“I Killed a man.” A YouTube Confession Gone Viral

Step 1. If you haven’t watched the video already, you should.

Through class, I have learned the importance of having a vast variety of media forums. The basic ones are familiar, but some I find applicable yet underestimated. One of which is YouTube, a website designed in 2005 for video-sharing: uploading, viewing and commentary. Though started by a group of former PayPal employees, the medium is widespread, reaching a large audience and fairly simple to navigate.

I have reason to believe the the size of the audience and the easy accessibility YouTube has provided the perfect place for Matt’s confession.

The video, which starts off with an adapted voice and pixelized video, is unique and draws viewers’ attention to the words being spoken, rather than to physical characteristics. If listened to closely, Matt, the confessor himself, acts as his own whistle blower, speaking about lawyers who told him he could get off with no charges after killing a man while driving drunk one night. Though there have been claims that the apology is not sincere, as it was scripted, the words chosen were done so with care, each meaning something and adding to the story.

The video translates into reality at just the right moment. The change away from pixelation and voice adaptation fits right with Matt’s personal introduction.

I think the decision to solely include Matt, opposed to other visuals, perhaps on the crash or the deceased, puts a spotlight on one man’s story/perspective.

And it was timely, as just days after the video got its millionth hit he was arrested. And he followed through with pleading guilty.

This story highlight was in particular fascinating because Matt is just an average boy. It is conflicting because it is both tragic and heroic. The video lets you decide for yourself.

YouTube allows for open commentary, which of course was followed with open discussion. And thoughts were not censored.

Critics of the video call it a political strategy to get sympathy from the judge, but from a journalistic standpoint all I can say is that it is influential, started a movement and a video that has brought a new perspective to justice.


Commentary on Comments

Today in my Politics & Media course the conversation took an unexpected turn. We were talking about accuracy across different media outlets and one group analyzed accuracy by looking through the comments section underneath each article. They concluded the comments really told nothing of the accuracy of the source, as comments are public and not closely regulated. My professor, who I must add is incredibly knowledgeable in this field, asked the class whether we read comments on articles and if we think they are important. Several members of the class said they do not, which I’ve got to admit is the same for myself, but I was surprised to hear how many people thought the comments were of little importance. Even my professor agreed that it would be a “waste of time,” to read them.


I was a column writer for The Maneater my first semester at MU and I’ve got to admit, there was nothing more frustrating than commentary based on little-reason, research and evidence. But I think its wrong to classify all comments under this quality. It’s not standard.


Instead, here is my view on comments. Feel free to leave your own (a bit ironic yes) on my blog.


— They are more useful for reporters than the media source’s readership. Comments may be refuting the basic argument or point-of-view of the article, but they provide a forum for users to have a voice. They may offer alternative perspectives, suggestions of sources or an accuracy check. Stories can develop based off of a debate on this forum. New questions could be asked. And, above all, it offers a layer of transparency in which the news source’s accuracy and fairness in good reporting is held liable.


Comments keep reporters on their toes. The U.S. unlike other countries, has a media industry that is predominantly self-regulated. I would argue that our strongest regulators are our readers, and if we deprive them of a forum to question, the content is left as is.


Now again, this is subject to comments that hope to accomplish something, rather than simply ripping work apart. Though I rarely post comments myself, as a reporter I have come to value what they can offer.


Seeing Red3

Seeing Red3

This was the hard one to submit. As a photojournalist I know we need to take as many photos as we can (with different angles, lighting settings and perspectives). And this offered all of that. The angle was one closer to ground level; it was a bit of detail on a large scale firetruck, and it works with a tighter focus to cast light on the red/main object at hand.

Do I think its interesting? Yes. And of good quality? Sure. But I selected this photo as my third option because of the classroom requirements that it fulfills. There are an abundance of, in my opinion, more interesting shots, but where red is not the dominant color in the photo.

This last shot is a expression of getting a picture that your client wants. If hired for a campaign or advertising commercial I cannot turn in submissions based on what I find to be visually pleasing, but instead of images that match what was requested of me.

I have uploaded the photo I debated replacing this with in the next post. Check it out / Open for commentary.


Seeing Red2

Seeing Red2

It was 98 degrees that day. So yes, I couldn’t help but consider how many heat exhaustion calls the local fire department was receiving.

Lesson learned: never be afraid to ask for a photo opportunity. (I was nervous that because of safety and privacy concerns they would turn me down, but instead the department was very welcoming).

Challenge with this shot: Dealing with the lighting. I had natural light coming in through the big garage doors and indoor lighting to deal with. I decided to stage the photo from this direction to capture the natural light shining on the helmets. I think this image is a good example of paying attention to detail, as I had not previously known that an eagle held the nametag onto the helmet. And it abides by the rule of threes. In addition, the red tops of the helmets create a line in which our eye travels.

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Seeing Red

Seeing Red

Ah, a post written through multiple captions. How fitting. This past week I worked on my first photography assignment in what seemed like ages. Titled “Seeing Red,” it aimed to teach us the basic rules of photography all the while encouraging creativity. Though I was confident in my ability to produce quality photos, I couldn’t help but be frustrated by the color restriction. I wasn’t gravitated toward the obvious examples: a stop sign and a fire hydrant, and I knew to look elsewhere when I came across art and signs but there didn’t seem to be enough opportunity for quality picture-taking.

They tell reporters not to have a complete vision of a story before they go into an interview, but to have done their research. Well, turns out the same is true of photographers. I went downtown around 5 p.m. one night in search of red, and while I tried to look for detail and “nothing-obvious” to the eye, I grew frustrated. Before long I decided I would venture out to St. Louis and take advantage of the Cardinals pride I would find there. This project taught me to not only anticipate good photo opportunities, but to learn to wait for them to come to you. As seen in the example posted above.

—– Photo 1: I arrived at my friend’s home to find his mother cooking. The family had a huge dinner planned in celebration of a brother’s return from a tour in Afghanistan.

What I like about this photo: The steam and the fire. It provides action to a rather simple image. There is also a lot of shading/lightness variation on the pot itself and the dish behind it helps carry the eye across the image.


Witnesses to history

Witnesses to history

It’s been 50 years since the March on Washington. That’s nearly 8 years since I learned the story myself, out of a history textbook. The New York Times published a multimedia piece in honor of the anniversary and they did a fabulous job in an area that so commonly rubs historians the wrong way – the story telling.


We talk about objectivity. In terms of reporting. The questions we ask. The sources we highlight. But there is also objectivity in the way the story is told, how we, as reporters, compile all of the information together and what storyboard we lay. And in that sense, we try for objectivity, but strain to do so.


History therefore, written by man, may not be all that objective.


Our textbooks are full of selective memories based off of accounts and judgements of persons who may not have been first-hand witnesses to the events we document. They’re often told from the “average American.” The middle-class man with the family; the one who’s fluent in English but reminisces about where he came from. The wording  is risky. And it is too often that stories, culture and development is lost along the way.


That all changes with this piece.


The stories of strangers. Ordinary people. The world, and specifically the March on Washington through their eyes.


We get to know the story-tellers. The inclusion of their name and hometown make them appear all the more real, all the more like us and all the more relatable. There are photographs of artifacts and family. And they are placed appropriately so that they appear when we start to wonder what our characters/setting looks like.


Each blog is organized like its own beat, with its own headline. They are simplistic, but strong, and diction is chosen wisely, not just to fill space.


There is variety among bloggers. Whether its by age, gender or hometown. It gives a wide perspective, something a history book leaves out.


The project is also organized, with a categorized panel on its side to quickly access and scan through stories. Being visually pleasing aids to the high quality content found inside each post. It draws attention and captivates it.


History is retold and analyzed, but it has not been re-written to include personal accounts of people, whose stories are normally swept under generalizations that classify time periods, and historic movements, under one bolded heading.

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From Instagram to Photoshop

I love Photoshop. As the Photo Editor of my high school paper I was able to mess around with the applications, though we were all about authenticity so we avoided any and all editing tools besides cropping. I come from a family of photographers. My aunt and uncle do it for a living and my cousins’ Facebook albums are full of high quality photographs – candids that look all too posed. (Check them out @ http://www.somlotalent.com/somlotalent.php)


A long-time program for touch-ups and exposure fixes, Photoshop seems to have fallen out of place for younger, less experienced photographers. Though the quality of the program is up-to-date, its flexibility in terms of mobility have diminished. Many photographers’ curiosity starts a lot younger than college, more about the time we get our first cellphones. We’re the kids that have a camera around our necks during school dances, random adventures and family vacations. For some, a camera is an easy birthday gift, something we learn to use and love ourselves. For myself, it was another opportunity for expression, a field separate from my writing, and it wasn’t long after I got my first camera that I was given my first cellphone, and at the time, the two didn’t have much in common.


Today – things are different.


If you glance at my call log, then switch back to the number of photos in my iPhone album, the numbers don’t compare. I won’t hesitate to say the reason … Instagram.


Its a program that has turned things around. People who used to simply smile in front of the lens are now behind the camera, documenting their own stories and, with captions, telling them their own way. It has features such as brightness, framing, cropping, focusing and black and white. The only major Photoshop tool this iPhone app seems to be lacking is red-eye, but let’s face it, iPhones have the capability to turn a camera flash on and off, even the strength to let you set things on auto, having the camera do the work for you. So, it really makes no difference.


I’m not saying that Photoshop isn’t important, or that its not worthy of the costly price tag attached to it, but its got some competition. Instagram also provides a forum to share photographs, in an essence, it has become a media outlet itself, as one can follow news sources and members of their community. Though I agree there is such a thing as oversharing in this fashion, I would argue that there is no reason a journalist shouldn’t make one.


It will, at least, prepare you for more sophisticated programs, such as Photoshop Elements.


From Instagram to Photoshop, let the inspiration be key to an easy transition.

– From,

An unidentified source.

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A look at the inspiration

Featuring Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

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