Periscope: What I Learned From My First Broadcast

Periscope: An app inspired by the idea of “discovering the world through someone else’s eyes.” 

In a nutshell, Periscope is a mobile app that allows users to broadcast live video to an engaged following. Followers can comment throughout the broadcast, ask questions and provide feedback. It’s an incredible tool for any journalist to connect with their audience while reporting in the field. 

All in all, it’s truly another advancement in digital communication—a lesson I quickly learned while covering the aftermath of the fatal, officer-involved shooting of Mansur Ball-Bey. Ball-Bey was killed Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, near Fountain Park in St. Louis. 

Upon arriving to the scene, crowds gathered and tensions flared. Chaos engulfed the intersection of Walton Avenue at Page Boulevard. The story I came to cover turned into something much more. 

Moments of such mayhem aren’t typically the best for conducting interviews or outlining your story’s angle. It’s a time to “be here now”—a time to absorb your surroundings and document facts. As it turns out, Periscope happens to be a great app for that. 

To be completely honest, I haven’t used the app prior to this incident. And while things may have worked out in the end, there’s a few things I would have liked to know before going LIVE for my first broadcast. Hopefully some of the following tips will help those who’ve yet to give Periscope a try.

Periscope 101: 6 tips before your first broadcast

  1. Give your broadcast a title. This probably seems beyond obvious, but when you’re racing to get the camera rolling, it’s easy to accidentally skip over this part. A good, descriptive title provides context and clarity for viewers, especially those who tune-in at a later point. I managed to skip this part while racing to set up my first broadcast, so note that writing a title is the first step (because you cannot go back and add one after).
  2. Add additional context through narration. Viewers will tune in and out throughout your broadcast, so it’s good to narrate and restate important points to help viewers better understand the situation at large.
  3. Monitor and respond to viewer questions and comments. While broadcasting live, questions and comments may appear at the bottom of your screen. Try to engage as much as possible without hindering your ability to capture the story. You can answer viewer questions directly through narration. If you’re unable to respond or monitor comments, focus on what’s important. Other viewers may chime in to help answer questions as they arise. However, if you know you’ll be in such a situation, see if you can recruit a fellow reporter or friend to assist by tuning in to help facilitate any discussions.
  4. Capture stories, not isolated incidents. All broadcasts will be different, and it may be hard to determine when to turn the camera on and off. Ultimately, try to integrate as much context as possible. Be sure to include stakeholders or potential sources if possible. Near the end of this broadcast (7:30), I tried gathering more information by filming a woman who said she was a relative of Ball-Bey.
  5. Save your broadcast. Broadcasts are only available 24 hours after going off-air. Be sure your settings are set to automatically save videos to your camera roll. If your mobile device has limited storage, I recommend routinely backing up and freeing up as much space possible.
  6. Repurpose your broadcast. If you save your broadcasts, you can edit and repurpose them when reporting on the story. You can extract the audio if you work in radio or produce a podcast. You can pull and transcribe quotes for print. You can trim videos to highlight select moments (e.g. my second broadcast: 78 animals rescued from inhumane conditions). The LIVE broadcast is only the beginning—a great place to gather information, connect with audiences and document a fraction of history. 

If you have additional tips or insight to share, please do in the comment section below. Happy broadcasting!





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More stories by Nate A.