Continuing the debate over reporter-shot video

Lumix cameraI guess I started the debate (with this post), so I guess I should answer the questions posed by Mindy McAdams, even though Bryan Murley has already done a fine job.

  1. Should print reporters shoot video?
    Yes. Of course. Why wouldn’t they? Reporters are supposed to inform the public to the fullest extent possible. You wouldn’t send a newspaper reporter out to cover a story without a pen and paper, so why send him to a story without a camera? There are some elements of a story that words can never capture, so why limit a reporter to telling a story with only words?
  2. Can journalists accept the low video quality produced by ultra-cheap ($129) video cameras?
    Keep in mind, the camera I’m proposing reporters carry costs more than twice the price. From what I’ve seen so far, the $129 camera doesn’t capture sound very well. This is a major issue – sound quality is more important than picture quality. The camera I recommend does very well on sound, when used properly. And when used properly, it takes amazingly high quality video. In some respects, the “quality” argument is a bit of a red herring. Quality has a lot more to do with training and talent than the equipment. Smart reporters are constantly striving to improve the quality of the video they shoot.
  3. Should the video be edited, or posted “raw”?
    Depends. What’s the story? How timely is the video? The Tsunami video was raw and compelling and deserved to be posted raw and immediately. The story demanded it. An interview with the mayor after a city council meeting, not so much. Most video can stand some editing, if by that you mean cutting out some extraneous stuff, such as the reporter’s questions (something I recommend, unless there is compelling news value or an ethical need to include the question). The greater the editing demand, the less video that gets posted.
  4. Does the popularity of YouTube video (most of it very low quality) indicate that the content is more important than the poor image and sound quality?
    Content is king. And no pun intended, but think back to the Rodney King beating video — if a reporter where out with a $320 Lumix set up and saw the same exact moment, should we not publish the video because it isn’t of DatelineNBC quality? Context matters. Or flip the question around: Would you post something of zero news value just because it was high quality (whatever that means)? One thing I’ve been telling people in my newsrooms for three years — some day quality is going to be much more important than it is today, so I want you to get better. I’ve sent reporters and editors to the best training courses available, because quality does matter, but it isn’t the only thing. Also, quality takes time. Speed is often more important than time spent on polish.
  5. Does the popularity of YouTube video indicate anything at all about journalistic online video?
    Yes. It says, we better be doing it. People want video. People like video. Video can help tell a more powerful story, or capture a moment better than words. Also, YouTube points the way to how people often use video — bounce around from subject to subject, skim, scan and graze, hunting out that which is interesting. This is how people use the Web in general. This is why quantity is so important. Also, think of the whole long tail thing when thinking about quantity.
  6. What should be the content of reporter-shot video? E.g., is a talking head okay?
    Why wouldn’t a talking head be OK? As I said before, it’s all about context. That said, just about any story can be improved by video, so if all you can get is a talking head, then take that opportunity to improve your story.
  7. Is doing it, and doing lots of it, more important right now? That is, will we learn more about what works best if we produce a large quantity of video (vs. tinkering away to make it sound and look better)?
    As Rob Curley has observed, it takes about 18 months to train online visitors to accept something different from our Web sites. I’ve observed a similar pattern. People aren’t used to going to a newspaper Web site to get video. We are giving them something new, so we need to help them get used to it. If you’re only posting one video project every three or four days (about the time it takes to produce a full-blown, in-depth video production), you are not putting enough video in front of your visitors to get them used to the idea that they can expect video from your site. Quantity also fits best into how people actually use the Web. It also helps create more rich data points for learning what works and what doesn’t. It also accelerates the learning curve for reporters and editors. Doing is always better than not doing.

[tags]video, journalism, youtube[/tags]

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5 thoughts on “Continuing the debate over reporter-shot video

  1. It’s amazing how people can connect to people, places and events even through crappy 30 second clips with terrible sound. I get lots of positive feedback because I go places that people want to see/read/hear about. Try it out. The audience understands when video quality is raw… they just want to connect. And they will thank you for it.

  2. What’s the endgame here, if any?

    Are we trying to compete with local broadcast outlets, or is there something different about video on the Web?

    If we can tap into what’s different about it, the quality will never have to be as good as digibeta with a full lighting kit and top-notch sound gear.

  3. Disruption isn’t necessarily about the “end game” in the way I think you mean. It’s about coming in at the low end and building a business, going where the disruptive path leads you.

    I think there is something to be said for looking at this as a chance to disrupt broadcast television, which was certainly the explicit, conscience vision I had when I first started pushing video at the Star, but the more I do this, I think it’s not about end game; it’s about trying to figure out how to best server an audience NOW. Today. This minute. Move quickly.

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