The death of newspapers doesn’t mean the end of journalism


Last week I stood in front of a convention of high school journalists and told them a career in journalism was still a solid prospect. I bit neither my lip nor tongue as I said this. For most in the room, it will be 5-7 years until they complete college.  In that amount of time, newspapers are going to experience a lot of change.

In this month’s Digital Journalist, an essay called “Circling the Drain,” by Mark Loundy summed up the present state of newspapers perfectly:

“Newspapers are trapped between two worlds. They can’t offer a viable online service because they can’t spend enough on staffing. Meanwhile, they’ve lashed themselves to a sinking ship that they’re bailing out by tossing journalists overboard. Of course, this drives readers away, causing the ship to sink faster.”

As many printed newspapers sink into irrelevance in their communities, the big question left hanging is what will replace them? Will newspaper publishers wake-up and invest in their online news sites, while also finding the courage to cut away their failing print products? Can they find a way to make the boatloads of profits online they once had in print?

In some ways, I don’t think it matters whether newspaper online websites survive either. When I looked out at that room full of high school journalism students, I realized they are going to be the ones that will define the revival of journalism in the digital age. This is a group that rarely reads the printed newspaper. When I ask them why? I get answers ranging from: “It’s not searchable,” and “The newspaper limits my ability to connect with multiple points of view,” to “I’m online all the time, so I sometimes will read it there.”

As I anguish over the present state of print newspapers, I’m likewise excited to see the future of online journalism begin to take form. Hyper-local sites are starting to claim ground where traditional journalism fails to defend.

Angela Grant, a former San Antonio Express multimedia producer who now works for a hyper-local news website writes in her popular News Videographer blog:

“Here’s the most awesome things about my new job: I’m now a TRUE multimedia journalist. On any given day, I will write a story, take pictures, produce videos, or create maps to illustrate stories. I’m learning a lot of new skills dealing with beat reporting and developing sources.”

It will be young people like Grant who will be the ones to shape digital journalism’s future. Many of these online experiments will fail, but in time, some formula will stick.

And don’t discount the castoffs from newspapers. They will also have an effect. There are a lot of talented former print reporters and visual journalists that are looking for online palettes to display their talents. Smart people don’t wallow in the past for long.

I know newspaper publishers understand that as their print product flounder, they need to be in a solid position to compete with their websites. The movement to online-only news websites will open up the conduit for new jobs in journalism. So for high school students interested in a career in journalism, I say: Come forth, be passionate, be curious and most important, be innovative.

Keeping the short form video short

Construction Career Day

My last video I produced was a self-assignment.  It was a slow day in the photo department so I perused through the press releases that clutter up my company email each day.  I found an event that seemed interesting–Construction Career Day for high school students. There were going to be 800 kids learning about the construction trades through hands on demonstrations. Sweet. It was almost noon and I really didn’t want to be still editing late into the evening. I set my goal of producing a one-minute thirty-second video. That seems to be the trend my friends in TV news like to adhere to. My videos of late have crept up the time scale, blowing through my three-minute rule by clocking in at five or more minutes each. That’s a tome in TV news time. I figured a little shooting and editing discipline was in order.

The Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds was laden with geeky high schoolers that were given the chance to pound nails and drive massive Caterpillar frontend loaders.  It was pretty decent for b-roll.  I grabbed a couple of quick interviews of students and organizers. I shot as much b-roll as I could in the short hour I was there.  I tried to keep as much on the tripod as I could.

By 1:30 pm I was back at the paper unloading my SxS cards into Final Cut. I  edited as fast as I could. I started with the main interview with the organizer and quickly built out from there.  The video was posted on our site around 4:30 with ninety minutes to spare in my shift.

career2It turned out that our community news section was doing a cover story for the weekend on the event. I made sure that they promoted the video from the print story. Local TV news (KXLY) produced a story with  reporter Dave Erickson and photographer Jerry Swanson. Again, like my last compare and contrast videos, these stories are approached differently. The TV version is wordier. It had lots of facts, good b-roll,  strong interviews and an engaging voiceover.  I thought about narrating my video, but found my edit of letting the subject tell the story worked better for me this time. I think both videos say pretty much the same thing in the end.

Now for my boatload of shooting issues

My 48-year-old eyes are failing me  close up, I really need to start wearing reading glasses when I shoot. The LCD monitor looks fine but I can’t rely on it for sharpness anymore. The one thing I have grown to hate about my Sony EX-1 is that the auto focus sucks and that trying to focus manually either through the viewfinder or LCD monitor can be a pain. Hence, I had some decent footage out of focus. I now have placed a pair of reading glasses in my camera case.

Things I could have done better.

I wish I could have found a better place to do the main interview. The nail pounding inside, over-powered the nat sound from my outside b-roll.  Unfortunately, there just wasn’t a quiet spot anywhere to be found.

Close ups, close ups, and more close ups.  They make your sequences sing and the video more interesting to look at.