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'Visual Journalism Boot Camp' comes to Langley May 27

CRASH! Another newspaper bites the dust.

POW! Another TV station slashes its budget.

BLOOEY! A radio station wipes out its news department altogether and installs all sports talk, all the time.

What’s a serious journalist with a paycheck in jeopardy to do?

“Traditional mainstream media is forever changed,” Russell Sparkman, Langley’s bellwether of new-age media, agreed Monday. “Our tradition of storytelling produced by professionals is at risk.

“People who have been working as journalists are finding it very, very difficult to find meaningful work,” he said.

“But there are glimmers of hope,” he added, “and reasons to be optimistic. We could experience a renaissance of appreciation for the visual storyteller.”

If hope springs eternal, it will flow for sure this week as Sparkman’s Langley Center for New Media presents a two-day program titled “Visual Journalism Boot Camp.”

The event, featuring experts in the latest journalistic technology and philosophy, will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, May 27 and Friday, May 28, at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley.

On Thursday, 10 new-media gurus including Sparkman will discuss the present and the future. Friday will be taken up with a workshop on multimedia storytelling approaches, along with tips and techniques to improve reporting and editing, and discussion of the most effective tools for specific jobs.

Sparkman said the two-day session is designed for writers, photographers, videographers, filmmakers, graphic designers and anyone else involved in the information business or curious about it.

“There have been seismic changes in the world of journalism,” he said. “What’s going to end up happening is that solutions will come not from traditional media, but from entrepreneurial individuals and collectives.”

Sparkman said the key to the future success of journalists will be their ability to adapt to changing social tendencies and to embrace “a more visual brand of communication.”

That likely will mean fewer words and more “bullet points” — and many more pictures and graphics, he predicted. It also will mean embracing the “explosion” of new devices, from computers to smart phones to the iPad.

“It’s the age-old adage,” he said. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Sparkman sees a future where journalists are no longer working for traditional media such as large newspapers or network news organizations, but for themselves, individually or in small teams.

The key to their success, and their pocketbooks, will be how well they build a “brand” that radiates professionalism and trust, he added.

“It will be increasingly important for individual reporters or teams to nurture their reputations,” Sparkman said. “As more and more work is done freelance, credibility and trustworthiness will be tied to a personal brand.”

He said there’s no turning back, that the future has been set in motion.

“We’ve passed from old ways to new ways of thinking,” he said. “Some of these things are starting to happen, finding opportunities to do storytelling through non-traditional outlets.”

Sparkman predicted that the transition period will be a short one — the next generation already is well-adapted to rapidly changing technology and new ways of thinking.

“All this won’t be an issue in 10 years,” he said.

The lineup for the Boot Camp includes several heavy hitters in new media.

Keynote speaker will be Brian Storm, founder of MediaStorm.org, who also will lead Friday’s workshop.

Among the regional and national presenters will be Tom Kennedy, former director of Multimedia at WashingtonPost.com and consultant with Kennedy Multimedia. He will discuss how society’s growing reliance on visual communications can reinvigorate multimedia storytelling.

Another presenter will be Hanson Hosein, director of the University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media program and president of HRH Media Group.

His message will be journalistic survival.

“Today, thanks to cheap media technologies, anyone is able to play in the communication space,” he said. “But this increase in voices has created confusion around who to trust.”

And he added:

“It’s an excellent opportunity for skilled storytellers to lay the groundwork for an ongoing relationship of credible communication with a community — without institutional backing.”

For more information, or to sign up, visit the Visual Journalism Bootcamp event page or call 221-4001.

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