Having a strong video strategy for your newspaper is important, By Defining who is going to shoot the video, who is going to edit it and ultimately, the method of how to serve it out to the viewers, you will begin to set in motion a roadmap for change in the newsroom.
There have been a lot of blogoshere conversations going on about where video fits into the new reality of web-based newspaper publishing. There are two divergent views banging around the industry. One, supported by the GateHouse Media’s, Howard Owens, puts the video cameras in the hands of mostly reporters. Viewers come to your site, as the theory goes, because there is lots of video to look at. Quality of the production is really secondary. Quick turnaround is the driving force. Hour to shoot, an hour to edit is the bar to reach here. Cheap point-and-shoot cameras, with video mode enabled, allows everyone in the newsroom, with a little training, to start producing video content.
The second web video strategy is one that I have embraced since I started my transition to video storytelling four years ago. It is driven by quality production values, with in-depth storytelling that is shot and edited by people with strong visual sensibilities.
One of the places where Howard Owens’s quick turn around vision was first implemented was in Bakersfield, California.When I looked at those early videos, I cringed. The fundamentals of video shooting were not in place. The audio sucked. But there was a lot of video being produced. The Bakersfield video strategy piqued my interest. I asked myself, “Is this really the future of newspaper video journalism?”
Now that I have moved up the chain, from video producer to multimedia editor, I’ve tasked myself with creating a workable video strategy at my newspaper. My struggle is to find that synergy of volume without dumbing down the quality of the storytelling.
My challenge is to bring these separate, but both valid visions of video production, together to create a video strategy that works for everyone in the newsroom. Workflow is first up on my plate. Getting the supervisors of reporters to understand that if video is being added to the reporter’s duties, extra time will be needed for them to do both. This is a huge issue; especially at a time when newsroom resources have been limited by recent layoffs. It now means editors have to really buy in to the notion that being web-centric is more than just a concept. It means they have to think more visually when it comes time to assign stories. It also means they have to have that conversation with the writer about adding video to enhance their story that will appear on the web.
The next issue is the type of tools to use. We’ve tried the cheap camera route for a time. A $200 camera can shoot acceptable video in nice light, but really falls apart in low lighting conditions. The in-camera microphone is substandard. It picks up a wide pattern of audio (think traffic noise) making it hard for viewers focus on what the subject is saying. And don’t get me started on how unsteady point-and-shoot video is without a tripod. I’ve got funding to upgrade the multimedia tools that reporters will use. These hard drive based video cameras with small shotgun mics will help solve the quality issues of point-and-shoot cameras. Plus, these cameras shoot still photographs and can be used to gather audio from interviews. It’s three multimedia tools in one small package.
My next challenge is training. Last week I held a video training workshop for our web producers and mobile journalists (MoJos.) They learned the fundamentals of video production and editing with Final Cut Express 4. It was a great start, but now I will need to follow up with a video training program for reporters. Most of the bad reporter produced video I’ve seen suffers from a basic lack understanding of how to shoot video properly. If I can teach reporters the fundamentals, then give constructive feedback on what they produce, I believe the quality issues will resolve with time.
Finally, I need to motivate people (including the photojournalists at my paper) to be excited about adding video to their storytelling toolbox. I need everyone in the newsroom to understand that their jobs are changing and they need to change to. “Resistance is futile,” I like to say. If I can help change the newsroom culture away from same old, same old, then I believe my newspaper will be better prepared for all the challenges that will come in the future. Wish me luck; I’m going to need it.