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Damaged newspapers, damaged civic life: How the gutting of local newsrooms has led to a less-informed public
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June 17, 2010, 1 p.m.

Knight News Challenge: Meet Stroome, the collaborative FlickrWikiGoogleDoc for video

Stroome began, like so many cool things do, with talking fish. Nonny de la Peña, a veteran journalist, had written a story for The New York Times outlining the sonic mating calls of fish (more specifically: “fish barks, chatter, groans, drones and cries”), and wanted to include video of the noisy-fish phenomenon along with her text.

This involved: getting the physical video from scientists at Cornell, waiting for the video to be FedExed to her, trying to edit the video on the Times’ system, and dealing with PC-to-Mac conversion issues — a process, all in all, that took a bunch of patience and several days to complete. Years, in WebJourno Time.

Wouldn’t it be great, de la Peña thought, if there were an easy way to store, edit, and share videos? Enter Stroome, the platform that de la Peña and her colleague Tom Grasty created to simplify the notoriously labor-intensive editing-and-sharing process. Named for the Dutch word “stromen” (“to move freely”) — and taking a cue from Google and Twitter and other quirkily-named phenoms — the platform “works like iMovie, allows for shared editing like Wikipedia, and stores content like Flickr,” Grasty told me. With Stroome, users get an “aggregated, rights-cleared, user-generated clip pool.”

One big selling point: Users can upload video and then collaborate on editing and remixing that video, all within the web browser. (“It’s the concept of being able to upload any piece of content from your phone, your webcam, your hard drive,” Grasty says.) Editing that used to be a matter of back-and-forth — one user editing, then sending the remixed product to other users for their edits — can, on Stroome, be done wiki-style: Think Google Docs for video. As Grasty, who has a background in film production, puts it: “It enables you to give your notes by literally doing your notes.”

This is Stroome’s second attempt at a Knight award. They applied last year, and got to the top-50 stage, but not beyond. But — and here’s a lesson for any would-be News Challenge grantees — they reapplied this year. (They were encouraged to do that, in particular, by Stroome’s win of the audience-choice award at last year’s “6 in 60” contest at ONA — a “great validation,” Grasty says, from “just squarely the group of people” they’d want to target as users.) Now, the team is the recipient of $200,000 to develop and distribute Stroome. But: “we look at it as one year,” Grasty says, “because we really want to deliver.”

In other words, as de la Peña and Grasty put it as they introduced Stroome at the Knight conference: “We hope this is a go-to global solution, and we think it’s starting today.”

POSTED     June 17, 2010, 1 p.m.
PART OF A SERIES     Knight News Challenge 2010
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