Tools to transcribe audio and video content

I’m pretty new at making podcasts. It’s not always easy when English is not your first language. Especially the transcription! If I had to do it myself by hand, it would take ages before I start editing. But with a help from some tools, I can edit and produce podcasts without a pain. I’ve only used the first one, but saw a demo for the second one at ONA last year, which was impressive.

  • Pop-up archive is a good for transcribing audio material. The accuracy is pretty good and I love the timestamping features.
  • Trint is a tool for transcribing audio and video material. It also has timestamping features with a function to adjust. The text can be also adjusted. You can also highlight the segment you want to use and it automatically tells you the time duration of the selected part.

FYI, in case of audio/video production, I always listen or watch the entire raw material of the interview. Even you have everything transcribed, it is just a guide for editing. Find the best part of the interview using your own eyes and ears!

PGP: An Old Technology for a New Media Environment

Data privacy is, and should, be top of mind for journalists. As the Trump Administration takes an antagonistic approach with the media, it’s not very unrealistic to imagine the President signing an executive order any day now forcing news organizations to release emails to the government or have to pay significant fines or even face jail time if they do not reveal sources for leaks.

Just this week, President Trump tweeted about the “illegal tweets coming out of Washington” following the resignation of Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor. Flynn’s resignation was due in large part to reporters from The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other outlets publishing stories based on leaked information from government officials about Flynn’s conversations with Russia.

For journalists to keep informing the public of the stories that the Administration is trying to hide or ignore, they must continue using anonymous sources from within the government. These leaks cannot stop, regardless of whatever measures the Administration tries to put in place to stop government employees from speaking out and contacting the press.

The Need for Encryption

But for many of these employees, there are major ramifications to divulging top secret or sensitive information. Before any government employee considers leaking information to the press, they need to be sure that the communication is delivered securely and their identity is not divulged. Outside of in-person, secret meetups Deepthroat-style, this means that the journalist will need to use encryption to keep the information secure. Similarly, the journalist will need to keep the information secure to keep sources private to continue reporting the stories that need to be told.

PGP: A Golden Standard

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is a free encryption and decryption program created by Phil Zimmermann and typically used for email that has been around since 1991. The name, which is a tribute to A Prairie Home Companion, is misleading, as the tool is known to be more than just “pretty good” when it comes to maintaining a user’s privacy. In a post titled “Why do you need PGP?,” Zimmermann explains the need for the encryption tool:

Intelligence agencies have access to good cryptographic technology. So do the big arms and drug traffickers. So do defense contractors, oil companies, and other corporate giants. But ordinary people and grassroots political organizations mostly have not had access to affordable military grade public-key cryptographic technology. Until now. PGP empowers people to take their privacy into their own hands. There’s a growing social need for it.

Encryption, much like PGP, is a very old technology that is still just as relevant and powerful as it was when it  was first invented. Through encryption, the message you send is muddled up into a meaningless string of letters and numbers so that anyone snooping through your email cannot decipher the message. Only those with the correct key can unlock the meaning:

(via Lifehacker)

To start using PGP, you need to download GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG), either through GPGTools (OS X) or Gpg4win (Windows). Once he or she has his or her own PGP key, the person can communicate with anyone else through encryption, so long as the recipient also has a PGP key. There are several browser extensions you can download to make the process of sending an encrypted email quicker, including PGP Anywhere and Mailvelope. PGP also works with mail clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird for email encryption.

The biggest hurdle for anyone new to PGP is finding others who have their own PGP keys as well. WIthout the two-way system, you cannot send the encrypted messages. This may be a deterrent for some reporters who cannot convince sources to use a PGP key because of the time it takes to set it up. But for journalists who want to protect information and confidentiality, the upfront costs are worth the privacy gained through encryption.

To avoid this issue, there are other encryption tools journalists can use, such as Virtru. This tool is used in conjunction with other platforms such as Gmail and Salesforce to keep information secure through data encryption. However, unlike PGP, Virtru and other similar products are not free for users.

PGP is only the first step

Though email encryption is only one step journalists can take to keep their messages secure and the privacy of their sources intact, it’s one of the most important and the first they should consider. PGP is not the perfect solution for encryption, as several government agencies to have the ability to unlock keys and decipher the message. But using PGP can be seen as a gateway for journalists to better maintain confidentiality and keep information secure. Creating a key and locking their emails is the first step journalists can take to unlocking the road to better privacy habits.

A few thoughts on media and storytelling tools

There are several tools that I had never heard about before reading the articles assigned for this week’s class, and that I believe can have important implications for the future of news and storytelling.

I believe that news has to have tools that enable to collaborate with social media – one the one hand, social media can benefit from the higher quality of content news provide; and on the other hand, news can benefit from the bottom-up information sharing that is vivid on social media. In particular, when it comes to the sharing of stories, tools such as Shorthand Social, StoryMap.js, or Storyful multisearch could be very interesting and fruitful.

I also believe that data visualization has an important role to play – we live in a world with a huge number of data, and many people are not aware of the figures, or do not know how to read them. Data provide a lot of information, but the information has to be processed. That’s why I believe that tools such as,

Finally, I believe that tools using current tools and trying to analyze them, such as advanced twitter search, and Tweetdeck might be particulary interesting in the months and years to come.

Politwoops: tracking politicians’ social media stumbles

Deleting tweets is something we’ve probably all done from time to time – whether it’s just to fix a typo or to tone down our reaction to the latest aggravating news story. As private citizens, erasing an earlier post is a reasonable expectation. Yet it might be argued that for politicians in public office, what is said (and read) should stay said, much as a hot-mic gaffe, for example, can’t be taken back.

Twitter has become an important medium for politicians, whether campaigning for office or serving constituents. But sometimes, politicians (and their staffers) can get a bit carried away – and become just as susceptible as the rest of us to some post-tweet regret. Fortunately, the website Politwoops, now hosted for U.S. politicians by ProPublica, preserves these deleted tweets. Their archive makes for an interesting insight into the tweets that politicians wish they could (and perhaps believe they have) taken back. Given the Tweeter-in-Chief’s no-holds-barred nocturnal musings, for example, it’s a tool that may well prove useful for journalists in the coming years.

Several journalists have already noted, for example, the chronological coincidence that President-elect Trump praised Russia’s nonchalant response to Russian sanctions at exactly the time his recently fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was holding sensitive discussions with the Russian ambassador. That wasn’t a tweet Trump ever deleted – but it’s certainly reassuring to know that if he had, it would still be on record.

Location-based social media monitoring

Beacon Hill, Sunday night, 10:50 p.m.: Sitting at my kitchen table, I heard a series of pops followed immediately by the sound of sirens.  “Were those gunshots or fireworks?  Should I be worried?  And are the sirens related to the pops I heard?”  

My first reaction was to search for possibly related posts on Twitter while looking for a live audio feed of Boston police scanners.  Instead, I remembered reading about the location-based social media search services that aggregated posts from across several platforms, and I tried the first one I could quickly get a free trial for: Echosec.

Instead of searching across several social media platforms separately, Echosec allowed me to search for all geotagged posts in an area of my choosing and within specified date ranges.  My story has a simple ending — I found on Echosec that neighbors on reddit posted that it was definitely fireworks, which was later confirmed by the police through the live feed.  

Nothing became of this tiny story, but imagine the uses for location-based social media monitoring services in situations with more impact and higher stakes.  

Using Echosec (and other similar services) for discovery and identification

Google “location-based social media monitoring,” and you’ll find pages of lists suggesting various services, most of which appear to be enterprise services.  While many of these services appear to primarily serve police departments, security companies, and marketing departments of large businesses, over the last couple years, journalists have also used these tools to assist their reporting.  For example:

  • At NBC 5 in Chicago, a producer used Geofeedia to quickly find photos of people who were hiding inside a building after an employee shot his boss.  Based on these photos, the station was able to identify potential sources.
  • A social media editor for The Associated Press used SAM to identify students at a South Dakota high school where a shooting was foiled, which led to a reporter being able to conduct an interview to confirm details seen on social media.

In more general cases, these tools can also be used to get a sense for people’s reactions to news and events across the board, not only to identify sources and images.  Broadly, using geolocated social media search tools as several benefits over simply searching on Twitter.

  • Aggregating data from many social media platforms saves time in pressing situations.
  • Aggregation also provides more comprehensive coverage, especially as different social media platforms are prominent in different areas of the world.
  • Searches can be more location-specific and time-specific than most apps allow within their own search function.

Drawbacks to these services

However, there are two major hurdles these services have to overcome to gain more mainstream traction:

  1. They’re relatively costly.  At the lower end, Echosec costs $129 per user per month, and as of 2012, the much more powerful Geofeedia’s preliminary pricing was $1,450 per month for five users.  (And as I searched through lists of services that were only a couple years old, I found that free versions don’t seem to last long in the marketplace, or if they still exist, are not well supported.)  Either the prices have to come down, or the services have to become much, much better than they currently are in order to make the price tag worth it for newsrooms that are satisfied searching on their own.
  2. The vast majority of social media posts are not geolocated. While the percentage varies by platform (Instagram, for example, tends to have “a lot more [geolocated posts] than Facebook, Youtube, or other platforms”), a Knight Lab sample of 200,000 tweets run in 2015 found less than 0.4% were geocoded.  This means that while you can get a sample of tweets that are geolocated, you do have to make sure not to rely on these tools too much — you could miss an important non-geocoded post that does not turn up in your searches.

That said, for many reporting purposes, simply knowing how to strategically search on popular social media sites is enough.  For journalists without access to these fancier aggregated geolocation search tools, old-fashioned hashtag-hunting and keyword-monitoring may be sufficient.

The potential

A common accusation recently is that the “mainstream media” has lost touch with the average American.  One way to gain easy access to some representation of those viewpoints (although we do then get into the issue of comment rage and trolls — which we’ll sidestep for now) is to see what everyone is saying across various social media channels and be able to check for location-based trends.  After all, the Internet is supposed to be the great equalizer — according to a 2016 Pew Research study, 87% of Americans use the internet.  That percentage will only grow.

Going forward, I do think location-based social media monitoring tools have the potential to become even more powerful as a way to explore the public conversation and identify trends, or simply to get the “pulse” of the public.  

Creativity and collaboration –aspects of future quality work

Even though the speed of processing information is extremely relevant in today’s sea of news, I believe that tools which help us be more creative and collaborative play an extremely important role for criticality and depth of what we perceive. In particular, working in interdisciplinary teams and viewing a topic from multiple perspectives seem like a crucial quality for any future work and meaningful storytelling.

For this reason I found the app GroupMap very interesting for managing creative and productive group flow. The tool helps us improve group brainstorming and creative processes but it also enables easier team decision making.

To facilitate a discussion, one can create its own map or choose from a list of templates and customize them to group’s needs. I found particularly useful templates for Charts where a group of people can visualize everyone’s opinions and thus ease decision making. For instance, there is an Important vs Urgent map and Effort vs Impact chart where, through dot voting, a group can set priorities and organize their time accordingly. In a way, this tool can help us quickly work together and visualize subjective opinions which can have powerful implications for group’s quality of work and outcomes.

#illgowithyou transgender bathroom laws

My action is related to this story about North Carolina’s shameful transgender law. I wanted to give allies an idea of one thing they might do. So I created a YouTube video in Keynote with some really bad motion graphics.

LGBT rights are the civil rights of my generation (although I could make a good argument that neither people of color nor women have achieved full participation in American society), but often people who want to be allies don’t know what to do. This is a very practical step to take.

The idea for motion graphics came from one of the blogs Ethan recommended in this week’s readings (although I’m not sure which blog now). Here’s the inspiration video from Linda Dong.

More on restroom access rights here from Lambda Legal. The “I’ll Go With You” ally site is here.

A Community Tackles Diversity

For my four hour challenge, I decided to kill two birds with one stone by covering an event using the tool Audacity — a platform I’ve been wanting to try out for a while. Knowing I would need as much of that time as possible for editing, I stayed close to home for this assignment to speak to my fellow students and colleagues about ongoing efforts to promote an inclusive community at The Fletcher School.




I am not a designer. At all.

Luckily, Canva allows me to compensate for what I lack in design sense. It’s a fairly easy to use tool (even if it is restrictive).

Canva is a graphic design tool that uses a drag and drop UI to allow you to create anything from blog graphics to posters. The essence of it is that you choose a theme, add elements to that theme (like a grid structure, lines, icons and charts) to create an infographic.

Pros: It’s easy to use and it’s sleek. The icons are, for the most part, designed well and you can add your own images to build on what Canva provides.

Cons: If you’re looking to represent percentages that aren’t quartiles in a chart, good luck. Canva, for the most part, provides quartile percentages for its graphs (so stats have to be 25%, 50%, 75% or 100%) and the bar graph sizing isn’t great — you essentially have to guesstimate the proportion of the bars you use.

If you’re willing to forego a perfectly accurate data representation (for the bar graphs) and can live with using a pie / circle chart for quartile percentages only, Canva is a useful tool to display information beautifully. You can even be creative and forego the typical pie chart to display stats in a more innovative format — Canva has several templates that provide decent inspiration like this one:

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 4.56.15 PM

If you have any questions about using Canva or how I created my graphics for my media diary, let’s chat!