NYT’s photo-streaming fanny pack is ‘beating our reporters’ tweets’

Capital New York

Photographers at The New York Times have created a photo streaming backpack and a photo streaming fanny pack, Johana Bhuiyan reported Tuesday in Capital New York. Bhuiyan spoke with Josh Haner, a staff photographer and senior editor for photo technology at the Times, as well as a 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner for feature photography.

It is quite literally a backpack that allows photographers to send their photos to editors without having to be physically on site, or having to individually upload, color-correct and input caption information for each image.

“[Usually] our C.M.S. picks up the picture and ingests them and generates thumbnails and makes it available to photo editors,” Haner said. “And those photo editors have to make it available to digital editors and then include a caption in the C.M.S. There are a lot of steps of the process, so basically what the backpack does is it bypasses all the C.M.S. and publishes a photo with a caption on [the online file storage service] Amazon S3, and we can link to those on our live blogs and interactives. So it’s not being powered by a standard C.M.S., it’s kind of an outside-the-box solution to that. After the fact we have to migrate all those pictures back onto the C.M.S. It’s sort of a backwards process from camera onto our site.”

The backpack uses proprietary software created the Times’ Ben Koski, Bhuiyan reports, and creating both the backpack and the fanny pack cost less than $5,000.

In March, Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon wrote about a device created by the Toronto Star, which isn’t a backpack but does let photographers send images directly to the Star’s live blog.

It’s called AWAC — for “Automated Web Access Coupling.” AWAC sits on the hot shoe mount and “basically provides the Internet connection, the routing of it, and then sends the picture to an FTP site,” Toronto Star visuals editor Taras Slawnych said in a story for The Canadian Journalism Project. “There’s a (HTML) script here that handles it and then there’s another script that sends it to a ScribbleLive blog and the (Toronto Star) archive at the same time.”

That device cost about $2,500. Slawnych wasn’t sure if the Star would patent it. And the New York Times isn’t ready to share their invention, Bhuiyan reported.

“Right now we consider it a competitive advantage, at the Met Gala we beat the wire services by 20 minutes,” (Haner) said. “It’s not something that we want to share at the moment. It’s not rocket science either. Other competing organizations have the ideas and are doing similar things. What’s nice about this since we are not a wire service we actually control the creation and publishing of photographs by removing the sort of middle man process at the events we cover this way. We can get online so quickly that we’re beating our reporters’ tweets, frequently. I don’t want to share that.”

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  • beachcombert

    As a non-photographer, I don’t understand the technical stuff. Explain to me who will make sure an accurate and intelligent caption gets written.