Analysis: video journalism is the easy option

This was originally published on the Blogger-hosted version of this blog. 

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I find it disappointing that as newspapers rush to embrace the online medium, the one recurring theme is ‘video journalism’. The Telegraph’s move to a new multimedia hub will involve intensive training in video production for print journalists, and the newspaper’s Executive Editor (Pictures) sees the future of the editorial photographer’s trade as being video (a perspective echoed by the Washington Post); The Guardian have recently announced that original video from the group’s production company, Guardian Films, will be edited for use on the web; The Times are sourcing video news from ITN; and Vogue, among many other magazines (including Stuff), are launching their own TV channel. Even The Sun now has a video version of Deirdre’s Photo Casebook.

Now Trinity Mirror is reported to be planning to increase the numbers of video journalists working across its regional titles as it relaunches its websites. Curiously, Trinity’s editorial director is quoted as saying “we’re basing the new website design on interactivity,” and yet video is, if anything, even less interactive than print. You cannot scan-read a video; you cannot skip to the last paragraph, or the curious subheading.

The rush to online is becoming a rush to a form of TV which just happens to be broadcast on the web. And in that rush, newspapers are in danger of not exploiting the real benefits of the web: giving users control; providing extra information and context that wouldn’t fit in a print (or video) version of the story; creating communities between readers, or a forum for them to express their knowledge and opinions; communicating complex concepts in a way that can’t be done with words alone; engaging the reader through innovative formats, or by connecting them directly with interviewees.
It appears that newspaper executives used to a lecturer-audience relationship are choosing the options that challenge that least: video; podcasts – “we talk, you listen”. The most control users have is over where they listen, or watch.

Perhaps the genuine interactivity that the BBC and Guardian have done so well for years represents too much of a paradigm shift for their competitors – a change in thinking about how we tell stories. I only hope that the current changes in print don’t stop at filming the sports editor reading out his latest scoop.


8 thoughts on “Analysis: video journalism is the easy option

  1. ridinthetide

    You raise some interesting points, but i think you’ve forgotten one of the core benefits of video on the net, it knows no boundaries. It is not restricted to the conventional shape and form of tv news and there is so much more to learn, we are only at the beginning of exploring the full potential of online broadcasting. The net can take video journalism to the world, and surfers can experience events and stories not just through words, but through vision and sound… as the saying goes- ‘a picture tells a thousand words!’ I think you are right in that there will always be a place for print, but if we can give people video footage, their understanding and capacity to respond to, and analyse history and events will only be improved. Also, the interactivity of online video doesn’t simply stop with the fact it’s available, but many servers, in particular news services, encourage people to respond to video’s through blogs, email and comments such as this- and is that not achieving your goal for people to engage in more thought and analysis?

    I’m all for change and i think if news oganisation and servers dont keep up wih the demand for new and fresh multimedia content they’ll loose their traffic… and it could just be to that kid next door producing homemade reports from his video phone!

    Basically it’s true that humans have a natural instinct for curisity. Trying out video and seeing how far we can push it is all part of this process. Utimately i think the phase of flash players and video links will pass and get replaced by something more advanced, but letters and words will continue to out live it all, it is one of the most timeless, yet challenging methods of communication.

  2. paulbradshaw Post author

    Thanks for your response. Since I wrote this I have changed my mind about online video – done badly it is still terrible, but papers are picking up and doing some great stuff. Am working on a new post.

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