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.