I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but this year I feel a need to make one.
For 2014, I’m going to try to please myself on every shoot. I work at a place that has formulas and expectations for the videos we produce. At the risk of getting my ass kicked, I’m going to try to avoid shooting what they expect. It’s time to have fun.
I started the first day of the year – a day off – by shooting the piece above with a co-worker flying a drone and me shooting with a single 50mm lens (and a GoPro.) I did it for fun. I think I’m going to approach every assignment this way.
It’s sometimes very hard to break away from habit and expectations. But formulas and routines make for boring videos. What are you going to do to shake things up this year?
Happy 2013, everyone! I hope your hangovers are gone by now and I hope hot dogs are not the press room food at the games you have to cover today.
I’m looking back at 2012 and finding some great pieces that didn’t get enough love. First one I found today is a New York Times video by Nicole Bengiveno on Donna’s Diner in Elyria, Ohio. A lot of work went into this story – a story that wasn’t target-rich nor easy to do.
(This comes from the New York Times year in front pages.)
Another New York Times video that is really nice is the one on a rare form of dementia that is credited to a whole crew: shot by Béatrice de Géa; produced by Nick Harbaugh, Soo-Jeong Kang and Nancy Donaldson. I like how this video has breathing room in it.
Brian Kaufman from the Detroit Free Press looked at the old Packard plant in an amazing video. Rich in imagery; poetic in approach.
I’m astounded at these great stories that took weeks or months to do. Newspapers still do this? At my paper, I used to do long-form videos but lately I’m chasing hard news and trying to get videos posted in a half hour, because that’s where the traffic is.
What have you guys done in the past year that you’re proud of? What have you seen from other folks that you’ve liked? Pitch in here and let’s do our own year-in-review!
Happy New Year!
We were having a discussion of how to assign video over on the NewspaperVideo email list, and I posted this:
We’ve been doing video for the past five years at the Miami Herald. I’ve learned a few things about video assignments.
First, if your paper is anything like mine, none of your reporters, editors, or photo assignment people will have a clue what makes good video when you’re starting out. So don’t put video assignments in the same pipeline as your photo assignments. If you have a dedicated video producer, let them make the call on what to cover. Choose one thing a day to produce a video from and make sure the person doing it has all day to work on it… they’ll need the time. If your big bosses are making a fuss about video, all your reporters and editors will be requesting video on their stories – don’t automatically assign it. Pick and choose what to do. The person picking and choosing needs to know both video production and your web stats – video on the web ain’t the same as ink on paper.
Second, if you’re after web traffic, realize that there are only a few things that will get hits in video on a newspaper site – primarily hard news and sports. Most of your traffic will come from the story level pages as people arrive there from search engines, so make embedding video with the story a top priority. Because of that, try to do video from the top web stories of the day – which are seldom the same as the lede print story. If you’re compelled to cover feel-good features and cultural events, go into it knowing they won’t get much traffic.
Third, as you’re picking what to cover, make sure your videos are compelling and emotional… facts and figures have no place in video. Show, don’t tell. Make ’em short and make sure the opening shot is amazing and action-packed – most people click off videos in the first ten seconds, and you have to grab them fast. Videos need a story arc – a beginning, middle and end – so long after your still shooter has gone home, your video guy might be waiting to get that ending shot – it takes much much longer to shoot a video than it does to shoot stills.
And finally and most importantly, always keep in mind that crappy video has absolutely no value to your newspaper. Advertisers hate it; viewers click off it immediately; and your staff will hate doing it. Pick stuff that’s worth doing and give people the time to do it well. Don’t do predictable and newspaper-story-style video – the point of video is to tell a story a different way.
Video is a bottomless rabbit hole that will take huge amounts of time to do. Do not expect your photogs to be able to cover their normal assignment load while also producing video. On the other hand, video is the most amazing story tool ever. No other medium can bring people to tears or make them laugh with joy the way that video can.
Although I forget sometimes that there are newspapers who still don’t do video as part of their daily work, it seems like most do. Video is a part of almost every metro photo department these days. Since every metro photo department is a faint shadow of what they used to be, you have to be really smart about doing video. The time investment every time you press the record button is enormous.
If there’s one message I feel compelled to share after going through a few years of the learning process, it’s that video traffic is a good thing but won’t pay the bills. No advertiser wants to be associated with crappy news clips and amateur quality features – even if they get a lot of hits. All of us need to put our efforts into producing high-quality work and look for things that can be turned into series and channels. At the moment sports coverage seems to be the most fertile for this and advertisers are willing to sponsor ongoing and predictable sports shows. That predictable part is really important – sponsors want consistent quality and consistent frequency.
Which isn’t to say we should spend all our time trying to pay the bills. Use the skills you learn producing consistent high quality stuff to tackle your own stories and make your videos really compelling. I can’t say enough about the power of video to move people. Use it wisely and well. There are many outlets for quality news video stories and more and more of us are doing documentaries and work for broadcast in partnership with other outlets. It’s a big world out there and newspapers are becoming an ever-smaller part of it. Spread your wings, everyone… Never have the tools to produce cinema-quality video been available to us so easily, even on pitiful newspaper salaries. Learn to use them!
In the end, It’s all about the story. Photojournalists are well equipped to tell stories.
Photojournalists are doing the most exciting work I’ve seen in the past 30 years – but no longer are they doing it for newspapers.
I spent the past week staying up ’til early in the morning judging several multimedia contests and scholarships. The work being done out there is terrific. Online, the most amazing stories fill my feed on a daily basis.
Photojournalism is better than it’s ever been – but the delivery has changed completely.
We’re at the transition stage of the industry – the content is being created, but the money hasn’t followed yet. We’ll get there eventually (please, please, please) but for now we’re doing what it takes to put bread on the table. I’d still rather work at a newspaper than drive a cab – but for now, the emotional commitment to the job is about the same.
Journalism will come out of the ashes of mainstream media like a phoenix. Yes, we’re all dressed in black for the funeral at the moment. The shovels haven’t filled the grave yet. But soon, we’ll have a wake, lift a toast to newspapers, remember the good times, and then join the village raising the next generation.
(This was a response I posted on the NewspaperVideo yahoo email list in a lively discussion of the ethics of journalism and the pending demise thereof. To join the email list, visit the NewspaperVideo list http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/NewspaperVideo/ )