Teaching Examples

Meeting the perceived threat to visual journalism
November 22, 2006, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Many people have already blogged David Leeson’s instant classic at SportsShooter, posted Nov. 16. Well, I just got around to reading it. If you don’t know David Leeson’s name, you ought to — he was one of the early newspaper photojournalists to pick up a video camera. Some excerpts just from the middle of his piece:

Today, legions of us scrape together an extra 20 or 30 images that would have never been selected for publication a decade ago. Then, we string them together to create a (shudder) multimedia package. Here’s some news for you — audio won’t make bad editing any better. …

… let me clarify what I’ve been doing. I’ve been fighting to preserve your vision. I’ve been waging war against a myriad of personal agendas while at the same time questioning my own.

I’ve agonized over my purpose and feel positive that I can declare myself purely motivated by preservation of photojournalism. Still images will remain but video has grown. … Video was a child when most of us first picked up a 35mm. Now, video is all grown up and on its way to becoming a powerful storytelling tool.

The 35mm SLR is slowly being replaced by HDV cameras at places like the Dallas Morning News but the tradition of powerful photojournalism remains through our frame grabs. Why? Because we approach video reporting in the same way we photographed essays. Video isn’t just video anymore, just like your photos stopped being “snaps.”

If you had the skills in video today — there would be a very long list of opportunities before you. To move forward in life requires a measure of risk. There is no greatness outside of risk. The future of the traditional newspaper is looking pretty risky these days but the health of solid visual reporting is getting stronger every day by those of us who value visual journalism and ethical storytelling above and beyond a 35mm.

We were lucky enough to have Leeson on a photojournalism panel at the University of Florida in 2004. The Webcast was archived; you can hear Leeson discuss his use of video in Iraq.

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I preach a lot about newspapers doing more video. I think there is a great opportunity in video. There are things that can be done with video that are impossible with text or still photos. I sincerely and wholeheartedly believe we can grow audience with video in a why that mere words or pictures can’t.

That said, I love a good still photograph. There are some stories that can only be told with outstanding photography.

I’ve been critical of overuse of audio slideshows, but once in a while, a great photo package, great audio and the right story come together to create something stunning.

I can’t see still photography, photojournalism ever disappearing.

In fact, I think that for high-end video, you need a videographer, not a reporter shooting video or even a photographer shooting video. And the companion thought to that is we will always need good photojournalists, no matter how many reporters carry cameras or how many videographers we have. Still photos are just too important to story telling and journalism to replace photojournalists with videographers.

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