Thursday, September 23, 2010

See It Now! Video journalism is dying. Long live video journalism Response

See It Now! Video journalism is dying. Long live video journalism By Jill Drew is a must read essay delving into the spine of Videojournalism and evoking memories of Murrow in its title.

Featured on Columbia Journalism Review, it reads:

As the video begins, no announcer welcomes you, no headline scrolls across the computer screen. There is no need for either. You know where you are from the logic of the images. The camera lingers on the anticipatory expressions on people’s faces at Barack Obama’s inauguration; it holds steady as endless streams of people slowly fill the National Mall. Natural sound builds the excitement. Click here for the piece

The piece over six pages strips into an ontology of videojournalism; its pending death and survival - peering over its vast landscape. I hope to come back to more specifics in the piece later on.

If I have a criticism, which I can see a legitimacy, it is that it takes an American-centric view of videojournalism, thus overlooking insightful work from the Europeans e.g. Germans, Norwegians, French and Brits e.g. Frontline Club

But that may be seen a s gripe on my part and it's nay impossible to frame a subject as vast as this to cater for readers of all international hues. What about the Chinese and the Asians? It's an admirable piece and practitioners across the big pond must perhaps write their own story.

However this was my response posted to @CBR after a day of working towards an epistemology of videojournalism projects

Drew, Leacock et al were massive pioneers, fundamental in shaping a visual medium and a methodology, as were Rouch, Marker et al in Europe. You could even look to the work of Eisenstein whom instigated cinema verite (kino). All had a passion, all searched for an aesthetic.

Videojournalism's Achille is in part its search for a home. Shooting a camera, making a news film was never quite as revolutionary as it was made to seem. Jessica Borthwicke in 1914 would further prove that when at 24 with a Newman camera and a few days training she left London to film the Crimean war.

What's dogged film all the while and thus attracted stern critique is the search for an aesthetic. History informs us these have arisen through a number of supervening moments.

But videojournalism's supervening time, at least as a creative aesthetic construct has often been junked in favour of a replication of a status quo inured by saving costs and multiskilling.

It's finding one now; small pockets.

If you'll pardon me. In 2005 when I was awarded a Batten Award, this was the precise question within videojournalism that taxed me then and still does today.

The judges commented on (the site and video I produced) as

“This interactive magazine foreshadows the future with its use of hip new story forms and highly video-centric Web tools".
2005 Batten Advisory Board Judges

That future then, is now upon us at present, but the aesthetic and philosophy has moved on. There's a fresh media ascendancy, albeit limited at the moment that resides in the collocation of photography and video, animation, and less a reliance on television and at times the classic video obs docs lingua franca.

Hence the bril work of Travis Fox, Angela Grant, Brian Storm et al.
I've had the opportunity in many cases of talking to them personally or on the dog and bone (Gosh these air fares are killing me).

Your post is prescient as I have just returned from interviewing some of the UK's leading television/media figures about this,, such as Stuart Purvis who was Editor-in-Chief and then Chief Executive of ITN from 1995-2003.

One little unknown story, which I'm pursuing acknowledges the contribution of a UK cable outfit in 1994 solely dedicated to videojournalism called Channel One. I'll post what Stuart says on Youtube and my blog.

But Channel One 1994, which I was part of accepted in its early days (tutored by a young Michael Rosenblum)the need for a newish aesthetic.

What's more none of the videojournalists were constrained by a paradigm or semiotic of news production. We made programmes - a Zero or Z principle of media production. Nothing was wasted, it all unfurled together.

We were informed, at least I was, by a run of programmes on BBC e.g. Reportage and Def II. Stuff today we might take for granted, but led to great late night debates and films.

And today many of those former videojournalists work in the industry and their work has attracted huge acclaim e.g. Dimitri Doganis Raw TV .

The videojournalism ( that poor word) I see is one that is maturing but beyond its traditional stables, driven by, yet not wedded to exclusively a cinema aesthetic, a motion graphic derivative, a visual verite, a narratology which will do for it, what blogs did for news copy. A time when we'll video hyperlink pieces and drill further into aspects of design and video and how they work.

There's still work to be done, but articles like yours Jill become, or should become a camp fire to explore the contemporary, antecedents, and what ifs.

Videojournalsm is dead;the flag might flying half mast, but the stool is never vacant. Long Live Videojournalism

Ta Loads

David entered broadcasting working for the likes of the BBC and Channel 4 in 1987. He is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster and PhD candidate at SMARTlab examining the Outernet. He's an Artist in Residence at London's SouthBank Centre and is still a videojournalist and trainer