Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Videojournalism sooner was never the paradigm

If the good people in broadcasting were not so dismissal and protective with video and TV skills we would have realised, just as amateur photographers and film makers that this video thing is not rocket science.

Yes, it involves a number of rules, some made up to thwart vague interest, but it is just like riding a bike.

The revolution we see or will realise is how 5 years on, every kid who learns to write with be taught visual language to communicate in video.

And if they don't, they'll learn it themselves.

But here's my plea, don't stop at video, look to design. I have argued many times in previous blogs that the direction of video is of a cinema and design aesthetic.

Lev Manovic said something in his popular book, which I circled in 1998. That soon spatial video will take its place - a reworked version of the zoetrope and that linear narrative may be given a run for its money.

That's happening, and with video hyperlinking, a radical gamechanger awaits.

I'm looking to a new design of my site to reflect the direction my own path has taken.

  • Over the years its been deeply rewarding.
  • Training hundreds of newspaper journalists - from the Financial Times, Press Association, Daily Telegraph
  • Working with groups in Cairo, South Africa, Norway, the US and China.
  • And now artistic work with the Southbank Centre.

There's a lot to videojournalism than meets the eye, and design I believe will feature heavily as a skill set to bolster existing related knowledge.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Moscow journalists visualisation of journalism and an English Summer

What's the difference between the two images below? That's the question I put to 10 students from Moscow State University, studying journalism.

If you want to find out scroll down.

fig 1 Chinese International Masters student Yong Wang working on his team's website www.offbeatlondon.co.uk

fig 2 Yong Wang working on his team's website www.offbeatlondon.co.uk

The basis of this morning's lectures centred on two main strands, which I shared with the group with a brief history of the web, and the results from our own international multimedia student journalists.

That is:
  • The way journalism tends to be taught is at stark odds with the way I believe we should, particularly with multimedia journalism
  • And that whilst left brain, right brain debates seem arcane, there's something to explore in the way journalists still propagate linearity and sequencing.

Take these set of illustations, which one would you choose.

fig iii

fig iv
fig v

Few of you would pick the first one. In the laws of visualisation there is a reason.

Then there's this image below (fig vi and vii) from a film by Rob Chiu, what's wrong or right with it?

fig vi

fig vii

In fact fig vii is the doctored one, I made. The actual image from the film is fig vi, but conceivably it is a shot that breaks the rule of space - the subject should be looking into space in the rule of thirds. But why does the author use it and so successfully.

The image is dissonant, but then so is the video - about youth angst. As a result it works, and debunks the rule. Similarly in training programmes, I show how you can cross the line and pique the interest of your film and in adopting techniques used by advertising directors.

One of the other exercises I undertook this morning involves various group dynamics, that involve sum zero - everyone wins, but you have to figure out your losses in compromising - and permutation exercises, which serves two purposes.

Physically it gets students thinking about physical objects, rather than abstracts in design.
Its tactile and involves everyday encountered solutions.

And leads to dictums such as this one below, from Gestalt

So to my point at the top and the answer to the two pics fig i and fig ii

The emphasis for the written word in journalism comes in the wake of the enlightenment period, which with 2020 you'd figure was only natural, but interestingly, as detailed by Leonard Shlain, there was a time when the image reigned, and that would suggest we exercised creative and artistic thinking.

And, when we look at where we are now in our highly visual world of the Time Squares, magazines and a maturing web, we're back in image mode. Yet this time uniquely it's an image world in bed with the written.

The question is how adept are we at training to rethink in the image mode? Put simply how can we deploy some of the techniques in art to help push multimedia to its own level, rather than being son/daughter of written journalism.

So, finally according to the students
fig ii limited and focused the amount of data you needed to look at. What's interesting about this interpretation is that in the 1920-50s deep focus was all the rage. Not any more. This illustrates a couple of things.

  • The image world is a dynamic medium changing according to cultural and creative evolutions, and something fabulous is going on now.
  • That multimedia storytelling has more legs on it, but it needs to break free from its surrogate constrained rules.

This is one of several strands with multiple examples David provides in a future book.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Footballiology - lessons in life

England's woman team often demonstrate how the men's squad should perform

To be an English fan of its national football squad at the moment, is the nearest thing to self-harm.

Nay being in a mad institution of the 11th century is more like it. But, and this is a big but, there are indelible life stories to be learned. Indeed a positive spin on humiliating news.

1. Thinking above ones station.
England weren't just bad, but the belief was their poor performance was an aberration.

We've come to think like greedy bankers that it's our right to be better than everyone else, without a degree of humility, and inward examination of how we solve our problem.

More often than not money is thrown at it, and that wrongly we think is our panacea.

2. Putting faith in institutions.
We the people are run by institutions, footballing and sport are just a few.

Men in suits who decide how you the fan responds. They're unaccountable, elected by the few, interested in power.

The media's wake up call to the digital revolution is much needed in the world of sports. If the fans boycotted in protest for a day to show "we-the-fan-power", the balance of power could be shifted.

We saw glimpses of it in after Rooney's outburst and the FA forcing him to apologise to fans.

3. The individual above the self.
England, where overwhelmingly criticised for not playing as a team.

In moments revealed on replays Lampard and Terry can be seen walking to a situation that demanded urgency. But why blame the team?

Successive political governments have fostered the notion of individualism. You are good, which is why I need you, rather than you're hungry to help the team.

The former ethos is bankrupt and any root and branch change to England and our own psyche has to reward collective wisdom.

Call Germany a young side, but like the USA they play for each other. Our squad will be back to reaping the spoils of their labour in two months time, and we'll welcome their efforts with exuberance

4. Creativity and the technician
Our ability to be creative is fuelled by attributes that court risque and failure, and whether its our national squad or workplace we refuse to engage in this.

Our media won't accept losses from our national team or our politicians endeavors to try new things.

To that end successive governments would only be brave enough to bring us "good news", while the small print deviously hid how they were robbing our back pockets.

We then sacrifice creativity for technical.

Everyone notes the Premiere league is one of the best in the world, some bravely call it the best, but is that in terms of creativity or technical?

For creativity give me Serie A - Italian league or Brazilian League. Yes we need to technically adept but it means nothing if you can't creatively apply that knowledge.

5. Truth and Honesty
Until we're honest about our own flaws, we'll never be able to find a meaningful solution.

6. Flexibility and a willingness to change
Cappello England's manager doggedly stuck to a system of play without a willingness to change.

Pride, perhaps arrogance, perhaps even genius, but we see this time and time again in our own institutions, particularly the media.

And as the digital dawn has shown to the media, those who deny change, will atrophy

Monday, June 21, 2010

The journo educational crisis

David's e-book ( pdf) working with Nato forces in 2005 looked at some of the methods and tips behind working in conflict zone.

There's a lot to take from Francis Becket, an author and journalist's article We're losing journalism education, just as we need it.

He says:

"I understand the Independent (newspaper) will stop publishing its Thursday education pages. Their last appearance will be on July 1.

Education - real education, that is, not training in the skills required for work - is in greater danger than it's been in my lifetime. Education journalists, who a decade ago would have been sounding the alarm, don't have access to their platforms any more".

More here

It had me thinking, particularly in this solitude time attempting to capture my thoughts and experience in a book, combined with teaching and training exercises over the last twenty odd years. And then in two weeks we're in Chongqing, China.

First things first. A revolution in traditional journalism or storytelling, no one perhaps can dispute and there have been countless attempts, many successful, to illustrate the future.

Adam Westbrook's self-published e-books have proved very successful in capturing an audience, and showing how the strength of ideas can still travel.

With the Ipad and related techware a more radical future appears to be opening around video+text books. Further evidence comes from ex-bbc colleagues of mine bidding for a multimillion pound contract for video delivery into the classroom.

And the blogosphere e.g. Lynda.com, Multimedia shooter has shown itself a great resource for learning. So, I asked myself what's the point of me publishing. What am I bringing to the table?

Education is about learning from our past
And the answer struck me from previous posts where I have spoken about my background.

The precis is something like this: 1987 (BBC Radio); 1990 (BBC TV Reportage); 1992 (BBC World Service/ ABC News/ SA TV/ Radio 4); 1994 (Channel One TV); 1996 ( WTN) 1997 (London Tonight/ producing in Africa);1997 (Channel 4 News/ BBC Breakfast/advertising Soho company) 2001 (politics show); 2001 dot com companies.

Bizarrely this peripatetic sojourn around broadcasting has in my eyes been my failure - in part because of the manner in which broadcasting was skewed culturally and technologically. You just were not allowed to be multiskilled in broadcasting. This was the era of monoliths.

However the knock on effect, whether it was BBC Newnight or Channel One and the Net in 1994 has been the different methodologies myself and many others have been privy to.

And in many ways it's been these different different insights and workflows, also working alongside some highly talented people, that has shaped me, and is the basis of a book in which I can reveal methods and tips.

Viewmagazine.tv was conceived by this mashup in 2005.

Journalism Training
Then there's been the training. Outside of creating stories, it's an area I deeply enjoy and have been fortunate to be involved in training since my early career (87), then South Africa, and more recently working with the Press Association and various outfits around the world e.g. Cairo TV.

Training I have learned has to be bespoke, because you're dealing with a range of experiences and personalities. There's no one size fits all.

Lecturing has different challenges balancing theory and practicals around a middle ground whereby students must reap the rewards of their own research - pedagogy.

We're in the final project phase of supervision at the moment with the potential for some amazing student work to emerge. And when it does it will be there work, sweat and toil.

The brief: take a single story issue and building a story. Chapter 8 by the way in the book.

Freytag's basic triangle as seen in Stephen Meadow's interactive, sits at the core of good solid story tellings, with an obvious plot featured in David's book. It can also be modified within multimedia.

It's not just the changes enveloping educational journalism we're all aware of but the experiments, and successful outcomes that many of us are looking for.

Those answers, I often believe do not lie in the profession, as many of Harvard Business Review articles in business strategy have shown.

Southbank Centre's Artistic Director Jude kelly, last January launched Collision - a deeply rich invigorating programme for mid carer artists. Any Journalism educator reading this would be minded to have a close look at it.

My good friend Patrice Schneider and I shared thoughts on a similar idea, and the concept is still up for grabs. Bring together creative journalists of different disciplines and create the surroundings for a healthy exchange of ideas.

Not as a conference, but something more tangible. Mr Westbrook, we will get the creative fight club up an running.

But perhaps after its had an outing in Chongqing, China. Next month four profs, me and my head of department head out to one of its leading universities.

So back to the beginning, where our education seems to be waning, (there are still great pockets of excellence by the way) the Chinese are upping the stakes. China's projected growth is a whopping 11.9% and the news today that China may allow its Yuan to appreciate, just shows the commanding position it has found itself in.

The mood appears to be China understands the value of investment, and quietly behind the scenes. There's a double whammy here.

Firstly predictions from an international conf. I attended that by 2015 the number of foreign students from China to Australia, the US and UK will fall significantly, will take crucial foreign earnings from theses territories.

It will also squarely place China, with its penchant for educational innovation, at the forefront. Innovation, web, China... don't scoff!

Our mission next month is to share ideas in lecturing and mentoring students, alongside training exercises which are designed so students can network ideas. I don't doubt also that we'll pick up vital methods, which I believe will work here.

And that in itself I hope will prove worthwhile inclusion in tomb I'm hoping will blur the borders between many of the storytelling disciplines.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The turning - what as a student journalist I wish I knew then

David working at BBC local radio circa 1988 as a freelancer

The transition from undergrad to Masters programmes, or for that matter trainee journalists to the long-in-tooth, can be a difficult one.

My own experience offers a story I look to for answers.

In 1987 nearing my graduation, I had joined the BBC as a freelancer. I was getting on well, but then the dynamics in the newsroom changed with the arrival of a new member of staff - also a student.

Things started to go wrong and because of a combination of my impetuousness and hurt at being sidelined, I shut up shop. I stored all that was wrong for an interview for the one staff job coming up.

At the interview things were going swimmingly, but then I was asked: "So what do you think about your team members and editor?"

I criticised them in a manner which I felt fit, offering no self-critique in its place or deference to understanding the process.

The interviewer from Human Resources asked me two questions:

  1. If you knew what was going wrong, why did you not intervene in some way and draw attention to this by speaking to your editor or colleagues? Why did you suffer in silence?
  2. And if I hire you how can I trust if things go wrong, rather than seeking a collective resolution, you won't look to blame others again?

There and then I knew I'd lost the job. Today I have a theory, which stems from my experience as a student undergrad and the way we are taught and in deeper studies such as a PhD, when you set your own study prog.

Changing journalism
As journalists or would-be-journalists we are blessed with an asset that should, I say should, aid our inter-relations with others; the use of words and methods of communications.

But we are individuals who exercise levels of me-ism that at times corrode our relationships when it shouldn't be so.

I'm certain I wouldn't hire me, if I knew when things were going south, I could not find a means to enquire and help in some way bring attention to how we could look for a solution.

The training of journalists is one that often overlooks life's teachings. But that's not unusual.

In parallel scenes in the aviation industry, it took a wholesale change in attitude to eradicate a huge problem.

The cockpit of the 70s would brook no challenge or advice from the first officer to the pilot. The pilot was the single arbiter whose authority could not be challenged, resulting in a number of crashes that could have been avoided.

So the airline industry fostered a new relationship between its flying staff.

When the web advocated sharing ideas with Linux charging with the flag, it was so anathema that trad media either poo pooed it or tried to kill it.

On the web we don't mind, or perhaps pretend we're selfless. And we've learned to create a nomenclature of how to address problems e.g. don't feed the troll, but in person we still clutch on to antiquated, yet, yes humanistic ideals.

Learning from our mistakes

Davis speaking about creative, technical and semiotics of creativity at Apple Store.

It's possible, and now I'm a little wiser, that we all need to go through this me-ism path, because only after that can we evaluate our own standings and learn about ourselves.

Mine cost me a job, but I believe it made me a better person. It took many things including Stephen Covey's lesson on interdependency - which I read by the way in a book.

For those that know me, I hope I strive to be fair and where things are seen to be off target from my own ideals, I find the means and ways of talking about it.

Many times I have discovered it's unintentional, that I am as much the solution as the scene I look to. It takes two people to have a conversation.

But if 21st journalism is to build on its antecedents, the underlying "real life" attitudes within social networks e.g. respect for oneself and others needs looking at and translated into the lecture rooms and journalism shop floors.

Can we teach it?

We can create artificial environments to test these: group work dynamics, shared problem solving, the wisdom of crowds approach, but ultimately the answers lie within ourselves.

And that may be a matter of you mastering your programme, as much as anything else.