a very tall order to conceive an innovative facility that would serve as a newsroom and classroom to support his vision.

AN INTEGRATED SOLUTION

Based on my experience at NY1 and the other TWC news channels I built, I knew that a tapeless environment was possible. The next challenge was to figure out how to build a solution using off the shelf systems that required little integration. In my discussions with Schneider, it was clear that he wanted to build the latest generation newsroom but have it flexible enough to grow and change as the program matured. He wanted to be able to take advantage of the latest advances in technology… though he had a limited budget.

With those requirements in hand, I set off to do my planning. Very quickly, I knew that we needed a flexible and open platform that could support newsroom, Web, editing, photo and other applications. Also, we needed a cost effective centralized editing, storage and playback system as well as one that could support many formats and was IP based. The choice was pretty clear for me: Apple.

The question was could I convince Schneider and his No. 2, Marcy McGinnis, the former senior vice president of CBS News, who spent much of her career surrounded by other systems, to support my choice.

“I wanted to carefully consider all of our options. I knew we had to choose the right system from the beginning. There would be no second chances,” McGinnis said.

My pitch to them was simple: The Apple platform has a great user interface and most Mac products, whether Apple or from a third party, have great user interfaces as well. I proposed Final Cut Pro for editing and ENPS for the newsroom system.

When McGinnis asked, “How do we integrate them?” I told her that one of Apple’s greatest strengths was its openness that allowed for easy integration with other systems. Apple’s interface to Final Cut is all XML and is published. Gallery wrote Sienna StoryCut to allow users to call up and create stories in ENPS from within Final Cut Pro.

The Apple operating system, OS X and OS X server also provide a lot of other features that support news production and most of them are “part of the system.” These include Podcast Producer, QuickTime Streaming Server, QuickTime Broadcaster and Apache Web Server. Final Cut Studio includes Compressor and Q Master that allow for the flipping of videos using the spare CPU capacity of any workstation. In SUNY’s case, there are 30 workstations and seven servers. There’s a lot of CPU bandwidth available.

The other great level of integration is in the iLife Suite—iPhoto, iWeb, iDVD and iMovie. While these applications will not be used everyday in the newsroom, they are a valuable set of tools that allow for the easy sharing of content. iPhoto now supports Web Gallery. You load your photos into iPhoto, select the ones you want and click “Publish to Web Gallery.” iPhoto launches iWeb and publishes the photos.

The other opportunities of the Apple platform lie in products such as iPhone and Apple TV and Front Row, Apple’s Media browser/organizer for the Mac desktop. When Leopard is released the Apple TV interface and the Front Row interface will be the same. Developing content for these platforms will be key for the journalists of the future.

THE SYSTEM


(click thumbnail)
SUNY Assistant Professor Charlie Haddad addresses journalism students in the latest generation classroom.
The newsroom for the SUNY Journalism School occupies about 3,000 square feet on the first floor of the Frank Melville Library at Stony Brook University. The architectural design was done by The Lawrence Group, and I did the system design. My goal was to design a system that would supply the journalism students with tools they could use in any multimedia platform—print, TV, radio, Web or mobile.

The system consists of 30 Mac Pro Workstations with dual 23-inch displays, seven Xservers—Metadata, Open Directory, Gallery Sienna Gateway, Final Cut Server, Web/Podcast and backup. There are four Xserve RAID’s yielding about 17 TB of storage or 1,700 hours of DV25 storage.

The student journalists will use Sony HDV HVR-V1U cameras with the HVR-V60 hard drives for field acquisition. They will ingest or transfer the native HDV files directly to the Xsan and edit using Final Cut Pro in native HDV. When Apple releases its Final Cut Server, we will integrate that into the system. Gallery’s Sienna StoryCut and Origin 1 gateway will give us MOS integration with ENPS such that footage captured on the Xsan will be logged into the ENPS database and a low-res proxy created that can be browsed via the StoryCut application.

Familiar with AP’s ENPS, McGinnis supported its use as the central content management system and the plan to integrate other applications to it. Integrating with Gallery’s Sienna will further allow for integration between ENPS and Final Cut Pro for publishing of video assets. Students will use ENPS for all scriptwriting and integrate ENPS with Adobe’s In Design for print publishing, accomplished through the MOS protocol and XML publishing capabilities of ENPS. We also are looking into integrating ENPS with Dreamweaver for Web Publishing.

And we are leveraging some of Apple’s other capabilities. For example, we’re using Mac Mini’s and QuickTime Broadcaster and Streaming Server as an RF system. CNN, MSNBC, FNC, News 12 and News Channel 55, along with other broadcast channels are encoded and displayed on 40-inch LCD monitors in the newsroom. The streams are also available on all desktops. Additionally we are using Apple’s Remote Desktop to allow the professors to display any desktop onto a large presentation screen through a Sony projector or on to any of the LCD monitors.

WHAT’S NEXT

There are plans for Stony Brook’s Journalism School to build an IP-based control room for news production integrated with Gallery and ENPS. Also, we will continue to leverage the XML capabilities of ENPS and focus on the Assignment Grid within ENPS to manage the school’s newsgathering assignments and resources. Further expansion will include integration of news bureaus at the Stony Brook Manhattan and Stony Brook Southampton campuses.

Thanks to the vision and support of University President Shirley Kenny, Journalism Dean Howard Schneider and Associate Dean Marcy McGinnis, Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism will continue to provide its students with the skills, values and tools necessary to become great journalists.


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