Teaching Examples

Online video arguments (redux)
March 10, 2007, 11:55 pm
Filed under: awards, newspapers, online, video

We just can’t stop talking about Web video, can we? Paul Bradshaw has categorized four types of online video journalism, which add up to a very useful tool set for thinking about what the heck it is we’re doing online with video.

Separately, Andy Dickinson observed:

that the debate can’t keep its boundaries in place. One minute we are talking about the practical process — how we frame shots etc — and the next we are talking revenue models. The discussion drags everyone in to areas they are at best uncomfortable with and at worst clueless about….

Newspaper people talk about telling stories, but the video people tell you it’s different in TV. The TV people talk about quality as clean sound, good pictures, but the newspaper people talk about quality as good stories. Oh, but wait, say the TV people, we do good quality stories too! And before you know it quality is a battle line not a definition. Suddenly one media does one thing better than any other and the debate is about defending yourself against the medium specific zeleots rather than engaging with in debate with the majority.

Well! Isn’t this exciting?

Al Tompkins at Poynter started a round-robin of blog commentary when he commented on the NPPA – BOP video awards, posted earlier this week.

I liked Chuck Fadely’s summary:

There is plenty of room on our websites for both narrative storytelling video and for ten-second clips that show what something looks like. The problem comes when we turn what should have been a ten-second clip into a two-minute story. We need to develop an institutional knowledge of what stories make good video. Contests can point us toward that goal.

Nicely said, Chuck.

Update: Chuck also posted LINKS to some GOOD newspaper video so people can check it out.

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5 Comments so far
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Contests can point us toward that goal.

Except I’m not so sure I agree with that. Contests *can* point us toward that goal, but they too frequently become the goal, or they establish ever-shifting goal-posts. viewers point us toward that goal more than the considered opinion of a judge wading through a pile of entries in a contest (disclosure: I have a stack of contest entries on my table right now).

The stories that get passed around, that become viral, are the stories that point us toward good storytelling, more than any amount of pulitzers or NPPAs or Eppys or SNDies – regardless of an audible pop here or an unwise pan there.

All those things are nice, but this entire discussion points out that we (as an industry) spend far too much time focused on contests when the true judges are the viewers/readers/surfers.

But that’s just my humble opinion.

Comment by Murley

That’s a good point, Bryan. And it also reminds me of the first thing one of my students said last week when I showed him a contest page online — “Does it cost money?”

Lots of great stuff is never entered in any contest. Not everyone has the money to enter these things.

NPPA – BOP is an exception in that regard.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

I posted my perspective as a judge on the Newspaper Video list, but since it’s limited to those who work in newspaper video, I’ll post it here as well:

Hey, all – just got back from the NPPA judging and will try to weigh in on a few things from my perspective.

First of all, a few notes: there were 87 total entries to the Web video categories, and well over half of them came from just two news organizations – less than 40 entries from other places. It was frustrating to judge knowing there was good work out there that was not entered (not to name names, but where was Roanoke? Appleton? Miami? San Jose?). We couldn’t judge what wasn’t entered.

I was very pleased at how thoughtful all the judges were about what it meant to be publishing video stories on the Web. There was never a sense that it needed to be more like television. In fact, if you read all the comments, along with the ones in Al’s Morning Meeting note, you’ll find that the judges were very excited about the possibilities of Web video.

Keep in mind that I am a newspaper video photographer, and I was an equal participant in judging the TV entries at well. Granted, I came from TV, but have been shooting video at a newspaper Web site for 10 years, so Web video people were represented not just in the online judging, but had an influence on the TV judging as well.

One of the things that we all spent a lot of time talking about was storytelling. Not, “that sound bite was 18 seconds, we would never do that in TV,” but “that sound bite didn’t contain useful information, and didn’t advance the story.” Nat sounds pops referred to gratuitous bringing up the audio levels between audio tracks, when that sound didn’t add to understanding of the story. We heard it all over TV stories as well.

As to why we didn’t choose a winner in every category, it’s simple enough: we’re not there yet. We’re all trying to figure this out, and anyone who says we know what we’re doing is just full of – umm – baloney. There was some good work entered, some mediocre work, and some not-so-great stuff. The judges wanted to reward the good work, and encourage us to get better at what we’re trying to do.

Let’s set the bar high. Let’s continue to experiment, to take risks, to be Big J journalists in a new format. Let’s be proud to put our stuff up against any work that’s out there. I believe people read this list because they want to be good at what they do, not just good enough. Take the time to watch the winning TV entries. There truly is a lot to learn from people who have amazing skills in telling stories using video.

I’m back at Poynter next week to sit in on the still contest multimedia judging there and make suggestions to the NPPA on how to deal with the overlap in categories. If you have thoughts and suggestions, send them my way.


Regina McCombs
Multimedia producer/photographer

Comment by Regina

Blogger comments are stupid about links, and Regina asked me to pass these along:

Read all the (NPPA judges’) comments

Al’s Morning Meeting note

The winning TV entries

Still contest multimedia judging

Comment by Mindy McAdams

I’m totally with Bryan on this one.

Journalism needs less contests, less ego, less artsy epics and more relevant reporting.

Comment by jkl34

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