For the past five months I have been telling you about people around the world who have been using the Internet in new and interesting ways. Well this week, we at the Havre Daily News will be trying a few new things of our own.
Last month we allowed anyone in the world to watch the Havre Festival Days parade as it was happening. More than 80 people tuned in for the live broadcast, and hundreds of people have returned to the video to check for their favorite floats, or themselves, in the weeks since.
But that was just a test for our next event.
This Thursday at 7 p.m. we are hosting our election year candidate forum in the Havre High School auditorium, where attendees will be able to hear straight from the candidates for our local state legislative offices and the Hill County Commission.
Though we’d love you to attend in person, we are going to again be live streaming this community event for anyone with an Internet connection to watch.
Our last stream was through the website Ustream, which worked well in the parade, but wasn’t faultless. First, Ustream added commercials to our stream, the price of a free Internet service, and some of the ads were political. While mostly just annoying for parade coverage, congressional ads from either side are hardly something we want for our more politically sensitive debates.
So we’re upping our game.
Thursday's stream will be through a service Google started offering about a year ago on their Google Plus website, called Hangouts.
Hangouts allows up to 10 people to video chat with each other at one time. More recently Google, which also owns YouTube, unveiled Hangouts On Air, which allows video chatters to broadcast and save their chat on YouTube.
These Hangouts even work with certain camera phones. Only Android phones right now, but I’m hoping for an iPhone update soon.
Our plan is to have several Android phones, all logged into our live Hangout, placed around the auditorium to catch as much of the debate as possible.
I will be directing the live stream, choosing which cellphones to cut to at what time. So I get to have the power and techniques of multi-camera video journalism, without actually having to enter the gross and sad world of TV news. (Sorry, old newspaper reporter bias shining through.)
You should be able to find the stream at http://www.youtube.com/HavreDailyNews, though we will also be sharing links on our main home-page, and our Facebook and Twitter profiles.
The video quality might not be great, certainly no 1080p HD, but you’ll be able to see what’s happening (the god of computers willing).
If you want to hear your own question on the live stream, you’ll have to get in touch with us — email@example.com, on Twitter or Facebook, on our website or in our office in person — before the debate.
But, with the wonder of social media, you’ll certainly be able to chat with each other and share your opinion of what the candidates say.
The most convenient method would probably be the live chatting and commenting on the YouTube page of the live stream. You can also converse with people in the comments on our Facebook page. You don’t have to talk through one of our pages either. Just head onto Twitter and use a hashtag — I’m thinking #Hiline2012 — to join the conversation. If you don’t know what that means, that’s okay. You don’t have to in order to simply watch the stream and hear the candidates.
So come on down to Havre High School on Thursday at 7 p.m., or watch it all happen live online. We’ll be posting more specific links that evening on http://www.havredailynews.com, http://www.facebook.com/havredaliynews, or http://www.twitter.com/havredaily.
We’re going to see what a 21st century newspaper can do.
(Zach White is a reporter with the Havre Daily News.)