Saturday, September 20, 2014

Journalists - tell your stories in amazing captivating ways. LET GO OF THE PAST!

She was singing near the town square in what was a beautiful day. The smell of fresh garlic from outdoor cooking suffused the air. 

Behind her a few boys gathered as is their want on street corners, probably discussing football and Ronaldo's form.

Her eyes widened to the lens with her infectious smile she is prompted to sing. It's a song about freedom -  a catchy melody, whose words you don't need to master.

Seven, eight...11 seconds later. Without a hint of what to expect, the implausible happens. A menace is visited upon the 13-year-old girl and surrounding people.

I have told you enough thus far to ruin your intake of the film, five minutes of which I show at the end of this post. I am aware it's  a spoiler. Normally I wouldn't but I am making a point.

with old acquaintance Travis Fox
Yesterday presenting at CUNY's #ReinventTV - gathering of innovators and journalists to discuss how to reinvent TV, I had a precious five minutes to make this point, But without a film.

Reinventing TV
I am a journalist, and a senior lecturer. I study film form and cognitive behaviour. I do this to understand how to tell a story so the effect is immanent - lasting.

As a TV journalist, I could have shown you the scene I have discussed to take you into the film. As a skilled TV reporter I could have said: 'what happens next is not for the faint hearted'.

But I have still ruined the moment for how you should perceive the film. The discovery must be your own.

In the 1960s television conceived amazing way to tell complex stories. Just before the 60s, the reporters job was to ask questions in the field and hand the film over to a commentator and scriptwriter. 

The reporter played no other role. Thank goodness for common sense. In the 60s heavyweight US media figures like Frank Reuven popularised the 'Integrated package'.

It was transformative. Within two minutes your could tell literally any story. Television invented an art form, which today still takes some time to master. It's not to be sniffed at.

Except today, the frame that penned the package to a structure has come under strain. 

Why does every report have to be under two minutes? Why does every report require a reporter? Why does every report suffocate me with facts, such that a minutes after the reporter, I'd be hard pressed to tell you what it was about. Why don't I care about what I have heard?

The package like any art-form needs a reboot.

However, within television firstly no one has the answer to what that may be. Secondly, any digression from the package is seen as breaking a fundamental tenant of journalism.

It is as if, journalism cannot grow, cannot mature, is not  bold enough to take risks, cannot figure out how to tell you the audience what's happening in a way that you care.

Why? Because, the juggernaut that drives to TV is managed by those wedded to its legacy. But I want to tell you a story! I am still a journalist ! But I want you to care.

So I tell stories in the richest vein possible, bound by the professionalism of the craft, and deliver 11.30 seconds into the video.

At 11.30 seconds in Stephen Soderberg, arguably one of the finest story tellers around tells you how I see story telling. I knew this before Soderberg's talk, but he explains it in a way that gives it cred.

If photojournalism is the art of telling a story with pictures, videojournalism is the art of telling stories through cinema.

It's not a fudge. It may be your inability to understand the art of factual storytelling, that differs according to the story, the content, and my approach. It is not adhoc. It is saying I would like you to see this and be affected.

Is that not the job of journalism?