When I think about my project, SochiReporter, I often recall the seminal 1961 book by Jane Jacobs, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”

This book challenged the conventional wisdom of city planners of that era and celebrated the vibrancy of the urban streetscape. It also encouraged citizen involvement in the development of neighborhoods. I wonder if Jacobs ever looked at the cities and the changes they undergo to host the Olympics, as Sochi will in 2014?

Life in a Day

Along the lines of citizen participation, July 23 was the day when anyone worldwide could make a short movie and submit it at YouTube’s Life in a Day channel to participate in the Oscar-winning director Ridley Scott’s new global project.

By January 2011, Scott will put together a movie containing short videos taken by professional and amateur film directors worldwide. We at SochiReporter submitted a video and it would be great if we’re included. Even if we aren’t, participation is the key.

This project reminds me of the recent YouTube Symphony Orchestra global initiative, which I previously wrote about for Idea Lab. But while the Orchestra experiment was targeted at a comparatively narrow and professional audience (musicians), Life in a Day is more popular and aims at reaching ordinary people living ordinary lives. This is probably why I liked this project, though it’s pretty simple at its core.

It focuses on the small things happening in people’s lives. The video “must be personal,” according to Ridley Scott. The other person behind this project, Kevin McDonald, said that each video:

…could be something that to you seems really banal, it could be your journey to work, watching your baby at bath time, going to a hospital to visit a friend, your birthday, going for a walk in the countryside, or it could be something much more meaningful to you, much more emotional — the knocking down of the building next to where you lived, that you’ve always loved, the death of a friend. It’s a little snapshot of your life.

I think this project is in many ways similar to hyper-local journalism, which is about the daily life of an individual in his community. Hyper-local journalism puts a community online suddenly so anybody anywhere can see it and maybe criticize it or present it as an example.

McDonald said the resulting film will be a time capsule. He recommended people think about the three things while shooting their video:

1. What makes you frightened.

2. What makes you laugh.

3. What is in your pockets (literally) — film it.

Covering the Special Olympics

This project made me think of Jordan Pascale, a city desk intern at the Lincoln Journal Star because the day to submit a video was also the closing day of the Special Olympics, which began in Lincoln, Neb., on July 17. I met Pascale when I was serving my six-day term as innovator-in-residence at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska, where he is a student. When the Special Olympics came to town, Pascale had a lot of work to do.

I saw an immediate connection between Lincoln and Sochi — both are small towns hosting big sports events. I recently got in touch with Pascale to have him share how his paper covered the event, and how they documented the reactions of locals and the changes in the everyday life of the local community.

I was interested in how a local paper adapted to cover such a big event online using multimedia tools. I wanted to compare it with what we have been doing in Sochi. Here’s what Pascale wrote in an email to me:

Our newsroom at the Lincoln Journal Star has been doing multimedia videos for a while, but thanks to new technology we recently bought, we are now equipped to cover events even better than before.

The Lincoln Journal Star has been using iPhones, Twitter and CoverItLive.com to provide Special Olympics fans with instantaneous updates from around the city.

Here’s an example from Saturday.

Using twitter on the iPhones, our reporters in the field have been taking photos and videos and collecting snippets of “color” from each venue around the city. CoverItLive.com pulls our Twitter feeds into one place, making a convenient one-stop spot for readers.

It really has been a good learning experience for our newsroom. Few have ever used any of this technology but a lot have adopted it and are now comfortable reporting from the field this way. Web users from around the United States have been following our feed and we have received a lot of compliments for the depth and breadth of the coverage.

Back at his journalism school, Pascale participated in a new media and design class led by Adam Wagler. As part of that class, Pascale and his fellow students built a special website to cover the Special Olympics. That, too, is a feature that connects Lincoln and Sochi.