Let’s think about our philosophy a bit…

After re-reading my last couple of posts, I think I should put forth my thoughts on how video should be used on the web by newspapers.

First, let me state the (in my opinion) news is meant to inform and educate. News should be generally be neutral…although there are times when the VJ (reporter/photographer) does take a stance. I also think that news video should compell the viewer to watch – it must connect with the audience and draw them in.

That said…there are myriad options about how to approach web video. What is pushed most often is get the best and have your best photogs focus on stories with meaning and put all of your effort into them. Then there are those who say, hand out low end gear to as many staff as possible and get as much on the web as you can. And everything you can think of in between.

I sit out of the mix now, as a high school teacher, watching the battle, and laughing. The reality is the audience will decide which approach works best and it’s not about the gear – it’s all about storytelling. Yes, given a choice, I’d take back my $17,000 DVC Pro and sticks and wireless system and light kit. I love the detail – the quality. The ability to work in low light. The instant recognition the big bucks camera gave me. But the reality is that not all budgets can take that kind of abuse. I intentionally have been experimenting with the polar opposite: how cheap can I get gear for and still make a memorable story? I’m finding drawbacks – struggling with minute hard-to-find controls, having to prove I am a pro in dealing with the public, having to relearn my craft. Some of the pluses: I am no longer an invader, infecting the story with my mere presence. I am invisible. An old(er) lady with a camera. Ignored. I can now see the real story…not necessarily the story being acted out for the benefit of the camera.

How a newspaper approaches putting video on the web is very personal – and very much a part of who they are in the community and who their community is. Some papers have the drive and bucks to go all the way…with training, high end gear and enough time to allow full development of stories. Other papers experiment with video…trying it on, if you will. They may post a few simple videos shot by an enthusiastic staffer and see what the response is. If their community embraces it, they are ready to get move involved. If not, it may continue as a minor part of their daily mix. But everyone has a stake in what happens on the Internet – you can stand back and slowly die or you can make bold moves (at either end of the scale) and cross you fingers and hope for the best. Whoever takes the high ground wins. The only uncertainty is – what is the high ground. What magic formula will win. I would guess not the TV model…and I think it may take several years before the obvious model or models will become apparent. Until then – the best bet is to experiment and watch your own audience. Every community is different and will respond to different approaches. Flexibility is the answer.

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