About this project
We Livestreamed Wendy Davis. They Talked Baked Goods.
While cable news channels analyzed the caloric impact of blueberry muffins on a Tuesday night in June, The Texas Tribune brought the world some serious reality TV drama — a Democratic state senator’s 11-hour filibuster of an anti-abortion bill. Our filibuster livestream went completely viral; by midnight, and into the filibuster’s 11th hour, we had more than 183,000 people watching from 187 countries. That’s right: a scrappy, public service news org had the best night in television – more viewers than many cable news networks had at that time.
Livestreaming the Filibuster Was Only the Beginning
We’re proud that our filibuster livestream enabled hundreds of thousands of people to engage with the political process as it was unfolding. But now that we have a taste of the tremendous impact of real-time video, we want to make all the video we produce – and that is a ton of video – livestream-friendly. Our goal is to provide our ace journalists with new, cutting edge livestreaming hardware that will enable them to be the world’s real-time, unfiltered eyes on Texas politics whenever and wherever it’s happening.
What We Need
Livestreaming video is an expensive hardware proposition. With a one-time investment, however, we can augment our existing HD cameras and editing set-up to make most everything we do livestream enabled. Here’s what we need to make that happen:
LiveU LU70 – The heart of our “satellite backpack,” this small but expensive box lets us transmit HD video over multiple cellular networks. In other words, no matter where our reporters are, we can livestream their reporting on our own network to the world in real time.
TriCaster 455 – An integrated switcher and encoder for live events. This impressive, portable device lets us create and stream studio-quality, multi-camera productions in the field.
We also need a bunch of cables, cases to protect the gear in the field, and a durable laptop for production, but the LiveU and TriCaster are the big ticket items standing between us and livestreaming most everything we do.
Many eyes around the world are on Texas and not only because of Wendy Davis. Our governor is a national figure who's run for president before and may do so again. In D.C., Texas' elected officials certainly make their positions known on federal issues. Lastly, policy decisions made here on a range of topics – immigration, health care, education and energy, to name several – reverberate around the nation.
To put a finer point on it, regardless of how you feel about Texas politics and policy, what happens here impacts the nation. With the race for Texas governor just starting, the time could not be more ripe for us to livestream the candidates, the campaigns and the decisions that will affect the nation for years to come.
Several Republican candidates, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, have declared their candidacy for governor, and Davis is running on the Democratic ticket. The next 14 months in Texas will be huge politically speaking, which is why we want to amp up our livestreaming abilities right now, so we can be the state's and the nation's real-time eyes on what's sure to be a historic election in November 2014.
What We'll Do
With this new equipment, we will livestream a full year of intense 2014 election coverage. We already have the crackerjack reporting and data teams covering the candidates, the issues, the campaigns, the finances, the debates – everything, in other words. We just don't have the ability to livestream it.
Over the next 14 months we will deliver the following livestream events:
20 TribLives with politicians and policy makers – These are our signature, free events held around the state before a live audience, who can ask their own questions of the candidates and officials. Nov. 2013 - Nov. 2014
Two live symposiums – An extended version of our TribLive events with a full day focused on a particular topic, such as water, health care or transportation. Spring and Summer 2014
Eight live one-on-one interviews with candidates – As our reporters and editors ask tough questions of the candidates vying for statewide office, you'll be there with us in real time. Oct. 2013 – Aug. 2014
25 live campaign events – Candidates often make news and occasionally speak candidly while campaigning on the road. We'll be there to show it live. Nov. 2013 - Nov. 2014
Live primary and election night coverage – As the primary and general election votes come in, we will have reporters livestreaming from the field and our newsroom. March 2013 and Nov. 2014
These events will be viewable in real time on our site and on LiveStream. Afterwards, all videos will be viewable on demand on our site and YouTube.
Tribune Livestream Goodies
While the real prize is the transparency and immediacy you'll bring to Texas politics throughout the 2014 elections and beyond, you'll also receive some sweet Tribune goodies for your pledges.
Note: We just added the livestream button. Backers at any level – even $1 – receive the button. We can't change the reward descriptions in the middle of the campaign, but rest assured that anyone in the U.S. who contributes a buck or more will receive a livestream button, along with any other rewards that come with your pledge level. At the very least, give a dollar, get a button!
Just Added – Livestreaming How-to Webinar
Based on multiple requests since we've started this Kickstarter campaign, we are adding a new deliverable to the above items. Once we hit our goal, we will host a free webinar teaching you how to livestream.
This three-part online series will walk you through the steps required to establish your own livestream. Featuring the Trib folks behind our abortion debate livestream, we'll break the series into three parts: technical, editorial and marketing. Each segment will be heavy on details, delineating what you need to know to start, manage and promote your own livestream.
Our goal is to demystify the livestreaming process and give you the information and confidence you need to launch your own livestream, whether you have a small, guerrilla operation or a large, multi-camera set-up. Our goal is to share what we've learned and help other folks leverage the power of live, unfiltered video streaming in their communities.
We Know Politics & Video Reporting
While the world tuned in to our livestream of the filibuster, we’re no Johnny-come-lately to political drama like this. We provide gavel-to-gavel livestreaming of all Texas House and Senate floor debates, as well as hundreds of hours of other nonpartisan political coverage each year. But as a small, nonprofit outfit, we don’t control livestreams like the filibuster. Right now, our livestream is at the mercy of the same state lawmakers we’re trying to cover. They control our ability to plug into their video system; they can cut the audio, or the picture, whenever they want — and there’s nothing we can do to stop them.
Case in point: When the clock ran out on the abortion filibuster, the Texas Senate muted the sound on the livestream, even though the Capitol was erupting in chaos and the outcome of the filibuster was far from certain. Thus, viewers around the world were effectively locked out of the event.
The Tribune is investing in its video hardware and services to make sure no one can ever cut off our live coverage. We’re raising funds for the technology to livestream — from anywhere, at any time — on our terms, not theirs.
Risks and challenges
The Texas Tribune produces hundreds of hours of video each year. From live, public hot seats with elected officials to reporting, interviews and short-form documentaries, we know how to make good video content. However, due to hardware and technical limitations, livestreaming that content is the exception rather than the rule. We want to reverse that.
As we proved with the Texas Senate filibuster, we are certainly capable of not only livestreaming video content but doing it in a way that’s stable and scalable, no matter how many people are watching. Figuring that part out is a big risk we’ve already solved. The challenge now is acquiring the right equipment to livestream more of our work. This Kickstarter campaign provides resources to acquire that equipment and a year’s worth of additional bandwidth required by live video.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Yes, they are. The Texas Tribune is a non-profit public media organization. We're a 501(c)3, so all donations are tax deductible, minus the fair market value of any tangible rewards you receive.
"I used to write about Texas state government. Are you sure it’s interesting enough to be livestreaming all the time? What sort of stories do you want to be broadcasting?" (From a Nieman Labs Q&A with the Trib's Rodney Gibbs, http://trib.it/1bvjDVP)
We’re not planning to livestream everything; rather, we want the capability to livestream anything. There’s a big difference there. True, many stories we cover don’t merit livestreaming; for those, reporting after the fact is fine. But for many things — breaking news, big political announcements, election night coverage, protest rallies, live events with newsmakers, exclusive interviews, the list goes on — livestreaming is an incredible tool to have.
Here are a few examples of stories we’d livestream right now if we had the hardware on hand:
* This Thursday, Sen. Wendy Davis, who led last summer’s abortion bill filibuster, is making a big announcement in her hometown of Haltom City, Texas. She’s expected to declare her candidacy for governor. We’re sending reporters and a video camera to the event, but we can’t livestream her announcement on our own. Either we have to piggyback on a television station’s feed, which is technically problematic and delegates editorial control to another organization, or we tape Davis’ announcement and upload it later to YouTube and our site. Neither option is optimal, either for us or our audience.
* During our Tribune Festival last weekend, we hosted a one-on-one interview between Sen. Ted Cruz and Evan Smith, our editor-in-chief. Hot on the heels of his marathon speech in the U.S. Senate, Cruz spoke about his push to defund Obamacare. We posted Cruz’s interview on YouTube after our event, but carrying it live would have engaged more people with this fast-moving national issue.
* Also during the fest, Texas First Lady Anita Perry seemed to put some space between herself and her husband, Gov. Rick Perry, by saying abortion “could be a woman’s right, just like it’s a man’s right if he wants to have some kind of procedure.” Her comments surprised the audience in the room and made waves on Twitter, resulting in the governor stating yesterday that his wife misspoke. Imagine if it had been streamed live!
Those are three examples of stories we’d livestream this week, and I could name more. Not every story is ripe for livestreaming, of course, but when the right stories come along, you really wish you had the ability to share it with your audience in realtime.
"Sixty thousand bucks seems like a lot of money. I thought we were all supposed to be able to use our iPhones for this sort of thing. Why do you think it’s worth investing in gear like this?" (From a Nieman Labs Q&A with the Trib's Rodney Gibbs, http://tr
Yes, you can use your iPhones for streaming, and we have done that several times to augment our reporting. However, just as some have created music videos or feature films with iPhones, the video and audio quality captured over a consumer-grade gadget like that is not broadcast quality. We hold ourselves to high journalistic standards, and that includes the caliber of our video production for all of our reporting.
In addition to satisfying our own standards, many of our partners require professionally made, high-definition content. The Trib freely shares all of our content with any outlet — online, print, and broadcast. Many TV stations, in markets large and small, frequently air our content, often because they don’t have the resources in-house to cover the statewide issues and races that we do. We are, in effect, the capitol bureau for many of these broadcasters. Whether livestreamed or taped in a studio, our video content must meet or exceed those stations’ broadcast standards.
The $60,000 we’re raising all goes toward purchasing hardware to make everything we shoot livestream-enabled. The bulk of money (more than $50,000) goes toward two items: a LiveU “satellite backpack” and a TriCaster switcher. The backpack lets us livestream HD over existing cell networks on the go from anywhere. It’s perfect for breaking news like the filibuster and the protests surrounding it; remote shoots like this week’s Davis announcement; and mobile reporting, such as when our reporters cover candidates on the campaign trail. In short, the backpack enables livestreaming on the fly from anywhere.
The other big ticket item, the TriCaster, lets us edit and stream our live events around the state with the same quality you’d see in a TV studio production. We host more than 60 events each year in town halls and college campuses across Texas. These live hot seats with politicians and policymakers are often the only chance local constituents get to see their elected officials in person and ask them questions face-to-face. More than 10,000 people attend our events each year, but let’s face it — not everyone can take time off work or travel around the state to engage with their elected officials in this way. Livestreaming these events with the TriCaster will allow many more people to virtually attend these events in realtime on their computer or mobile device.
The remainder of the Kickstarter fund goes to purchasing a laptop and accessories, like backup hard drives, cables, and cases. The Tribune is swallowing the extra expenses and the personnel costs associated with adopting and learning new systems.
"What’ll it mean to The Texas Tribune as a news organization if people come to think of it as a place for live online video? Does it make you more like a broadcast outlet?" (From a Nieman Labs Q&A with the Trib's Rodney Gibbs, http://trib.it/1bvjDVP)
Actually we’re already a broadcaster. We produce hundreds of hours of video each year that we publish on our own site and on our YouTube channel. We may be best known for our written stories and our data applications, but video is a major component of our output. From breaking news to interviews, live events to short-form documentary, we produce a lot of broadcast journalism. Thanks to the success of the abortion filibuster livestream and the proliferation of mobile video, our users increasingly expect us to livestream everything.
As an online news organization, we see the lines separating various forms of content — writing, podcasts, video, data apps, maps — as a fuzzy one. It’s all content to us. If we expand our ability to stream any story that merits live treatment, it increases our reach and gives our audience more immediate access to the issues and people we cover. If that makes us a bit more like a broadcast outlet, we’ll take it.
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