The other day I found out I’d won second place in the News Video category in the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism contest. My excitement at winning was tempered in that a third place was not awarded in my category. This left me befuddled. Judges twitters’ and Facebook posts had trickled out over the week saying they were not impressed by what had been entered. Having judged a lot of multimedia contests, I felt their pain. Weak stories dominate most multimedia contests. The cream rises fast. But for BOP judges to feel there was not enough cream to award a third place in the news video category just makes me sad. Sad because it simply says we need to do a better job with our video storytelling.
I think there are several reasons in play for all this weak newspaper video being produced:
Not enough training.
Too many newspapers, chasing a trend, handed out video cameras like candy to photojournalists and reporters. With little training, the results have been cringe-worthy. Many of these new video producers do not understand even the basic fundamentals of video storytelling and editing. They are flailing around in the dark trying to make it work. One-day training seminars just don’t cut it. Unfortunately, most newspapers are too cheap to actually send their people to real video training workshops like the nine-day Platypus or the NPPA’s five-day Multimedia Immersion workshop.
Lack of mentors
There are not enough mentors and coaches to help people improve. Most newspapers started from scratch when it came to video production. Unlike TV news, which mastered the art of video storytelling over decades, newspapers had no institutional knowledge when it came to video production. There are few video-masters in place at newspapers that can help train and mentor video storytellers.
Video storytelling basics
Many newspaper videographers are struggling with the medium. So much of what I see entered in contests are void of any storytelling arc. The videos meander along, failing to define early to the viewer what the story is about. What’s the conflict? Where’s the resolution? Why no surprises built in to keep viewers engaged in the story? Too many newspaper-produced videos are just plain boring and uninspiring.
I am hoping these early growing pains will work themselves out. In the meantime, I hope successful video producers will continue to share their knowledge with others that are learning. If we work together, we can all improve our video storytelling. Maybe then, the BOP judges will feel comfortable enough to give out third place awards.