Thursday, March 08, 2007

The video journalist Decree

In my 15 years as a video journalist, I have fought many battles, witnessed many things. I have worked in Apartheid South Africa; my doc was the only non-South African feature played during their historic election. I would be introduced to Nelson Mandela. I worked for Lennox Lewis with with his fight against Tyson.

I produced South Africa's first African co-production. I have dived with specialist divers and military personnel on an open sea expedition to the ruins of WWI, almost buying a one-way ticket. I have been shot at. I produced a promo within 24 hours aired on CNN. I shot designer Ozwald Boateng's first promo.

I have been in prison - the notorious Wormwood Scrubs - talking/filming Life inmates. In each event I have had my camera with me. Each time, that which I seek to do I have been told can not be done.

The professionals will tell you, it is impossible to be multiskilled. But everything we do is multiskilled. Before the ubiquity of the motor car, professionals would tell you, mastering this vehicle was a job alone in itself. Before the mass production of the stills camera, we were told only the professionals can take pictures.

Before the industrial revolution, the technology revolution, the very job you are doing now would have been seen as impossible. The only thing the professionals would like you to believe is that you can't understand what they know.

In Britain, before Journalism was gentrified, before it became white collar, for 100s of years in the back streets of London, East End "blue collar's peddled news slips and gossip.

Here therefore is my emerging manifesto - the decree of the video journalist.

The video journalists Manifesto.


1. I am a video journalist: I crave creativity, loathe that which is predictable. It is my job to look for truth.

2. I can move alone in any terrain. Experience is my blanket. Swarming (groups of Vjs coming together) increases my range.

3. I will be told by those who believe they know best that it can't be done. I must accept that they don't understand my job, my limitations. Nothing is impossible.

4. When they look at a blank piece of paper they see nothing, when I look at a blank canvas, I see the orgins of motion graphics, film and information coming together.

5. I start a dialogue. My packages can be open ended, begging further questions and dialogue. My work is never done. Each thread leads into a new tapestry of ideas and dialogue, which I relish. Herein lies the possibilities of deep video linking

6. My greastest allies are the hundreds of contacts I am yet to meet. I am surrounded by ideas, people, who have a story to share. And I often shoot-on-the-fly, unrehearsed; news in unpredictable.

7. Failure is an option. I must be allowed to fail. I do not court it, but is is a precondition of creativity. I am a researcher with a camera, experimenting with the template which has driven news production. I write my story as it unfolds and sometimes I know, just like a newspaper journalist, I may have to spike my story. Visually it just didn't work.

8. I am lean. I carry no excess weight or baggage. I am a specialist. I kill only that which I can eat, lessening the load and burden which others artificially absorb. There are some shots such as court and "big game" reportage where I may be unsuitable. There are risks as a solo journalist, but discretion is on my side.

9. My job is never done. My camera is my third eye. My camera goes where I go.

10. Like an actor I crave new parts, Like a footballer I make endless runs into the goal mouth searching for scoring opportinities. My work rate is phenomenal. But I'm trained to undershoot so my work load is made lighter.

11. I am a child of a bygone era. There were others before me. The first film makers were VJs [ Victorian VJs] I respect and build on their skills. My fall back is history, convention; my milestone is the future.

12. I am a designer, an editior, a producer, a director, a reporter, photographer an designer. I am a jack of all trades and a master of them.

13. I represent a new discourse in story telling and journalism blurring the boundaries between technologist and artisan, the net and TV, a writer and visual blogger.

14. I hear pictures, see sound, absorb words and can visualise music -all of which makes me a more attuned VJ.

15. Mi6 Video journalism allows me to strip a story bare: the podcast, blog, article, video, and multimedia

16. The tools of my trade: a powerful laptop, editing software, rugged rucksack, collapsable tripod, High Definition DV Cam, water, pen, firewire cable, external 200 g hard drive.

17. My software includes: Final Cut Studio, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, In design, After Effects and Flash

18. It's all in the story. My job is to craft it visually.

19. The Net - the most powerful broadcast media-in-waiting is my natural home.

20. The benefits of video journaism are many; but the ink definning video journalism is not dry. It is many things to all people. To me its is an aggressive, sometimes stealth way of shooting where the results of my labour will outdo those of bigger crew.

21. The work of Claudio Von Planta, Scott Rensberger, Rosenblum, Naka Nathaniel, Ruud - just some of the doyens of videojournalism illustrates the aforementioned point.

22. This manifesto is not complete

23. Belatedly added. Videojournalism is but another thread sowing the tapestry of our many stories, but what's next? What will come to define in our contracted timeline the new discourse and new tools. Qu how might videojournalism evolve?

Belated addition to the decree

24. Create alternatives to the convention ~ that may surprise you

25. Experiment or expire - a run on demo or die from MIT

26. Acknowledge that online the environment is interactive, your package can have multiple entry points.

27. Think expansively, shoot lean. Think like a detective entering a crime scene. If you think too narrowly, too traditionally, you're in danger of missing the new story, the new clues.

28. Videojournalism, blogging, photography are daughters of multimedia which may well require a multi modal language approach i.e. you could be the one to better define the new language.

29. Mi6 VJ says you can shoot and strip a package 6 ways,. You're a conductor controlling the play of any instrument at any time in unison. But you'll need to appreciate the capabilities of the instruments.

30. Add value to the visual conversation rather than exclusively always seeking a reaction. There is a difference. Being confrontational does not always lean towards resolution

31. It's not multimedia that is impossible. it's how you're conditioning your thinking.

32. It is an evolving language atracting jack of all trades and masters of all.


Cliff said...

David - this decree is my new mantra - it is now a part of what I aspire to become even more so after over a decade as a still photojournalist - your insights are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnating profession I had given up for dead. Cheers m8!

Anonymous said...

Digital democracy combined with effective communication tools and a manifesto to match. source: diversity production network

Anonymous said...

Hello David, I very much enjoyed reading the manifesto! I highly respect your passion for your profession. Recently I received an e-mail about an Award for Video Journalism called the Concentra Award that from this year accepts entries from all over the world and though it might be of interest to you and/or your readers. There's more information to be found about the award and the prizes on (check the rules and regulations page). keep up the good work!

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah said...

thanks everyone - thanks for the skinny Nitzan