#EMPJ Blog 11: Final Field Test

#EMPJ Blog 11: Final Field Test




Based on the results of my field test I do believe a sufficiently sophisticated chatbot can provide a more beneficial experience for the consumer — cutting down on information overload by putting users in the driver’s seat to ask questions. The majority of my respondents showed enthusiasm about the future of this technology. Three out of five people concluded that they would use MARK to answer specific question if it were readily available on the market. Even reading the conversations members of the focus group had with MARK gave me a glimpse into their willingness to not only use, but troubleshoot this type of technology to get information as an alternative to existing media. But my respondents also made it clear that MARK, in its current form, is not that answer.

The AI in Chatfuel is buggy at best and provides several limitations on the design side. A simple addition to the program that would allow the bot designer to segment AI rules could make the technology more robust. If “what happened” when asked under ‘story one’ provides a different response than if “what happened” where to be asked under ‘story two’ it would allow greater specificity in creating AI rules — and subsequently a smarter chatbot. Ideally this would also make the chatbot smarter in the long run.

Additionally, a chatbot designed, programmed, and launched directly to mobile platforms would have more flexibility than the chatbots (like MARK) designed and housed on Facebook Messenger. In the very near future I can see this technology take off as AI continues to improve. As AI improves, I think we will see these news fetching capabilities take a the spotlight on virtual assistants like Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Google Home, and Apple’s HomePod. These assistants will be able to provide news and context in a conversational manner that encourages the user to engage often. Who knows, maybe MARK will be among those technologies.


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Journalism: The Future & Beyond

Journalism: The Future & Beyond

“Practicing journalism in 2016 is like throwing a dart at a moving target, I’m hoping the Communications@Syracuse program will better my aim.”

Those were the closing words to my admissions essay to the Communications@Syracuse program. Now, as I put the finishing touches on the final assignments in my last two courses, I find myself on the other side of the program. I can confidently say two things: practicing journalism in 2017 isn’t any easier than it was in 2016 and the Communications@Syracuse program has certainly bettered by aim. Perhaps it’s most evident in this class: Emerging Media Platforms. Technology is changing more and more rapidly and consumers’ needs and desires are shifting just as fast. And with those two things — so too changes Journalism itself. How we practice it. What we cover. How we deliver it. How it’s consumed. With that said, here are some of my predictions on how emerging platforms will continue to alter Journalism and the career I love and practice each and every day.

CHATBOTS: As evident by my choice in Capstone project, I believe chatbots are a big part of the future of journalism. We’ve already seen sectors of news with rudimentary reporting based on facts and figures be farmed out to automated bots (think: sports stats/scores and stocks and other financial reporting). Chatbots will soon take off as AI becomes more adaptive thanks to more and more interactions between bots, facts/figures, and consumers. Chatbots will soon be able to answer more complex questions, which could potentially undermine traditional methods of delivering information and news. Why sit through an hour-long newscast for the story teased in the headlines when I can get the answer now using an adaptive, predictive, chatbot?

ASSISTANTS: As chatbots grow in number and popularity they will also improve in accuracy too, as AI transforms into something more reliable — and more like what we’ve seen in movies for decades. And as AI improves personal assistants likes Alexa, Siri, and Google Home will become as intelligent as they will be ubiquitous. The IoT will increases integration between home, businesses, and goods giving personal assistants the power to perform increasingly complex tasks and understand nuanced questions. This will further force journalists to deconstruct the narrative of the “story” and stick to facts that are easy for these assistants to navigate. Consumers will interact directly with information and ask questions about things that make them curious. The gatekeeper theory will be greatly tested. Make no mistake, this is the future. And it’s happening now.

DRONES: As geofencing becomes more complex and the government is better equipped at interfering with drones to protect collective interests like safety and privacy, drone usage will become more ubiquitous by both amateurs and businesses (including journalism). As drone flight times, currently limited by battery length and range, increase they will completely eliminate news choppers for purposes of collection video. This is, in theory, safer — removing chopper pilots and crews from harm’s way. This shift will also quicken news crew response times to breaking news situations. Imagine getting the address to the scene of breaking news and being able to input those coordinates in your drone and within seconds it takes off -— and within minutes it makes it to the scene. Here’s something else to consider: as long range lenses become more compact and digital zoom improves with higher image quality formats, accidental capture and invasive surveillance by news crews will undoubtedly become an issue. Where should the line be drawn?

SENSORS: What can be done now with sensors is already amazing. What the sensors of the future will allow us to do will be alarming. As nanotechnology becomes mainstream, sensors will be able to collect data in more discreet ways. I primarily see sensors as being a huge aid in health and environmental reporting, but I can also see applications when it comes to crime. 96 U.S. cities in the country already have gunshot detection apparatuses called Shot Spotter (or a similar brand) that uses sensors placed around an area to immediately signal police when a gunshot is heard.

VR/360: While there is great possibility in what can be achieved with VR and 360 video, I still think there is a long way to go before we see these medium becoming mainstream and second nature to the consumer. The video files are still massive and stitching video together is complex and labor intensive, and in many cases still looks grainy. Yes, a virtual world is on the horizon, but it’s still a sunset of a distant day. Not today. 360 video on the other hand will explode as video quality and internet speeds improve. I think storytelling that follows a “character” or highlights an environment or venue will benefit greatly from this innovation.

Exciting. Gritty. And filled with lots of “gray”. Here’s to the future of Journalism and all it promises to bring along with it.


#EMPJ Blog 9: Drone Footage

#EMPJ Blog 9: Drone Footage

Drones are the newest toys in TV newsrooms all across the country and my station, WAVE 3 News in Louisville, KY, is no different. In the last month we have received one drone solely for our newsroom’s use with the promise of another coming in the near future. As we begin to examine ways to fold our new toy into our news coverage there are a considerable amount challenges we must consider:

  • Our station is situated in downtown Louisville and is within the restricted airspace of the Louisville International Airport. Therefore for most stories in the Louisville metro flying our drone is not an option (see map below)
    • Screenshot 2017-06-04 19.33.59
      Courtesy: Know Before You Fly 
  • I’ve been told the drones have a fly time of just shy of 30 minutes. Realistically, this means that we will not be able to incorporate LIVE drone video into coverage of a breaking news situation. Drone usage for news purposes will likely have to be confined to previously recorded video that runs in later news segments.
  • Our station also co-ops a helicopter with the ABC affiliate in the market. However, the helicopter is not HD whereas our drone shoots and streams full 1080 HD. This dynamic of having an existing aerial video capability presents yet another logistical constraint on when and how it would be best to deploy our drone to collect video.

With those restrictions in mind, the types of stories we can use drones for are limited. One of the first potential uses that comes to mind is using the drone for our Derby coverage. But Churchill Downs is 2.5 miles away from the airport – which means the track is within the airports restricted airspace. However, stories I believe could be enhanced by recording drone video are situations that are too dangerous for our photographers or helicopter to get close to. Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Extremely large fires outside of restricted airspace
  • Difficult/dangerous places to get to (for example, collecting exterior video of the cave where half a dozen spelunkers were trapped December of last year)
  • Beauty shots of the Capitol in Frankfort

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to suggest when it comes to any A/B type of field testing. Given the nature of when it would be best to deploy our drone given the constraints, merely getting the video we were once unable to record, would indicate mission success.



#EMPJ Blog 8: Field Test Update

Innovation: in·no·va·tion /ˌinəˈvāSH(ə)n/ — a new method, idea, product, etc.

It’s time to shake things up when it comes to how people consume the news. Here’s why: 

  • In 2016, an estimated 20% of Americans felt ‘overloaded’ with information (down 7% from 2006) and nearly half — 46% — of people under the age of 50 feel as though more information makes their lives more complex.
  • 63% of respondents in a recent survey of smartphone users ages 18-35 said they would consider messaging and online chatbot to get in touch with a business or brand.
  • The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Tech Crunch are beginning to deploy chatbots as a means to engage the consumer and disseminate information

The answer is here: call it MARK.

You get the news you want – how you want it and when you want it. MARK is the first mobile personal assistant for news. Open the app on your smartphone or tablet, select a headline or topic, and ask MARK a question. Get instant, relevant information that answers your question. Go beyond the headlines and social media to get the information you want – whenever you want it. Not sure where to start? MARK suggests new information to explore on the selected topic. Our team of journalists, programmers, and data analysts work around the clock so you can always trust that MARK knows the best answer, because he has the best team behind him. No more guessing. Just ask MARK.

The Magic of MARK. 

MARK uses Chatbot technology to allow users to navigate the day’s headlines by asking questions.MARK analyzes questions and phrases asked and inputted by the users, searching for keywords to retrieve the most relevant and up-to-date information reported by our expansive team of journalists. On the backend, journalists boil down the facts of the story creating individual information CARDS to comprise a story DECK. The journalist then assigns a number of keyword amplifiers known as AI SWITCHES to select the most relevant CARD(s) for the questions selected. Getting stuck? MARK can PROMPT a question for you to ask him. PROMPTs are suggested questions created by the reporter. A PROMPT will appear if the user has not asked a question in 15 seconds. These will cycle through at random corresponding to the remaining cards available. PROMPTs also allow MARKS A.I. to learn by associating complex questions with AI SWITCHES created by the reporter.

Testing Our Innovation. 

I have my idea set, now I am currently in the phase of selecting the right Chatbot platform to create MARK. Once I am done testing out Chatbot applications I will begin creating the user experience based on previously create prototypes. Once MARK is created, I will deconstruct three existing stories to create three story DECKs and load them into MARK. At that time I will select a focus group of five people to test MARKThe group will be instructed to use MARK to learn the story. Afterwards they will be prompted to read the corresponding traditional story MARK‘s DECKs were deconstructed from. The focus group will then be asked to rate both experiences on several factors: 

  • Time spent on the consuming the story 
  • How well the medium explain the issue or event
  • How enjoyable was the experience of consuming the story on the respective medium 
  • Which medium the user would be more likely to want to use again to learn about an issue or event

#EMPJ Blog 7: Nerding out with Sensors

I generally consider myself to be rather in the know when it comes to what the tech industry is churning out. Sure – I don’t know everything, but I like to think I’m current. But the ease in which you can create custom sensors with relatively inexpensive products online caught me off guard. It didn’t take long for me to start thinking about how these sensors could be used for a fun project around the house and how the sensors could be used to tell a story.

Force Sensitive Resistor - Square
Square Force Sensitive Resistor    


Humidity and Temperature Sensor - RHT03
HT03 Humidity and Temperature sensor








Here’s what I’m thinking: I could use these two sensors to measure attendance/foot traffic at an event and also measure the temperature/humidity to determine if there’s any correlation between weather and an event’s attendance. I would use the RHT03 Humidity and Temperature sensor to measure and record the two attributes. I would then use the Square Force Sensitive Resistor (or several of them) to log foot traffic. Every impression on the pad would be counted as one person entering into the venue. This type of device could be used to verify attendance estimate handouts by public officials, particularly in a situation where it may be in the best interest of the event organizers/venue to inflate attendance records. Think a campaign rally, for example. Maybe even … the inauguration? The device could be used to check attendance reported by the administration. There were several reports that the crowd size at Donald Trump’s Inauguration were inflated.

A field test would basically include testing the device on a smaller scale before implementing it at an actual location. I could install the device at the entrance of the television station and for a day count the number of people entering the building and reference that number against recorded impressions. I could also check the readings of the humidity & temperature sensor and compare them to the readings collected by the weather meter in the station’s garden.

#EMPJ Blog 6: Using VR

This week the City of New Orleans removed a statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, from the mid-city area where it stood for many years. The statue was removed under the cloak of darkness to minimize public outcry on both sides of the heated issue. The statue is the second of four monuments designated for removal within the city — deemed a public nuisance by the City Council late last year.

Our sister station in New Orleans, Fox 8, employed a number of storytelling techniques to bring viewers to the historic removal of an equally-as-historic monument. The station covered the hasty removal with several live reports from a reporter on the scene, a constantly updated article on the station’s website, live tweets, and also a live stream on Facebook Live (embedded above). I believe, however, a Virtual Reality experience would have been best suited for this type of coverage.

While the event, if covered in VR, would not be live it would still provide the viewer the most comprehensive coverage. A 360, VR experience could capture the removal of the statue as well as the crowd of protesters and supporters jeering and cheering down below the construction cranes. The story could also be annotated with the facts and figures in the article covering the event — think things like how old the statue is, how much it weights, who created it, when and why the council voted for the statue’s removal, and in-depth interviews with the supporters and protestors about why the statue meant so much to them. A depth camera could be used to give the user a more interactive approach to exploring this environment we create through the 360/VR video experience. Drones shooting 360 video could also be used to get a unique aerial perspective of the statue being taken down as well as the division in the crowd between supporters and protesters.

#EMPJ 5: Telling the Unseen Story

Screenshot 2017-05-07 17.56.32
Courtesy: NBC News

This week a U.S. Navy Seal was killed in Somalia. It was the first combat death of a U.S. service member in the country since 1993. There is no telling if there was any video of the incident and if there is video it was not made readily available by the Navy. NBC News, in an attempt to give viewers an idea of what happened, created an animation of the incident using the details provided. A graphics creator with NBC News could use reality-captured 3D technology to create interactive models or videos of an incident like this to give the viewer some perspective of what happened without having actual video of the incident.

Experiment: Use 3D scanned soldiers, weapons, and aircraft to create an animation of the battle where a U.S. Navy Seal was killed in Somalia this week in a tactful and ethical manner.

Hypothesis:  Viewers/consumer will find an interactive 3D model/video of the battle to be more engaging than the traditional animation that NBC News created for the purposes of the story.

Measuring Results: There are a couple of ways I could potentially measure results.

  1. The first way to measure results is to have two groups of people: one group that views/manipulates the battle in the 3D scanned model/video and the other group that views battle by watching the animation NBC News created. I would then ask both groups a series of qualitative questions about their viewing experience that would be paired with quantitative ratings (1 to 5). Whichever gets the highest score would be dubbed the better of the two user experiences.
  2. The second method of measuring the results of the experiment is to show both versions of the battle to one group of people, one after the other. I could then asks the viewers which experience they preferred and the medium with the highest number of affirmative votes is dubbed the better of the experiences. Or there is the potential to still ask the viewers a series of qualitative questions that reflect a quantitative value and add the scores up to determine which the viewers enjoyed more.