Teaching Examples

Examples of VJ work shown; crowd approves
April 18, 2007, 4:32 am
Filed under: future, journalism, television, video

Steve Safran reports on a heated panel discussion at NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters show:

The topic of this panel was “The New VJs: One-Man Bands or the Future of Newsgathering?” Moderator Chip Mahaney asked whether there is a difference between VJs and what we used to call “One-man-bands.” Rosenblum said absolutely yes, there is.

“A one-man band is that it’s a cheap way to try and imitate what the better stations in the market do,” said Rosenblum. “They drag around the giant cameras, the mic flags, the tripods and the wires. The results are terrible We wipe all that stuff out. We change the grammar – the way the thing looks. It’s the difference between the giant early still cameras and the small Leicas that came along. VJs don’t imiate what the giant cameras do — you’d be nuts to do that. It changes the approach to gathering.”

I love learning about what’s changing in the TV news biz. After watching the same 30 seconds of fat police officers running on the Virginia Tech campus played about 10,000 times — looped even — on every U.S. news program, I’m really surprised that there’s anyone willing to defend old-school TV news video. And those reporters sitting across from the interview subject, nodding and trying so hard to look interested (“This is my expression of deep attention. Really”) — they are so fake, I just laugh out loud when I see them.

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12 Comments so far
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I hadn’t even thought about the fake cutaways. I wish I had – it would have been good to include in the column. Damn you Mindy! Where are you when I needed you?


Comment by Steve

Just trailing on behind, leaving footnotes … (smile).

Comment by Mindy McAdams

I would never do a fake cutaway, but I have to admit that I may sometimes look stupid doing interviews because I’ve learned it’s necessary to talk with my face and body language.

You can’t give your interviewee any verbal affirmations (“yeah” “Oh?” “Nuh-uh!”) since it will screw up your audio track. But that person still needs to know that you’re listening and you understand. You can keep them talking better if you just give affirmations with body language and facial expressions.

Comment by Angela Grant

Yeah, but I always like it better when the reporter is not on camera at all. I’m not interested in the reporter — I’m interested in the subject!

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Cutaways began as a way to avoid “jump cuts,” when you used two segments of an interview that were so alike the sujbect seemed to jump when they were edited back to back.
Language of newsvideo
Two shot – establishes the setting of the interview/also proves the reporter was there
Cutaway – used to soften impact of jump cuts
Unfortunately the cutaway, along with the standup and eventually the live shot made the reporter bigger than life…sometimes bigger than the story itself.
Hopefully the VJ will change this so that news stories focus on the voices of the sujbects/interviews with the only other “voice” that of the narrator (VJ).

Comment by Cyndy Green

Thanks, Cyndy — I never before pondered “prove you were there.” Good point.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

Hi Mindy!
…hope you don’t mind me using your first name but I feel I know you… well not really but I’ve been RSS:ing your blog for a while… and I love your stuff. Have learned so much.

I left Scandinavia to work for a small production company in NYC and I have been waiting for you to mention http://www.hometownbaghdad.com and http://www.chattheplanet.com but I can wait no longer. Please check out the sites. Would love to hear your thoughts and comments to it.

Comment by Boutani

You can’t really use the fat cops running as an example of old school TV — that’s certainly nothing VJs (or one-man bands — I still question whether there’s really a difference, having done both myself) would have done any better. Sadly, the best TV work is rarely done in these kind of situations.

I think the shooting is a case where a little video goes a long way, and other opportunities we have one the Web save us from being stuck in TV mode, where you have no choice but to loop a limited amount of video to cover all the air time you take up trying to get the facts across.

While I would NEVER set myself up to defend all of television news, and all reporter/photographer teams, I think we have to be careful not to lump all the bad stuff with all the terrific stuff. The biggest problem with TV news is there’s too little of the good stuff out there, not that great storytelling can’t be done on television.

If you take a look at stories like those that came out of the NPPA TV News contest this year, you’ll see a lot of great work that any photographer, VJ or whatever you want to call them would be proud to have done.

Comment by Regina

Mindy, et. al.,

Firstly, I really enjoy reading this blog. I’ve made it part of my “daily walk”.

Here’s a good example of solo journalism on the fly. A student at Virginia Tech has the presence of mind to shoot some video with his cell phone as he’s watching his fellow students panic around him. He then posts the video up on CNN’s iReport. CNN immediately sees what it has and contacts the kid with a deal for exclusive rights. Within moments the kid’s crappy cell phone video is up on the CNN site and gets a record 1.8 million downloads for a single day. The guys here in the Baghdad bureau tell me that he probably got $30K for the video, but should have negotiated a per download rate instead of a flat fee. Brilliant!!


Comment by Eric

Dang it — think first, THEN post is how it’s supposed to go. Now that I’ve actually thought about it, let me try this again:

I want to believe in VJs, I really do. And I do, in some situations. But I had the unique opportunity last month to be part of the judging of both the NPPA TV and Web contests, and it was a fascinating experience.

The TV contest had a VJ category this year, and while there was some perfectly respectable work done, all but maybe one story entered did not measure up to the pure storytelling and great photography done in the other categories.

On the Web side, the videos entered there (again, with maybe one or two exceptions) weren’t even close to the quality of what was produced on the TV side. I think the people doing video at newspapers will continue to improve, but most are years away from beating the best of television.

I think the VJ concept works fine at Web sites, largely because Web sites are not dependent on video as the sole means of telling a story, and we can choose to use video for the personal, intimate stories that video does best.

Television stations are in a different boat, and suggesting that VJs work best for TV stories across the board is probably naive, or shortsighted. At best, it’ll give viewers a lot of nice features. At worst, a whole lotta facts are going to get lost along the way…

Comment by Regina

Good thread.

If you want to see the examples from the RTNDA panel, go to digitalcorrespondent.com. I did the spelling bee piece on a day turn and I’m very proud of it. Constructive discussion is always appreciated.

Most of the stations are employing a hybrid model of VJs and two-person crews. Why must the loudest people in some of these VJ posts always boil it down to a black or white choice?

As a VJ, I get a little tired of everyone assuming that “a whole lotta facts are going to get lost along the way.” I don’t assume the people that say this can’t do their job, why do they assume I can’t do mine. And please don’t patronize me by calling my work “nice features.”

When the city council was debating new Bus lanes, I timed the ride with commuters while the traditional crews went to City Hall. Leaving out the officials doesn’t make it a feature; it makes it interesting. Audiences are leaving TV so let’s give them something to watch.

And yes, a two person crew could do the same bus story but they need the time.

At my station, reporter/photog crews do two stories per day. I do one. Yes I have to edit it but I’m not rushing to get the other package done. I might argue I have more time to get the facts right. Servicing too many shows with meaningless live shots might be more harmful to Journalism than VJs are.

I’m also a little tired of everyone using the NPPA contest as proof that VJs don’t work. I can name the stations with VJs on two hands (although it’s growing) but yet everyone wants to measure that work against the regular categories that are open to every photog in the country. Let’s be fair.

Cyndy, thanks for bringing up the “proof you were there” concept. I got my ND to fund a trip to Vegas to cover CES for my tech beat. One person, no live truck, fed back to station over Internet for air on TV. He didn’t have the budget for a two-person crew. I made sure to include look live intro/tags to prove local involvement. Without it, we could have taken it off the network feed.

Sorry if I sound a little agitated. All the criticism gets a little tiring after awhile.

Thanks for the posts. I’m glad to hear everyone working through these concepts.

Comment by Kyle

Hi, Boutani. Thanks for turning me on to Hometown Baghdad! I loved those videos! But I really can’t find much info about chattheplanet. Their site has almost nothing on it (but again, I liked the videos).

I’ll be watching more of Hometown Baghdad. Maybe I’ll put what I think about it in a blog post one day.

Thanks again!

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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