Live in traffic
2017-12-18, DARA WANG in Hong Kong

China Daily Asia Pacific completed on Dec 14 a unique group livestream project covering eight Asian metropolises in four time zones.

“Choking Congestions”, a four-and-a-half-hour program, involving 20 reporter-producers and eight traffic experts, was carried live on Facebook. 

The livestream projects had attracted more than 49,000 views by the end of Dec 14.

The project was the most ambitious video collaboration project so far among members of the Asia News Network, involving seven ANN news agencies.

The China Daily Asia Pacific team successfully experimented with the live cast on Facebook between its studio in Hong Kong and heavily congested traffic sites in seven cities: Beijing, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Jakarta, Dhaka and New Delhi. 

The focus was on the morning rush hours, between 7 am and 9 am, in the respective locales. The seven reporters followed their carefully mapped routes to show viewers real-time traffic, livestreamed via their smartphones. Each was joined by a local reporter from an ANN member, a traffic expert, and residents harried amid local traffic issues. Together they provided information and shared personal anecdotes with the online audience.

In the studio, anchors and producers turned to traffic and urbanization expert Yap Kioe Sheng, a traffic consultant who has held a post as a United Nations official in Asia and Africa over the past 35 years. Yap provided the audience with insightful analysis of traffic issues of each city, identifying causes and possible solutions. 

It was the first time he had been invited to participate as a livestream guest on Facebook. He said it’s something “you have to do once in your life”.

Netizens were actively engaged in the live comments and discussions. Hundreds of viewers shared their own most horrendous traffic jam experiences and the most unforgettable things they did while stuck on the road. 

When reporter Andrea Deng in Jakarta asked one driver what annoyed him most during the congestion, he answered, “People do not obey the traffic rules or follow the traffic signs.” Netizens’ “likes” spiked on the livestream screen, indicating their agreement with the remark.

The project coordinator, also managing multimedia producer at China Daily, Claudia Hinterseer, said the project completed by young journalists showed China Daily is “open to experiment and cutting-edge technology”.

The team spent six weeks preparing for the livestream, from pitching the project to final production. The objective, said Hinterseer, was to provide useful information in an informal way via Facebook live.

Livestreaming is quite new for journalism. It is a brilliant way to deliver news instantly and draw major attention online, Hinterseer said. “However, most lives done on social media platforms are just ‘being-there’. They don’t have things well organized.” Our reporters mapped their routes in the busiest areas of the cities and showed traffic nightmares with a human touch by inviting residents to share their stories, she said.

While well planned, our livestream is different from TV station ones, she said. Reporters made their presentations in a very casual manner, giving the livestream a sense of vitality. They held a selfie stick with their smartphones, the Honor V10 smartphone, and carried on the streaming while walking along roads, sitting in cars and taking buses.

The project also made a technical breakthrough, transmitting live signals in combination and switching among eight cities. Signal delay was controlled to less than one minute. Peter Lin, senior multimedia producer at China Daily Asia Pacific, who was in charge of technical support for this project, said the presentation relied on two software programs to ensure the livestream went smoothly.

Lin said reporters did the livestream through an application on the Honor V10. The studio picked up their signals using an IP-based computer software. After inputting the IPs of reporters’ smartphones, the producer is able to monitor the internet connections and video quality, switching from camera to camera for the livestream videos on Facebook.

Aside from this livestream, the reporters will produce episodes for a new show, Asia Featured. The coverage will extend into new areas beyond traffic congestion throughout a five-day stay in each of the seven cities. Multitasking and doing things efficiently has become a part of the everyday training of China Daily reporters.

This livestream project is the fifth China Daily Red Letter Project, a project which aims to innovate reportage and push the boundaries of journalism with new media technologies. For future plans, Hinterseer said one project under consideration is to use augmented reality or other new technologies to report on species protection topics in a dynamic way.

China Daily is a founding member of ANN. Six other members of ANN, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Viet Nam News, the Nation, the Jakarta Post, the Daily Star and the Statesman participated in the livestream project.

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