Video: Quality vs. Quantity Debate Rages On

Over at, Angela Grant has an excellent post about the “Value of enough time to shoot and edit.” She used one of my breaking news videos as an example of the quality vs. quantity debate. The good enough approach valued by online gurus like Howard Owens basically puts production time on a fast track for news video. Quality of storytelling, visuals, editing and camera gear, well, let’s just say it’s not high on Owens’s priority list.  In a way, this debate is beginning to sound a lot like the Canon vs. Nikon, or Mac vs. PC smack downs happening on Internet forums daily. Hey, I admit to jumping into these conversations with the best of them.

Still, this endless debate about quality vs. quantity makes me feel a bit punchy. Owens has spent the past several years pushing his rigid point of view that web video for newspapers doesn’t need to have high production or storytelling values. His mantra: Get video, and lots of it, up on your website is the shortest amount of time possible.  That has us folks who have photojournalist DNA running through our veins feelin’ a tad bit uncomfortable. Coming from said gene pool, I’ll defer to the fact that most photojournalists are a bit high on the quality horse. I don’t know many shooters who’d want to pick up their daily rag and see a bad photo they’ve taken staring back at them. The same can be said for video on their newspaper’s websites.

So, for now, we hurl points of view back and forth through blog posts and comment fields. For the most part, it’s really just wasted bandwidth. Nobody’s ever going to change Howard Owens’s mind. He has too much time invested in the theory to show that type of flexibility. Same can be said for the quality-first crowd that values their art more than news value. I think we should all just take a deep breath for a moment and ask yourselves a few questions:

  • What is the overall vision for video in your newsroom?
  • Why are you doing video in the first place?
  • Is quality video valuable to your viewers?
  • Has video gained traction on your website over time? If not, why?
  • Has your paper invested in training that empowers your video producers to be able to tell and edit a story effectively?
  • Do you have (need) a web-savvy management structure in place to filter out bad video ideas and is an advocate for video based storytelling?
  • If you are producing lots of video, do you have a website that showcases this valued web-only content?
  • Can viewers find your videos quickly if they land on a story page and not on the home page?
  • Can lower levels of video quality be acceptable if they meet a high news value bar?
  • Should small papers with dwindling resources really be adding poorly produced video to their already bleak shovelware websites?

If you can’t find a decent answer or solution to each of these questions, then maybe you shouldn’t be messing with video at this time. The newspaper industry has really changed in the last 24 months. Gone is the sense that everything is going to be OK in time. As newspapers finally begin to follow their readers to the web, I believe video is going to play an increasing role in how we keep them in our growing multi-platform family. TV news websites are beginning to kick sand in our faces. Live streaming video from breaking news scenes is the new rage. If we don’t respond soon, it might be too late to take ‘em on in earnest. So this discussion about quality vs. quantity is pretty small in the big picture scheme of things. What really matters now is that we embrace wholeheartedly in the idea that web video is a good thing for our websites and viewers. It is important to understand for video storytelling to gain viewership, it will need lots nourishment and encouragement in its infancy.