Friday, September 24, 2010

The ultimate programme maker - videojournalist.. but..

Speaking at Apple stores , where I'm going back in a couple months time 

Recent news addition. On Thursday 14th October I visited the HQ of Google in the UK and had a personal presentation from Peter Barron, head of PR for Europe on the future of news. I'll be posting that soon and it has a marked impact on the post below

 My conversation with a senior executive at ITN, the UK's biggest commercial news outfit went like this:

Me: So the guy seated over there is a videojournalist?
Exec: "Oh no (with mild look of horror) he's much more than that.

The title of this post seems a trite on the side of hyperbole, but as an academic, there's something of the law of diminishing returns here and what might amount to an erosion of the role of videojournalism, at least to its UK pioneers.

I have been writing and practising videojournalism since 1994, at a time when the name was obscure, but revelatory enough to prompt the query.

What are you?

For the school of Videojournalism 1994 hired by Associated Newspapers, Videojournalism was the ubiquitous, versatile media practice. Not the fact that they did everything within the news concept, that breakthrough had limited gasp appeal. it was the ability to traverse different programming genre: news, series, docs, motion graphics, drama.

News was just one strand, its own fixed semiotic and then to the other scale - a six part series as slick as any BBC series made by a sizeable team.

Article on a New world order on Videojournalism for Sony Mag, written in 2000

What the experts say
Suart Purvis, ITN's former Chief Executive says it all. He was at the RTS, the US equivalent of the EMMY's, as the stalwarts of Channel One were showing what they could do. His head, Michael Plantin then looked over to Stuart and asked why ITV wasn't doing this (referring to the programmes) and how they were being made.

This point is worth emphasising: videojournalism, at least increasingly to some of the pioneers was a way to make anything. The cable station allowed them so, their training gave them that experience. This is something Michael Rosenblum knows all too well.

Fast forward to 2010 and the videojournalist ( the law of diminishing returns) has become a defined form. You work in News? As a newspaper it defines you, but something's about to explode - albeit over the coming years.

Filming you, filming me. The Making of 8 Days with the UK's  first regional newspapers to adopt videojournalism in 2005, who I trained.

It's not videojournalism's fault. The title came before the art form could stamp and crystallise its identity. If I call you an artist, you could work in any genre of the arts. If I call you a videojournalist, you're more than likely working in the field of news.

That's what the ITN exec had identified, that's what I have been writing about for 15 years. Thus far we haven't found the title that illustrates that grand polymath versatility. No correction! it's been found, but the form has sped along.

Shooting Moby in DC. Circa 1989. I'm using the VX1000  one of the first DVcams, which didn't quite meet TV transmission standards.
Remarkably and perhaps surprisingly, this is what faced some of the pioneers of television with labels that did not cater for them, so they lifted all the definitions from Hollywood: producer, director and so on.

Over the years, I have occupied several positions within television, new (back then) media and digital media - from creative director of an ad agency run by a former head of TV at Saatchi and Saatchi, to long formats, to conceptualising with teams whole sale programmes and related media.

I could be called any number of titles, but the legacy of Channel One and what that meant remains like an old shoe.

We can't say we shouldn't get hung up on titles, because it's what often defines you, but the sad short history of videojournalism is its misappropriation - at least to a Channel One crew of the 90s.

I may from now on call myself producer, creative director, designer, director, editor, but then what's wrong with videojournalist?

As Purvis said to me... You're a story teller!

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BBC My story - great idea & stories, but the film making?

The BBC's My Story - amazing stories, but the semiotic even from the above picture suggest we still can't hear what you have to say, without a celebrity. User Social Network debunked.

I have just watched the BBC's My Story and curiously am upset.

The idea is well thought out in a way of bridging television - a social enabler - that is it brings people together, with the new new thing, participatory social networks.

In the latter case, this was illustrated by its central premise that everyone has a story to tell, so send yours in, which people did in their droves, 100os in fact.

From that judges of the highest calibre of literature and reportage e.g. Fergal Keane, whose reports from Rwanda and South Africa still resonate today, combed through and chose an eventual winner whose prize was nothing short of miraculous.

Following today's showing the winner will have her story published tomorrow. That's ambition. You can, as te BBC says, download that story for free, which I have just done for an Uncoventional Love by Adeline Harris.

Adeline's story is as amazing as the other three profiled in the show.

She fell in love with a clergyman, Father Kelly, many decades ago. Couched in the words of the show's presenter the relationship did not go to the next level. But he cared for Adeline through trials and tribulations.

They lived together for two years. Then she fell pregnant to another man and had a baby and still he cared for her. Up until Adeline married her lover and they had another child when Father Kelly would shun her. He has since passed away and Adeline is still married to the same man many years on.

This is an epic story, no less emotional wringing than the other two on display: a woman who falls in love with a lifer and campaigns for his release, having questioned the original conviction. They are now living happily on the outside.

And a woman whom through the power of the Internet, most likely Facebook returns the affection of her first love 40ish years ago and despite being happily married leaves everything to reacquaint herself with him, and leaves her happily married husband beached.

Middle England must have been harrumphing like mad at the moral message of this story as somehow through the presentational skills of the host Christine Brinkley we get an unequivocal great love story, rather than someone who's also been, well ghastly.

What her husband she'd been leaving with in her retirement must have felt? But this was about stories, so yes, the clash of morals itself is fibre for the viewer.

The show's flaw
So why was I, and I imagine I'm in a minority, mildly irritated? Because the films they showed did not do the stories the justice they duly deserved.

TV has its failing in its often tired aesthetic, exacerbated media historian critics might point to the time 35mm gave way to 16mm and then beta cameras took over.

So what you got was the most cinematic quests reduced to the style of a TV news package. The narrative, their story is strong, the visualisation however is enough to mutter all sorts of things.

For instance more often than not, a camera is used to record the subject's narrative in one take, and then sequenced shots cut back and forth, with V/O from the presenter. There are enough cliched shots e.g. looking on yonder, to fill the Directors Book of Film Cliches.

The colours are harsh and any subtlety of lighting to reflect these incredible stories had been sacrificed for capturing the oral narrative -the news narrative.

Reading the download, the book is everything I suspected. It's cinematic, expansive, rich in description, textured - just as a book should be. But if the producers treated the book, just as they had the visual story, there's no reason why you wouldn't expect a newspaper article.

And perhaps a good one, as there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, if that's what was intended, but I suspect it wasn't. This was a different semiotic.

You could argue on the pin of a needle whether the show needed a presenter, but there's something about epic stories that don't need the embellishment of a strong personality narrator.

TV goes social network is inevitable, as realised through the litany of reality shows, but TV realising sometimes cinema offers a richer experience is something still being wrestled with - and that's a shame.

Ultimately just as the book is a download, their self-contained stories should be as well potentially cinema at its best.

For inspirtion, if you haven't seen Last Minutes with Oden, up for a Vimeo Awards , now's your chance. TV could still learn a bit or two.

Last Minutes with ODEN from phos pictures on Vimeo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Producing analytical videojournalism to evoke response - social

Presenting in Norway at Innovations Lab

Back in 1991 is when it happened.

In an industry where blogs, social participatory networks, new journalism, had at least another 15 years to fully gestate, as a minority in many ways working in the media, I often thought about "if".

What if the sort of programmes, BBC TV's flagship news programme, where I would gain my break could be replicated elsewhere and for anyone. How empowering and enabling that would be.

Newsnight was replete with bright sparks (it still is) - Oxbridge grads. The producers have this talent, an ability to take an idea, and communicate it analytically to their 900,000 audience - largely decision makers.

The ideas arise from critically assessing an issue, a thought, and producing theatre that captures the imagination and provokes a response.

In a previous post I spoke about participatory social media videoprogrammes. Newsnight's programmes invariably fulfill one facet of this, though yes I can see areas to do more.

I mention this programme and indeed other analytical programmes I would work on such as Channel 4 News and The Politics Show, because I would think then, as much as I think now of the power of unification: the best of TV, design and digital media.

If we can converge combined crafts, pass on such analytical skills, if we can hotwire this to the best of today's digital communications, there's a strong proposition.

This is not merely about superfiical reportage, that involves "observe and report" on an unfolding an event - which can often drive the narrative. It's deeper, its value system creates knowledge that many access to provide individual solutions. It interrogates business models, lifestyles, motives.

Take Oxfam and various charities, e.g. Mumsnet, decision to invite bloggers onto international aid trips. A role once usually reserved for journalists.

Mumsnet's political and economical footprint is key, given its constituents. But think about an analytical end product that not just explored the trip, but strategically underpinned the scope and challenges for Oxfam, Mumsnet and various related agencies.

This model gives an idea of strategy and ownership
( click to enlarge)

Journalism Educator and blogger Jeff Jarvis asked in his highly acclaimed book "What would Google do?", to inform a different strategic approach to the new media industry. I say what would an IM Videojournalist (with an analytical crafts background) do?

This front cover, above, is a chapter for a book which features an image from "8 Days", which was the recipient of an international award in Berlin. The film was claimed by three agencies after wards because of its outcomes: The Police, The UK Press Association, and International VJ Awards for its representation of a different form of videojournalism.

This notion also has a strong outcome also for a increased transparency for multinationals as a strategy for accountability from reading this expansive piece on Crisis and PR disasters in the Evening Standard. More on that in latter post.

Looking to the future.

When I was awarded a US Knight Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism, the judges commented:

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

This quarterly netcasting magazine integrates ISP broadcasting and print magazine information produced by individual backpack journalists (“solo-jo’s”) from England, the United States and South Africa".

At the ceremony I had to point out that the work was largely mine; I was too embarrassed to own up to creating it single handedly, but today the future of the past is now the present.

And now that we've passed video making's acceptability, the next phase is a more rigorous, emboldened analytical aesthetic and principles, which I tend to discuss in Viewmag- the Outernet (this blog).

In fact Viewmagazine's real treatise was to combine creative designer and videojournalist. Create the video and build the branded sites. You can see quite a few on

Video news journalism which doubles as a corporate video

A video I made more recently interviewing the Director of Chatham House (formerly The Royal Institute of International Affairs) by default appeared to meet those requirements.

The Director is seen robustly explaining a topical issues of international affairs within the framework of integrated multimedia videojournalism. So the video has as much interest for the organisation, which led to a meeting with its communications team, as it did for me showing what can be done.

Consulting at the FT, working with one of their talented producers Rob, one of the proposition we worked on was to produce the definitive Budget programme. We accomplished a very credible package on the day at a first attempt after 2 weeks IMVJ training.

And next month I return to Cairo and Nile TV to work with a new generation of journalists, who are tech savvy and also embracing this evolving epistemology for video communications.

David training a new generation of journalists from Cairo, Nile TV - national broadcaster

Why am I talking about all this now. Because last week I interviewed the editor of the UK's most successful commercial news company, ITN and in the course of the interview she spoke about, and I acknowledged, that the digital revolution had not yet stolen all their clothes.

That whilst everyone's doing video, not nearly as many are doing analytical video as a critically- led aesthetic and the irony is in a climate of uncertainties, we need more information to challenge a raft of issues.

If you remember the Thatcher era and confluence of domestic and international issues, when commentators spoke about the erosion of values, and that Thatcher would say there is no such thing as society, programme makers had something to challenge.

Rough political climates, make for good foundations for incisive programmes ( video making). If in the yester years we prevaricated or even protested, today the options are a more potent one.

Invitations to speak and share
That's that then I thought which is why I intend to turn my attention or return to this in a very practical craft either as a series of workshops or conferences talks, starting with an invitation to return to Apple Stores in London.

There as elsewhere I'll talk engage and reveal some of the specific work flow methodologies which can be used to strengthen beyond unitary videojournalism.

So this is also an invitation. If you'd like to know more, I'd be delighted to hear from you, otherwise click on Apple Profile or my website . My email is I can't tell you how much I look forward to that.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

WOW - Women of the world festival -what's your contribution?

Jude Kelly OBE, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre chairs
Women of the Word (WOW) ideas session.

The conversation then turned to films and Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar and its impact for women in film, outside of Tinsle town

No doubt that question has been asked in academic papers, film magazines and industry committee meetings ad nausea.

However, in Central London, The Southbank Centre level 5 room, films about women or by women has a resonating pathos of its own.

Sholay (a film with men, made by men, so it won't count) or Seetha and Geetha, another personal favorite of mine and Screen writer Foye Banjo may attract a matured audience, but how do you get 16-18 year old noted Choreographer Sita?

Sandwich the works of new women film makers amongst traditional works was one solution, evoking the programming of cinema Newsreel producers of the 50s.

And to rally interest from potential attendees at grass and arboreal roots level, the selling powers of the door-to-door Avon ladies is an idea well worth considering said Jude Kelly chairing these talks.

Film, was just one of many themes in discussion at this ideas session.

The meetings was captured with a unique artistic
method called Visual Minutes

Women of the World
The over-arching occasion was to posit ideas for a festival, Women of the World, acronymically presented as WOW. This, session six of seven, yielded a festivals of ideas as broad and eclectic as previous ones said Jude, Artistic Director of The Southbank Centre.

They included Candice, a pioneering black woman - one of the first Assistant Directors in the US' film industry; and the youngest woman in the UK to gain a pilot's license. She won't forgive me if I name her.

Meanwhile, fellow Artist in Residence and dancer/choreographer Gauri Sharma Tripathi spoke of her daughter's long pony tail - a matter that draws attention in her birthplace in India and manifests as a protest between femininity and male religious dogma.

Poet Lemn Sissay pointed to an observation how the term Mother Earth, Gaia has become redundant since the mascularisation of green issues into climate change.

The word "Mother", which evokes deference to many, curiously in the theatre can be used to diffuse a character's identity. All the cast will have names, bar one said Jude.

Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship, looked at representation and gender-standing.

The previous evening she'd welcomed into the country Iranian singer, Mahsa Vahdat - a quite magnificent singer said Jo, but did we know that because of her sex she cannot sing solo on stage in Iran. The authorities forbid it. Her performances here will no doubt attract attention from the law makers back home.

She spoke of sexuality and notions of beauty in Lebanon from a show of camped up transsexuals, and presented an intriguing story of Belsen.

When a consignment of lipstick and sanitary towels found its way to the concentration camp, the oppressors would not know what to make of a mass spectacle of women, haggard, despairing of their plight but momentarily emboldened by the power of a beauty stick.

They dressed their lips, and placed sanitary towels Dallasesque on their shoulders - poise and femininity - in the face of excruciating circumstances.

The extremities of sexuality provided that putative subject, which to many dare not speak its name: Porn.

If a festival was to look at celebration, a Ying, it would be a travesty (my words) but an interpretation of Jude's position, if it failed to look at Porn.

A frame work? Those who have found it problematic could be invited to a showing: see and tell, as opposed to those who may have heard and told.

Planning stage for WOW
The vision is a grand one, to celebrate, visit, critique, experience, append the contribution of women.

My own interest is quite simple. My work has been catalysed by women. My mother's support kept me strong when I was placed in boarding school in Ghana - a round robin trip of some 3000 miles which mum would undertake as much as possible for eight years.

And a recognition by figures I presume who might have observed a quickening for me to do something creative, when the same sex was indifferent.

There is also the small matter of being conscious of a parallel struggle - a supervening movement. In the 80s just as women in the media were forcing the agenda for change, ethnicity and diversity also found a voice, a co-joined struggle at times, though the ethnic discourse would falter in comparison.

And finally the doctrine. Take this video from a friend, now a TED fellow explaining how the the male domination of cell biology (DNA) has failed to give oxygen to an alternative view; that the cytoplasm ( female) holds equally the key to life.

Preview to SCi Fi London - Rachel Armstrong from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Women in the World is scheduled for next year. I'll keep you posted. below -David's multiple award winning videojournalism site for innovative storytelling

Saturday, September 18, 2010

China's new Shanghai - a Manhattan skyline and economy- Chongqing

Chongqing Report - by David Dunkley Gyimah

It's the scale of it. Chongqing little known by many; the big cities are Shanghai Beijing etc, is making a bold off-the-radar move for hegemony.

It might be construed the wrong way to suggest it is a Manhattan, but this only serves to give you a mind map of its scale, which it looks to dwarf.

Recession? What Recession. In Chongqing - a city with a population of 32 million, compared to London's 14 million or there abouts is defying many odds.

With my camera I captured a slice of this. This report stemmed from a university programme in which four academics, including me, were invited to Chongqing to share our practices.

With two days to go for my second lecture, I had an idea, why don't I take a novice reporter, a student who was just starting her communications career and in the time I had put together a report to show how flexible videojournalism is.

The report is in Mandarin. Thanks to everyone, Prof Liu et al and Melody, the reporter, and Tracy for finding the tech company.

Images from the shoot

Participatory social videojournalism - a guide to

If you were one of the many millions who watched "Live 8" you would have witnessed a a very powerful psychological theme at play: using video for participatory social media.

An act would come on to woo a jubilant audience, followed by a film which would reduce you to tears, and then a presenter who would extol you the viewer to do something, that is donate money.

Yesterday, cutting a film I made on one of the UK's most talented directors for his generation, Rob Chiu I was reminded when Rob mentioned the brief for his film.

It was to bring the audience, young people, into a baleful despairing emotional state and then the organisation "I Care Revolution" could act on this - give them options how to feel better.

Live8". Again, the audience, a group of people, feels compelled to participate.

Rob Chiu's - The Making of Fear/Love

What is participatory media?
Often when reading about participatory media, I'm drawn to that well known saying by Justice Potter Stewart on pornography, "I know it when I see it".

Oh My News & fellow Knight Batten Award Winners Global Voices are often quoted as great examples of project alpha in participatory media, usurping the monastery pyramidal structure of news' one - to many, rather than many - to - many undertaken by non-professionals ( the whole basis of the Net ( Information routing Groups)

There have been a great many blogs e.g. Paul Bradshaws, Howard Rheingold and Alfred Hermida, et al. But I wanted to take this post to concentrate on film and videojournalism.

Three fundamentals of Social, Participatory video-media
There are, for me, three fundamental levels of participatory which are at play.

1. The first and more obvious emerges from the distribution of the end product- the video, via any number of platforms and the ability to share that product.

ie You Tube, Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, and any number of social-distributive platforms facilitating the sharing process

2. The second involves the making of the product e.g. video, in which many participate towards the eventuality - if as a finite product, for this argument we call it that. Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir - 'Lux Aurumque' is a robust example of a story, that's formed from the coming together of many.

Here Eric composes a score whose contributors he never meets - at least on the recording of the score.

3. The third aspect of a participatory form of storytelling and perhaps the one I have spent more time pondering occurs at a phenomenological level, that the structure and composition of the story has built in nodes for participation.

Live8 a model for greater participation
Lets go back to the Live 8 example, where built into the film is a cue or cues for the audience to do something, more explicit perhaps than implicit. The most powerful being to give money.

Actually the film never asks you to do that. Watch an Oxfam or Christian Aid ad on TV and it's explicit to the point, that it suffocates the film's narrative.

Often by default a powerful report induces the audience to act. Whenever the BBC is dealing with a controversial issue within one of its soaps or a documentary on a medical condition, it's aware of the repercussions enough to conclude with an end title saying: If you've been affected by this programme, please call our helpline".

That is participatory, and necessary, but still based on top down 20th model.

The very idea of building reportage that acts as a catalyst for participation, undoes the narrative we've become used to in news. Firstly news reporting inherently seeks closure and is driven by often unimodal narratives.

Also by its very nature in which it was set up, it reports without acting on after wards.

Take this video I shot in 2005 from then Masters students and third along listen to what Daniel Kofi, from Ghana has to say, in that the media should be responsible for not just reporting but changing attitudes.

I'm pretty certain that if this was shown to you around that time, you'd think Daniel was highly naive, but now?

A New Narrative
Breaking into that narrative has its challenges in the modernistic presumed free flow of the article, though the use of hyperlinks circumvents that - and we've got used to breaking out of the text.

Video, not so yet I would argue at a mainstream news level.

Structurally there are actions we could undertake and the introduction of videohyperlinking (see the Economist article which mentioned my work on video hyperlinking) will be a game-changer of participation and narrative exposition when it finally breaks.

But for the meantime, thinking through participation structurally within the report calls on a re-orientation of narrative closure and the question remains whether it would work for all reportage, though why not is my answer.

The Pope's visit presented a number of participatory nodal points from the BBC's reportage with Alan Little. One such example, a woman complaining there were no giant sized screens to watch the pope. Cue: geostat message where they can be found.

At a pedagogical level it requires a new methodology and even work flow within the gathering and dissemination of new, particularly online, which I alluded to in previous posts about Trans media and cuts to the very heart of a debate explaining what is news.

More of this in the coming weeks.

I'll finish though with a reminder of this tussle between new modes of reporting as embodied in the debate between public ( Citizen participatory journalism) and professional programme makers.

Famed Poet and literary critic T.S. Elliot giving evidence to the Pilkington Committee on the Future of Broadcasting (1962) said:
"Those who aim to give the public what the public wants begin by underestimating the public taste, they end by debauching it"
That in response to a widespread view from the 1930s from the likes of literary and social conservative critic F.R Leavis who saw standards being maintained only by the actions of an elite minority.

Yesterday I was reminded again by a modern editor how broadcasting and the media is conservative in its nature.


Recommended link

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Searching for the definitive in new journalism


Bit of a change for me here, but I thought of writing something in the first person. It's more of a reflexive diary entry - a sort of brain dump, but if any of it chimes with you, do as always plse ping me.

Yesterday I spent the whole day in the British library. At one point I looked up from the six books surrounding me and thought, what a way to be spending your time - when I'd sooner be out in the open air making a film or something.

But the Library - and I have been surprised myself has become a monastery. The reading rooms are something out of a Potter movie egging you on with imaginary hog what evers lurking around. Anyway enough of my soporific nonsense.

I did however come away with evidence I needed to build into my ongoing research and my PhD thesis about future media. PhDs are for me the pedagogical equivalent of waterboarding where you feel you're drowning in a mass of data and you just can't breath. Nothing is so quite psychologically mind pounding.

But when you do catch your breath and think through, you start to see glimmers of things that seem to make sense.

Take this statement that often platforms very rarely serve the purpose for which they were designed. The early adopters find a means, and then through the years and "misuse", often serendipity we get to that place.

You can trace this in, art, photography, and film which was first designed for science value, or that in the 50s cinema moguls thinking they wanted to be different from television introduced cinevision ie widescreen. There was no functional reason or clearly thought out aesthetic as you look at your latest movie shot in 1080i HD.

More closer to home, the net from 1996 when I first started on it, is way different from to today. For Berners-Lee it was his way to remember data. That's old hat. Now, if you haven't seen the news video from 1995 which shows the UK newspapers talking about the web, please do here.

David presenting at the annual Media Development gathering - Around 200 companies from around the world who publish in difficult environments.

But we haven't yet still cracked this thing of new journalism on the web. Through experimentation, we've made gains, but academics, and broadcasters continue as we, they, must ponder big questions for knowledge, power and economic value.

So, as a new cohort of trainee journalists are set to start this year, I think what it might look like in 2020?

In the meantime, we go to conferences, we listen to scions, people co-translating their experiences, some sharing pilot studies....We're constantly, rightly so, searching for the definitive in new journalism.

This statement crystallised my thoughts. In fact I must have coughed so loud in the library I might have been in danger of being kicked out.

"A new medium is not born fully formed with a clear mission and purpose. Instead the first people involved have to struggle with various formats to find what programming and information fit the medium’s particular strengths and weaknesses"

“ practices do not so much flow directly from technologies that inspire them as they are improvised out of old practices that no longer work in new settings".

The attributes of the medium according to the author, Carolyn Marvis, come about through a negotiation of technologies. Now, this is a bit of a wow statement, because it gives some legitimacy to postulate with academic constraints, what might be?

Imagine in 2020, the generation working on the web looking at what we were doing now thinking OMG what Luddites. When I showed some students my Uher- a radio recorder - and explained this was the universal tool of choice in the 90s, laugh they nearly died. That it's a lethal weapon and in my 8 years of use I never injured anyone is a miracle.

So first let's think about the net as it exists now, the web and its unique qualities, where with a bit of trend extrapolation and modeling we might be able to kick to touch the crystal ball.

Here I pay tribute to Dr Latham, cuz I used to loath this stuff during my degree in maths and chemistry.. modelling.. but hey, 26 years later, here I am dusting it off. So what would the web look like, but more importantly what sort of journalism, the trading and exchange and sharing and asymmetrical flows of data will exist?

This is the stuff, yep I'm guilty, that I play through in performance lectures in conferences, though increasingly these Petcha Kucha 20 minutes need a different approach.

What you want is to be in an area provoking (nicely) people, them provoking you into thought -a sort of creative fight club where you draw threads and attempt new synapses from fresh and old understandings. Take our penchant now for blogging and expression, no different in the macro sense from the pamphleteers of the 16th 17th century.

In 2020 will we be paying for the web? Likely I said in this post here on Murdoch, though the argument's being made on economic grounds which is hard to swallow. It needs re-orientating - if you remember the exploits of the digital boffins of the 90s where download this version and pay for the upgrade was the norm, few objected.

I'm finishing off some work in Cairo, where I have identified for the participants 9 clear streams for videojournalism. If you think how only 10 years ago, the BBC playing with bi media thought working two media was radical, the idea today that a videojournalist does everything is heretical.

Actually we can push it further. The expression sticks in the craw, but integrated multimedia videojournalism (IMVJ), leaves little to the imagination at being a 21st century television studio. And it's far from solitary, but interdependent and collaborative.

Truthfully, videojournalism - as we know now - is no more radical than the kid - and I remember Paul Hardcastle's 19 (1985) as my yard stick - sitting in his bedroom working on a synth. The question thus to address which will unfold is one of aesthetics, weighed against purpose and a dirty word in journalism - art.

At some point, the art of the media and its practitioners emerges from the flock. Think Murrow et al ( the art of radio); Cronkite, Robin Day ( the art of the interview); Alan Hart (ITN) Michael Nicholson ( the art of television Reporter) . Sorry I have only mentioned UK and US - my ignorance.

This aesthetic involve a sort of rotation of themes and genre - contemporary versions of Noir, Dogma, or Russian two-step and flutter cuts mixewd with the unknown.

Data journalism become more hyperlinked. It's voice-driven and negates the use of a telephone (Will the telephone companies give way cuz I have already seen it) which finds a way to usurp the main news agenda. Multimedia, writing in 2007 will still adhere to these functionalities, but there are now new variables afoot.

But of huge importance beyond the innovations and the processes, is the individual. The most interesting thing will be, well, put it bluntly "You".

Someone asked but I have not empirical data to uphold this whether those entering or in any modal forms of journalism today are on average, more aware than those 20 years ago. Apropo what about the next ten years?

The tools will be ubiquitous, but what will the journalist require beyond the "press here and fly button" - knowledge and context? Why, if they can access that instantaneously on a mobile device. (I'm not here supporting this idea, just enamoured by it). Here's my trekkie moment

More guile and creativity to access stories. How do you access the truth as it happened, when organisations will be happy enough with the efforts of their own media telling their story. BA is a good example of this. This post fleshes this out.

And what about training and learning. The convention today is to take a glut of subjects. In this post and a link to a video by a former vice chancellor , we should start to train the workforce of tomorrow e.g. journalists, very differently.

It all adds up to some grand theory, except we've been here before. We've always been, and through the thoughts, books knowledge of others we've found our way. Except this time the none geographic nature of the web, places an interesting premium on paradoxically geographic centres of learning.

Ten years ago the impact of knowledge or journalism from Australia or China registered comparatively smaller with today, but today where you can spot excellence, we all gravitate to that company, that region, which becomes the new hub.

We've seen this Silicon valley, and as a new digital company drawing in users and knowledge exchange Media storm is a good example, often on the lips of many BBC execs talking about future media.

Interesting that Newsweek reported recently that Xinhua news agency may well be the dominant news in the future. If the little I know from my work in China tells me, technologically, the boundaries are porous, and now the country is placing a high quotient on information and data.

It all adds up to some interesting scenarios ahead.

So there are a few thoughts I thought of getting of my chest before I hit the Mac again to get some other work done :)

Normal service begins tomorrow. BFN

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The story-driven multi-pro, expanding videojournalism online

Apart from the video, it's about understanding how to produce the film/ multimedia video driven site

An ex-student didn't get it. For her documentaries and pitching were the norm. And so they were and still are if that's the genre that you call your own.

The new story teller online, must reconcile themselves, against their knowledge in storytelling and technical ware to craft the most telling story for the appropriate medium.

In 10 years time we won't be having this conversation because it will be so evident.

In 2010, you're a factualist, a faction story telling, a something but not journalist because even that word has outstayed its welcome.

Operator: J-O-U-R-N-A-L-I-S-T which publication do you write or report for?
Speaker: er, I don't, it's all online
Operator: then sir you're not a journalist

No worries, Defoe (noted as the first factual journalist ie he did not make things up) will not be spinning from the world beyond.

Storytelling apropo
Comprehending how to tell that story in micro, macro, trans, cis, visual, text, factual, fact-fictional (drama-docs) will be the stuff you do by 10 years of age.

In the meantime, we are still getting used to the concept. So each year I supervise a group of Masters students to tell stories, in which most will do so online.

But, and this is the big "but", they are not building websites - though they probably will- they are telling stories that lead to construction.

There's a difference. The BBC's eminent web site has a host of stories, but how do you take one story and make it work? Film trailer websites do this in a limited capacity, but it works enough to get bums on seats.

The questions?

1. What are your primers?
2. Why should we ( the viewer) care?

I'm a bit of a Weinstein when it comes to these.

In October, after we marked the students work, I'll upload for you to see.

Videojournalism - a rightful move to cinematography

It was bound to happen.

At the point when the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV threatened the market of one of the world's most powerful electronics companies, and the film of Vincent Laforet ignited the video-blogsphere, engineers would been spending TDBs ( till day breaks) on their Macs.

Sony, by John Nathan, one of the best business books around (which I have just finished) shows the clear ethos of Sony - minaturize.

So Canon's audacious move to film on a stills camera body would have turned Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuku, noted for his great gift for .."forseeing product applications for new technologies and inspiring engineers to over reach themselves..", well, in his grave.

So here comes the Sony's VG10 Interchangeable Lens, the first prosumer camera with this facility- although with a limited bespoke range of lenses at the moment. But that will change.

What does this mean for you and me? In the 80s/90s I went with the Hi-8, VX1000 and a slew of others before the A1: small compact, inconspicuous and if your worked hard on your zoom, you'd achieve acceptable shallow depths of field (dof).

Then I needed more speed-of-turnover, so I opted for a JVC with flash cards, and bolted on a lens mount which can be clumsy at times, so the ergonomics of shooting with a quick release lens will be ideal.

JVC with a long lens mount and 50mm prime lens

This is what the JVC gives me - a shallow dof, through the F stops. This is project with John Hegley - a well known Poet in the UK

Fundamentals of videojournalism
But there is something more fundamental. We're about to re-enter an era, for which, unless you worked in Newsreels with an Arriflex, or tend not to go down history's rabbit hole, I'm about to lose you, so please stay with me.

In the 30s onwards the Arriflex, Bell and Howell and a few other cameras had turret lens structures, ( you can see a number here) that were the equivalent of the lens sciences of 28mm - 120mm. Trouble was metering (gauging best light) and finding focus became a problem for news ( always on the move) so it was eventually dropped, particularly for 16mm cams, before ENGs took over

Today more expensive cameras still have the ability to change lenses, because if you're going to pay £20,000 for the Red's ( described as the Ferrari of Cameras) body, then it's a given you're a pro and thus know something about cinematography. And if you're in the film business, why am I having this conversation with you?

The Sony Digibeta; the body alone cost £30,000 in the 90s. I'm making a videojournalism film for Channel 4 News in South Africa, called "Successor Generations".

The prosumer cameras until now, have seen that as a luxury. The interview below is with a Sony UK official on video from 2006 who says they have no interest in setting interchangeable lenses to prosumer cameras. Frankly, economically it's not worth their while. Canon and the expanding competitive market changed that.

Report featuring Sony talking about cameras in 2006
But now there's a predicament which needs resolving and one that creatively places DV film making and videojournalism in a new league. Understanding or re-engaging with cinematography: see the work of the Ford's (The Searchers, 1956) , Kurosawa (Rashomon 1950), Ozu (Tokyo Story 1953) and Kar-wai's (2046, 2004) - a present favourite below.

Cinematography is not necessarily about slickness, but about how the lens and light create the scene's internal narrative. The external becomes the titles, narratology, synch etc. When it works well, you can't imagine the scene to look otherwise.

Take Michael Corleone in Godfather discussing the plot to kill his brother Fredo. The scene uses natural light, it's back lit and nothing on paper says this should work, but it lends perfectly to murderous skullduggery. That's one aspect.

Another, in fictional film terms is where you can direct an actor to a mark and focus pull - no problem. For the videojournalists, knowing what lens to use, pulling focus, and how different lenses affect a scene, will now soon become crucial. Understanding also the subjectivity it lends to the scene is equally important as this conflicts with the notion of news and its neutrality.

Same shot -different application in post - yields a different connection to the photo. Which one do you like and why? Be mindful that this involves an editorial decision, which lens and filters can replicate during the shoot.

So where are we?

Well firstly, that the notion of news, as it is, will most likely adapt to accommodate these aesthetics and structural changes. The IMVJ model within my Phd research alludes to that. Next week I'm meeting a senior executive at ITN and will share a deeper argument on this
Ssecondly if you're learning videojournalism without any sense of cinematography - ask for your money back.

Senior lecturer and former international broadcaster David Dunkley Gyimah is in Cairo, working with its state broadcaster returning to launch a new kind of show with videojournalists and films next month. You can find out more from his video site

Yesterday's and most recent posts were:

David in Cairo with some of its broadcasters, in news, features and parliamentary correspondents May, 2010

Click here for insight into major new findings on 

What is videojournalism on the web, in multimedia and offline - a major study and film - and why it matters

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A tipped hat from Brian Storm of media storm

I don't do compliments very well. If you're doing something you truly love, then the demons and angels are between you and yourself. You become your worst critic. That said I'm grateful to anyone for the conversation to share thoughts.

In Miami last year Brian Storm of media storm was one such encounter. You don't need me to tell you their brand status - a true powerhouse in the new age of multimedia journalism.

So I truly was taken aback when inside one of my questions he started to talk about my work. It's always heartening when anyone does that. That's the strange power of the web.

In broadcasting you took it in your stride: I'm only doing my work. In digital times, one's reach is somewhat farther - though that it self is a fallacy.

I had four odd memorable years sharing ideas with the Press Association and its videojournalism programme. And once in a while an ol student will ping me to share their aspirations. All good, really, all good.

I guess if we limeys could do it better, we'd be more outgoingly expressive of compliments - some how it's not quite cricket. But the odd reflection now and then can't hurt.

You can find Brian's interview on viewmagazine here

p.s Brian if you this crosses your eyes I'm still trying to get hold of you :)

How Ruper Murdoch's charging strategy changed online.

When history reflected this much talked about saga, the result was unequivocal" Murdoch won.

He did so not by subtlety of persuasion, but by brute force - something those who have squared up to him in boardrooms and been on the sharp end of him in the unions e.g. Wapping, know all too well.

Taking on the world was a different matter, but Murdoch, extending Foucaults concept that power begets more power, had more to gain, than lose - rewriting history and the bloggersphere as the man who saved journalism and kicked those "petulant free-loading Net kids" back to their craggy bedrooms.

When the pecuniary seed was sown for paying to read online journalism, critics laughed, many waited to see what the grand ol' newspaper tycoon had as his deck. They waited, and waited. Some penned blogs ridiculing his approach - the non-strategy.

But they forgot the measure of the man. They forgot his radical and unheard of strategy to towards the British Premiership; its history reveals
The League decided to take the radical step of assigning television rights to Sky TV. At the time charging fans to watch televised sport was a relatively new concept...
They forgot his battles at Wapping or any number of thousands of deals he'd won and lost.

Quietly while net experts derided him, the industry held its collective breath wishing him to succeed. Murdoch's success would be theirs in a climate when mostly all newspapers were running on red.

If we can get the news elsewhere, particularly at the BBC, why bother with his newspapers, was the argument. Also unlike time-sensitive news ( financial) it carried no premium. Other than being written by experienced, expensive journalists.

It wasn't soon after until his populist News of the World went paywall, then the nation's populist red top, the Sun and across the pond the the New York Times followed. Then the damn broke and en masse they followed erecting walls.

Professional journalism had stayed an imminent execution, but more importantly forced the argument that it needs to be paid for. You want quality, you pay.

Murdoch's strategy was simple, no different from a General testing the defences of his opposing force with strikes and retreat, from the siege of Malta to the likes of Operation Just Cause when with loud music blaring from speakers, the instructions were simple: just wait.


Few media moguls could afford such a strategy. Here's the maths. Go paywall lose out on advertising, lose customers and dollars/pounds.

So how did he cushion the blow? By getting the more profitable wings of News corp to shore up his losses. But how many subscribers could the newspaper realistically have expected from potential registrants, having lost 2/3rds of its audience in 2010.

Dan Sabbagh, formerly the media editor of the Times, puts that figure at 150,000 user between free subscribers and online registrants of 15,000. This may have seemed paltry, compared to the Time's advertising income, measurably more, but at £2 a throw for a week, that works out at £120,000 a month, more than a million pounds a year.

1995, the web and newspapers

As this rare piece of footage shows way back in 1995, me presenting the news, a year after the Internet and web eased its way into newspapers, the fundamental mistake they made back then was, as with most new platforms e.g. CDRoms, kiosks, was to give their assets away.

But they had to. They Net was new and big news. It was free, and you'd be damned as a newspaper proprietor for not taking advantage of a free medium to sell you wares - which became the rub.

The Times online in 1995 attracted 30,000 online subscribers - a massive number for those times. It was a land grab. By 2000 newspapers, though off to a good start, would be playing catch up with the intelligent web.

But by 2000s the mystic of web journalism had disappeared. What the newspapers couldn't fathom, they could buy in and that's when the debate started to turn.

Profit margins of 15-30% were now under threat. The economy was on a bender. Murdoch had lost in his acquisition of MY Space and now someone needed to pay. The papers oomed and aarmed. The New York Times did and then retreated, but Murdoch had the bit between his teeth and as his spat with websites and google grew, it became obvious this was personal.

And so long as his pockets allowed, he'd bunker down. And the longer he bunkered down, the more others joined him. To the point, news or primary valued-news undertaken by all the major newspapers recognised its premium status and went paywall.

And that ladies and gentlemen in 2016 was how we came to pay for the web.

P.s Just so you know, I'm no Murdochite. This piece emerged from studies I'm doing independently for a Phd study around TV and supervening processes and trending.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The science of new journalism from multi, trans, and cis

Science sheet - found in my old suitcase - diagrams to solve organic chemistry puzzles

I graduated in Applied Chemistry, and truthfully by the second year constantly wondered what I was doing. It was too theoretical, too abstract. What job would I pursue when I finish ? Because the idea of standing in a lab checking samples filled me with dread.

Organic Chemistry, a heavy component of the degree, though was CSI Miami in waiting. We'd test samples on compounds we'd made running them through a GCMS and then Infra red gauge - each filled in a piece of the puzzle for the compound you wanted to name.

Aha, there's a peak at 1700, that's an OH molecule. It's the same as a doctor reading their chart.

The science of journalism
Science, reads the world, with an eye to explain everything. Hence Hawkin's recent super nova claim that the universe can now, heretically, be explained without God.

In the past, science solved the mystery that the world was round, or through Galileo that things fell down, worked on later by Newton, before passing through to Einstein who posited the theory of relativity.

Journalism has had its fair share of scientific involvement and enquiry. The camera was an object for scientific recording to prove a point e.g. Eadweard Muybridge's galloping horse.

The interview is both a legal concept of truth abeted by science's non disputable notion of truth.

The report, film, you're making is wrapped with science. It's responsible for the algorithms in FCP. The colours you see that animate the sense boils down to the occular science. I could go on.

Last year, I interviewed one of the most venerated figures in this evolving media, Henry Jenkins.

Jenkins coined the word "Trans" in describing an aspect of media. Effectively meaning literally in latin, "the other side". Trans was being used to elaborate on an unfolding trend of different media, supporting one another, though distinct in their own right.

Yesterday, I had a back to basics moment. My Applied Chemistry matter, yielded an interesting question.

Trans Debate
Trans emerges in science from Organic Chemistry with compounds that share the same chemicals but are mirror images of themselves, isomers. When the distinguishing compounds say H20 and Cl are on opposite planes they're referred to as Trans.

When they're on the same plane, they're called Cis.

The conversation then comes back to journalism or media. If Trans Media is about different objects fitting together likes some transformer, what's Cis?

The references is that it's the same. The article you're writing that I attempt to replicate in video - that's cis, but what are the defining qualities.

It matters because science has, and can be used to provide us with answers to questions that lurk, that have not yet become the zeitgeist.

Transmedia has and it makes sense for the media practitioner of the future attempted five different ways to catch your attention. but within each of those five ways there's a Cis that allows us to extrapolate, mine deeper for questions.

It may be that it's the cis that holds the report to account. Haiti, Pakistan, China - places that have suffered crisis in earthquakes and floods, but once they disappear from the TV screen, we the viewer deem them as "not relevant anymore".

Cis becomes the continuum, the sequel and prequel to contextualise within that media, what we didn't know, but adds to our knowledge.

Cis is the manner in which through video hyperlinking we can knit relevant media and reports of others to share.

It's a thought, and I more than think we'll come by it more aggressively, if not in name, but in practice.

I'm at Apple stores London talking in say, November. By then I should have something to show, but please do weigh in with your thoughts.