Monday, August 30, 2010

Corporate PR videojournalism- look at this now; all else please ponder

BA Willie Walsh in an in-house video characterised by its PR semiotic and corporate language

British Airways' protracted dispute with its staff, supported by their representative union, Unite, had a curious moment for me in spring.

The potential strike action surrounded disagreements over pay and conditions for cabin crew, which may still flare up in the future.

The message from both sides was being fought in the glaring spotlight of the news media, except look closely and British Airways' Willie Walsh was playing an interesting hand.

On several occasions instead of answering to the media for interviews, BA's corporate video arm FlyBritishAirways filmed Walsh and put the video out for the media to grab, and they did.

For PR firms this was a major coup; the YouTube era was batting on both fronts and since the media was in HD, a simple download or access to the main films would suffice for television - though there are few artifacts to correct.

This command and control delivery of media represented a big breakthrough for corporate PR, and banished some old ghosts and many corporates also run their own video news e.g. BP

Firstly for a running story as newsworthy as this, so long as FlyBritishAirways could get video online addressing the main concerns of news media, there would be a strong urge for the news media to use it. FlyBritishAirways would most likely have former broadcast journalists working for them, otherwise they'd bring one in.

The advantage is that Walsh doesn't have to suffer the unpredictable and relentless questioning from news media. Its a command and controlled environment.

As the videos stand at the moment, they have running through them the DNA of all corporate vidoes - jaunty corporate music intros that mark out PR akin to listening to a Chaplin ditties screaming, "This is Chaplin" or that controlled backdrop that looks too contrived. But that will change.

Simply because this YouTube audience is far more sophisticated in media than previous generations and will begin to discern and filter where the message is coming from.

Broadcast Media Control
The media itself has its own insurance policy, qualifying the origins of external media, though not as vigilant as they should otherwise you'd get APTV and Reuters plastered all over the screen. (this is a side argument as APTV and Reuters are impartial news outfits).

For the use of external videos, its not just good policy in attribution, but necessary for integrity of the host, but the media historians in you will know that attribution is only a relatively recent act.

It took an incident with GreenPeace where the BBC felt it had been compromised for the broadcaster to firstly put a ban on the use of video news releases, or heavily censor them showing where they came from.

The daddy of the video wars in the 90s was Brent Spar: Shell versus GreenPeace, which serves as lecture 101 for all PR firms understanding the dynamics of video news. I was invited to speak to a Fortune top 10 company recently who felt it was getting a raw deal from the media.

Video Undercurrents, an activist company also proved in the 90s if you've got exclusives, the broadcasters will eat out of your hands:
Well would ITN be interested"?
We phoned them up and the said, "No not really, shot on video, we could never use it".
So, we went down to ITN and said "we are here and we shot on Beta".
We had shot it on Hi-8 and the ITN man said,"I thought it was Beta", and we said "Oh well we made a mistake."
So he watched it and just could not believe it.....
..It was just something he had never seen before; everything up to then filmed from the ground upwards, but this was actually on it (the roof).
He used it and it went national
( taken from Lets do it - Campaigning video news magazine by Paul Oconnor

Future News Media Verusus Corporate Videojournalism

Dorothy Byrne Channel 4's Head of News and Current Affairs speaking to David

So what does this all mean for future media. I interviewed Dorothy Byrne Channel 4's Head of News and Current Affairs and in our conversation she mooted as much the complexities of news and news organisation's approach to curating video news releases.

For the videojournalist or videojournalist firms of the future, they'll play a stronger hand not just in corporate head2head interviews, but turning over insider packages, but with the likely caveat of a less PR schtick, at least as we know it now.

David interviews the then director of Chatham House

This interview I did with one of the UK's leading think tanks Chatham House is independent enough. I asked the questions and got no direction, but it's sufficiently robust and shows their former director engaging in issues, very frankly, to the point, that it explains what Chatham House is about. You can watch the video here.

Steve Punter, a veteran news editor and talented programme maker, makes the point more succinctly. Everyone now has their own media and the job of the expert will be in their craftsmanship of making watchable, intelligent, informative programmes.

That's the next rung for videojournalists perfecting their skills. It's not about the camera, and not about the technology, but the ability to understand the semiotics of video news and audiences.

In many ways then the relationship we have with this new video form will at some point be inverted. When the practitioners amongst us see videojournalism not as the low hanging fruit but a complex set of skills. That much the Guardian's former Head of Video Robert Freeman confirms.

And then all sorts of media, with your integrity intact, will be open for business. PR firms talk about changes to their industry, this is an area, the use of video, where there is still enormous growth to observe.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How Star Trek boldly takes storytelling and journalism where its never been before.. Journailism Trek

One of the best Star Trek franchises ever, but how did they do it and what can others learn?

I've been watching Star Wars, again! Perhaps it's the fact that it's playing on Sky, but truthfully I wouldn't give much time to other films when I have a stack of Wong Kar Wai films to get through. I have just finished the stunningly stylistic 2046.

I grew up on Star Trek, and perhaps like every young male fantasising about space flight and Uhuras appreciated Roddenberry's contribution to my development.

But JJ Abrams did do something special to the franchise; he was given free reign which included not having to stay loyal to its old fans forewarning them in ads: "this is not your father's Star Trek". He had the license to do something new.

Frankly give over journalism to JJ or the JJs. Let the leading news studios say it: "try something new". Janet Street Porter, was powerful and creative enough to try this on British television and youth current affairs in the 80s with Network 7 and then Def II.

It may seem so anodyne now, but back then, when I worked on Reportage, it really was Star Trek.

Journalism Trek

The Retwitter Show titles - journalism 2046 from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

But back to the film. I had a mini eureka moment watching Bones talk about telemetry and beam ups. For some weird spatial moment I got thinking about my Applied Chemistry moments, co-efficient of friction and refluxing of crystals.

Each, as with much of Chemistry, involves equations; equations with variables which when altered change the state and outcome of that being experimented upon.

The beauty with sciences is a problem can be attempted to be solved by often identifying what could constitute a variable and then set about devising an equation.

Simplified, the coefficient of friction, identifies the point of contact between two surfaces e.g. your tyre and the road. On a rainy surface it's different and this therefore requires engineers to set about looking at your brakes, the nature of your tyres, load of car.. all sorts of things. A naturally occurring event has been broken down into stages.

In the purification of chemical substances, purified yields tend to be rare, there's always some imperfection, but scientist keep honing, much in the same way news and documentary continually search for the truth, but there's always an impurity.

Put another way, there's no such thing as truth in news, which is a recording of an event; there's an approximation that comes close, but it's disputable. The only way you get the truth of what you see is by being there, but even then in the interpretation is suffers from distortions...impurities..

So, what does this all mean for videojournalism? Well a couple of things:
  • Stick the creatives in a room and leave them alone, but with the knowledge that there will be support. I've got a venue at the Southbank Centre to do this, but need your help.
  • Don't be afraid to upset the baby boomers, if you want a new generation to tune in.
  • Break down the variables of a new semiotic into mathematical variables, which is what I have been doing in my PhD study. Yes, Applied Chemistry applied to filming. I smiled first when I thought about it. My first supervisor sowed the seed when I began extolling Art and Physics.
  • Lastly, let the random thinking that pushes science beyond its border, the science fiction bit, infuse the creative and money men to think beyond their station. I recently came across a device no bigger than a button, which I'm convinced will be the next phone device, and oddly enough its very similar to the Comms device in S.T.
  • Now, anyone for a creative fight club or a chat about about this. Email me here
Lets see if we can boldly take this somewhere else. See you on and please don't hesitate to write :) LLAP

David Dunkley Gyimah creates and trains in video and storytelling, with brands such as the Financial Times and the first regional newspaper journos in the UK going video. He graduated in Applied Chemistry.

The Retweeter Shows titles - to be a good journalist, videojournalist

This video you might watch came about from this post below. After it was retweeded, I created this title intro for a fictitious Retweet show to thank those who pinged this to their friends.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Do you speak a video. DO YOU SPEAK VIDEO. YEAH YOU

It's really what you do with the camera. David shooting and directing for Channel 4 News, (1999)

The spitting can be quite over whelming; rain coat at the ready

Do you speak ( ...fuzzy sound...) Damn I hear you.

That declaration often comes after three or four forceful recitals. The English do it best, believing at each utterance, by raising your voice further the poor soul, looking you squarely in the eyes will get it.

You know substitute "English" for "Video". Course!

Except that now, everyone speaks video. All you need to do is point and shoot, which for the cinematographers amongst you does you head in no end.

But you daren't not raise this in the forums for fear of being branded elitist. So there you are pleased as punch, but sneering under your Budweiser's: "See that, none of yous can speak video".

Cuz the experts will tell you, candidly that pointing the camera and following a bus is no different than Judy five years old pointing at Uncle Jim, whose just stolen her sherbet.

It's a reflex action. If you didn't do it your ECGs aren't that healthy.

Video, film, is a reflexive art. It's like painting, You produce, you destroy, you reflect, you learn.

Then you start again, except this time you're wiser and you do it at a moment's notice at some point, before you get bored with the same protocol and decide you want to try something new.

Mark Cousins speaks video. You can hear him and other artists on Collisions, a site I created with the Southbank Artists in Residence programme.

It's a pain, but an intoxicating one. Do you speak video? Course you do.

Look at this. Sometimes just leaving the camera to observe is good plenty, often you'll be praised because you're the only one to have captured the duck chasing off the pit bull

But do you...?

"Now look up for a moment. Look at the spill of light on the left, how non-uniform it is, several grades. Look at the reflection on the table from the tungsten light. Look at the architectural spaces between the table, and its foreshortening to the door. The bin, because of perspective is the same size. Look at the sign that says "silent zone" and the grid above it - the patterns; the row of books that look like transformers and the paper isolated in the corner. Then imagine, something not of your control is about to happen, but you do have control if you anticipate. Now close your eyes, get up an act upon it, on the basis that everything you're seeing, you're seeing for the first time, and it all means something".

Now this could all be a load of b***, but in speaking video one of my exercises is relearning to see a new, remembering the gate of the lens can only see what you tell it; it has no periphery vision.

In Venice you learn to look upwards for the beauty, and down to avoid the dogs doodies. In what one of my favourite philosophers Deleuze says the image is never static. Your positioning affects the image and the consequences, but it's always moving on, and where are you?

Reading Cineast Voll VII No.1 from 1967 I came across this Gian Maria Volonte speaking about Godard

"He really was trying to do the impossible - to negate himself as a director and see what would happen. He experimented with the possibilities of interaction between the traditional relationships within a film crew and the need for a less authoritarian and more collective work process, but to the point he wanted to just give the camera to anyone and let them do their part of the film. ..... ....He is too preoccupied with only one type of problem - his problems - which make him forget the essential - the function of the cinema as a means of communication with the masses, the relationship between creation, production and distribution

Luvely. On the other hand, someones shouting, just bloody shoot the thing. What's the bet they speak video?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Where next for technical videojournalism news?

1Techniques for videojournalism- because it's about reducing the mediation in storytelling

Techniques for videojournalism. There are a range of VJ techniques, the subject of a book on hold at the moment, that comes from the fusion of different disciplines I've been engaged in over my 23 years.

But yes technique alone doesn't cut it; there's more to take on board about "the self" . I'll post on this in the future. The self is more subjective, revolving around experiential learning. But the job, the job? I need to complete what I need in as swift time as possible and get it out looking within the aesthetic I fashion on sight of the report.

We're back to the making the film in your head as seen online, with no edits. It involves visualization skills - eked from Arts practice. ( See Collision- When Artists Collide)

In China: Videojournalism
Take the following. I'm in Chongqing China, I'm interviewing the management team of well known Net firm about what they do. It's an open question, which frankly I really don't need, but it provides so many windows of opportunities. The photo above shows me engaging with my subject, but there's an element of guile on my part, to prevent them from acting or being directed for the camera.

2 using the filmic space

So, one minute I'm filming and engaging and the next minute I have moved away as she is busily focused on explaining an action. She hasn't noticed and will likely not know I'm gone for about 4 seconds. I have picked up a relevant ( *in camera) sequence. This points to a major principle of videojournalism film making, which I'll put in bold: Film around your subject, don't direct them; the less intervention, the nearer the reality.

3. Re engaging for the question

I then set up for a question I'm needing to ask, which is a closed question. I regularly judge my mediation, a bit like the corporate press officer knowing when to intervene. and often depending on the nature of the report will tell the interviewees what I will use.

This sets up an interesting reflective, when sometimes the interviewee will prefer a quote wasn't used. That's the exchange I believe the viewer is interested in. In this case the parties were fine.

4. reviews. Using flash cards for reviews

Below where next for videojournalism news?

Werner Herzog said, they're all movies..

We professionalise the moving image in the view to making it inimical to anyone not in the magic circle. It becomes simplified through pecuniary means, and hostile in its functionality to those on the outside.

TV, the music business, the army - all socially formed structures of work adhered to some form of insiderness.

Videojournalism is the latest, but it's different. In 1994 it was insiderness; in 2010 its externalised and its rebirth came in public view. If you missed some of the 1994 incarnations go here.

Now, you even know some of the terms: GVS, Stand up; you could build a videojournalism outfit from reading manual notes online.

The trouble is with news as a form of 21st century discourse. It has many things right with it and wrong. The burning flaw is wanting to tell stories that have already happened.

We find that unacceptable for doc making, unless there is a denouement or we find new revelations, but we tolerate rehearsed action in news, in videojournalism.

It's a curious notion, because the concept of news is among many things, new! But the news construct is built upon events that have in many cases already happened, with an attempt at finding a means to divulge that material in an accessible way.

Its worked thus far, but now a more intelligent viewer is beginning to see and chuckle at the cracks. So videojournalism, TV News seeks more of the dramatics and in the absence of action this has to be constructed within videojournalism's cinematography.

The difficulty is to be less rigidly tied to formats, but to devise one's own. That I'm afraid will take time; the innovation reside in individuals, subjectivity of the news may now be tolerated if you can demonstrate professionalism to the audience.

That's not to say structures will ever disappear. We build them all the time, once we get momentum. The innovator has an option to sell his/her ideas for followers.

Now, it's like the running of a top Formulae 1 Car. They (F1s) all run at more or less near enough the same speeds, but modifications from the pits, by technicians and engineers' wit with years of experience makes their difference.

So in distinguishing content ( the F1) from process (the pit experts), we're back where we begun...Werner Herzog saying they (news, docs, videojournalism) are all movies..

But then Herzog is a supreme pit expert.

Follow up with this.

1. Do you speak a video, Yes You!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How do you creative brainstorm yourself - here's mine

Is this art?

It looks non-descript but trust me, what exists on those colourful notes are liminal thoughts that should save me.

Firstly liminal, what is it? This site provides a wonderful expression

In “Liminality and Communitas,” Turner begins by defining liminal individuals or entities as “neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremony” (1969: 95).

So they're the thoughts, sometimes random you get when you're in a creative moment, or day dreaming. They're there one moment and if you don't capture them, like the character in Usual Suspects blowing his fingers, they're gone, and annoyingly so.

Moments of creativity can often be the catalytic converters to more rigorous thoughts and the process I have developed using my wall at home has also been miniaturised when I go on site as a videojournalist. ( though you won't see it :) )

Remember there's often a lot of noise around you, at home and in the field, and you need something to capture those Tourette syndrome thoughts.

So here's what I do, at least at home with my creative wall. I'm currently in the middle of doctorate research programme to illustrate news and television in the future.

Yep I do pick em, so usually when I get up in the morning, around 5.30-6.00 I have these liminal thoughts about something I might have read the day before or mulled over just that morning. These inchoate thoughts find themselves to the creative wall.

I then set about writing and developing my chapters independently. If I get another thought say like writing now, I then stop and put that on the wall.

In time I then in a reflective mood go back to the wall and see how those lightening thoughts square with the more measured reflective self. The results are often staggering and will lead me to rework scripts.

In the field it's a more active process, but I will switch off momentarily to reflect or grab postits I might have made. In away it's a fashioning of the reflective writer/ videojournalist working from creative spurts.

Thus questioning or forging fresh methods. It's a jekyll and Hyde approach in the absence of anyone around you to bounce of ideas.

I used a similar technique working in advertising, and I know many many editors who use the same technique. If I can eventually get my book out from underneath all the present projects I talk about some more knowledge building exercises.

This one might work for you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Reasons to do journalism-the iniquities of Amazon. Respecting John Dewey and video crowd sourcing

The book that arrived at my home had been eagerly expected and the postman, a jolly fellow, telegraphed its arrival through the frosty front window door: "Parcels sir".

Ahh there it was. And yes this book was special. John Dewey is an icon of western philosophy and social reform and his book: How we think (1910) is what we might call today a game changer.

Bowling Green state university, voted recently one of America's best colleges, recounts the views of a scholar Dykhuizen, who described Dewey as
"a major figure of American intellectual history, is considered to be one of the few Americans of the twentieth century who"...can be acknowledged on a world scale as a spokesman for mankind"
However if you're a defender of American scholarly work or books for that matter, look away now. No, actually recant that cliche, please keep reading.

Dewey gets into his prose explaining one of many stories. I have displayed a portion, which says:
The story is told of a man in slight repute for intelligence, who desiring to be a chosen selectman in his new England town, addressed a knot of neighbors in this wise.
Except the text in my newly delivered Amazon book reads and is presented as follows:
The story
consecutive 1s to 0 a man 1 n sSnt repute for intelligence who, not merely desiring to be chosen selectman in his New England a sequence town, addressed a knot of neighbors in this wise
Printing errors from the book

And these illegible prints continue through out the book, 20 - 30 mistakes on a page.

Book Theft
The publishers behind this go by the name of General Books. When I could take no more of the gibberish I looked in the book to find a small disclaimer. It says

Limit of liability/disclaimer of warranty: "While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representation or warranties to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties...
And adds
"We have recreated this book from the original using optical character recognition software to keep the cost of the book as low as possible. therefore could you please forgive any spelling mistakes, missing or extraneous characters that may have resulted from smudged or worn pages?"

Photo of inside sleeve of book talking about their technique for reproduction

Well to the latter, No! In less than a month I'll have around 40 Masters students and soon afterwards 40 International students and I don't doubt for one moment that if I placed passages of this book in front of them, they would find it acceptable.

But here's where this saga takes another uncomfortable twist. Amazon endorses this publisher, the book arrives courtesy of Amazon, and when I made an attempt to get a refund I discovered I would not get the full amount. In fact they will only remittance half the cost on the basis the book was defective.

Why become a journalist
Now, this is why I became a journalist. This is plainly unacceptable from both General Books for selling a product not fit for purpose and for Amazon complicit to this and denying a full refund.

In fact in a more progressive world of customer service, there would be an effort to ameliorate this sorry affair. But lets forget that for a moment.

At this point, I could take the more common sense approach and say I will no longer shop on Amazon, but despite my spending a fair amount on books on the site, I know that will have no effect.

People power and boycotts in the day, has a different effect for the bottom line, as Nike found out when it offended black Americans, Moslems et al over the years

But this: the company versus the individual addressing their rights, is what I wanted a voice for. It's theft. No different from going to the cinema and finding the film is a copy version, a bootleg, with non- native English speakers speaking English.

I'd demand my money back.

What others have said
The last bit to this is despairing, but Amazon's page on John Dewey is replete with customers who have been taken in by this. "Read the review before you buy a book!" you might say.

Well, not everybody does, I often do. But the two best reviews have been placed at the top and the critical ones have become side shows below. Subterfuge some more. Here's some of the posts:

Phi Stone writes a month ago: 1.0 out of 5 stars
Unreadable. Buy a different copy.

This book is completely different than the preview version and the OCR text is unreadable. Dewey is good reading, so buy from a different publisher.

This from an anonymous buyer: 1.0 out of 5 stars
This is a Bootleg Edition

This is not the same edition as the one that can be viewed on this page. There is a disclaimer in the front of the book that states that the so-called publisher "recreated this... Read more

And from M. Schwieterman 1.0 out of 5 stars HORRIBLE
This book was automatic digitization gone wrong. I don't think anyone looked at this before it was printed. There are jumble words and phrases throughout. Read more

What you can do?
If you've been displeased by this and would like to be part of a videojournalism report please let me know. It may mean doing a short video of yourself talking about your concerns and we'll put it together as a global videojournalism report.

Fifteen years ago, I made this report for Channel One TV, a housewife who so riled by the attitude and road humps brought in by her municipal council she campaigned to have them successfully removed. The report at the time was nicely received by viewers.

Fifteen years on I think we can do something more appropriate - a film and something along the lines of this vlog butterfly and video promo I made interviewing a senior BBC figure and was picked up by various credible news sources such as

So please get in touch. See you on Hopefully we can do something for this nonsense to be more widely recognised and daren't I add, stopped.

Added 26th August - Update
Since writing this post and contacting Amazon I received the following, so good result!


I'm sorry to hear about the problem with your book. It would be expensive to return the item in this case, so there's no need to return the item.

I see you printed a return mailing label from our website; feel free to throw that away. We won't charge you for printing the label.

Note: The label you printed can only be used to return the "How We Think (1910)" from order #XXXX If you want to return another item in the future, you'll need to print a new label.

I've requested a refund for $14.54, the cost of the item, shipping costs, and the import fee deposit (if any). This refund will go through within the next 3-5 business days and will appear as a credit on your next credit card billing statement.

Since you placed your order using the Amazon Currency Converter, the refund you receive will be issued in your local currency. The refund will be calculated with the same rate used when you placed your order.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

in 2046 journalism died. The machines took over

My city friend runs his investment portfolio according to Fibonacci's numbers. Yes, your invested cash is being moved around by his machine programmed to look for patterns theorised by a 12th century mathematician.

A machine now can, using the the proportions of the golden ratio, tell a master piece from a flawed painting and the weather tomorrow is determined by modelling.

News of course is indeterminate, but generally speaking its classification follows tested rules. The rest is human emotion.

In Spielberg's A1 David is everything but bereft of emotion. In British Politics, as each party equivocates about what they would do next, we might say the machines, Data, have arrived in all but physical form.

They're programmed to say the same thing:
So how will you bring down the budget deficit
A: We've built five new schools
Do you think the pubic trust you
A: go to answer 1.

And according to Nick Davies, FLat Earth, the machinary of PR masquerading as news has already taken over.

So in 2046 when the bulk of data we consume is offered by machines, don't be alarmed, and don't say it can't happen. 10 quid, lets talk again in 2020 to see where we are. I buy the drinks if there's no hint of it.

How do we stop it, by giving a ******

As close back as the 90s and Thatchers poll tax we did.

Now it's ideological movements about the "big brother". You think journalism's dying? Yes it is, because at the point when we fail to take risks to do best what nosey parkers do, then the machines will have taken over, and they may not have to be clad in shiny terminator suits.

What makes a good journalist.. videojournalist?

This video you might watch came about from this post below. After it was retweeted, I created this title intro for a fictitious Retweet show to thank those who pinged this to their friends.

any students have now graduated, some have found jobs, others will join an unofficial club reeling of letters and CVs.

Having struggled myself initially to get into the media, I still have all my BBC rejection letters, and regularly now find myself in positions to recommend others for broadcasters and newspapers,  I'd like to share some of my thoughts.

The first thing that is apparent is the digital age has changed the job market in the way we conduct a different type of journalism. This in turn has affected, or should, attitudes to hiring from potential employers.

That at least is what senior execs will tell you, but the converse is that traditional values in this fuzzy world have never required reinforcing like they do now.  Values such as objectivity, impartiality, truth, ethics, fairness, learning how to cope with failure - these are personable qualities that universities or lengthy training regimes help you broach.

Take the modules where I lecture in at my University, the University of Westminster, or training programmes in Egypt where I have been helping to create all-round videojournalists ( see the concept is to teach, then load students with real-life obstacles.

Invariably, these test a number of skills: creative, technical, personable, knowledge-building and provide invaluable feedback.

Understanding social networks and how they impact user behaviour is crucial, but so is developing your critical analysis. On the top of Egypt's state broadcaster, Nile TV, its 27th floor my colleague pointed to an economically deprived area of downtown Cairo. I took this picture. What does it show?

Downtown Cairo

The next day I spent time walking around the cafes and eateries, and there in the corner was TV with any number of people watching. Social Media may have played a role as some sort of secondary catalyst in the unrest in Cairo, but pushing the chemistry analogy, the substrate appears to me to be good old fashion television - the bastion of social media.

If you are going on to some form of tertiary education, the amazing skills you'll likely to learn during your most fertile period may not necessarily be required within the traditional market place e.g. learning how to use twitter as a marketing tool, unless that is the company you are working for envelopes these into their working practice. Believe me not all do.

Also be aware, most job interviews will tap you for new knowledge and your potential thus as the next generation to take the organisation through the digital sluice gates, but you may well end up not using such skills immediately.

So it pays to develop your own online presence as both a reputation management guide and to offload some of the angst you may encounter in traditional media companies who take the ford system of division of labour.

And before you ask, there's nothing wrong with the Ford system, its all about horses for the right course.

What makes a good journalist.. videojournalist? ( Reduxed - since writing this yesterday)

1. Personable: good social skills in handling different scenarios and a matured responsible manner. Being able to illustrate you're a story teller, by telling a story... and that includes job interviews. You have no idea how bored interviewers get when one candidate after another subjects them to monosyllabic answers.

A friend of mine walking up to the panel tripped on her stilettos, fell down and then held her broken heel aloft. "I've made a right heel of this without even starting", she said. She got the job after recounting other witty stories in her answers. But don't do what politicians do... " Earlier I asked this (fictional) lady called Margaret about her ...." NO!

Also learn how to be firm without being cocky; the best journalists to work with, and would-be-journalists are those who are generous; they display a voracious appetite to know and demonstrate they care. Listening is a skill. Learn to listen, because ultimately the story is in the listening, as much as the probing. If you care about the story, you'll know what to ask, because it becomes a quasi-conversation.

2. Judicious use of words and being relaxed. Knowing how to talk to people. Please don't be verbose. Use words in a manner befitting of you a potential reporter: intelligent without over doing it. If you have a propensity to say er, a lot, it may either signify lack of confidence or knowledge.

If you can switch from speaking to 5 year olds, without being condescending to non-native speakers of your language and then to a high powered official, that social chameleon skill will get you far.

If your vocabulary is found wanting or 9/11 is a channel, you might want to have some strong words with yourself. Last year at a media event, one 3rd year media student asked me. What's 9/11?

3. An inquisitive and enquiring mind: a nosy bastard. If you're someone who asks "why" a lot, often quietly in your head, then you're the bothered type. On radio some years back, a guest told me something really amusing. During a studio interview she excused herself for a bathroom break, after the other speaker had been talking.

It was only after the show that she admitted, she was so bothered with the other interviewee using the word "peripatetic", that she had to find out what it meant, so she went off to find a dictionary. She never used the word during her interview, she just needed to know.
Journalism is an irrational appetite to know things. In effect you're a wordsmith or visual detective.

There's a test I usually run on my masters students, the first time I'm supposed to meet them. I send a  not to the lecture hall apologizing I'll be late, but have the room strewn with newspapers and mags, some with marked headlines. It's fascinating to note those who picked up the newspapers before I turn up and those who felt they'd use the time talking to friends on the phone.

Short film I made of former MAJI student who today are successful in their fields answering "If". If they could change one thing, what would that be? This is an edited version.

4. Capable of sacrificing your time and efforts for a good cause - illustrate this. This is a personal quality. Stop being the Narcissistic Ego; you know, the "know it all". The me-society, which has its green shoots in Consumerism of the 80s (You could argue also the 60s) and is congealed now, means its all about you. I find this space-sharing tested when asking student journalists to collaborate on projects. Some excel, others still believe they should be guarded.

If you're sitting next to someone struggling because they don't know what button to push to post their wordpress blog, and you've just posted your 10th, why would you tell them to email the lecturer???  Please don't misunderstand me, this is not about lecturers or mentors abrogating their roles, it's about the we media and wisdom of crowds. You'll win far more accolades playing alongside others together. Yes you got the interview, we know!

5. A good understanding of technology and applications. You work in TV and don't know what DTT means?? An appreciation of a technology will suffice. Blog? Ah yes, isn't that when you write on the Internet. There will be 20-somethings appearing on journalism courses this year, who will not know what a blog is, let alone have written in one. Why?

It is inevitable ( I sound like a borg) but digital journalism today embraces a fundamental understanding of basic tech. If you're railing against computers because you hate them, two things. Firstly, you won't be able to avoid them and some of the tools/software they come with. Secondly, you're doing yourself no favours.

With limited spaces available working for an outfit, even if you're not going to use online skills, don't pass them over.

6. The usual suspects: law, admin, politics - Yeah. Somethings you just need to know, but some of you will quietly and methodically push the envelope some more. My Masters students will know me for the saying: "You can work and pass this exam, or you can work and excel in industry. If you choose the latter, you're assured to pass your exams and get a job. If you choose the former, you'll pass, hopefully, but that job won't have your name on it".

Why? simple. There are in the UK on average I'm told by a human resources manager 100 applicants for every job advertised. So, you need to be special, and want it. You can, but it costs.

7. Persistence and heightened sense of keenness. I see this in the MAJI students when they're doing online. Those that are committed will reap what they sow. One of my former students had a persistent knack of keeping me on campus until 9pm.

He wanted to know, but not in an asymmetric relationship, he'd push me as well. Most managers like nothing more than someone who can in a respectful way push them. But if you're going to turn up to a class or newsroom know that before you ask that questions, er what's 911, you've at least googled it or asked a friend. Yes someone did ask about 911.

8. Respect. You may have a double first, but humility is key. Your job is to extract info. Older people or those deemed "alien" may seem worthless but they possess huge reservoirs of experiential learning. If your inclination after a week on the work placement is to think your editor is a W*****er, then time will become your foe in years to come, when you're no longer young and OH yes it will happen. The expression be nice on your way up, because you will come down and meet the same people, is TRUE.

9 Independent mind - an opinion. Personally I'd rather have a student in front of me talking about how she/he got out of a ruck in Borneo, than someone telling me she/he has 3,000,000 twitter followers. A senior figure at the think tank Chatham House, was my mentor, but on the occasion he would ask I speak to a relative of his considering journalism, my advice was back then and now: " Go and make yourself interesting". Travel... experience new things.. broaden you social horizons.

10. Think on your feet. Be bothered by mediocre, second best and go-slows. When it all goes horribly wrong, will you be the one in the newsroom to pull it altogether and not lose it? I'd like to end here with a tribute to another former student who showed how "self belief" in the constant face of uncertainty and how risk taking does pay off.

11. Wanting it. At the end of each module I conduct a lecture on "Wanting it". Simply it's a quasi- army talk on the lengths you can or will go if you want something. For there is no right or wrong route to this trade called journalism.

As part of my PhD research I recently interviewed an old colleague of mine. When we worked as videojournalists in 1994, he was first a researcher, then talked his way into becoming a videojournalist. Today he has a 10 million pound turn over company. In Touching the Void, a climber who could not face death crawled back to camp. In 127 hours, the same fighting spirit. As I write this now, there are Master students who are blurring night and day.

Online classes, with CSS and the likes, fold into video doc projects. They're probably calling me all sorts of names ( LOL); I also get the most delightful emails after the course, but I know now they're finding out about themselves: in group dynamics, in their own desires, in finding solutions, in sacrificing one year of their lives to work their socks off.

As a chemistry undergrad, a good friend became my mentor: "David", he would say,"forget the nightlife and the socialising, get the degree. The rest will be here when you finish".  Later on during my Postgrad, my lecturer asked me to make a choice. I was making 150UKP a week as a DJ, but my studies were suffering.

The choice of abandoning that pay check, helped me into my first TV job in 1990 at the BBC's flagship news analysis prog Newsnight. It's high time, I thought then and do now of paying that favour back. For without that timeline, it's very likely I wouldn't be doing half of the things today e.g. a juror for the UK equivalent of the EMMY's , The RTS Awards and of course lecturing.

Discretion prevents me from divulging so much as to embarrass her and break my own position as a confident, but after a chat, we made a report for her reel. She managed to blag (persuade) the publicists of the premier Dreamgirls ( she's interviewing Danny Glover) and 007 Casino Royale to be part of the TV crews. Nine months later she was selected as Sky's Entertainment Correspondent in LA.

How bad do you want it?

Your thoughts??

p.s And please don't so what one student did when at a journalism gathering I introduced her to a respected ITN reporter. After talking to him for ten minutes, she said she had to go, gave him her card and said: "call me sometime". Our mouths dropped in shock!

David is a director of the Broadcast Journalism Training Council, a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster, PhD Candidate researching future journalism at te SMARTlab, University College Dublin and publisher of and consultant for a number of news organisations. He has worked for some of the biggest news orgs. These views are his own. They are not in anyway shape or form connected to the policies of his university

Here for more on David's background and to talk to him

David interview the former head of the CIA in Washington, James Woolsey and below working as a director-camera film maker in West with the US Special Forces.

David Dunkley Gyimah joins UK industry experts to decide who'll be the Royal Television Society winner for innovative media for the last three years: 2010 and 2009.

Follow up with these.

1. Where next for technical videojournalism news?

2. Do you speak a video, Yes You!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The death of the multiskilled journalist - sans corporeal experience

When the Guardian Newspaper placed its half page ad in its newspaper looking for videojournalist, anyone would have thought they'd be inundated with applications.

The Guardian stands as an iconic newspapers in the print world; its award winning Berliner design, double page photojournalism spreads, and of course Guardian Journalism - a synonym for excellence.

When the applications came pouring in, they totaled around 200; of which around a dozen met the requirements stipulated in the advert. Four got jobs.

Back in 1994, the Guardian was the chosen newspaper to host the advert for associated newspapers plans to recruit videojournalists to launch the UK's first and only videojournalism station.

Over a month lead period, around 1000 applications were received; some from broadcasters who are top names on BBC TV today. 100 applicants were seen over two staggered half hour rigorous interviews and then whittled down to 24 successful applicants.

Talking to one of Channel One's former employees, who went on to carve a career in ITN, she tells me, as many others have iterated ..." There was something unique about the group; we were all different, actually all mavericks in some way".

And that perhaps is it. A point also echoed by my interview with a former senior Guardian editor who says in their job interview he was willing his applicants to be attitudinal, relaxed, composed, edgy, expansive and knowledgeable about their subject.

Why? Because the job, you're about to enter, which will require quick turnaround will also be measured by high, veering towards exceptional standards. And that says the editor is rare.

Martin Adler, an award winning videojournalist epitomised the new digital journalist. He was shot in 2006 in Mogadishu. Kevin Sites, is another. There are countless more, but these two will forever be associated with the art of the new journalist.

Says Newsnight's Paul Mason of Martin Adler

"Martin's approach to video journalism is the opposite to the way most mainstream media works: you go there, get the footage using little battered video cameras, you don't shoot "sequences" - you shoot the truth. He went on and on at me in the edit about the film director Lars von Trier and his philopsophy of Dogma.."

The social self and stories
If you're reading this it's a fair chance you're into multiskilling; invariably that's one of the themes that runs through these posts. You may or may not be a practicing journalist or content aggregator, but you know your way around a Mac - that's multiskilling plenty.

Then close your eyes and imagine: your diary you've discussed with your editor includes:
  • reports from Afghanistan with Bravo company
  • interviewing Angelina Jolie at a film premiere
  • interview with a CEO over the potential economy collapsing
  • Death Knock
Four different jobs, requiring more or less the same apparatus, yet requiring fundamentally different experiences from you.

And that whether by way of perception or otherwise is one of the problems we face in the digital-body age.

All the above are executable as derived from experience, if not actual, the perception of what those might entail from proxy experiences.

Going to Afghanistan by yourself: logistics. Filming in a high stressed area: discipline. Getting the story from soldiers: association. On the other end of the spectrum, talking to Angelina Jolie will require some suppression of emotions, if you're a fan. Yet respect, for who she is.

The CEO requires an embodied patience. The art of doing nothing but looking busy, knowing you're bored out of your wits, but you MUST not show it, as his secretary tells you he'll be out in a minute, and then when he arrives you seamlessly set up your equipment, while engaging the pre-interview space ( the idle, but necessary chat before you start).

And how is your authority in challenging his point of view?

Then there is the death knock. Perhaps the most confusing, emotionally sapping, and delicate of tasks. A story must be told, but it requires you to breach the privacy of the bereaved.

Now, multisklilled journalism ceases to become primarily concerned with technical competence, but increasingly of the sort of paradigms expounded by philosopher Merleau Ponty.

Not an exhaustive list of formulas for what a modern journalist ought to be, but an understanding of our embodied selves. Your experience shape you, and you won't find those extraction skills from lists on twitter or a blog or facing a terminal.

GET OUT! travel, experience others. GO NATIVE!

The job interview that says: "must be sociable" scratches at personal attributes. Sociable to whom- a virtual online community, whom you' re unlikely to meet face to face, or the ability to switch facades corporeally ?

These are new spaces I believe that are creating new, yet virtually ignored areas of debate and will affect what and how we come to perform the function of journalist and storytellers in the future.

As I was writing this a former student of mine ( anonymity guaranteed) sent me her covering letter to a potential employer. I'll talk about the art of writing to an editor later on.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can the Wire ring on a different form of journalism

Solo - a film about videojournalism from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Chapter 13.

The Wire - good for videojournalism

Detective: The reporter comes with us?
Producer: He's a VJ..
Detective: A what? ( laughs) sounds like you said he has the crabs....
Producer: You know they film and edit their own stuff
Detective: Unions let you do that shit?
Producer: What unions? Stopped paying subs when we lost an injunction to you guys. You pay subs?
Detective: Yeah, robbery... times move on. Guess your VJ will get an Oscar for this.
Reporter: Oscar does films, Emmy, most likely get a bullet. Does he get a vest?
Detective: What like a vest, vest? You been watching too many dramas!
Reporter: He gets a vest!
Detective: In the f*****ing Wire he do. Here we so damn down on it, be lucky if you get a hot dog.
Detective: So what's the beef with the boss saying I should let you guys in...
Producer: Oooh noo, we aint going in. He is ( pointing to VJ)
Detective: You guys have one $%£^ing sick sense of humour.
Producer: He'll be inconspicuous..
Detective: Yeah like no one's ever going to find him when he gets out a there.
Reporter: Where are we anyways?
Detective: Dagenham.
Reporter **** where?
Detective: Outside London somewhere!
Reporter: Then why the hell are we talking like we Americans
Detective: We're having a "Life on Mars" moment.
Reporter: True...
[ pause]
Reporter: Does he get a vest?

There's no denying The Wire's huge influence. Realms of thesis have been written and combed over. I'm still suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

If men would knit in public and police could be exposed for cross dressing, you'd find it in The Wire. So what's it got to do with videojournalism?

Not a lot except that it inspires to go beyond the mundane. For original VJ inspiration, Homicide - Life on the Street, is the bible. In one scene it breaks 5 TV rules. But what The Wire does is inspire thought for the way contemporary chat has moved on.

The way you might speak and access info differs broadly from the way news speaks to you in intellectual high tones. That doesn't mean journalism should dumb down, but that there is a new language that's required, a new semiotic, which few have rarely tried

Er sorry Fox News doesn't count.

As I mentioned at SXSW - the film is not enough. Now where's my vest?

Info overload, the new journalist, so why become a journalist?

Imagine in 2030 - all outside kiosks, plasma screens, holodecks will be showing data like this one - a view of captured in an article on Apple Pro. If we're surrounded by data what's the role of the journalist?

The concept of the journalist of the 21st century has still to be resolved. At some point like all industries, networks will get smaller, new citadels will usurp others, funding becomes unsustainable and then what happens when the next information wave hits, where more data than ever is available, what then the role of this arcane 16th century profession, journalism?

There is such a thing as information overload. It was the french Philosopher Baudrillard who gave it a universal currency, but in order to qualify what is an overload we must ascertain what our limits are in the first place - for it fundamentally affects are notion of journalism.

Meanwhile inside the BBC circa 1999, I had finally met with one of their senior execs, lunch! He reviewed my CV, made some remarks and uttered, lets get you in and see.

This image of me at various workplaces is also an allegory for the way, I, even you have come to imbibe data.

If you follow the development of media: Traditional medial - Cable and Satellite media - Digital Media - The Net, each occasion we take to its form, we're met with new data in which previously our cultural ways had no means of accommodating

Think about it. Pre-web, you worked, went out for a drink, home made VHS movie and slept. Today we have an assortment of gadgets that impinge, and require us to alter our social habits.

Social habits that have been built up over long periods are now met with the sudden challenge of, ok instead of looking at my favourite game on a Sunday, I'll blog.

This predicament is most acutely on display in lecture rooms, where students access facebook, twitter and the likes while a lecture is in progress. Our choices have boiled down to: all monitors off or lets reinvent a new way of lecturing where you're able to multiskill. Personally now, I give 10 min FB windows after a 40 min lecture.

Devised in the 1920s, will it celebrate a 100 years in good shape? That's a political answer.
So I didn't get into the BBC as a roving reporter, maybe that was my fault. Should I have pursued my contact some more? But I knew I was doing something right. A piece of advice given to me by an ol' time manager rang in my ears: "if you're wanting to be a journalist, do something, bring me something that the other person wouldn't do, or couldn't do, and people might want and don't endanger your life doing it"

The networks had to find a way to mediate what they felt we the public needed. They couldn't and wouldn't be able to show us all the world's woes.

It's impossible, that would be overload, but instead of finding a means to facilitate our increasing penchant for news, their attitude was still 1950s" "the news is fine as it is". They by and large still think that way, when I think other than our desire for stories, news has become cause and effect.

News is fine as it is ? It couldn't be: the web has showed that with a new breed of citizen journos, determined not by wise counsel sitting yonder, but by you and me, has room to bring us news.

The big shift
What's happening? We've culturally shifted our access to information absorption. MIT Henry Jenkins talks more about this in his writings. However it's still pretty much an unregulated system; they all are when they start, which in time we'll find a way to manage.

So if you can find something that the other person wouldn't do, or couldn't do, and people might without and endangering your life doing it, I reckon the road to the next elevated stage will be short in coming.

What makes the networks work well is their access to data and unquestionably some bright people mediating and delivering that.

The latter is something the best citizen journalists easily do. If all those clever people that couldn't or wouldn't want to get into a network set up their own, or all the people who left a broadcast network did so, we've the makings of some powerful new mediators.

We've started that adhoc already, with blog lines and tweet followers; we still like our repositories. So a new line of journalists, semi-pro, becoming pro not by earnings, but by their knowledge acquisition is on the rise.

The next thing is knitting a structure together and a good friend of mine Steve Punter has produced a document that does just that.

Did I mind I never think I fulfilled my potential? Well it depends whether potential= working for the networks. No, not any more. All the rejections I had accrued made me develop alternative ways of working.

David presenting at SXSW on IM Videojournalism from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Segment of a SXSW presentation that showed we've done all these things before. There's nothing new in multiskilling

A decade ago, the idea that someone could or would do as many things constituted an overload of sorts. Today we take that for granted, until that is the next spike occurs, perhaps - the outernet - where info isn't locked on the web, but like air all around you.

A student called it the "information wave". She's not wrong, then what kind of journalists will you be then - curatorial is not a bad start.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Effecting a Matrix Lecture

The nature of a Matrix Lectures stems from an idea within Matrix maths, where multiple columns and rows are multiplied across each other - necessary within algebra and studying geometry.

In effect then multiple calculations are in process; it requires acute diligence and stamina from the executor and observer.

In many ways matrix lectures as a methodology are like a good comedian on a run. He or she uses the personal, abstract, plays with the audience and above all introduces a motif, an icon.

The very best ones, without you seeing it coming, use the motif as the denouement.

Many of you may have engaged in matrix lectures ad hocly or under some other name. But few will have tried it in its performance guise. The performance Lecture was first mentioned to me in its modernists terms by Prof. Wolfgang Kissel of Bauhaus-University Weimar.

Videojournalism in mathematics is the integration of different practices along the XY, and I would contend as yet not much on the Z plane

University teaching tends to be monocausal. It's based on an eventuality - that you may need to know - as a baseline for all. Many are yet to crack a system otherwise and will not want to veer far off from the syllabus.

The matrix then is a sign of the times. In a non-viewed multimedia world, we'd expressively countenance that students would be unable to think about a cluster of different disciplines at the same time.

When radio was just radio, we taught the voice, writing, technology of operating the gear - all geared to the single cause. You rarely have a drum or guitar in the room and say "right then lets make some music, talk poetry, reductive speech patterns and metronomic talk".

But why later you might ask are some accents more geared to the radio and how might we attenuate the voice as an instrument. If you've ever listened to BBC correspondent Fergal Keane you'll know what I'm talking about. Music thus become part of the lecture.

The Internet out of its net- The Outernet from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Made in 2005 - this promo explores ideas

Matrix lecture pulls from different strands, but fundamentally is less about the art of teaching you what to do, but how you might do it differently or not at all. It's not an oxymoron.

In a group work I have noticed individualists gradually assume the identity of the group. If the group is cautious, you will soon taken on those attributes, sometimes temporarily. If the group takes risks, you'll do too in the long run or risk being exposed.

In that vein the idea is to get the individuals within a group to become "illogical rationalist", challenging antecedents in constructs et al.

Birth of a station - Video Journalism revolution from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

How videojournalism looked like in 1994

Here's another one, you might believe the inverted pyramid is ideal for journalism, but remember when that was and the culture is was born out of, and online how it might manifest itself as the truncate- pyramid.

The processor seeks to fit into the system, the artists looks to redefine it, thus wrestling with the very things we take for granted.I have taken various groups including students from the Communications University of China, and all have responded favourably

Hi David,

I'm Amanda, a Chinese student in your class that day. I'm Chief Editor of
the GDUFS News Group in London (GDUFS is abbreviation of Guangdong
University of Foreign Studies). Since we plan to report your class, we long
to know your comments and opinions on our 3 ideas made in your class that
day, and we also want to know your comments on us (the 3 groups in your
class). We will be very grateful if you can send these information to us as
soon as possible, for the news cannot wait.

Furthermore, thank you for changing the way I think, for help me to jump out
of most people's prsent behaviour style and to try to shake off
the restriction of stereotype. Your lecture did make the oversea trip


In the coming months I'll talk more about this and how I believe it can go some way in addressing modern teaching methods. Incidentally the blurring of the lines between the science and arts is nothing new, so I'm not being "out there" at all.

Here's a suggest link for you about how students will make up their own curricula in the future and lectures will become curators - from a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Westminster. You'll find it on, once you get past the short pieces called EAT. :)