Saturday, April 28, 2007

What are personal sites for

When I worked as a daily journalist and producer I often found there was nothing more frustrating than to present an idea and for it to be rejected. There were a myriad reasons; quite often that idea in hind sight was not editorially suitable, though having said that I reckon I had more hits than missess.

In programme commissioning, it's like pulling the teeth of a big white, ALIVE! I once remember the ebullient former Head of BBC 3 Stuart Murphy agreeing to a meeting after we exchanged emails at length. We had one of those marveous meetings - going on 2 hours. So what happened afterwards? Er nothing. I'd been passed down to managers who had no vested interest.

You soon learn commissioners have their own set ideas - of course they've got to - and you're either a name to help them or you're an irritant. And this came after working/freelancing for the likes of Newsnight, Channel 4 News, ABC News, BBC World Service... and so on. Mind you having worked for those organisations doesn't guarantee I know what I'm talking about.

But if like me you had a fair few ideas swilling around in your cranium what were you to do?

One evening I started toying around with whether I could get some of the programmes I'd made independently out on the net. Why not, what else was I going to do with them otherwise. was my outlet. I wanted to combine several elements: videojournalism, a fresh look at online design; Flash movies, audio files, video hyperlinking files and possible if I could my newphew's pet dog Scotch.

Some people got it and were deeply encouraging asking questions that I always tried to reply. Others hurled abuse - woops, what have I done.

I can't navigate your site
It's crap what 's it about
It's somethig the cat threw up
your files are too big

There's really not much you can do here, an I gently tried to bring to the attention of those that this wasn't a publicly funded site and that with some humility you do have a choice. The site was built around ideas I had, perhaps some of them stubborn. But yes I understood what some people were saying, particularly if they'd been reccommended to the site and thought... what the heck is this? It breaks all the conventions.

I guess if we deign to produce anything new rather than derivative of something else you're heading for some public humiliation. Viewmagazine isn't perfect.. ohh noo! But it's still my attempt to offload issues I have come into contact with.

And that to many students of journalism is the only bit of advice I can pass on. The medium and profession is changing. More and more managers are likely to look for someone with net skills. In ten years time heavens knows what journalism will look like, but I am certain, there will be a stronger component than now online.

Publish and be damned. Let tose ideas go. Learn CSS. Learn Final Cut. Learn Flash. Learn After Effects. Learn Photoshp. Learn how to use the camera as a journalist and the psychology of how we consume all this.

And yes you'll be criticised. In some ways that's a good thing. Once in a while a genuine commentator will add to site, by making a salient point. But in many ways you'll control your own media. We are about five years or less away from broadcasting taking the biggest batering.

It's questionable whether it may even survive in its present state. Hopefuly you won't have that to worry about. You'll already be a jack of all trades and master of many. That much I'm going to be telling delegates gathering at Bilbao - where 400 odd TV stations meet as part of CIRCOM.

See you there.

Monday, April 23, 2007

beware the ptc glitch

woops BBC TV's 10 Oclock news featured a double take Evan Davies, Econs editor delivering a piece to camera... stopping and doing a retake. Ouch! someone forgot to edit that out. The look on the newsreader Hugh Edwards after! Me thinks the editor or producer might have to explain a few things to the programme editor.

We know what it's like.. and at some point we've all been on the end of such er, howlers, particularly on news shows with fast turn arounds working right up to the wire. ;-)

Friday, April 20, 2007


I got talking to a UK national newspaper. We've been talking for a couple of months and met in Kensngton for a coffee etc. I was a fruitfull meeting and I'm hoping to see if I can spot emerging talent in their selection process.

One of the execs said something that on reflection I noticed I get asked time and tme again. How do you do this?
Sometimes it's translated as why I do it? This isn't self aggrandisement. Oh no..

I was always a big fan of the Sunday Times Business section profiling people who had a built a business because you could always come away inspired. There was always a nugget. And so what I'm about to say, I see in the same vein.

How do I do this?
Because often I see the end story quite quickly from the strands of pieces in front of me. Otherwise I tend to think what would make the story stronger and go hunting for it. A friend, an award wining composer once told me, when she is composing, she sees images. I laughed: when I shoot I see music.

Part of this is practice. It's the second nature of anticipating the flight of the ball, from the torque of the racket and body shape of your oponent. It's the old mantra. What's often at the end of a ball bouncing into the road.. a seven year old streaming behind.

Instinct plays a huge part, which in itself is often habits now maquerading as impulsive thoughts. If I'm interviewing and I get short answers and a restlessness from the interviewee, I know to cut straight to the question I need to know, even if it's quite blunt.

We tested this in Norway, for a four minute interview, it took a further ten minutes for its to be edited and ready, and with that I'd also managed to shoot further drop-in shots.

This thing we do.. TV, Video, the Media.. It's not rocket science, but in defence of some throwing the baby out with the bath water, you still need old hands, wise heads around to make decisions swiftly and firmly.

So.. why do I do this.. because I can. This is my allotment, my garden shed, where I experiment growing new produce.. There is no substitute than to get your hands dirty after some training. And then break the rule book. Nothing is sacred.

Why do I do this... because no one, no one, as we may all rather attest is entitled to anything and the only way we get there is by wanting it. Want it

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Guns and assailants

Dirk Coetzee wss part of South Africa's apartheid government's death-squads. He commited countless atrocities, the most prublicised was murdering Griffiths Mxenge, the human rights lawyer for ANC personnel.

"We stabbed him 35 times and then burnt his body ... while that was happening we were having a brai ( barbeque) nearby... " Coetzee would later tell me.

I was at the Holiday Inn in down town Joburg with friends eating when a senior South African broadcast manager spotted him. "I want to talk to him. I have alway wanted to talk to him", I said. Whilst I was a freelance correspondent based in South Africa 93-94 the opportunity never arose. Now here I was some years on (98) and he was in talking distance.

It sounds so long ago, but seems like yesterday

"Why don't you go and ask him?" was her reply.

I approached hands in the air talking courteously but loudly so he could make out my English accent. At his table, four friends all packing and his son stared up.

Then he agreed. A journalist who had never held a dvcam in his life was given the camera and a few instructions and then we started to film. I'll post the interview on

What are some of the things his done?
Why did he do what he did?
Did he not feel any remorse?
Is he a free man? ( Coetzee got amnesty for talking to the Truth and Reconcilaition Commission) But is he a free man?

Then after 30 minutes we wrapped up, chatted off camera for a while and the star formation his son and colleagues had formed around us eliminiating any blind spots from a potential assailant dissipated.

What did I get from the interview? The unique opportunity to hear a calm rationale of why he killed and what he felt. He talked about being a reformed person, a Christian. I felt I could have asked him anything and he would not have shirked from it. It's one interview I wil never forget. You can see the unedited version soon.

Footnote: this is one of those incidents that shows videojournalism strengths. I had a camera, sa an opportunity for a story and within minutes had a remarkable film, and because it was on dv, its physical integrity has held well.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reporting mass events

The Virginia multiple murders will fill anyone with sorrow. As new reports more and more details, I have found myself rooted to TV screens, radio bulletins and surfing the net. Such scavenging for information has become the norm. My appointment with TV for its schedulled news is unwavering at these times.

Here also at these times, I find myself screaming at the crassness of reportage defaulting to something almost bordering on postering. It's perhaps not that blatant. May be I need examining.

During the UK's 7/7 I used my blackberry as a note pad incessantly typing in the indiscretions of reporters saying things they were not in a position to say e.g. ..the ambulance and fire services got to the scene very quickly... rather than, the ambulance and fire services say they got to the scene very quickly. The first rule of journalism; attribution. Then there's the reporters being emotive with language when a cool restrained approach would facilitate greater understanding.

I feel so profound about this. So while there are fingers being pointed at Virginia's authorties for something akin to a lack of professionalism - clearing the campus - I believe media outlets we so trust should take a closer look at themeselves to evaluate language and approach in such delicate and tragic circumstances. After all these are real people, ordinary people, people who the previous day were a family, but are now grieving.

The job of reporting tragedy is a huge responsibility. It bears resemblances of war. Don't embellish the copy, cut the adjectives. Let the story tell itself with facts and figures. That much I have held to from a former BBC Correspondent, the late John Harrison whom I so admired. Reporting tragedy is one of those pit-in-the-stomach experience I had while a full-on reporter. Asking people how they felt in order for them to open up is a well known technique, but it is equally deeply intrusive. What do you do?

Our language and use of specific words is one of my greatest beefs. In reports submitted by students, if anything comes close to a cliche, a tired expression wheeled out to impress, inadvertantly or not, it finds my red pen.

It's crass, but today across the media I watched. The old adage that reporters report to compete with one another came back.
Words which sounded more like iambic phrases were sprinkled throughout reports... "an evil has visited this community..."
"Their dreams of a future has become their worst nightmares"..

Why do we do this? I can think of a master of reportage who eschewed the aforementioned and should be studied as we study great books of learning: Charles Wheeler -a BBC Correspondet of phenomenal ability to make the complex appear conversational. Watch him talk about the Watts riots all those many years ago.

We, they, reporters must surely do better. Online journalism removes any personality to the journalism. This is not the solution, but online at least offers an opportunity to bury for news without being pre-occupied with the obstacles I mention.

Most networks spend a lot of money rehearsing the big stories - the death of the Queen, a Prime Minister etc. But it appears there may well be a need to study the way one reports such tragic events.

A community will be besieged for a couple of days, people grieving will say things, and then a week later they're gone and people are left to pick up their lives... pick up their lives ( yuk)... then a week later people are left to make some sense of what's happened.

As South Africa celebrated its first all-race election, I stood in a township taking in this massive indelible event. I had just posted to a unit in the BBC World Service, but felt a tinge of anger. Days, maybe weeks later, back in the surrounding areas of Melville the media was decamping. News had reached of murder in Rwanda. South Africa had seen of any blow-up and was deemed no longer news worthy.

There is no rule book that says bad news only sells, otherwise inspiring positive stories would not have a place. It is in the way we package, adhere to principles perhaps are deigned still worthy. In a mature 21st century, of further deconstruction of media, we may appraoch a turning point when we find empathetic ways of sharing knowledge, of reporting, or making the narrative easier to digest. I do look forward to that point.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Talking bout a revolution

Too much to say in too little time.

Very buoyed by the VJ gathering and range of speakers. Will write a report for viewmag and pass on to a few of the publications I write for. Firstly thanks to everyone for being so hospitable, to Tord for inviting me, and the Institute etc... Acceptance Speech done.

Not quite, and to the many attendants who dragged themselves out of bed on Sunday after a night of hedonism and much drinking to take in some VJ tips at the Master class.

I hope you found it interesting; it was like cramming four days into one hour, so it might have come across as dense etc. I have got the elements for a VJ package so I'll try and post that soon..

Back to marking and other things, but some deeply interesting things to emerge from the gathering.. if you go to the front page of viewmagazine, you'll see a clip of a wonderful robo_VJ contraption and a crane-like device to hold your camera . Sublime..

Gunnar, Tord thanks for the info from the blog. Here's Gunner's take

Saturday, April 14, 2007

VJ in Norway

I thought I'd provide a running account - as much as I can - for the videojournalism event in Fredrikstad at the Institute of Journalism

Just seen a presentation from one of the country's most experienced VJs, Magnus whose work is simply superb. Very artistic and creative. He's been a VJ for about seven years and I loved what I saw. Looking forward to us collaborating on something.

Magnus' touch combines a hand held whip pan element with a creative narrative and even though it was in Norwegian was visually strong to easily follow the narrative.

...just looked up from my screen to watch a heart-touching reuniuon between father and son in a story by one of Norway's foremost award winning investigative journalists. I'll get his name in a bit.

One thing that is evident is that videojournalism has a strong relationship with broadcasters e.g. NRK - which is Norway's equivalent of the BBC. And contrary to what attendants have been saying the movement appears robust.

It could be down to the gathering ie a concentration of people in one place, but I'm not completely buying that VJ hasn't got deep routes.

I can't for instance name any VJ that reports nationally for a news-type programme and makes their own long format item. Alistair Leathhead (?? - must check name) a correspondent for BBC files VJ reports from frotlines et al, but that seems like the total of it.

Tim who's speaking later will likely expand on the BBC's interest in Vjism and the 800 plus vjs it has amassed.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Are newspaper journalists the only ones who can do video journalism?

Interesting post from Anon. Thanks

I see you write about video journalism where newspaper journalists are VJs. What about writing journalists for internet publications, or former tv journalists? There are a lot of VJs with background from broadcasting..We've worked in team with a photographer before, and now work alone. Do you mean that videojournalism is primary for former newspaper journalists?

Nooooooo on the contrary videojournalism isn't exclusive to any one group at all. And I's so aware of the many talented individuals in the industry

I'm in the midst of training an estate /Housing project (US parlance) to be videojournalists
I have trained African TV Journalists ( South Africa and Ghana) where they used it to produce their first co-production and possibly a first State-to-state coproduction on the contient, though I shouldn't be so presumptious

My TV Masters students gain an insight into videojournalism
I have trained photographers whom I know make great vjs as they already possess that 3rd eye and Videojournalism is photojournalism with a movie camera anyway.
And yes I have trained TV broadcasters - who seem always to find the process incredibly liberating. I started off in radio before going into TV and trained myself to be a VJ back in 1994.... so why newspapers?

Perhaps it presents the most interesting challenge, perhaps as my original trainer told me:" If you're a TV person, you're probably going to have to wrestle with a few beasts as VJ undoes the structure so trechantly acquired in TV production". But yes many have bought into it, whilst many also remain unconvinced. Video journalism isn't just DVCams and shoot/edit on a laptop, it's a fresher language , in many ways it subverts the ws/ms/cu. In many ways its become a child of the Net age
Perhaps also I am yet to get into an ecosystem of TV, Net companies and photographers where I can share/exchange thoughts. I'm in Norway next week where their industry has embraced Vjism (TV,photojo,Net creatives etc)

An aspect of videojournalism I teach incorporates web promo making so I have employed it working in the Ad industry as a creative director

As a language videojournalism - all of its ten years in the UK and a few more added on in the US - is still in nascent form, and so is going through huge transformations, much in the same way that every other creative industry has been given a shake e.g. film -dogme; music-multi-skillers; publishing- desk top; literature -gonzo

Skype me on daviddunkleygyimah and lets have a chat

p.s I'm seeing one of the BBC's flagship programme editors about videojournalism in a few weeks, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Al Jazeera - best fun with your clothes on

So I met up with a mate at Al Jazeera. Frankly I could meet up with a fair few mates at Al Jazeera as the whole of the news broadcast industry is there: former BBC, ITN, CNN producers and correspondents, so I'm bound to know someone.

Morgan, is the creative director of AJ. We've done a fair bit of curries et al with Riz Khan, another friend.

I passed around their knightsbridge office, joined by Patrick - a veteran BBC/ Adland producer for a whizz round the park. You know chew the fat, no particular agenda.

Morgan's great. I remember when I showed him viewmagazine about two years ago and he in turn passed it onto a designer who would use it to mould AJs web site, so he tipped his hat.

What followed was grown men talking passionately about the changing face of the media, and how was functioning, or could function as a news driven site.

The overiding question perhaps could have been, why is not making money? Or could it? I read about Rocketboom's producer lamenting the same thing, and mirror his comments that viewmag leverages my public standing, enabling me to talk etc at conferences and produce for others.

Question: If you're an independent site owner making a clear turnover please contact me to tell me how. Presumably yes advertising, but are you selling content from your site?

So we tood and froed on that. User generated content is a great vehicle for attracting eyeballs, that in turn become your content and bring in the geen backs.

But viewmagazine as Morgan pointed out doesn't do UGC. Why not? I guess it's because I'm not in possession of a behemoth server and more to the point, I think there are good UGC sites that I'd be ill to want to take on.

That's not to say I underestimate viewmagazine, it's just that I believe I know where my stengths are.

Now as we kicked around a few more themes, I admitted yes, can be at times "a bit out there", but in truth that's the left sidedness of For me it's the site for the schoolboy and girl to gaze out of the class room window and wonder why planes stay in the air. Or to be more precise why the media works in the way it does.

With 20 years behind me in the media across tv, radio, advertising, and digital media, you begin to get some idea and then you're left with a choice. Run with it or see if you can find new angles to explore and push the conversation either forwards or sideways.

Viewmagazine's principle areas are video journalism, video hyperlinking, the outernet and grey areas of new reportage and new forms of doc making.

And that means for some people the conversation stops now. What the **** is the Outernet? For others it's a chance to engage and share their thoughts.

TV by its very convention is fixed in a paradigm that entertains very little 'extremes'. It's bound by a fixed narrative.

Video journalism purports to offer something new. And it does. Showing Morgan some of the work made by newspaper journalists may not impress TV bods, but the leap is that these are newspaper journalists now shooting video.

In a break from TV, they may have upped the game in picture composition, but yes to make some sense on their sites they will follow, but not exclusively, the model template of TV.

Now here's where the fun begins. Video journalism end game is a divorce from the construct. At its best, anything goes. It is auterism. It is mini film making, dogme , bauhaus, disruption...

And those are some of the areas I find exciting that I write about. The disruption but comprehension of the narrative, that has bound us for the best part of a century with reference to film etc.

At a point in time, which Patrick ( yep I'm still in the board room at Al Jazeera) and I waxed on, might we approach a new year zero? User generated content is as raw as you get news footage, but can we effectively learn coherent randomness, no randomness period; Charlie Parker, Miles Davis in news. Mmmmm.

It seems absurbed, but in the new language of digital media, hurtling light years away from news corp, will we emerge with what is in essence "back to basics"? Strip all the promos, Gustav Holst's intros, garish graphics, to simply tell a story with mood and tempo

I remember seeing Homicide for the first time in the 90s and being in awe. It was rough, ready, torn, a departure from the norm. And it was designed to look like something shot by your nextdoor neighbours toddler, but it worked. Lowbrow, high art.

The question is will news go that way? Could a youtube for news produced in a dscordant, "Homicide - the US series" fashion become a new movement?

In the next couple of weeks, I'll be producing pieces that further open up this debate. In-your-face news productions, with the warts n' all. Basically unsanitised, the remnants of zoo-radio, fades and dissolves replicating the human eye...

And so 5.30 dawns and it's time to leave, but the interaction has become a slow burning beacon, not to reign back on some of the esoteric aspects of viewmagazine, but to explore further those things that allow us ask the question, for which so far we have very little answers answers.

what blogs are for?

I only write this because of the article I'm about to post in If anything my blog is an incoherent pastiche of thoughts - a writers draft of what i inted to buid, xpand upon in more constructive articles.

They're havens for impassioned idea dumps and that's what I'm about to do in the next blog.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Apple sent me a 15 inch notebook Huzzzah!

The article for their site about the work I'm doing here grabbed 18,000 sessions in the two weeks of its release. I think they were pleased with the traffic.

Meanwhile the podcasts which I've gradually been teasing from's ste, as well as producing new ones has picked up wide interest. It's highly likely that if I ever wanted to work for The top British news programmes, despite starting my career with Newsnight as a researcher, I'd fail miserably in convincing the editors.

So it tickled me somewhat to see that listerners' annotation compiled by user tracking behaviour read:

"Listerners [to this podcast] aso subscribe to The Today Programme, From Our Own Correspondent, and Newsnight." Herein is the power of users deciding what works etc.

Hail the Net.

Master cohorts

University of Westminster Masters students coming to the end of the core skills in the Net and Video reportage.

It's a one year intensive course and asks a lot from students. Definately not for the meek. Looking forward to assessing their work and seeing how it sits with national work from other media universities in my role as one of the quality assessor for the Broadcast Journanalism Training Council.

The BJTC is the body that links industry and media universities and its kite mark is much sought after by tertiary education establishments and broadcasters hiring media students.

Some of the skills on offer from the prog this year included:

* Technical writing for the web with attributable good sources
* Using google rich-link phrases to attracted rankings
* Using matrix stats and user behaviour to plan PR and pitch articles.
* Podcasts, compression and Video User Behaviour for the podcast producers
* Design aesthetic and balance

All of which are assets much prized by the business and media world. Meanwhile if you'd like to see the students online efforts here you go

What is the Outernet?

The outernet, video hyperlinking, and Mi2videojournalism - The video is now up - key note speech in Norway
here .

It's in 2 parts. Not many people know what the outernet is. You've got to see it to understand it

letter from Norway

Hi again David

I was just reading your thoughts from the weekend at SKUP. You don't only use your camera as a pen. You know how to write well on the keyboard too. I really enjoyed your story - and your encounter with Maria:-)

I thought your presentation at SKUP was very good, and I hope you had a good time!

I am alone in a hotel room in Bergen in between two lectures. Not very funny to see the insides of hotel rooms, as I recall we talked about during dinner Friday evening...

Maybe we'll meet when you come to Norway next time for the VJ-conference. Make sure Tord show you the "old city" in Fredrikstad, where the conference is.

Best regards


Hello David

Just read your piece on Skup. Very nice - escpeially since Ståle and I helped Trond doing the reseach on police chief . Thanks for the pat on the back :-)



Thank you everyone for making my stay in Norway so warm. I'm back in Norway over a weekend in a couple of weeks looking at Vjism.

If you'd like to see the piece I wrote with the accompanying video presentation of the outernet here it is