Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cool New Tool: Photosynth

If your agency takes photos, then you need to get familiar with Photosynth, a new product just launched by Microsoft. A great demonstration of the software's capabilities is provided here, courtesy of TED.

Essentially, the software allows for unique and interactive displays of photographs. Let's use a photo of a state Capitol as an example. Rather than just showing a flat image of the Capitol, Photosynth takes dozens of photographs shot of the same building -- but each from a different angle and level of detail -- and allows the viewer to experience the view from each of these perspectives and, one would hope, a higher level of appreciation for the building's beauty and details.

A good example is this one of the front of the Taj Mahal. What I like about this is that I can actually "stand" in front of the structure, turn and look back at the walkway leading up to the famous building. And, if you see the "halo" and hold your "control" key while clicking on it, you get a crude, but pretty cool 3-D effect.

Right now, you can take photos of objects and post them to the Photosynth site. All submissions become public property as Microsoft launches this public phase of the project.

We hope to submit something soon. If you submit a project, let us know so we can publicize it.

Defense Department Changes Create New Job

Interested in being the director of a government communications program that employs 2,400 staff, has a budget of more than $225 million and is just now being created? According to an article in the Washington Post, the Defense Department is advertising for a director of its Defense Media Activity.

The department is, according to its Web site, undertaking an initiative designed to modernize and streamline media operations by consolidating military service and department media components into a single, integrated and transformed organization.

The post could pay up to $172,000.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Holtz: What is a Press Release?

PR blogger Shel Holtz has a great piece today on the definition of a news release. He asks a question all government communicators should consider: can a text message serve as a press release? Think about your answer and see if it falls in line with his reasoning.

Journalism: Could it be People Want a Better Product?

The media, particularly newspapers, is obsessed about what is going to happen to its industry. In a time of changing news consumption habits, a rocky economy and greater online consumer choices, the response by media companies generally has been to cut staff, reduce the product and whine about their woes.

What if someone tried to be radically different, such as increasing the number of reporters to cover news, offer an improved product and learn to adapt to the changing marketplace? Bean counters will tell us that it doesn’t make economic sense to do that. And they are always correct in their analysis, right?

This headline about CNN actually daring to increase its staff covering the news brought a glimmer of hope to our theory. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that it works and other news organizations will follow (since we believe America is stronger with a viable press).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympic Deceptions: Harmless Propoganda?

The 2008 Olympics have provided some great theater, and a couple of articles today state that some of that theater was improvised by the Chinese government. Further, the articles state, the government thinks that is just fine.

First, there is the revelation in this CNN article that some of the fireworks seen on television during the impressive opening ceremonies were actually animation.

Then, we find out that the girl who sang "Ode to the Motherland," lip-synched the performance, according to this CNN article. The voice of the girl who actually sang the song was determined not to be photogenic enough for television.

Are these types of deception acceptable for a government? We give the Chinese credit for being upfront and honest that they took these two actions to make for a better broadcast -- although the statements appear to have come after the fact. The government doesn't offer any apologies and, quite frankly, sees no reason why they should.

There are examples throughout history when the U.S. government has decided that putting forth the best images are in the national interest. We tend to cringe when these propoganda methods are revealed, because we believe the public wants, and can handle, the truth.

While these two examples coming from the Olympic games appear to be relatively harmless events, it begs the question, what other kinds of propoganda is the government capable of?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Spokesdrone Story: Is It Fake News?

Is the government working on a spokesdrone to replace spokespersons? This funny piece from the Onion is a great parody on what one may look and act like. It's good for a chuckle.

We have to wonder, though. About the same time the spokesdrone story arrived on our news reader, we also got a notice from PR Week that the Navy was issuing an RFP to select "its first outside agency to provide communications support for the Navy's Office of Information..."

We're sure it's just a coincidence.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Test Your Grammar Skills has some great exercises for you to find out how much you know about AP style and general grammar. For example, do you the correct answer for this question?

It's a state where __________ swim teams dominate.

1. nationally renown
2. nationally-renown
3. nationally renowned
4. nationally-renowned