Digital News Delivery: Audio technologies for journalists

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by Sara Joy-Hogg, Stephen Dixon–

Mobile technology is quickly changing the ways in which journalists record interviews and audio. Instead of using heavy and expensive high-tech equipment, journalists are using their smartphones and switching to mobile journalism.

A large reason for the switch to mobile technology is how cheap and easy it is to use. According to a poll by Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans had a smartphone in 2016. Since many journalists already have the smartphones, downloading a voice recording app is convenient and either free or very cost efficient.

However, a key issue with cheaper, mobile technology is the lack of quality. These mobile apps are free for a reason, resulting in many people questioning if journalists should be using them instead of standard, high-tech equipment.

In the vodcast below, we compare mobile apps such as Voice Recorder and Voice Memos, a digital audio recorder, and a lavalier mic.

Algorithm to fight cyberbullying

Blacksburg, Va., April 20 – Professor Bert Huang: Huang continues his research on algorithms to detect cyberbullying. His tool is only about halfway complete as he looks to take it to the next level of preventing cyberbullying. Photo: Johnny Kraft

by Johnny Kraft–

Cyberbullying is quickly developing into one of the most popular forms of bullying as social media and technology can be used as a weapon 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech has built his own weapon in the battle against cyberbullying.

Professor Bert Huang has developed an algorithm to detect traces of cyberbullying. Huang is an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Computer Science, where he is using his knowledge of machine learning to develop algorithms to combat cyberbullying.

According to bullying statistics, about half of adolescents experience some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly. However, Huang has found in his research that adults experience cyberbullying more frequently than people realize, and that men experience about the same amount of cyberbullying as women, although they are much different forms of cyberbullying.

Huang developed computer algorithms to identify cyberbullying automatically by using machine learning, which is a type of artificial intelligence that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.

“We have to provide information as human experts for the machine-learning algorithm to learn from where these are explicit examples of here’s something that I am looking and here’s something that I’m not looking for,” said Huang. “So in this case, it would be here’s an example of cyberbullying and here’s an example of not cyberbullying. Doing that is really expensive and takes a lot of human effort, and is really tricky for humans to do.”

According to, 81 percent of teens believe cyberbullying is easier to get away with than bullying in person. Right now, the algorithm can only detect traces of cyberbullying, but Huang’s challenge is to eventually find a way to prevent cyberbullying after detection. Huang acknowledged this as the biggest obstacle and focus of his research.

“That’s the goal. There’s a big open problem beyond the detection task. So once you detect it, what do you do?” said Huang.

The algorithm is still developing, as it is not completely accurate yet. Huang hopes to keep evolving his weapon, as a practical tool for social media and other Internet users in the future, but the next step is not completely clear.

“There’s a big question of what you do if you actually detect cyberbullying. This is a problem that we as humans have not solved,” said Huang. “How you intervene and how you fix that problem is not obvious, so getting a computer to do that is an even harder problem.”

Bert Huang
Blacksburg, Va., Virginia Tech Assistant Professor Bert Huang built an algorithm to detect traces of cyberbullying. Photo:

SCI/TECH: Facial recognition technology

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Facial recognition technology is the latest software to be introduced by the scientific community. It’s a developing computer application capable of, as its title suggests, identifying a user through digital video or image. The software is mostly being promoted as a security system, however, industries have been advertising other creative purposes for the technology as well.

Development for this application began in the mid 1960’s, when scientists initially began working on a computer program capable of recognizing faces. Progress has continued since then, although several attempts to launch this application, once in 2001 and again in 2003, were shutdown due to ineffectiveness. Now, facial recognition is making a startling comeback and only time will determine the software’s success.

G.A.M.E.R. lab offers new research route for students

by Katt Carter–

Blacksburg, Va., April 2– A Virginia Tech student plays a life simulator game, a popular genre that can impact players differently. Photo: Katt Carter

Communication majors at Virginia Tech are required to take a Capstone course in order to graduate, one of these courses focuses on research with media and video games.

The course was started by Dr. James Ivory, an associate professor at Virginia Tech who wanted to look at video games in terms of their social dimensions.  The research he headed made way for the G.A.M.E.R. lab at Virginia Tech, researching content in video games, as well as the effect on players.

The lab also focuses on television research, looking into how topics in media are handled and how that impacts viewers’ perceptions of the world.

Visibility at such a large research-oriented university can be difficult to achieve, and the G.A.M.E.R lab is significantly smaller than other operations at Virginia Tech.

James Zogran-Werness is a senior in multimedia journalism who took the course in hopes to have an interesting capstone and further his insight on gaming and if genre impacts levels of violence in players. He said he feels that “Virginia Tech doesn’t have a prominent focus on this type of research and that may be due to how new it is as a field.”

The Guardian published an article last year discussing how despite the popularity of video games, they get little media attention or coverage.  The article went on to mention that this may be due to the stereotype of gamers being lonely teenage boys which could lead people to ignore the social impact that games can make.

While video game research is still considered young by industry standards, Virginia Tech is making headway by incorporating it as a capstone course to encourage interest. In the years to come the lab is hoping to expand and grow as student interest increases.


Blacksburg, Va., April 2- Dr. James Ivory discussing a research topic during class. Photo: Katt Carter

SCI/TECH: Era of cyber warfare

Photo credit: dustball via / CC BY-NC

by Sidney Cook, Johnny Kraft, Richard Chumney–

For decades the threat of cyber warfare has been on display in movies and television. Now, well into the 21st century cyber warfare has become a disturbing reality of modern life.

After investigations into the high profile hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Sony Pictures Entertainment authorities determined the attacks were directed by foreign governments. Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, according to FBI officials, weaponized the information gathered from the hack of the DNC in an effort to disrupt the 2016 presidential election in the favor of Donald Trump. North Korea backed the hack of Sony to intimidate and embarrass the American corporation.

Experts believe Russia is likely to strike again. Putin’s government is expected to target U.S. communication and information technology infrastructure but not conduct attacks which could trigger a military response.

In the meantime government agencies and multibillion-dollar corporations will have to find ways to strengthen their digital infrastructure to prevent future attacks.

Digital News Delivery: iPhone 7 aides in citizen journalism

by Kyle Cooke, Maria Dobbs–

Given today’s technology, it’s true that anyone can be a journalist. Whether it’s recording video, taking pictures, or sending out news on Facebook and Twitter, mobile devices and apps have enabled anyone with access to a smart phone to spread news. The new iPhone 7 is adding to this trend, specifically with its updated camera. The camera on the iPhone 7 is so high-end (it includes an incredible “portrait mode”) that professional photographers have been using it to shoot NFL games this season.

However, the way the iPhone 7 displays news to its users has also improved. Instead of having to open the separate news application, individuals can swipe right from their lock screen and the “Top Stories” of the day will show up. Even better, the news is curated to the owner of the phone.

Finally, the improved camera of the iPhone 7 is making live streaming more efficient and enjoyable. Many news organizations such as the ACC Network and even The Collegiate Times have been utilizing live streaming services like Periscope and Facebook Live from their mobile devices. With the iPhone 7’s improved camera, those streams are only getting clearer.