A few weeks ago I saw a colleague who I hadn’t seen for a while and as we caught up with each other’s lives, the conversation turned into one about how multimedia has changed the journalism industry. One of the things that has impressed me is the range of talented journalists (visual or otherwise) that have embraced the use of new forms of storytelling.
My colleague told me about what I consider an unfortunate situation. It seems the managing editor of the newspaper she works for has mandated that the paper will produce two videos a day. Unfortunately, this is something I hear of quite frequently. It’s very difficult for me when I hear such things because my first reaction is one of disappointment. A lot of executives at newspapers are putting these demands on journalists because the executives believe that such mandates will increase the paper’s internet traffic, and therefore, increase revenue for the newspapers.
I have a different belief, however. Each day am I shocked by multitude of terrible video on newspapers’ Web sites. One that comes to mind is the filming of a Jet Ski being placed onto a trailer by police after it was involved in an accident which claimed a life. There was no visible damage to the watercraft, and nothing visually to tell the story of this tragic accident. So why shoot video of the thing?
I would have linked to this video, but unfortunatly, the video has been removed from the site. My point is just because you shoot video, doesn’t mean the subject matter is worth it. Use video for the things video is good for: movement, emotion and a sense of place. Mindy McAdams says it best here.
The Web shouldn’t be used as a dumping ground for mediocre work. Far too often I see “video for the sake of video.” Not always, but often there is some executive who doesn’t understand what is involved mandating the use of video.
Video is a wonderful medium, but it takes time to do quality work. A lot of newspapers want their photographers to have a turn-around time that equals that of a digital still photographer – or worse, a television station. However, television stations are broadcast entities. Newspapers aren’t equipped for that purpose.
How many satellite trucks have seen in a newspaper’s parking lot (although this could change in the near future)?
Additionally, mandating a certain amount of video per day is almost asking for trouble. What happens if an assignment falls through, or the subject doesn’t want to be filmed?
I have nothing but the greatest hope for the success newspapers using video to tell stories. But for there to be success it is important for those who lead newspapers to understand what is involved in the production aspect. Each executive should take the time to see the process first hand. Know what you are asking of your staff. Understand the medium’s limitations. Then inspire your staff with your ideas and your knowledge of what is capable and what isn’t.