Wednesday, February 06, 2013

IM VIDEOJOURNALISM - Knight Batten winner retrieves lost chapter in the story of video journalism

Homage to Mentor Mark Cousins's story of film

Described as the zeitgeist of media forms, videojournalism was the first in a line of contemporary A-list disruptors to impact the protected fortress of traditional media. 

It involved a way of rethinking media, not in the camera per se, but in its practitioners' approach to that philosophical matrix word, "realism".

Vertov's eponymous film, made a decade short of a century ago, Man with a Movie Camera, tells us that much. It really isn't the camera, it's what we express as alert conscious beings that mostly matters. Then, only then, can the camera come alive.

The snag with journalism, its tyranny, has been its corporatisation and a dulling of interpretation that abrogated its original art form. Instead, we became and invariably are entombed to the tick box of five journalistic paradigms: Who,what,where,how, and why. 

Let me rephrase this, all communications, journalism included, involves a filter: you reinterpreting what the journalists herself has interpreted: a filter within a filter. 

This post for instance which is a piece of journalism will mean different things to different people.

Morphing Journalism

Morphing Videojournalism and its  breakthrough in Africa in 1997
Journalism, as it emerged three centuries back would have struck scholars, witnessing its evolution, as an Art form. 

The very idea that writers could deliver a script with, confusingly for our generation, no perspective, and no predilection to interviewing people, would have meant Daniel Dafoe's new writings was a particular art.

Defoe, who wrote Robinson Crusoe, is often credited as a pioneering journalist.

Ever since then, our reactions to a constipated status quo understanding issues: literary journalism of the late 1800s; Gonzo of the 1960s, have involved renewed efforts and new expressions.

Furthermore, those five "W" pillars, suited for its time, can often be found wanting. It's as if the 2 dimensions of linear journalism required a z-axis, a new consensus, to fulfil our penchant for narrative. 

Videojournalism fell into the aforementioned. Its newness, its genetic makeup was unlike any other before it. Unfortunately, that has been lost on us, almost.

Now, following a six year study, which has been rasping, exhaustive at times, across four continents and some of the world's leading minds and emerging talent, I'm almost ready to share what I see as a remarkable story.

The claim of an unwritten text may seem nonsensical. What more can be said of this thing that has not been said? Everyone's doing it. The camera in the tech advance world is like the air we breath. Ubiquitous!

"And what makes you think you have got something worth listening to?", you might ask.

8 Days - a video journalism film from


Firstly, google "Videojournalism" and the chances are you'll come up with this site on the front google page: 
It's from the site:, which features the first UK regional newspapers learning videojournalism from the UK's biggest and most respected news agency: The Press Association.

It says this of videojournalism:
Videojournalism is an advance on television news production - a shift away from the predictable approach television has stuck to doggedly since its inception.
It is next generation television: story telling in which you are not be bound by the many constraints of traditional news production....More on video journalism
That seems obvious now, yet there lies in this text a deeper story, more nuanced, providing greater clarity and purpose, which I have pursued in "The Story of Videojournalism", if you're interested.  

The text and site on is connected to me in various ways: 
  1. is one of my earliest net accounts from the late 1990s 
  2. I trained the journalists in the film, 8 Days, which I also made.
  3. I helped the Press Association create and launch their programme.
I'm grateful to everyone who has engaged with its meaning and sometimes contacted me to understand more. 

So where has this new knowledge come from and what might it mean?  New knowledge is like the embers of a log fire. The more smouldering logs you bring together, full of potential, the brighter the fire burns. 

Knowledge invariably, is not the product of one person and depends on a critical understanding of first finding knowledge nodes. These can be artefacts in books and films, or the experiences of expert people. 

And then secondly, interpreting what is gathered so, as Gestalt theory proposes, patterns and cues appear, is not a given.

But all knowledge is transient. It's only as good as the time; its temporality, and this can be for a number of reasons. One of the most pernicious causes is what Foucalt, a celebrated philosopher, called discursive formation.

Lets pretend Twitter went out of business today. What are the chances that we might begin to think that far from tweets being a way to connect with friends with ambient messages: "my bikes been stole!", its most vital role is to inform people of the more formal things you're doing. 

And if the latter were the case, then people/institutions with content, would gather the most followers. This has often been the charge of traditional media, that twitter is their echo chamber.

The most brilliant ideas don't necessarily start with the institutions, but history has shown us that they will appropriate and use them for their own ends. Twitter for the media is a way to push for contacts and promote their own programmes, not to say, we messed up on the Jimmy Saville story.

And then in paying homage to a great teacher, I give credit to the Mark Cousins, an incredible filmmaker and historian, who spent time evaluating my work and study and with great generosity deconstructed it.

The Telegraph called Cousin's 15-part documentary on film, the cinematic event of the year...extraordinary.

The implications for this study I hope affect our cognition of story form within videojournalism, the way its taught, and how audiences are changing.

Visionaries often pave the way to the future. This studies' trajectory threads content from various visionaries  and a logic I hope will open up dialogue to how, we do what we do in these different times.

++To contact David Dunkley Gyimah, who is an artist-in-residence at the Southbank email