Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Videojournalism for Managers

Management can often have an ambivalent cosiness with video journalism.

At power breakfast meetings the banter will be around who’s doing what.

And quite often video akin to either a venereal disease or v for victory is splayed across the table.

"Jim over at the Claxton Daily is doing what, video?"
"Damn it!"

At some point in the ensuing weeks, your manager will either call you into their office or better still you’ll arrive at your desk to find a shiny box and clothed bag with the outline of a 12 bore shotgun which will make you think whether your boss has been taking Get Carter too seriously.

There will hence be a lot expected from you because frankly video, well, it’s easy.

Just point the camera and blow tape; you know how to blow, don’t cher

Because on your first exasperated shoots, having read the manual from back to front and again, your package will often set you back a week; a day if you’re really up for it.

Truth is it’s not that video is difficult and your IQ isn’t on par with Madonna ( she’s reportedly a 150 plus by the way – yep that’s way good) but you’re having to get used to alien concepts of electronic media that not less that a few Christmas’ ago had a whole communion of disciplines involved.

More frightening, your managing editor will ask you why it’s taking too long to produce that report on the city’s biggest murder in between the feature piece and banging the phones-English media expression for chasing media experts.

It’s a discordant existence between those with a vision and those who have to carry it out. And wearily it might have you questioning the whole advent of multimedia into the newsroom.

So rather long overdue here’s a rough guide to videojournalism for management in the newsroom.

1. Consult at some point with staff first about your brand new scheme and why you need it.
2. Why because if you’re not adding value and your video isn’t well produced you're not really doing yourself any favours.
3. Ask around what vjism is and enquire about resources and workflow before purchasing inventory.
4. Resources: are we buying Pinnacle, Avid or Final Cut. And cameras is it Sony Cams or Cannon because some systems are more intuitive and geared towards the solo journalist.
5. Re-work the rota if you’ve bought into the dynamics of the newsroom. Should journalists be responsible for tasks outside of producing video
6. Determime what house style to adopt. If you look at ITN, Sky and the BBC there are significant differences in their televisual language. There are also significant differences in videojournalism.
7. Give your staff room to experiment and develop their strengths. Often that means time to produce features and jump off the treadmill of news.
8. Where possible facilitate gatherings for videojournalists from your newspaper group to meet and share ideas.
9. If there are top up schemes around don’t shy away from spending some of the kitty’s spare change for staff to pick up new ideas: training is ongoing.
10. Pick up a camera yourself and go out on a shoot. Former Sky news editor Nick Pollard who was managing editor of London’s first videojournalism station did so attracting admiration from staff which was reciprocated.

And for good measure introduce regular viewings of your own VJS' work and what other are doing. And do remember to praise your VJs for their good work.

It can be a lonely pursuit at times

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