Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Funny in dark humor way - Charlize Theron and Zach Galifianakis

Who do you think you are?

Every profession lives and breaths by its codes: words, mannerisms and discourses that bind those inside and alienate others.

If you fall into a conversation with academics you're likely within the first few minutes to hear the words: knowledge transfer and experiential learning.

Experiential learning is a particular favourite described in Wiki as the process of making meaning from direct experience.

I need to know it, because it's integral to my research process.

Educationalist David A Kolb theorised a system which was big in the 90s and has stood the test of time and many board room management meetings to emerge as one of those seminal prescriptions of learning.

The categories are listed below, while a second grid shows where you might be in terms of your strengths and weaknesses.

Me, I had a good chuckle: background in chemistry, web manager at my uni, lecturer, artist in residence. Make your mind up!

Source: Based on Nulty and Barrett (1996, 335)

Emergence of the Super Screen - South Bank

At the inception of TV, the wise counsel of film decided they needed something that would differentiate them from the new pretender so they introduced panoramic screens.

That brought on the 16X9 format and in some cases 35mm went 70mm. Some star film makers hated it complaining how they'd filll the space. Others, particularly directors, who shot Westerns took to it well.

Today we are suffused with a cacophony of screen formats outside the cine complex and the pic you see above is that from the South Bank, which is often used to relay shows in the Festival Hall.

It's a great canvas and one I'm hoping to use, but not until I have thought through a project that would best use the dimensions

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How dare you ask the Prime Minister that question !@?

The quake could be felt around the media and far beyond. Andrew Marr, an astute BBC Political commentator cum journalist had asked the question of the British Prime Minister.

If you're American your likely reaction may be "..and yeah! You Brits are so sensitive".

There are some things, many indeed which the Brits curry or import to shore up their own media. Indeed the dawn of the TV News age and the BBC's decision to allow on screen reporters was prompted by the US Networks influencing UK domestic competition.

But this question, about the PM, particularly the condition about his health was a googly, what in Baseball you might call a breaking ball, and in case you're wondering "googly" came before "google".

But that's beside the point, the PM's expression tells he never saw it coming and when it did, the utter disdain is evident.

The question suggested by implication that was he was so severely handicapped that, and the follow up question would have been on its heels, shouldn't he step down as Prime Minister.

This was was a grenade with the pin smothered with chloric acid and its kaboomness and repercussions, not now, but way into the election run could be hugely unsettling.

Asking that Question
You've seen it before, a cunning attorney introduces a stray piece of evidence or pursues a course of questioning knowing full well the other side will object and the judge will overrule. But you can't ignore that the jury now privy to this info will find it hard to "strike off this comment".

And so it was and will be with PM Gordon Brown.

As a former Television Political Producer ironically working under the PM's brother Andrew Brown, I agree with Tim Montgomerie, from Conservative home, who said on BBC's PM, early evening News radio news programme:

"I do worry about this. I think there's been a decline generally in the standard of political journalism in Britain. There's an obsession with opinion polls, personality, obsession the new. There's not enough policy analysis; not enough interviewing of the kind politics would be enhanced by and what we had here was a rumour circulating on the blogosphere categorically denied by Downing Street in private being aired on the BBC's flagship programme.. and therefore giving the license to newspapers and others to put this story out there and give people the impression there's something wrong with Gordon Brown's mental health"

He also added, just in case you're thinking why in the rolling stones would a Tory be defending Labour that he (Tim) wasn't going to regret those who'd take a swing at the PM and that the sooner the PM left office, the better. There!

Mary Ann Sieghart, formerly of the Times, who now presents Newshour on the BBC World Service begged to differ. She was behind revelations that Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy's had a drinking problem, which would later lead to to his resignation.

Lord Owen, formerly leader of the Social Democrats has written a well received tomb about political failings attributed to ill health and the rest in: In Sickness and in Power: Illness in Heads of Government During the Last 100 Years reviewed here in the Guardian.

The Westminster Village
So what's off limit and what isn't?

In the village of Westminster, and corridors of traditional journalism, many a comment and innuendo remain behind closed doors, some of which are bound by Chatham House rules. I have been a member of Chatham House for fifteen years.

Others are hearsay, not worth the outing, some would damage any relationship with a source were it to become public. I like many journalists will have favourite dinner-time stories that stay in the kitchen.

The Westminster village Marr talks about is rife with rumours of one sort or another. Scallywag, a political satire mag alluded to something deeply unrepeatable about some politicians. I'm not going to say it either.

But at some point as a political journalist perhaps you look for new tools to play the game. Margaret Thatcher during her reign hated being asked questions by the public ergo the famous sinking of the Belgrano question.

And this new game, because in many ways the political jousting between interviewer and interviewee is that, looks to work outside the rules. MPs today have been trained to the teeth in obfuscation and parrying difficult questions, so journalist need to find new approaches, new skills, new questions.

In US politics, presidential hopefuls have everything scrutinised. As Sieghart said on PM even Reagan's rectum got the treatment. Apologies if you're eating.

But the rules of the blogosphere whilst not entirely new are unfolding. Hugh Hewitt in his brilliant book Blog - Understanding the information reformation changing the world gives a far better account than I could of how the nature of blogs undid a republican Trent Lott, and a news anchor Dan Rathers.

A new politcal turning point?
Yes the salvos were not based on rumours, so Marr is in a new league here. The league of ungentlemanly, when MPs knew a journalist would not break off and go rogue? Or a league that say now everything goes?

These are interesting times for the genie is damn if it's going to lie back down in that cold uncomfortable bottle and so with an election looming, look forward to the unexpected. It's going to be dirty, very dirty and the first salvo for how we become knowledgeable may just have been lobbed and it's a going to go kaboom for a very long time.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Where next for the big idea?

There are rarely new phenomenon. When they do occur some call it miracles or that a whole set of parameters have cataclysmically usurped the status quo.

But even in that process the signs are there, before our head space is suffused with new thinking from the thinkers.

In Art and Physics, even Einstein's relativity theory gestated in an artist before the theory was cemented.

Mathematicians, Modellers, Business Cognitives spend, as they should, exhaustive amounts of time trying to tell the future. Some Crystal ball gazers say they can.

Marketing companies crunch data and hire cool hunters who ferret below emerging phenomenon before they become trends. Then that data is decanted with facts, figures, and hush don't tell anyone... gut feeling.

Everyone wants a bit of the pie, almost everybody wants to know the next best thing. And once where small numbers rendered an idea too obscure for traction, the long tail supplied just enough figures to keep that idea ticking over until, with any luck, your idea becomes the next best thing.

There must be no joy in this process if that is your sole work, for the wheel can be invented only so many times in your life span. And it is nay impossible, to, at some point, find yourself contradicting the very thing that you claimed would never happen 7 years ago ( the 7 year business cycle).

In a while I'll be talking to a couple of CEOs, so what am I going to tell them?

They could
a) employ their own cool hunters
b) read the trends and ride the set
c) ignore and follow their own new path
d) Business as usual

Depending on their business, it's likely most will want to follow (b). Trouble is that change goes through a a swift medium and long term trend. Look at Tweets, Facebook and Google respectively.

To use the footballism, "at the end of the day" it boils down to people. People who follow other people. People whose views you share telling you about someone else. You find a twitterer with a big flock of friends and force your way in to exact reciprocity, so you now have a big wad of friends. Satisfied!

So the question is what next? I have just had an idea! Syms - symbioters?

I'll explain this week.

Yeoville, South Afriica -

This is Yeoville. It deserves a film in itself for there was no other place like it in the South Africa I knew. At one point a good friend who was putting me up introduced me to his next door neighbour. Four years later Cheryl Carolus was the South Africa High Commissioner based in the UK. That was Yeoville for you.
Fifteen years ago I lived here as a freelance stringer. Last week I spent an hour around the place before catching a flight back to the UK. Wonder what the district 9 gang would have made of it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Z principle

The BBC's resources allow for it, but even then their division of labour means the doc feature is undertaken by a team of specialists.

The news then takes over cutting a 2 min piece that both serves as a genuine news item and also a de facto promo for the longer feature.

Watching the BBC's evening news I counted two items shot with the long lens approach i.e. a cinema-doc aesthetic.

Wounded on the BBC tonight is a first in many ways; the first time a BBC crew has been allowed by the Ministry of Defence to report on the progress of wounded soldiers severely injured on the front line. The content is raw, also reflected in the film style - a gentle piano plays in the background.

News' traditional aesthetic couldn't have matched the impact. So let's return to how I started.

The BBC has the resources to do this, but as a videojournalism outfit you don't. But in an environment bursting with video how do you make a difference?

At the South Bank in a couple of weeks I'll be presenting in one of the theatres how I put the z-principle and the tao of videojournalism into action anytime I take on a story.

Also, I'll be highlighting the swift turnover involved in the art of video packaging and how the collision of news, cine videojournalism and art work together.

That often, subconsciously now involves the rubik news cube- which i use to ensure the item meets some of the characteristics of new production. (see fig above)

One of the by-products of video packaging we rarely talk about is archive and its use in contemporary made features. In a short I'm currently cutting from South Africa I'm using archive as a core primary purpose to drive the film.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Images of Zero Principle of videojournalism

I'm in the middle of producing a short from South Africa, returning to the place I lived and worked as a freelancer for the BBC WS, and local TV and an Associate producer for ABC News.

But I'm missing a shot, which led to me trawling through my digitised assets. Didn't find it so will resume tomorrow, but I did come across some of the images etc, which one day I will generate as video stories.

Here are some of those images annotated

Training a new generation of journalists on the Daily Telegraph

Filming with friend, Riz Khan of Al Jazeera

Filming interview with uber VJ Scott Rensberger

Presenting the news at Channel One TV
Working as a producer on UK leading Politics Show, whose editor was Andrew Brown, brother of the UK Prime Minister. CV Reference here

The Russian Chess Maestro - filmed interview

A panelist (out of shot) with CNN's Christiana Amanpour as chair

Interviewing BBC Supremo Peter Horrocks

Studio work talks show on policy debate with MBAs

Sunday, September 20, 2009

When can you libell a nation? District 9

Nigeria's Information minister wants an apology. Sony has been told to the cut the offensive scenes and meanwhile the film continues to build its cash piles at the box office.

District 9, a seemingly innocuous sci-fi film by many standards, has run into a headlong confrontation between a nation, a multinational and by proxy the country where it was shot.

If you think the Nigerians are expressing undue concern, then you're failing to understand the image-discourse of cinema; how a generation of impressionables may subliminally or forthrightly agree all Nigeria's are wretched.

The norm is often to attack or situation rogue regimes as the baddies in Hollywood flicks, which is why in Lethal Weapon released just before South African turned to the light, the drug barron's were heavily accented Afrikaners. That didn't stop SA from complaining.

Otherwise you do what 24 and other films, fearing boycotts et al, do and make up a nation.

Information Minister Dora Akunyili obviously is no cinema-goer otherwise this should have been neutered when the film was still slated for release, so calling for cuts isn't going to happen.

The main Nigerian gangster's name is Obesandjo, not too far from Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian President

But can she sue Sony?

The standard answer is you can't sue a mass of people unless each can prove the hurtful actions apply to them, which is why no innocent football supporter caught between racist chants on a terrace drawing ire from a football commentator doesn't have a case.

Unless, that is the individual can prove the camera lingered on them. I was working at BBC Newsnight in the early 90s when the programme had to apologise profusely for a slip it made, libeling a group.

But could D9 set a precedent for damages? A class action organised by super lawyers in these meta data Net days, to test existing laws, can't be ruled out.

The loss of revenue from banning the film in Nigeria is small beer, more importantly is the diplomatic thunk in relations between Nigeria and South Africa.

Early success of the film suggests a sequel will follow. The film makers might want to then put things right. Meanwhile here's a critic of D9 sent to me by a South African television commissioner. Link coming soon

The Zero Principle - Videojournalism. Extract from David Dunkley Gyimah

Extract from Video Story telling and VideoJournalism ( published next year by a US publisher)

As stories go, a hospital closure, this wasn't a difficult one, but it had legs. That meant it could pan out through the day and carry an arc of interest.

Have you ever wondered how broadcasters shape their news throughout the news cycle? More of that in a minute.

I am just completing my MPhil to PhD transfer at SMARTlab (which includes a fmr Nasa expert) and coupled with the extensive training and insights with others and 22 years broadcast experience have quite a bit to share.

One of the things is how I believe later architects of videojournalism have not quite realised the potential of the form's semiotic. On the other hand there are a number of VJs worldwide who are truly pushing the form.

The 1994 story
In 1994 when we launched videojournalism in the UK with Channel One, videojournalism was described as film making within news. Videojournalism was not then, and shouldn't be now a straight lift of news' lingua franca - something I said on Videojournalism Today: The Next Generation seven years ago and continues to be a resources.

It is to a video revolution what impressionism was to art or French New wave was to cinema - that was the theory anyway. But producing a new language assumes one is well versed in the literacy of video and visual form.

What is video Journalism and how you build a VJ outfit from david dunkley gyimah.

The News Cycle
By default their news is driven by time pressures filling the bulletins and then furnishing the extra outputs later on.

You can't have a full day's meal in one go. So sometimes even when the news item does fulsomely present itself, the oblique strategy is to weigh the consequences of the dividend-yield (amount of viewers watching to the effort exercised ) and consider going big later.

Of course these are temporal decisions for time-based media i.e. TV, but have been transferred to the spatial planes of online.

The Telegraph's MPs Cash saga report stretched over many days illustrated this well. Super chip technology that could run computers at mega speeds today is another example where for monetary reasons the technology is held back.

Broadcast News have crews. You as a videojournalist do not, so it pays to understand zero principle. The executives I'm helping to build a VJ station get this.

The Tao of News Packages
Mostly all news packages start off with a main contact- the axis - that makes the item possible. Think of them as the reporter's deep throat. See if you can spot this watching the next broadcast.

The unit of the videojournalism piece, just as in broadcast, is the package. It's the piece that often yields the biggest rewards with rolled up sleeves. It sits at the nexus of the Z principle. Below it lay other considerations.

Above the trapezoid stem of the 'Z" is the possibility of developing the story into a cinematic package - the long format feature that's going to pull further eyeballs and become a reference.

But just as in branding terms it helps enormously if there is a perceived quality. It's a boon if your news site telegraphs what viewers can expect.

Embed video, but what video?
In 2005, the good people of the Batten Awards in the US saw this on when I started using embedded video clips extracted from the package. Two plus years later at a London gathering of ONA members at the BBC, executives would confirm in their own test the value of the embedded clip.

But this feat doesn't and shouldn't stop there. The TV clip is a powerful example of the "action clip" or online the "meta clip" or "action clip". In television bulletins it's the 30 second or less bite. Online it needs to reflect key words and be self contained.

Emerging Techniques
As we move about in ever more refined social networks how we singularly capture the essence of the video package to have an impact within our social news grouping will be more pertinent. That's for the another discourse later.

But for now, the image at the top illustrates the Z principle strand of videojournalism, delineating between structural and event-driven packaging, the aesthetics weighed against the narrative and how if you plan for the package with the Cinematic aesthetic in mind, there are further spin offs, not least you'll have material to pull in further viewers.

This isn't an ad hoc procedure, but one which will strengthen both your output and skills in turning around packages to meet the demands of your output.

By the way when I got back from my story with all four elements ready to run, and with enough material for 'ownership' of a long format the director of programmes, Nick Pollard sent me a memo, which I have since kept.

In the following chapters I'll deconstruct how with the minimum of effort you can turn over each unit in good time, from techniques derived over the years., David Dunkley Gyimah, an Applied Chemistry graduate, has been training videojournalists since 1995. He's been a Videojournalist since 1994 and a broadcaster working in front and behind the camera for some of the worlds' biggest news brands e.g BBC. ABC News, WTN and Channel 4 News. He lectures in IMVJ.
He's recently returned from working with Rich Beckman, Knight Chair of Miami University, in South Africa. When he's not teaching, he can be found at the South Bank Centre, where he is an artist in residence, creating a range of pieces.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

24 hours in Joburg

There was no marketeer coyly hanging around the lounge. Just as well because the invective could have been one of those that questioned the poor soul to ask: "Why am I doing this job".

South Africa boasts one of the most disciplined and titanic rugby squads there is. Their travel-flight industry could sorely do with a few tips from the Springboks.

Unfriendly, surly, laisse faire, are just a few adjectives that you could use to rewrite their brochure.

This isn't an anti-South African position, more a plea to someone to sort things out. With a world cup due if what I experienced was anything to go by then the dentists chair may hold more allure.

BBC Ariel- The BBC's internal magazine which featured an a full page dispatches article from South Africa in 1992. SA Airways were instrumental in helping David travel across the country.

It wasn't always the case, and less I sound bias, South Africa airways once in my inquisitorial role of journalist-in-waiting sponsored my unlimited travel around the country and from then on I was a loyal customer, thanking them profusely on a late night BBC show I co hosted.

But scale and expansion have the habit of flummoxing many companies. From a mid size international airport, South Africa's minted international OR Tambo resembles Miami International and Heathrow architected into the future.

And somewhere along the way, perhaps someone forgot to rally the staff and tell them, "it's the customer *********" (Clintonesque phrase).

Or as the Ghanaian's express in one of their favourite phrases:
"fefe na efe se obaa otu amirika oso ne nofo na enye se ebe te ato nti", which loosely translates when a woman runs she holds her breasts not because it will fall down, but because of decorum.

I'll post a more detailed report later, which will wrap with a plane cancellation, an on board entertainment system for an 11 hour journey that didn't work and a humble request of what I'd do. And yes some, indeed many may have had the riches of sojourns.

Joburg City
But to the city that thumps like a never ending samba party. Joburg mixes the tonic of youth and wisdom of sages. A world in one city is more apt now since I was last here filming a documentary called the Successor Generation for Channel 4 News.

On arrival and courtesy of my brilliant host, a senior SABC creative, and an old time friend from 92-94, we painted the town, albeit less than red.

SophiaTown, an eaterie, opposite the landmark Market Theatre does live music and burger food. It's not what it used to be said Palessa. A play dealing with black sexuality featuring nudity had already wound up for the day. "Yah you should see this David" she said,"good edgy stuff. This man emerged during the break requesting a cold drink of water. He didn't know what hit him".

So to one of the heartlands of my media past. Melville.

Melville is St Johns Wood in the UK and bohemian Soho in NY. We sat outside a Portuguese restaurant, me watching anyone that walked by I might remotely remember from back-a-day. The waiter, who was buying time before his calling -a degree in architecture - described one dish with a fish called "Emmeralde".

Funky and yes that was its name. Really! The Chef doing the rounds at the tables said so.

News about Town
Palessa and Addie (name shortened), are a treasure trove of information.

*District 9 - All is not well in SA with this sci-fi blockbuster with rumours ( I've not been able to confirm) that subsidies earmarked for the film from the government are being with held. The brass, its said, do not approve of its racial undertones. Here's a post that gives a flavour of that.

* DDTV - Digital TV is a coming to South Africa with licenses already doled out. South Africa's Net penetration is minuscule, but mobile and DDTV could jump its comms and ents industry into a new strata

* Castor Semenye - publicity handled badly, but what about that photoshoot. It's in You magazine, an exclusive, which has Ms Semenye glammed up.

* World Cup fever and the rush for gold.

Meanwhile, one short piece I'm glad I made - more a snapshot- is a visit back to where I lived during 92-94 in Yeoville and realising how much its radically changed. See for yourself, though it'll be difficult to contextualise unless you remember how Yeoville used to be

More and some later.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Friends Reunited

I am in joburg. I'm rushing. A day's stop over before the UK, but it's been richly rewarded meeting up with Palesa, an old friend from my days in South Africa circa 1992-1994.

There are many stories to be told, some will remain untold for the years that have passed by have rewarded some and dealt a bad hand to others.

But they're all here. The people I referred to as the Successor Generation; young go-getters who would emerge from racially segregated South Africa to inherit, by dint of talent et al, this South Africa.

Yesterday I had dinner with an Mbeki generation. Seems the previous gen laid the foundation; they were the army ants, for the next to enjoy, through hard work, the spoils of this land.

As the controversy of Caster Semenya continues, here a five page photographic feature shows a fresh side to the woman at the centre of the storm.

Glammed up in various outfits, she flits from LA socialite to home girl with her androgynous features.

Meanwhile the city quietly looks a changing, though you still wouldn't know the biggest football tournament is set to take place here.

That said they're trying out a new traffic signal that gives primacy to buses and public transport that's confusing many

There are so many things I would like to share but there's not enough time, so I'll reflect tomorrow. I have a ride to catch

Sunday, September 13, 2009

From Arab to African media, West to East-the power of videojournalism II

On a sunny day, nothing to write home about in weather terms on the African continent, in South Africa two state broadcasters shared a common ideal to work together.

It was 1997, an era of no Youtube and any mention of videojournalism drew gasps and increduility in the UK and US. But here flying between Cape Town, Durban, and J0ohannesburg were journalists from Ghana TV and the SABC cracking open the videojournalists' bottle.

Those films, a documentary of that time, South Africa three years into democracy sit on my shelf, one or two of them can be found here in the United States of Africa.

Fast forward the time continuum by eleven years and I'm in South Africa again, Rhodes University, courtesy of the Knight Multimedia Foundation led by venerable academic Rich Beckman.

Training Days
The object is to train academics from other African states to grasp the fundamentals of Sound Slides and an iteration of videojournalism you might call video slides.

Here the voice track is used to drive the visual narrative, in many ways just like an observational documentary (sans reporter's voice).

Simple enough? But the skill belies an understanding of shooting strong visuals ( b-roll/ GVs) and mastering how to interview. A report on that workshop will be posted soon.

But after a couple of days of mixing it with the team and the attendants I wanted to share with you how resourceful and enjoyable a time I had.

I have lived (8 years) and worked in Ghana long enough to know practical media skills particularly in the Youtube era is something so badly needed and whilst sadly there were no academics from Ghana, I felt a kinship with all the academics.

Five days ago they arrived here fairly tentative. Today they themeselves admit they leave more confident at passing this knowledge on.

I'm not taking credit for this, for in the camp for visual skills were Jim Seida from MSNBC, a veteran practitioner, Programme leader Rich Beckman from Miami University, Sam Tirelli, a lawyer turned academic of many many years standing and Trevor Green, who's producing skills and temperament are enviable desirable skills.

I'm back in the UK soon, looking to kickstart our semester with an incoming lot of Masters journalism students, butressed against a social dance multimedia project I'm involved in at the South Bank, and a viva and show and tell of the new landscape from my own PhD programme.

All worth their while, but I can't help thinking of the spring you get in your step when you know you've been involved in a programme that potentially has a huge trickle down effect in its abilty to influence many others down the line.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

From Arab to African media, West to East-the power of videojournalism

Travelling and lecturing in videojournalism further strengthens my already robust resolve that the tools and media skills for reportage, important as they, cannot be seperated from the understanding of the dynamics of human behaviour.

Four months ago I was in Beirut, swapping ideas with some of the emerging videojournalists at one of the country's leading independent newspaper's, Annahar. Its videojournalists are breaking into off-agenda stories to furnish their audience with a wider knowledge of its people and news.

I was drawn to the journalists' energy and their desire to push at the form; their want to landscape something bigger and interesting for locals and internationalists.

In the above picture Joanna is interviewing me on a one-on-one. It preceded a training session to shape the format visually and literally to keep it interesting.

There are many iterations in video and videojournalism and more often than not I am made to feel fortunate about a position I have come to occupy. It is one I neither take lightly and continue to feel indebted to the many people who have helped shape my ideas.

That position assumes a wide understanding of forms and associated behaviour.

But believe me, particularly at the time I was freelancing for any number of network broadcasters, travelling to danger zones to produce the news because that's where the story was, learning how to 2-machine edit and work a $60,000 beta camera because I couldn't find a camera operator/editor, I cursed my fortunes.

The business of video story telling and videojournalism is a journey of the visual art of information, a process in which I'm oft heard to say the square root of four is not two.

It's a creative medium bound by guidelines. For me also it's the journey of as many highs and sucessess as it is lows and failures.

There is no one fixed stanza, no absolutes, no definite way of story production, but I do know the value of a ethical qualified journalism and visual essayist lies in understanding as many of the different forms often, very often by working those genres.

Those catergories include: news, news features, factual programming, interviews Q and A, Long format features, obervational narratives, voice of God narratives, reporter-led features, documentaries 30 mins, docs 40 mins, series docs, adverts, and the many many genres of cinema.

Anyone of these has its semiotic. And in the age of web communication their boundaries continue to be tested, which I believe they should. But there is a constant, though attenuated by nuances of culture and that is people.

Journalism - story telling involves people and we, people, are complex sentinents. But we also exhibit common traits. Traits that lawyers, doctors, managers and many other professions rely upon to make sense of things e.g. who's guilty, an illness, workplace hiearchies and the rest.

Journalism's abilty to make sense of these depends strongly on understanding codes, guidlines, genres, cultures abd being empathatic, curious, understanding and above all forthright.

Which is why I'm often baffled when I ask friends who aspire to be journalists or have been, do you watch television they reply, no.

For as bad as sometimes it is, and it's not the only medium to learn our craft, it is a stage where much emotion plays out.

If you want to learn how to fish, why go to a blacksmith. If you want to know how the clock works, you should have a desire to open the casing.

And slowly methodically work you way through. This thing we do isn't rocket science, but it asks for more than the pushing of buttons and elegant framing.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you more about where I am now and the debates we've been having

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

10 things you must know travelling to South Africa's world cup

Arriving at O. R. Tambo International Airport, Upgrade.

Two thirty pm.

From door to door , 23 hours. In the air it was about 14 hours. You have to love travelling, otherwise like me you simply go numb with the vacuous look of Mr Mcgoo, consigning your brain cells to reruns of old movies and boarding school meals.

The stewardess either resented her job or didn't much like anyone who didn't do things her way and one of those was a red card for lowering your seat rest to sleep when the person behind you wanted to rest their bottle of water.

Rest your head, rest your water, rest your head, rest your water. Clearly water wins.

"Please sir, could you bring your seat up?"

Half a sleep and feeling restlessly drousy I queried her with my eyebrows.

"Sir put your seat back up!"

It was so incredulous that after the third time of her asking and clearly not noticing that when passengers are tired they pull their seats down I relented.

But as I found out later, seat configurations, particularly in the lie down position is to be one of my "10 things you must know travelling to South Africa". First five today.

It's been a while since I have been to the rainbow nation, but if my visit were by default a dry run for the World Cup ahead, then there's work to be done.

Swanky, face photography recognitionn at immigration, an meandering string of tourists around their maze like queing system, in many ways it's as if the architects that built Miami Airport provided the foundation here.

South Africa boasts some of the most hospital people, particularly in the townships away from the dreaded "c" word. But Corporate customer service on the scale that will sazzle them next year is new.

And if you thought the hospitality is likely to bring on unsuspected results then here in Grahamstown, you might want to wear a plack saying "please be nice to me".

Next year in Grahamstown, the venue for one of the world's key arts and culture gigs, they'll have the world cup in tow, and a stream of big conferences for journalists and others.

The build up to the World Cup prompted Richard Quest and CNN to examine the system, rolling of a reel of states - from a programme I saw on my flight.

More on those in my next post, but for the meantime an early foray into what you'll need to know at the airports if you're comng for the World Cup, particularly for domestic flight travellers to the Cape and beyond

1. Through to domestic flights, if you haven't changed any money yet, there's no forex etc past on board luggage checking.

2. There's only one small rest room, which is a little daunting when greeted by the attendant: "welcome to my office" and hasn't quite figured that restroom are private. That said please do tip.

3. Don't rely on the Flight departure board for boarding. It got to 10.00 for a 10.20 departure and still there was nothing up so I curiously sauntered over to the gate to find out they had all boarded and the steward telling me how lucky I was to have got on the plane.

4. Don't put you seat back to rest unless you want the steward or passengers to literally scream at you

5. Do remember your please and thank yous.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Future of the web- Matrix Lecture, Chinese students

I'll write more about the process but hopefully the vid gives an idea of how I went about getting students to creatively collaborate using trend extrapolation.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Chinese students predict the future

They're Chinese students on a three week course in London and they're not very  different from most undergraduates I have encountered except for their extreme politeness.

But I'm equally fascinated with what I can learn from them, as much as they're expecting a whirlwind three weeks of lectures from my colleagues, many of whom have international standings.

All of them have not known a world without the net, and when I joined the media as an undergraduate in 1987, many were not born. An amusing fact none the less, but that's all because the web favours the young anyway.

But I love studying group dynamics and how people are motivated. If like me you spent your formative years in a boarding school you'll understand my fascination.

So the idea that was thrown into the group based on simple principles of an idea's life cycle and what I call the QBS mantra: quality (trust), branding (personal) and simplicity (ease of use).

If a concept's going to make it, these are fundamentals. But if we chart social phenomenon around behaviour and politics, you can reasonably make an intelligent assessment about a future scenario.

Trend extrapolaters, the delphi principle have all sort to use techniques which harness knowledge capital and trends. And that's what we did yesterday.

Their different perspective would shed new light on aged problem solving. It would also provide a forum to explore group dynamics and some of their ideas.

I'll post the video of them looking at the future of the web this week. It's inspiring  

Game theory for minority issues in Journalism

Listening to talks has the effect of resurrecting old fermented and often forgotten ideas. Sometimes it orientates us towards new ones.

Jeff Jarvis was addressing the Guardian group asking the essence of the newspaper. I couldn't finish the vid before being called for a meeting (I should do) but it re-awoke old thoughts.

I had a big itch when I was in broadcasting. It got scratched, but I knew the system well enough to know there's not much that could be done about it, save the "this is ethnic reporting week" for the year ahead.

If you're a minority in the UK, and yes I'm talking race and culture, but not excluding social issues, you can expect little coverage from the main stream press. Rightly so, I argue as a matter of demographics and economics.

The net and social capital via Networks could have neutered this.

In many ways you could say they have. You can search anywhere online for issues of say knife attacks, to classicism in the media and you'll find something, that in the good ol days was nothing more than a crusty press release filed away from sight in forward planning.

But the snag is, if you can call it that, these issue online are confined to the backend of google, worthy of more attention within social networks.

It's a conundrum isn't it? The overall rating of an article; it's argument, its validity and reciprocity (it's come back) is generously dependent on strong articulate social networks, or at least is going that way.

The role of newspapers
Jeff raised the point to the Guardian folks about embracing the blogger into their network. You may not be an employer, but an affiliate employer. Forget the hoops you have to jump through with HR for the moment and consider how those at the eye of their own networks can open a channel onto a wider platform such as the Guardian.

It's an idea which is shrieking to happen and it will at some point purely on economics alone-the economics of people. Imagine the conversation once reserved for DJs and national celebrities.

"Er so what's your numbers?"
"half a million".

"And what about Socanet"? ie social network
"some 100,000"

These could be tweets and blogs respectively. If you're pulling in those and write like Cooke, there's an editor and ad person wanting to talk to you. Just not yet perhaps, but soon.

On Tuesday I'm in South Africa presenting/training and some at “The International Multimedia Workshops for Ethical Reporting on the World’s Most Under-Reported Issues” at Rhodes University, Grahamstown.

The key word here is "Under Reported Issues". Just how do we empower those who haven't a chance to get their story told and how can they tap into more affluent ( both perhaps in knowledge, but definitely wealth) to address their pertinent issues?

Zimbabwe is still suffering, conflict rages in central Africa, the streets of london are still lined with those unable to take care of themselves, young people are still harming each other with dangerous weapons.

The power of reportage, lifting that anti is the least one can do. Tapping into more matured social networks is a prerequisite. Newsnight, the BBC's flagship news programme that I worked on in the early 90s, reported this week, that Keynes was back in vogue.

In this scenario perhaps some form of intervention is necessary, too minority issues as well

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Videojournalism Presenter fatigued explained

Rachmaninov concerto No 2 - got there.

I'd tried all the other stations, but this time even a tight bit of soul, Bill Withers wasn't doing the trick.

Earlier in my fuzzy state, I turned to Guy Kawasaki's Art of the Start definitely worth its chunk of 40 minutes.

You see I have a presentation in two days time to a class of Chinese Masters students. It's about something to do with "practice and pedagogy, the web and new things that make you go woo" or something like that.

I presented to a similar group 6 weeks ago and went off message, talking about mediating and motivating theories that underpin our behaviour - far more interesting I thought.

For instance, why are YOU reading this. It it because you're

a) looking for something interesting (chancing it)
b) you're looking to fill time ( reading a newspaper on the train is an example)
c) you have a relationship with this blog, albeit a cyber-like conversation ( which would prob mean I'm saying something of relative value)

Making it happen
What motivates how we spend our time doing those things and how can the very things we seek be made stronger by the providers?

That was the thread. A common sense take. But as I sit here pounding away, I have no desire to repeat that. Perhaps I'm tired, perhaps I'd rather be talking about something else, but you know when sometimes you get this "heavy head" syndrome.

Manager: Hey Chris we'd like you to talk about automated drive systems
Chris: Ok

And you think ***** what am I going to say. Happens to me all the time, usually 15 seconds before a presentation, when I go, wouldn't it be fun if I just went on stage and said, "right, what shall we speak about?"

It's got nothing to do with me not knowing. I kinda do this metaphoric what do I know, and what have they paid their money for?

there are broadly two kinds of talks.
1. what motivates the system
2. the system itself

When I talk about videojournalism et al, I'm mindful people want to know about how to accomplish that edit and that shot, but the alternative, a hybrid practice-theory, begs you to look inside the system.

Why did you want to shoot that way?

I love videojournalism for the reason that's it's not just about point and shoot, and even when it gets really complicated, it's about human behaviour.

Shine a camera on some one, nod sagely and stay quiet and anytime soon they'll begin to speak.

What you're doing with the camera is capturing the essence of a lengthy conversation, in which some piece of valuable information is divulged.

Hilariously, when I first became a Videojournalist, the widespread argument was you couldn't use the two main senses, sight and sound proficient enough at the same time. Well.

Back on Message
Anyway back on message. So in the same way I've illustrated with Videojournalism, I'd rather be inclined to do the same with my online presentation.

So what's the fuss?

Well I get the feeling that the group would want to know more about the system.

Here's the site, that went to the blog, that shifted into a tweet and here are the supporting Twit apps, the 1,000,000 or so that fulfil various functions.

From tech crunch you get a list of 20 apps
no, 1 Twit pic
no, 2 Tweetdeck
No, 3 Digsby
No,4 TwitterCounter
No, 5 Twitterfeed

Now if you're a twitter aficionado you've prob sourced 100 of the above. If you're an addict, 1000. At this rate you could spend a life time explaining to friends and family; in my case, Chinese students, the next best app.

There's legitimate reasons for doing that if you're in marketing, defacto personal branding or want to make those millions of friends. But at some point you have to simply ask, "why?"

Why are you doing this? What's the value? The thin line between addiction and practice is ever shortening.

These things that we do and I count videojournalism in this camp flourish from within an inner social need SMOs. Ambient awareness always existed, but twitter provided the microscope. Making our own programmes is something many of us would like to do; videojournalilsm makes that possible with the right tools.

But to quote Kawasaki and what I tell my own students, "ask why you want it?" "Create meaning rather than pursuing money" says Guy.

Some of the most selfless proponents of this are Mindy McAdams who publishes all her modules and academic findings online, Guy himself whose presentations are micro MBA modules, Mike Jones who possesses a rare deep insight into visual imagery intelligence. Off course there are many more.

They are driven by their "kwa". You could presuppose the group I'm presenting wouldn't be interested in knowledge. There is a strong propensity to always want to learn what other people are doing, so cracking open the SMO model of new apps would do the job.

No, that's not my point, but that perhaps, in this case I'd much prefer we had an open forum and attacked issues on their own need to know.

It cuts into this idea of the conversation, the exploration of ideas and moves away from the idea of the grand lecture, which at times and I rather think doesn't always work. I rather think I'll do that.

Now don't you feel better now David?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Videojournalism. It's more than news, plurality, diversity to name a few

I interviewed one of the UK's respected senior broadcast executives today.

Dorothy Bryne is the head of news and current affairs at Channel 4.
It was a wide ranging interview around the future of news. I have been interviewing some of the well known figures in news e.g. Dan Gillmor, Craig Newmark, Jeff jarvis since 2005.

I hadn't formally started my thesis then, but by nature I'm a collector. Later this week I meet the figure behind convincing the late Sir David English - a powerhouse in British journalism for many years until his death in the 90s - for bank rolling videojournalism in the UK.

On my way home from the interview I reflected on a couple of things, which I intend to expand on later.

1. Videojournalism is about the person. You may be visually gifted and that's a plus, but that can't substitute the bloodymindedness of good journalism, which is story construct from nothingness. By nothingness, eking out something of good use from the chaff of every day chat

2. Videojournalism delivers the media multi linguist. One of the assets I discovered working as a videojournalist within a broadcast framework was an ability to speak to different professionals in their own language. You may not need to know what an "L cut" is, "top and tail", "As live" or any number of strange broadcast terms, but it helps, particularly in team settings.

3. Videojournalism was meant to deliver plurality. Diverse groups delivering their stories. In the UK, many senior news exec lament the lack of a diversity in journalism, which would vary the news agenda.

Next week, I join a team from the Knight International team in South Africa lecturing on videojournalism. I'm excited because in 1997 I headed up an international team from Ghana and their South African counterparts getting their first taste of videojournalism and its profoundness in programme making.

The true strength of videojournalism, the efficient use of this tooled up practice lies in some of the aforementioned in the features and the news, in holding people to account and to expanding our horizons because we have both the aptitude and tools.