Sometimes it gets weird at Reuters…..

21 Aug 2015

After 17 years at Reuters, I recently became the Global Head of Sports and Strategic Products for the Reuters News Agency. My job is focused on making sure that Reuters is able to deliver the raw materials that help thousands of publishers cover the sports world for their audiences.  I’m very proud to be helping Reuters carry a legacy that started well over a century ago, delivering world class coverage of the biggest sporting events.  And yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.

Of course the vast majority of our attention is paid to the most popular and largest sporting events, but it’s also important for our customers to have access to a wide breadth of coverage.  We were reminded of this recently, when the International Olympic Committee recognized Ultimate Frisbee as a sport, putting it on a path towards inclusion in a future Olympic event.

That decision also helped inspire this post.  You see, one unexpected side effect of my new role is a sudden urge to learn about the lesser known sports Reuters has covered, and then, against their will, force anyone within listening distance to learn about them too.

For instance, did you know about our Elephant Polo coverage?  You might have never seen it, but you can guess what it is.

How about Korfball? No idea right? Well Korfball is actually too main stream for me to get into here.

Underwater Ice Hockey? You’re probably thinking of Underwater Hockey. Totally different sport. Seriously. You’ll see.

Because those in the office here in Times Square have started giving me a wide berth for fear of another lecture on the more obscure rules of a Sauna Marathon, I’m taking to the internet to show off how much I’ve learned.  So without further delay, in ascending order, here are the 7 sports I’m rooting for to become the next Ultimate Frisbee:

Elephant Polo

Here it is. The “biggest sport in the world” doesn’t really need much explanation.

A player from PricewaterhouseCoopers Team, challenges players from the Audemars Piguet Team, during the opening match of 11th King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Hua-HinFootgolf

Let’s start this nice and easy.  You know Football.  You know Golf.  Just put them together and you have Footgolf.  Put away the clubs, widen the holes, break out the soccer ball and kick.

Patrick Wooten holds the flag as his son Thomas misses his putt on the second half of the FootGolf course at Largo Golf Course in Largo, Florida*Censored*

There is really enough material here for a whole other blog post (but by now we all know that’s not happening).  Apparently you can pretty much turn any sport into a new sport by simply shedding the uniform. Reuters has covered everything from Naked Bike Riding, to the World Pole Dancing Championships to something called the “Bare Buns Run”.  We’re keeping it family friendly here, but if you’re a fan of The Wider Image, feel free to do your own research into Sauna Marathons. I guarantee you will learn something.

Spanish fans react while watching the 2010 World Cup match between Spain and Switzerland, in MadridToe Wrestling

You know, like arm wrestling, except with your toes. Legend has it that this idea was born in the pub after a tough World Cup loss, where two men wanted England to become world champion at something, so they invented this sport.  Where else can one root for an athlete known as “The Toeminator”?


Rebecca Birch wins the ladies section of the World Toe Wrestling championships in AshbourneExtreme Ironing

And just about now is when I would warn you it’s about to get weird.  Participants in Extreme Ironing compete to successfully iron their clothes in the most awkward situations to score points from the judges. Have you ever seen a man iron clothes balanced on the peak of a mountain? How about while base jumping? No? I say you can hardly call yourself an educated sports fan until you’ve experienced the thrill and suspense of extreme chores.

A COMPETITOR IRONS A SHIRT ON A SURF BOARD ON A SMALL RIVER IN THE BAVARIAN TOWN OF VALLEY.Underwater Ice Hockey

We all know Underwater Hockey is just hockey played at the bottom of a pool.  Well this is Underwater ICE Hockey.  In 10 minute periods, and without the use of scuba tanks, in obviously freezing cold water, the teams play hockey with a puck floating against the bottom of the rink. Can we still call Gretzky “The Great One” if he only played on one side of the ice?  But wait, it gets weirder…

Kiehl of team Germany I dives during a match at the Underwater ice hockey Championships in lake WeissenseeChess Boxing

Finally, my very favorite. Combatants take turns playing rounds of chess and fighting rounds of boxing. Alternating until there’s a checkmate… or a knockout.  I’m really hoping for a Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch following this format. How is this not more popular?

Sirci of Italy competes against Russia's Sazhin during their heavyweight World Championship chessboxing match in Moscow

Well that wraps up a view into the lighter side of the job here. Believe it or not, there is quite a bit more in the archives to tell you about, but I just found an archive video from the 1987 World Cheese Rolling Championships …

Rob Schack, Global Head of Sports & Strategic Projects

Photographer credits: Sukree Sukplang, Scott Audette, Susana Vera, Darren Staples, Miro Kuzmanovic, Michael Dalder, Maxim Shemetov

Visit Reuters Pictures to browse and license photography from around the globe.

Peter Bohan – Tales from the Trail: A Little Bird Told Me

24 Jul 2015

PeterBohan

In newsrooms around the country, it’s an old saying: “If your mother says she loves you – check it out.”

An age-old truth – you are only as good as your source.

Bedrock journalism. Good to remember as the social media universe floods us with rumors and becomes a playground for hackers.

Social media is rapidly becoming the channel for news consumers with mobile devices.

“Twitter wants to become your go-to source for news” says one recent article while a July 14 Pew Report “The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook” finds that “that clear majorities of Twitter (63 percent) and Facebook users (63 percent) now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family.”

Mainstream traditional media already Tweet and post their own stories. But Facebook and Twitter are also becoming sources for mainstream media via Tweets and posts. Tweets are sprouting up regularly as sourcing on TV and radio.

That’s the danger zone: if your Twitter says she loves you, check it out.

A feed of Tweets should never be more than a tip wire – and a “live” wire, as in 1,000 volts.

Hoaxers are more active than ever. And hackers – from hoaxers to spoofers, from identity thieves to money launderers, from government spies to terrorist groups – are finding the water fine in the social media universe.

At the other end of a “county news release” may be the North Koreans or the Syrian Electronic Army. Or my own new favorite: Russia’s Internet Research Company.

Sept. 11, 2014. News of a toxic plume at a Columbia Chemicals plant in Louisiana began with a morning text message to a local resident and was spread quickly as “hundreds of Twitter accounts were documenting a disaster right down the road” and “dozens of journalists, media outlets and politicians, from Louisiana to New York City, found their Twitter accounts inundated with messages about the disaster.” Islamic State was soon being rumored as behind the attack.

All fake, according to the New York Times: the handwork of crafty Russians.

“From a nondescript office building in St Petersburg, an army of well-paid ‘trolls’ has tried to wreak havoc all around the internet – and in real-life American communities,” said the Times in its June 2 article “The Agency.”

Good lord: is it that easy to pull off another War of the Worlds, as Orson Welles did?

Well, yes. And how about one a day?

May 23, 2015: Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, an African American investigating alleged abuses by cops after the death in custody of black youth Freddie Gray, says her official work twitter account was hacked – which she announces on her private Twitter account. She does not give details. But her office later denies to Megyn Kelly of FOX News that Mosby “favorited” a racially charged tweet and another one calling the six Baltimore cops charged in the Freddie Gray case “thugs.” The local prosecutor later told Kelly that both Mosby Twitter accounts had been hacked.

The point is that hackers are drilling down more into media sources, not just into media.

Do you think you –or your Twittering sources – are protected?

“To a cyber expert, traditional antivirus protection offers the hacking equivalent of being able to repel a musket ball when today’s villains are firing AK-47’s,” notes Fortune in its fine portrait this month of the devastating attack on Sony Pictures.

It’s not just corporates or government agencies being hacked. It’s the whole expanding Twitterverse.

No one is more aware of this than Twitter. Their hacking team is at hacked@twitter.com and includes their handy how-to triage for victims.

So does this mean we roll back the clock and ignore social media if we want the facts?

Nope. The genie is out of the bottle. Elvis has left the building.

But as journalists and publishers it means we must use Twitter and other social media – not let them use us.

Consider the source. Load up the salt shakers. Pinch early and often.

Be like the Homeland Security official in Louisiana called by the resident in that toxic plume scare last September: “He hadn’t heard of any chemical release that morning,” the Times said. “In fact, he hadn’t even heard of Columbia Chemical. St. Mary Parish had a Columbian Chemicals plant office.”

Saved by the “n” and the “s” — and a good dose of salt.

Twitter or no Twitter: Always let the facts stand in the way of a good story.

 

Peter Bohan was a Reuters journalist for 30 years before becoming Executive Director of Reuters America Service, a product aimed at U.S. newspapers, web sites and broadcasters as an alternative to The Associated Press. Peter – Midwest Bureau Chief at the time – built the service starting in 2010 in tests with Tribune Company, which  became the anchor client for RAST in 2011. Peter spends more time than anyone working with U.S. newspapers to see how Reuters can address their needs.

Reuters-TIMA Covering the International Conference on Iraq and Syria

16 Jun 2015

The team at Reuters-TIMA were preparing to cover the international conference on the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, due to be held in Paris on Tuesday 2nd June. The last such summit was held in Paris in September 2014 and saw representatives from around 30 countries and international organisations meet to come up with a strategy to combat ISIS group which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria. Of the 60-plus nations who joined the international coalition against ISIS nine months ago, 24 were to be represented in Paris on Tuesday in the meeting co-chaired by Laurent Fabius, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and John Kerry.

Live position  live in full swing! (2)

However, the Sunday before, doubts were cast as to whether the meeting would still go ahead as it was announced that John Kerry had broken his leg in an cycling accident. It was later confirmed that the meeting would go ahead as planned as Kerry would be attending the meeting remotely via telephone. Reuters-TIMA confirmed plans for deployment, and the engineer and SNG made their way to Paris overnight from Montpellier ready to meet staff from the TIMA Paris office the following day.

Tuesday 2nd June 2015

Anticipating a lot of media interest, we arrive bright and early at the French Ministry of Foreign affairs, otherwise known as the Quai D’Orsay, and are among the first to park and set up our live position. We get an ideal spot in front of the gates of the Quai D’Orsay – indeed, “the early bird catches the worm”!

As the morning goes on, more crews arrive and set up around us. There are reporters from all over the world covering the event – Russia, Germany, Spain, France, the United States, the Middle East among others. The Quai D’Orsay is a hive of activity with ministers coming and going, sirens whirring, horse guards parading… the atmosphere is alive and we are set up in the midst of all the action.

Despite being hindered by the gusty winds threatening to knock over our kit, we get ready for the live with Al Hurra, as a request comes in from Dubai TV for the same time slot. Luckily we have the means to be able to make the necessary adjustments, and work quickly to make our anticipated single path operation a dual path one to accommodate their request. All is well with the HD dual uplink as Al Hurra and Dubai TV take their reporters live for their lunchtime bulletins. (more…)

Peter Bohan – Editor to Editor: A painful look at the dark side

08 Jun 2015

PeterBohan

If you found yourself compelled to read through the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture of detainees last December, you were no doubt struck by the hundreds of blacked-out redactions made in the 525-page summary. The rest of the 6,600 page report remains classified. It contained plenty of evidence of torture by the CIA – enough to make you wonder just how bad the rest of the report could be.

 

On Tuesday, Reuters reporter David Rohde drew back the veil a bit. His special report put a human face on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” — Majid Khan, a 35-year old Guantanamo Bay detainee turned government witness now awaiting sentencing for conspiracy, murder and spying charges. The story marks the first publicly released account from a top al Qaeda detainee of CIA’s interrogation techniques.

“Khan’s detailed allegations of torture could not be independently confirmed. CIA officials have said they believed Khan repeatedly lied to them during interrogations,” writes Rohde.

Still, the story — based on 27 pages of interview notes, compiled by Khan’s lawyers over seven years, that were cleared for release by the U.S. government last month — paints a picture of sexual abuse and other forms of torture beyond what was disclosed in the Senate panel’s summary. So we invite you to take a look.

Exclusive: Detainee alleges CIA sexual abuse, torture beyond Senate findings

Rohde’s own experience as a captive informs his reporting. He was kidnapped in Afghanistan by the Taliban in November 2008 and held 8 months before escaping.

Peter Bohan
Executive Director
Reuters America Service

See it to believe it: Yann Tessier on user-generated content

08 Jun 2015

Yann Tessier

Yann Tessier is Senior Editor of the Day at Reuters, responsible for the delivery of global video news coverage to broadcast and online clients. We hear from Yann on the importance of user-generated content in a smartphone world.

What is user-generated content?

User-generated content has been around as long as cameras. It is the people who are standing there before something unexpected happens – like the Hungarian student who was snapping away on the roof of Charles de Gaulle airport when Concorde flies into shot with its engine on fire. He gets a clip of it and he calls Reuters.

File photo shows flames coming out of the Air France Concorde seconds before it crashed in Gonesse near Paris Roissy airportREUTERS/Andras Kisgergely (25 July 2000)

How is the world of UGC changing?

YouTube says that there is 300 hours of video uploaded every minute. There are billions of smartphones around the world and the rate of smartphone usage seems to double every year. Internet connectivity is getting better, and everywhere you go there are hundreds of cameras pointing, recording, rolling across events as they happen. Increasingly, clients are turning to us to filter content and tell them what is important.

U.S. soldiers take pictures of U.S. President Obama using their smartphones after he delivered a speech at U.S. military base Yongsan Garrison in SeoulU.S. soldiers take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama using their smartphones after he delivered a speech at U.S. military base Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea, April 26, 2014. REUTERS/Lee Jin-man

Imagine U.S. President John F. Kennedy being shot now. You would probably have 40-50 different versions of it rather than Abraham Zapruder’s one piece of home-film footage. The Kennedy footage took ages to emerge before it hit the eyeballs of ordinary people, but these days it would have been visible online within a matter of minutes.

Tell us about your role at Reuters?

I am responsible for the day’s coverage, making sure that the video material that we gather goes out properly on our agency video service. This goes to around 1,200 television channels and a large number of internet channels. It’s my job to ensure that we are covering the right stories, and that the material gets delivered to clients as fast as possible. The bulk of our coverage is covered  by our own video news crews, but user-generated content is gaining increasing importance on big breaking stories.

How do we verify this kind of content?

Verification is critical, and that is the bulk of the work of our social media producers, George Sargent and Eleanor Whalley. If we can’t verify it then we can put it out with that warning, but our clients expect Reuters to get it right. We are basically looking for the things that make us believe it is genuine: what was the weather like, can we look at the terrain and the landmarks and match it up to Google Maps, does it have any corroboration with Reuters sources?

We spend a long time on contentious pieces of video. If there is a plane crash we might go through the videos frame by frame to check the exact shape of the smoke against other footage. There are people out there running material from the Libyan war two years ago as yesterday’s fight in Aleppo. You have to be really careful.

How do you approach propaganda footage, where groups intend that news outlets run staged videos?

Islamic State are very proactive in making high-end productions, not only of people being killed but of general propaganda which goes everywhere online. They know how to use social media to their advantage, looking up popular hashtags of the day in different language groups and using them so their material goes into people’s feeds.

On the Jihadi John video, we had to take the decision on whether to run all of it, whether to run part of it, or run nothing at all. In the end we ran the statements but not the shot of the body.

I do strongly believe that, as an agency, it is our job to source the material and not to make the subscriber’s decision for them and so we generally put out more than any individual client might use. But there is a limit and we draw the line at extremely graphic material that few or no subscribers would use. Our users are beginning to engage with us about exactly how we flag graphic material.

Are we implicated in propaganda if we do show this footage?

I think that debate could have held true five or ten years ago, pre-YouTube. There was a time that content had to hit an agency for it to gain global leverage. All Bin Laden could think about was getting on Al Jazeera. But social media has changed that, because these groups can still reach their audiences.

The other element is that while this is propaganda, it is still a story. We have to pick what we feel are the newsworthy events. Often social media is ugly. Our social media team see a lot of distress in a short space of time – ironically, they may see uglier stuff than some in the field over the same period, but we do make sure that they take care of their minds.

Are there particular times when distributing user-generated content has made a great impact?

Sometimes there are places where it is toxic for our journalists to go, and user-generated content can give us the stories we might not always be able to get at. In the case of Syria, we have a crew in Damascus, we have crews on the border, and we have in the past gone into Syria, but the daily story of Syria is actually told by user-generated content – people and activists putting their stuff online.

There was also recently a scandal in the UK around the issue of migrants queuing up in Calais to physically bust into the ports. There was nothing professional to be had, but we went onto Twitter and a truck driver had posted material which we put out and which Sky then picked up. The kind of images we were working with had huge impact, questions were asked in the House of Commons and the British are now going to invest millions in Calais security.

Sometimes we wouldn’t have a hope of shooting the material, but we can make sure we distribute it to our clients.

Migrants from Africa, Afghanistan and Syria queue for an evening meal at the Jules Ferry day center in CalaisMigrants from Africa, Afghanistan and Syria queue for an evening meal at the Jules Ferry day center in Calais, France, April 29, 2015. African migrants, gather in this northern French port city after they travelled from the Mediterranean northwards in the hopes of crossing the English Channel and seeking asylum in Britain. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

What trends are you seeing in this space?

 

With the spread of smartphones and social media, viral videos – videos that make you smile because they are odd, funny or visually arousing – are gaining increasing weight in popular consciousness. In addition to covering the hard news of the day, we are devoting increasing effort to tracking down what is also making people smile on the day and what is being shared. For a proportion of our broadcast and online subscribers, the question ‘what’s going viral today?’ is becoming nearly as important as ‘what’s happening in the world today.’ Reuters is now seeking to answer that question too.

 

Find out more about Reuters Social Video, delivering breaking news coverage and captivating light-hearted stories,created by users of the world’s social media platforms.

 

Tales from the Trail: What does the future hold for small newspapers?

22 May 2015

PeterBohan

Peter Bohan was a Reuters journalist for 30 years before becoming Executive Director of Reuters America Service, a product aimed at U.S. newspapers, web sites and broadcasters as an alternative to The Associated Press. Peter – Midwest Bureau Chief at the time – built the service starting in 2010 in tests with Tribune Company, which  became the anchor client for RAST in 2011. Peter spends more time than anyone working with U.S. newspapers to see how Reuters can address their needs.

We asked Peter to blog from time to time to share how it’s going.

Tales from the Trail: What does the future hold for small newspapers?

There has been a lot of anguished reporting this year on whether small daily newspapers have a future in the Digital Age. What’s it all boil down to?

The most interesting parts of the debate focus on two questions: what do local readers need? How do they want to receive it?

The Pew’s annual reports last month on the state of the media and in March on “local news ecology” threw some light on both questions.

As with most newspaper industry stats, the numbers are skewed by the dominance of the top 100 with 100,000 print circulation. What the struggle is like for the 1,200 or so other smaller daily papers remains in less clear.

Nevertheless, some survive-and-thrive trends for both big and small papers are coming into focus. One is a new push toward “usefulness” – trying to win back lost local readers looking for “life easing local services,” as Nieman Labs media analyst Ken Doctor calls them. (more…)

Reuters becomes the first news agency to offer up to four simultaneous live video feeds

22 May 2015

Reuters_1 - Copy

Reuters becomes the first news agency to offer up to four simultaneous live video feeds

Reuters is proud to announce the launch of Reuters Live Service PLUS – becoming the first news agency to offer up to four simultaneous live feeds to clients.

Reuters Live Service PLUS allows Reuters television clients who take up the service to choose from three additional live signals over the single live signal offered by Reuters Live Service, giving them and their audience increased access to the people, issues and events that are changing our world – often at the same time.

Delivered over the internet, Reuters Live Service PLUS is the perfect complement to Reuters flagship satellite live service, featuring additional showbiz, sports, regional events and breaking news coverage.

Reuters Live Service PLUS features:

  • More live coverage: Clients can choose from three additional live feeds of the events that matter most to audiences. Reuters is the first news agency to offer more than one live feed to clients at the same time.
  • Never miss a story: Events list, coverage diaries and advisories to aid programme
  • Smooth playout: Delivered over the internet using HTTP Live Streaming and adaptive bit rate technology, ensuring smooth playout.
  • Formats to suit you: Feeds delivered in High Definition through your Reuters server.
  • Help at hand: Direct access to our journalists and a 24/7 global helpline.

(more…)

Creating a multimedia travel experience for All Nippon Airways (ANA)

21 May 2015

Our Reuters Content Solutions, Reuters.com editors, developed a special, multimedia travel experience for All Nippon Airways (ANA) and visitors to the Reuters.com website. Wanting to offer our readers authentic business travel recommendations, we created a seamless branded content experience. Here’s how it worked…

First, the Reuters Editorial team re-ignited the popular 48 Hours In series, which features interviews with well-known and highly regarded business leaders sharing their favorite destinations to visit – and what particular meaning that city holds for their company. Interviews that have aired thus far include; Jonathan Tisch, co-chairman of the Loews Corporation discussing his favorite parts of Chicago; fashion house Marchesa co-founders, Georgina Chapman & Keren Craig sharing their affinity for the vibrant streets of Mumbai; and Group Founder and CEO Janice Bryant Howroyd on why she loves doing business in and taking time off in the British capital.

Then, ANA commissioned the Reuters Content Solutions team to create a highly stylized custom content package about ten different Asian business hubs entitled, Carry On. This package includes: short videos taking users on a brief journey to each bustling locale, articles and photo galleries profiling each city and at-a-glance fact boxes listing recommendations on the best places to stay, dine and play. (more…)

Reuters Award Winning Journalism in 2015

20 May 2015

It’s been a busy time for recognition at Reuters.

Many awards have followed since we were recently selected as finalists at the Pulitzer Prizes and awarded the Sidney Hillman Prize for The Echo Chamber.

On May 9, Reuters journalists Amy Lefevre and Andrew R.C. Marshall were awarded the grand prize of the Human Rights Press Awards for their series on human trafficking in Thailand. Organized by The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Journalists Association and Amnesty International Hong Kong, the Human Rights Press Awards recognize the best rights-related reporting within Asia.

A team from Reuters received the Overseas Press Club (OPC) Malcolm Forbes Award for best international business news reporting by a newspaper or wire service for their “Comrade Capitalism” series. Investigative journalist David Rohde was honored with the organization’s President’s Award, for, as OPC President Marcus Mabry said, “a career fighting to expose ghastly injustice to the light, from Srebrenica to Afghanistan. For extraordinary courage and determination in the face of captivity. For an historic effort to craft a code of conduct for safely reporting global news. And for his compassion, humility and humanity.”

In Comrade Capitalism, a team led by Stephen Grey dissected dubious Kremlin deals and relationships, exposing, for the first time, how the elite prosper at the taxpayers’ expense in Putin’s Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a ceremony with newly appointed high-ranking military officers in Moscow's KremlinREUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin

This wasn’t the only recognition for the series this year. Among the recognitions the series has also garnered: Comrade Capitalism was Reuters own “Story of the Year” in the 2014 Journalists of the Year awards and won the International Investigative award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) earlier this week.

The Echo Chamber and Farmaceuticals have been named in the New York Press Club Awards contest, The Echo Chamber winning in the Political Coverage, Newspaper/Newswire category and the Farmaceuticals series won the top prize in the Feature Reporting: Science, Medicine, Technology category. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in June in New York. (more…)

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