Posted tagged ‘history’

Saline podcasting project comes to fruition

April 23, 2011

It has been seven months since I first contacted David Rhoads, president of the Saline Area Historical Society about a possible joint venture, and today I am pleased to have shared with our readers — and listeners — the fruits of our labor.

As part of my work with the Journal Register Co.’s ideaLab, a group of 14 reporters, editors, circulation directors, IT professionals and advertising consultants from the Midwest and East Coast, I’ve been experimenting with technology to improve our storytelling and help move journalism forward in this age of technology.

What I’ve come up with has been a joint effort in partnership with the community.

Professor Michael McVey (right) records a podcast with Wayne Clements, a member of the Saline Area Historical Society.

The idea came over hot drinks on a balmy September day at The Drowsy Parrot in Saline with Michael McVey, a Saline resident and an assistant professor in Eastern Michigan University’s Department of Education. I was telling him about my ideaLab charge and knew he had an interest in podcasting, as he has developed “The Considerate Podcast” series available on iTunes U.

I am not sure whether it was his idea or mine, or we got there together while brainstorming, but we decided a podcast series featuring a walking tour of Saline’s historic buildings would be an interesting project.

The Saline Area Historical Society seemed to be the perfect partners, so I blogged about it here and then Rhoads reached out to me, and we came up with a list of 10 sites worth featuring first.

From October to February, historical society members Wayne Clements and Liza Collins researched seven of the sites and wrote scripts for the podcasts. In early March, McVey and I met with Clements and historical society member Bob Lane at the Rentschler Farm Museum to record the podcasts. I also shot video and took photos to document our work.

Within a week, McVey had edited the recordings, and during the last month I have gathered historic photos from the Saline District Library website and sized them for the web. Photographer Hiroshi Onuma shot current-day photos, which I also sized, while the scripts were being written.

David Veselenak, our new online coordinator and Manchester reporter, created Google maps pinpointing each of the historic sites.

The end result is the Saline Historic Walking Tour podcasting project on our website at www.heritage.com. Under the podcast menu, you will find audio of either Clements or Lane reading the history of the Union School, Wallace Block, Rentschler Farm Museum, Davenport-Curtiss mansion, town founder Orange Risdon’s home, Saline Railroad and Depot and Union Block.

The old and current-day photos take readers on a visual tour of the sites, and the locator maps help readers easily identify where these buildings are located.

We plan to add to this series and we would like to expand into the surrounding communities. Anyone interested in helping is encouraged to reach out.

I hope everyone enjoys it. I welcome comments. Email editor@salinereporter.com or post a note on our Facebook page.

Partnering with the community to share oral histories

February 27, 2011

As part of my ideaLab work this past month, I have been exploring relationships with potential community partners to launch an oral histories project. On Wednesday, I met with Dianna Huckstein and Michelle Horazdovsky at Brecon Village, part of the Evangelical Homes of Michigan. We talked about using ipadio.com‘s technology and local volunteers to collect audio recordings of residents at Brecon Village, a retirement community located in Saline, sharing their life experiences, insights, and thoughts and feelings about major moments in history that they lived through.

I came to the meeting only hoping to be able to interview some of the residents there and taking their photos. I thought it would be a lot of work on my part and I didn’t know how I would find the time, but it was something I was determined to do. I was pleasantly surprised, however, at their enthusiasm for the project and willingness to totally take it over by not only finding people interested in sharing their stories, but volunteers who would interview residents and members of a photo club who could take their photographs. All I, or a member of my staff, would have to do is go to the ipadio.com account, grab the embed code and get the photo from Brecon Village, and then upload both on our website under our Podcast category. Brecon Village will be able to feature the content on its website, as well, sharing the stories from residents in their 70s, 80s and 90s who have lived through important moments in history and who have led interesting lives, from traveling the world to running major companies.

We talked about organizing chats around themes, such as changes in industry and innovation witnessed over the years, major moments in history, hobbies/collections, world travels, faith/spirituality, leadership, lifestyle and work/career.

We also talked about featuring “celebrity” interviewers at times, such as the mayor, school superintendent, local radio personalities, community leaders, educators and local business owners.

The plan is for Dianna and Michelle to round up three people by early this week for me to interview on Friday. They will flesh out the best theme to base the interview on and I will do a little research before prepping my questions. I’ll first meet the residents, so they feel comfortable with the whole process, and then call them, using my ideaLab iPhone, which will enable me to use ipadio.com. The entire interview will be recorded and available as soon as we hang up. Once everyone sees how it’s done, we can start recruiting and training volunteers and celebrity interviewers.

My goal is to expand this project to include other retirement communities in Washtenaw County. To this end, I met with Sara Wedell of Chelsea District Library, who is working on a similar project using video, rather than audio, for the library’s website. She shared contacts at Chelsea Retirement Community, Silver Maples retirement community and Chelsea Senior Center. Chelsea Standard Editor Erica McClain will take the lead on making it happen in Chelsea.

I am also in touch with Alan Caldwell of Senior Helpers to build a partnership in Ann Arbor.

Here’s an example of an interview one of our former editors conducted with actor Jeff Daniels of Chelsea using ipadio.com.

Check out the ipadio.com app for the iPhone. I used it this morning and it worked just like a recorder. Loved it. Easier than recording the phone conversation. Check out my first interview using the app.

More experimentation with Google Voice

January 20, 2011

It has been a rough couple of months as I’ve had to replace four reporters. The process of soliciting resumes, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, checking references and making the offer is very time consuming. Combine that with vacation time for myself and covering for staff while they were off, as well as short deadlines and days off with the holidays, and I am behind in what I’d like to do in the ideaLab. With that said, I’ve renewed some of my earlier experimentation with Google Voice.

A podcasting project in cooperation with the Saline Area Historical Society is in the works. I am just waiting on scripts to be written based on research by the historical society on 10 historic places in Saline. I’ve been told those should be ready by mid-February, and then we will meet with my ideaLabHeritage citizen volunteer, Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey, to record the oral histories. The plan is to edit the audio using the free software Audacity and couple the audio file with a photo slide show of old and new photographs of the historic sites.

This project has me thinking of a simpler way for us to produce audio, and share more stories and information. I think Google Voice can accomplish this. For example, we could invite area senior citizens and residents at retirement homes to call our Google Voice number and record their stories. This could be based on anniversaries of historic events, Memorial Day or other themes. I could put together a questionnaire and they simply read the questions and then answer. They have a three-minute window to do this.

Beyond recording local history, we could do this to produce Q&A’s to complement stories online. For example, maybe we have produced a feature story on a local artist. The story is online with a photograph and a video interview of the artist demonstrating her craft, and then there is an audio clip of her answering questions about who is the most influential person in her life, the name of the artist she most admires, the tool she couldn’t do without, her favorite artistic medium, etc.

Since I’ve been working out at the health club every day for the last five months, I’ve noticed some people listening to their iPods and reading the newspaper while on the treadmill or stationary bike. I’ve also brought the iPad for my workouts and seen others using them to listen to music, check their Facebook news feed and read the morning headlines. This got me to thinking about incorporating an audio function on every story for people who would rather listen to their news than try to read it in print or on the iPad. So, I called our Google Voice number and read a story, then downloaded the MP3 file and uploaded it with the story online. I also had our 14-year-old movie reviewer do the same for his review of “I love you Phillip Morris.” Readers now have the option to click the audio player leading the story and listen, rather than read it. Check it out.

Those are my efforts for the month and I hope to step it up more. The next step, however, is to train the new staff on everything I’ve learned in the last five months, from iPadio.com to editing audio files to Google Voice and other efforts.