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Thursday, February 7, 2013
Digital Media Toolbox

Newspapers should double down on video

By Timothy S. Mccarty

Barbara Selvin, a professor of journalism at Stony Brook University in New York, posted some interesting thoughts on her jrnteaching.com blog, saying "Newspapers should jettison (most of) their Web video efforts."

Ouch! This cuts a former (reformed?) broadcaster turned digital media journalism instructor deep.

I couldn't disagree more. In fact, I submit that all newspapers, including small and regional ones, should double down on video. Don't give up on learning video tools and the value of good video to enhance good writing as a way to draw more hyperlocal hits online.

Journalism has always had the key to the kingdom for producing good video right under its keyboard: good writing! Technology, like video, should not be such a source of consternation among good storytellers at newspapers. Good video is supposed to enhance a good story, not be the story.

VIDEO GETS A BAD RAP, YO!

From my perspective the problem is simple:

Video as an appropriate tool in journalism has a bad rap.

Relatively few people in journalism know how to effectively shoot and craft video to enhance their already good storytelling.

Folks in journalism (purists, management, tech immigrants?) with other agendas don't understand the technology and have botched how video was incorporated, or not incorporated, into a converging and fragmenting journalism industry.

Even more egregious, video is viewed as the enemy of journalism because deep down, "real" journalists view video as broadcast news those people in makeup playing journalists on TV.

Take it from a guy who has been there, done that. Smart journalism-style video bound for a newspaper website has nothing to do with TV news. And if I could get a few more professional journalists and my fellow collegiate journalism teachers to drop their bias against video as the bastard child of broadcast news, good video wouldn't be considered a failed experiment as professor Selvin opines.

INCORPORATING VIDEO INTO JOURNALISM (a guide to not being a video hater!)

Stop trying to compete with TV news. It's not the same, and we all agree newspaper journalists really don't want to be like "them." Agreed. Move on.

Hire a multimedia journalist at the paper to develop, shoot and edit video to enhance stories, features, profiles and interviews for the Web. This person could manage social media as well. Like reporters who are lawyers, doctors or business people, hire a journalist who knows video.

Stop using photographers to shoot video as an "add on" to their jobs. It's not the same kind of shooting or medium. It's not their job. If one of the photographers has an interest in shooting video, fine, connect them with a real video pro for video grammar lessons. (See here for an example.)

What kind of video should we shoot? (I get this a lot.) Journalists should think less daily TV news-type content and more documentary-type content using video. A newspaper website is the perfect place to run on camera interviews with local experts and leaders on broader topics relating to local issues such as religion, politics, education and science (to name a few), to help provide local context.

Thematically, develop regularly scheduled and updated Web video segments with beat reporters in science, education, politics, business and sports. This could be "extra" context, or "unedited" interviews (from print) adapted and presented online.

Podcasts with simple video (pictures?) are a great local Web draw. How about newspaper travel section podcasts?

FINAL THOUGHTS

Quality video, like a quality story, is the product of a process and requires a unique skill set using appropriate hardware/software tools and experience to do it well. What has always baffled me about my fellow journalists is that while they understand that photography requires unique skills, specialty technology and a person to do it well, they scoff at the same requirements for video. "Hey, we can just send the intern, right?" And then they bemoan the fact that they "can't get good video"!

For our part, higher education journalism programs need to do a better job of keeping up with the industry and technology by updating and retooling programs to better reflect the new realities of journalism in a digital world. We need to create more integrated journalism curriculums with idea development, data analysis, writing (across multiple platforms), interview skills, video and still shooting aesthetic skills, entrepreneurial skills and media software skills (Photoshop, InDesign, Audition, iMovie, Final Cut, Avid) to produce journalists who can fill the job described above.

Jettison video on newspaper websites? No way. Journalism needs to change its attitude, learn the tools, commit and double down.

My 16-year-old tells me all the time, "Dad, don't be a hater!"

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