More on Canton Repository…

Rather than hacking and cutting this response from Veronica VanDress, assistant city editor of the Canton Repository, I’m just running it as is. According to Executive Editor Jeff Gauger, she and chief photographer Stan Myers are the two driving the video movement at the paper. Keep in mind this is a Gatehouse Media paper, working under Howard Owens’ vision of affordable cameras…get the gear out and in the hands of as many staff members as possible and get that video online. Here’s Veronica’s response to my request for information on what went into getting four videos onto the newspaper’s website today.

We planned ahead for a video on a heroes quilt that first-graders from a local school were making for a student’s dad who is serving in Iraq. To keep it simple, we told the reporter before he went out to interview the teacher about what they were doing and why and shoot about 90 seconds of the students working on the project. Teachers are great at talking non-stop with few “ahs” and “ums,” but first-graders are a little harder to work with. We decided ahead that we didn’t have time to mess with that. Back at The Rep, we edited the video to dub the teacher’s interview over the footage of the students. Worked great even though the reporter had no training on the camera because we gave specific instructions ahead on what he should shoot. It took roughly 35 minutes using Windows Movie Maker to edit. The video was posted on our Web site at the same time the print story was posted.

A crash around noon during which a toddler was thrown from a car window was unexpected breaking news Tuesday. The chief photographer grabbed a point and shoot and captured the scene. He filmed while the reporter was interviewing a safety official. This video we wanted to get on right away because it was soon dated. The official didn’t know answers to some of the questions. The photographer had put a video together then showed it to a line editor for approval. We wasted some time there because changes needed to be made in the video. We should have had the editor looking at the raw footage when it came in and giving editing instructions, just as we coach our print stories before they’re written. Essentially, we had to do the editing again, which took about 20 minutes the second time using iMovie. We posted that afternoon, plus we had a print story online with photos.

Another reporter took extra photos with a P&S on a gaming story. We were able to process and use her photos. But, we had to punt on video of a security issue at the county office building. New measures were put into effect that caused a line to form outside the building. A reporter happened to be there on another story and had a point and shoot with him. He was itching to shoot it but we had to weigh our print needs and were already processing two video elements, so we let that one go. As we get more folks trained on editing and we get faster at it, we should be able to handle more multimedia content and more efficiently.

We learned:
• It pays to plan ahead.
• Coach with editor on the front end of video production.
• Let reporters practice with the equipment on the little things so they’re comfortable when it counts.

And here are three of the videos:

First – Player of the Week

How to make a martini eyeball

Kids make quilt

All of these videos are simple – an interview with cover shots. It seems that two were one “day of” – quilt and accident. Player of the Week and the Eyeball story were most likely pre-produced and posted that day. The most produced video is the Player of the Week, which is in a format the staff developed and uses each week. Foods writer Saimi Rote Bergmann is a quick study…this is not her first food video. She obviously thinks ahead, prepares her props, and has good repore with the camera. Good catch on the accident – Stan mentioned earlier this week that he passed an accident on the way home and regretted not having a video camera with him. This time he thought fast and grabbed on.

The extra time to plan, shoot, write, and edit did present some difficulties. I see that the newspaper workflow is kept as part of the process. It was different in broadcasting…a photographer might be asked to produce a video essay or a news story, which was checked and nearly always rubber-stamped. This might be because of the expertise of the staff I worked on (let’s just call them all veterans and not get into age). The photo staff knew their stuff, often better than many of the new reporters. As time progresses and both the field and in-house Repository staffs get more comfortable with video, re-edits will become less frequent. Side note: broadcast news departments often toss stories before rolling on them or even after they are shot because of time constraints and other reasons. It’s a part of the process – trying to second guess what will work, what won’t, and what you can do.

Veronica’s final lessons – planning ahead, especially when edting, and allowing reporters time to get comfortable with gear are reasonable from her stance as an assignment editor. Planning and discussing with the field crew (be it reporter or photographer) allows them to understand the angle the desk is looking for so they can do their job better. Having a coach to assist with editing gives support to folks who are learning or a staff that is trying to learn a new process. And gear – my gosh, being comfortable with gear is esssential. You can’t shoot a story if you’re wondering how to turn on the camera, which button to push to shoot, and all of the other technical and nontechnical details of gathering visuals and interviews. Back to Jeff Gauger – he says he understands that not everything will go perfectly initially. That is a good thing for the staff to hear – from an understanding boss who understands their concerns. These are good people, on both sides of the desk. I wish them luck on this adventure.


3 thoughts on “More on Canton Repository…

  1. Pingback: media blog » Blog Archive » Looking at Canton’s video training

  2. Pingback: Teaching Online Journalism » Teaching video to reporters

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