Newspaper documentaries

January 10, 2011 · Posted in A-Roll · 1 Comment 

Tuesday night, January 11, on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, a documentary by the staff of the Miami Herald will air nationwide on PBS. “Nou Bouke,” which means “we’re tired” in Creole, is a look at the earthquake and its aftermath, along with the tumultuous history of Haiti.

The hour-long documentary was produced in-house at the Miami Herald by videographer Jose Iglesias and independent film producer Joe Cardona, hired for this project, along with Herald journalist Nancy San Martin, who served as executive producer. It was done with the assistance of local PBS affiliate WPBT, but was independently produced and delivered as a finished product.

This took a year full-time for Iglesias to produce. He landed in Port au Prince shortly after the quake and spent days sleeping on the ground as it shook from aftershocks, listening to the wails and prayers of the shocked survivors. He went back time and again, at first producing daily stories, then, as the idea for the film took root, looking for more in-depth pieces.

I’m really proud of our commitment at the Miami Herald to produce this film and I hope it is a trend-setter for talented journalists to break the boundaries of the printed page and parochial web sites. It’s a powerful piece.

Other newspapers are also starting to explore the documentary format.

Newsday produced “Campaign Season: the 2010 Race for Governor,” a documentary produced out of daily coverage of the New York governor’s race, which aired on News 12 in Long Island. From the documentary page: “Newsday reporter Thomas Maier and video journalist John Paraskevas produced this documentary in seven chapters, shown at different points during the course of the campaign, with finishing touches provided by News12’s production team. Then after Election Day, they pulled together a complete hour-long presentation looking at the winners, losers and what this campaign meant for New York’s future.”

Thomas Maier sent me this note:
“I thought you might be interested in this new documentary where the
New York race for governor is the story itself. You can find it here:

Unlike most documentaries of this size, “Campaign Season” wasn’t a set
play, so to speak, but rather a documentary on the fly, assembled over
time in chapter form, with no clear idea of the final election outcome
until it happened. We’re publishing the completed documentary today. In
the world of newspaper videos, I think this Newsday project pushes the
marriage of print and video farther than anything we’ve done before at
our paper.
In this final version, there is an overall narrative arc propelled by
the characters’ ambition and, more interestingly, betrayal. In a year
when the GOP did well around the nation, the NY Republicans
self-destructed – and this documentary explains why. The very first
image in chapter one is of former NY Sen. Al D’Amato, at a dinner last
spring for GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio. But despite what
D’Amato told the crowd that night, we learn in a later chapter that he’s
really for Democrat Andrew Cuomo and actually hates Lazio.
The documentary was on the cutting-edge of the news. In our
installment on Oct. 14, *Campaign Season* told Newsday’s audience about
Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo*s $2.5 million income from his chief
fundraiser when they were in private business together in Dubai — the
same day The New York Times featured that finding in a front-page story
about his fundraiser Andrew Farkas.
Perhaps more significantly, this narrative catches the drama of being
inside a political convention and the backstabbing among politicians
vying for the nomination. The video also supplies profiles of all the
major characters, warts and all, and let’s our audience see why events
happened as they did.

However, a BIG supporter of this whole effort is Pat Dolan, director of News12 and whose family owns Cablevision. Pat has always wanted to do just this type of thing, and the sale of Newsday to Cablevision is allowing us to do it. Pat was simply wonderful, a guardian angel, who opened many of the doors that traditionally block such projects. The reporting, filming, narration, writing and editing was done by myself and John at Newsday. But Pat opened up his shop, and I worked with his graphics people and two of his video editors in putting together the final touches.”

More on the Miami Herald production:

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