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Young journalists and emerging technology broaden our audience

Technology brings opportunity to challenges. With the right attitude and skills, these challenges bring rewards. The final Faith in Ferguson prayer service Wednesday was such a situation.

The St. Louis Review goes to press on Wednesday and the pages are to be sent to the printer by 5:30 p.m. The prayer service started at 4:30. One hour is a short span for full reportage, including photos. In situations like these, planning and technology are critical.

Reporter Dave Luecking wrote much of the 876-word story in advance and then dictated updates and quotes from the event. That’s common practice in the news business, and Dave’s 41 years on the job — 13 as an NHL beat writer — meant this task was an old hat trick.

Photo intern Weston Kenny’s task was more challenging. Weston’s been on the job for 13 weeks, barely enough time to get comfortable with the pace of the business, let alone the difficulty of meeting a deadline that has almost passed when the event begins.

Weston’s Canon DSLR camera was outfitted with an Eyefi memory card, which allows transfer of the photos to a smartphone to be emailed using cellular data networks. There are a few steps involved, mostly pushing some buttons and swiping a screen — but nothing close to how news photographers used to transmit photos:

As any prepared pro would, Weston filed a test image before the event. I was a bit concerned, as I had no idea how the photo fit the story.

Weston's test image. What the heck?

Weston’s test image. What the heck?

He filed images several times throughout the prayer service. We had a handful of decent images by 5:15 and solid frames by 5:30. They were on the page and to the printing plant by 5:40 — just 10 minutes after our normal deadline, which we had extended. Our coverage was on pages 1, 2, and 3.

For Weston, this was a cool experience near the end of his internship. It was pretty high-stakes for him, as we were counting on his images for our top story, he was on a tight deadline and trying relatively new technology.

Of course, being relevant today means informing and engaging on multiple platforms. Also on the Faith in Ferguson coverage team was reporting intern Colleen Dulle, whose embrace of digital storytelling has been an inspiring asset for our team. We even changed her unofficial title to “Live Tweetinator.”

She started her live Tweetinating early:

And she didn’t stop.

With ease and speed, she pushed 13 Tweets with a mix of quotes, mentions, hashtags and photos. They were retweeted and liked many times, broadening the reach of the prayer service to people unable to attend but eager to follow virtually. Her Tweets were aggregated in Storify, which was embedded with the story published online at 5:41 p.m. The story was then tweeted, posted, liked and retweeted to again broaden the audience.

These young journalists are impressively adept with emerging technologies. Like most interns, their knowledge and enthusiasm are inspiring and contagious. The combination is critical for excellence and relevance in our craft and mission.

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The challenge of doing great journalism on deadline can be rewarding when we know our community benefits. There can be a bit of a thrill, too.

Soon after the prayer service was over, Weston texted:

“Hey Teak how is everything going on your end?”

Great, I assured him. Nice work by the team, Story is up, pages are sent.

“Awesome! I have to say that was a rush. I loved it!”

Yep. As the millennials say, this job is on fleek.