“The category itself is in its infancy, and it showed,” judge Erica Simpson, a photojournalist from KGTV San Diego, said. “It is obvious these were people who came mostly from newspapers and were trying to learn a craft. They were making basic mistakes in telling stories with pictures. Since we have no bar set, since this is the first year NPPA has offered these categories, we didn’t want to set the bar too low and say this is what national award-winning online video looks like. We chose the best of the lot, but this is not where the bar of excellence should be.” The judges said the most common mistakes they saw were backlit interviews, sound bites that lasted far too long, jump cuts that were jarring to the eye and stories that were overwritten. The judges also said some stories used too many special effects. The best surprises were sometimes buried deep in the story, and while many of the entries were heavy on useful facts and information, they lacked memorable central characters. The judges also are put off by natural sound “pops” that constantly and unnecessarily interrupt the storytelling.
In the absence of specific examples, it’s hard to respond with Simpon’s remarks. Obviously, online video that is marred by basic mistakes, such as backlighting, jarring cuts, etc. should not win awards. But online video is different from TV. Online, long sound bites might actually be a feature not a bug. Whether something is overwritten is in the ear of the listener. It’s hard to believe that all the entries in a national contest were so fatally flawed by basic shooting and editing mistakes that they weren’t worthy of honor. I suspect, more to the point, is that the judges were unwilling or unable to come to terms with the changing face of video news. The flaws were not necessarily in frames of the video, but in the eyes of the judges.