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Heads up – this is a “shameless self-promotion” posting. My visual storytelling business is up and running.
While small (with intentions to stay that way), I have plans to make it big – in quality. Although I’ve dabbled a bit with video production and its many challenges, I find my love of news and storytelling is leading me back into news – both feature and general.
Just FYI: work is progressing on The Basics of Videojournalism, although life is getting in the way some days.
And I will continue to post from time to time here on this blog – my first and favorite. Thanks for dropping by.
In the beginning there was the Newsreel Cameraman. Hauling around more gear than a pack mule, he (no shes back then) covered the news and view of the nine-teens and twenties, joined by an Audio Man in 1927.
That was the original VJ. Rough and tumble, but always got the story.
These NR guys held on tenaciously through the birth of television, only getting phased out in the 1960s when the majority of the public chose the boob-tube over the big screen for their daily dose of what’s happening.
In the meantime a new term sprang up on the broadcast side of news: OMB. One man band. A reinvention of the NRC, they (once again) hauled around a camera, audio gear and enough love of news and what’s happening to gather the news in their markets for a hungry audience. I’m guesstimating maybe late 1950s with film and optical audio through…hmmm, today’s digital workflow.
And now we have divergence.
Sometime in the 1990s print photographers discovered an entirely new unheard of medium. They called it multimedia. It was all new – if you could actually believe editing sound with your still photos and then playing it back. Wow.
Then these brave pioneers moved on to an even greater discovery. Something they called video. Imagine, if you can, moving images with audio embedded! Why the world had never seen the likes of it before. But what were they going to call themselves if they no longer shot stills?
Well there were a number of options. Out of the nation’s capitol came the term Backpack Journalist. Made sense because (theoretically) you could fit camera, computer…your entire office into a backpack. Visual Storyteller was another one. Multimedia Journalist or Storyteller was another choice. But most of them went for Video Journalist. And so they laid claim to this new territory as original and new and totally theirs.
Um…but what about those broadcast folks? Weren’t they shooting video too?
Not they way we are, chimed the (print) VJs. Our style of storytelling is unique. We’re not TV.
Looking at it from afar (and for a while from the middle of it) I’d say the two are pretty much doing the same thing.
1) Both use cameras
2) Both gather sound
3) Both work alone to gather and disseminate visuals stories to their audiences
1) Broadcast VJs tend to use cameras meant for “run and gun” shooting with easy to access exterior controls, professional audio connectors, and good zoom lenses.
Print VJs opt for hybrid DSLRs that shoot both stills and video. While they have more control over depth of field with a wide variety of interchangeable lenses, they must also add-on audio accessories and other gadgets.
2) BVJs generally run on a tighter schedule with more packed into a day and more expected of them. Anything from a single package to a few VOs and VOSOTS to a combination of all of the above.
PVJs may have to shoot multiple stories daily also, but often seem to use video for more long form stories or VO/VOSOTS.
3) A good BJV can turn an exquisite daily story using a variety of options from a NATS pkg to pkg complete with narration and stand-up. Day after day, week after week.
A good PVJ can turn an exquisite story in a few days (from what I hear and see on the professional boards) generally a NATS pkg using the voice of the interview subject rather than narration.
You may have guessed two things by now. I tend to favor the BVJ…but there are some equally damned good PVJs out there. The good ones have more in common than not. They live and breathe visual storytelling. They see the kernels of truth, the compelling images, and understand the flow of time and words well enough to go beyond the basics. And more importantly, they learn from everything…from each other, from their subjects…each story is an opportunity to get better.
Why this posting? Just had to get it out of my system. Don’t want history written up improperly with the lineage of VJs lost to the most vocal shooters. Those quiet guys behind behemoth hand-cranked cameras deserve their place in the books too. (And don’t forget…many of them were former still photogs.)
I remember when CNN started up in the 70s. Friend of mine (a camerawoman) came up to me one day and said, “There’s this guy from CNN who said he’d make me a star!” She was smiling and I laughed. A cameraman a star? Seemed like a podunk idea…going nowhere fast. But THAT sure didn’t happen. CNN went on to become a worldwide organization.
Well what’s old is new again. Michael Rosenblum, the alleged “father of videojournalism”, is starting up a new network. (I say “alleged” in a friendly spirit…although he didn’t create the role or coin the term, he has most definitely promoted the concept.)
Here’s what’s out: it look as if this dream of his will be based in Nashville, where he is looking for staff. It appears contributors will be based on the VJ model. Beyond that…well we all get to wait together. Been having fun speculating with friends about where this is headed (and where it might head), and while ideas abound, real facts are kind of hard to nail down.
What I will say is, I hope it breathes some fresh air into a career that is sadly lacking at times. While there are some truly great cameramen and VJs out there and some stations and organizations that truly support them, they are in the minority. If Rosenblum is willing to pay a living wage to get the best, I wish him and his cause the best. If he is willing to support quality and ethical storytelling, go for it! There is a need for something beyond the bland flash that passes for news and visual storytelling today…dare we hope this is it?
(Transparency: along with probably thousands of others, I’ve tossed my resume into the pile headed Rosenblum’s way. With caveats of course. He has his standards and may reject me. Ditto my side re my requirements. Being retired does have its perks.)
…okay, time for some overinflated self-promoting grandizing.
A bud of mine – Larry Nance (no not THAT one, THIS one) and I have been working on and off for the past five or more years on a textbook on videojournalism. We kind of slowed down and resumed normal life for a while, but then decided this year to make the push and get it done.
Problem is technology has changed so much we’ve pretty much had to do a major re-write. So we’re each writing a chapter or so a week and meeting weekly to discuss what to do next.
Larry – he’s the artist, video production guy, and businessman. Me? I’m the newsie.
But between us we harbor a wealth of information and tips.
The book is becoming a reality – I almost want to say, “Slowly.” But that aint’ the truth. It is moving along at a respectable pace and (fingers crossed and don’t hold us to this deadline) may be done with the writing portion by the end of May.
What’s up next? Planning and shooting the visuals (stills) and accompanying video (examples and raw footage to practice editing). That will add on another month…and then.
….publish…???…yeah, right. PUBLISH!!!
If you want to have input, go to The Basics of Videojournalism and check out the Knowledge Base. Let us know if there’s anything we should add or delete or change. Time’s a-wastin and once this puppy is done…well I’d like to think it is done…but reality tells me we need to stay on top of it and make sure it stays CURRENT.
A year or two back I started seeing job postings for “predators” for broadcast news shows. Did not have a clue…originally I thought they wanted hungry workers willing to do anything to track down a story.
Now it seems the predator is the employer…hiring producer/editors. Once again merging the jobs of two people into one.
Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah – from the sixties and seventies models of four man crew (producer, camera, reporter, audio) that shrank to three (camera, reporter, engineer) to two (reporter, camera) to one (videojournalist). Strange thing…as the jobs merged, it was always the cameraman who absorbed the work. The end result: one person doing it all. If the fit was good, the job was done with flair. If the fit was wrong, you had a reporter who could barely shoot and edit or a photographer struggling with words and narration.
This new beast on the market takes a producer (writer/researcher/arranger) and merges it with the editor (corrects words/edits tape). Stick them in a feed room and let them loose…they’ll grab stories and blend words and visuals and pop out a polished story.
Um…unless they are clueless about the art of editing. Or (here it is again) struggle with a basic vocabulary and the intricacies of language.
Saw another variation on predator today…producer/shooter/editor. Three-in-one.
While I’ve pushed…and still do push…for the VJ model – knowing all aspects of your profession and aiming for excellence in storytelling, it’s not for everyone. There is a place for it. Wayne Freedman and Stanley Roberts on my half of the coast are good examples. One a reporter turned VJ and the other a broadcast news cameraman turned VJ. They make it work…and partially I suspect because they were exposed for years to excellent examples on the distaff side…and they listened, watched, and learned.
But in the long run, this is all cyclical. Industries and jobs evolve, change. We can’t hold on to the past just because WE like it.
(But I still don’t like that word “predator”…)
Um…I have been corrected and stand humbled. The spelling on that obnoxious word should be P-R-E-D-I-T-O-R. “I” not “A”.
I was just talking with a friend here at my school, telling her that this is the most revolutionary time in news and reading since the invention of the printing press when it hit me – it IS. This is a watershed time in communications…with the news of the massive buyouts in the San Francisco/San Jose area; with revenues fallling and everyone desperately racing to claim their stake on the web…can you think of anything even remotely close? Andy Dickenson is right – this is the year that will make or break print media…with broadcast media following.
My high school kiddos are writing opinion statements this week. The more popular topics are abortion, school lockers (we don’t have them), school start time (they want it later), and sideshows…illegal street racing and performing. My guy groups are very much in favor of sideshows because they are exciting, despite the dangers. So I showed them part of The Perfect Storm…a movie based on real events with a violent rescue at sea. Now some of them are interested in joining the Coast Guard – they thrive on excitment. My point? I thrive on excitment too – I miss the daily deadlines…the near misses…the ecstacy of the perfect edit. I see a period which may never be rivaled in history and I want to be part of it…and am even thinking about moving from the sidelines this summer if I can find a paper to put up with me. Haven’t seriously shot stills in decades but I can outgun a lot of folks with video.
To those of you out in the front lines…keep fighting. As with any battle, if you stay in one spot your are a target, so keep moving. Somebody…some paper…some station…is going to find the magic formula that will move news profitably to the web.
Andy Dickinson has fresh insight into the Sadaam hanging video. As professionals, VJs observe and report on what goes on in the world from an objective viewpoint. But what happens when a citizen sees/records important events? Does that make them a videojournalist? In my experience, no – that makes them an eyewitness. The variable today is that they are able to record the event and put it out there for the world to see. My experience has been that when a citizen sees and records an event, they often need to be debriefed in order to ensure that their story is clear and consistant. That is often the role of the journalist….to ask questions and push the eyewitness to think through what they saw and place it in context. An earlier post said that in times of great chaos the media simply streams information and visuals directly to the public – and this includes cellphone video and stills. But the execution of Sadaam was not shot and immediately put on the web. While I am not familiar with exactly what happened, it seems to be a citizen or even a political statement. It is not journalism.