Thursday, April 17, 2008

How UKs first newspaper journalists cracked videojournalism

To find out more go to site Mrdot

By mid morning on the third day many of the journalists looked tired?

No, more mentally fatigued.

In three days they'd absorbed a cacophony of facts. Getting their heads around the technicals of the camera was one thing, understanding the visual grammar for TV, let alone VJims was proving to be tough.

And then Paul Hartley, whom I called the Editor's editor dropped a bombshell.

The head of PA's training, Tony asked me if he could have a word. Paul, the deputy editor of the Hull Daily Mail was already seated.

However much they were doing now, whatever they were doing, they had to be battle ready in less than a fortnight, said Paul.

His newspaper was doing the equivalent of a Columbus and Hernan Cortez -sea voyagers whom landing on shore would burn their ships, removing any route to go back.

The Hull Daily Mail was going on line live with video journalism before the session had actually finished.

Tony looked at me rather pensively and asked: "Well !"

This was the first time we were collaborating so he had every reason to feel apprehensive. You know, the unknown factor.

You might, I often say, have the best credentials in the world for a task, but that means nothing on the day when you have to deliver.

You're only as good as the job you're doing at present.

"Well if it's got to be done, it's got to be done", I added.

That meant changing some of the training regimes. Pure video journalism would have to be pushed back, to ensure the group completely understood the basic visual grammar.

Then Tony had a streak of genius. What if we planned an exercise - a real test your balls exercise [ not his words, but mine] - that put them through their paces in preparation for their launch.

Tony probably had it planned anyway but now there was a real sense of urgency.

"Got it, it's on", he would later confide.

Cleveland Police will re open a case for the journalists to cover. In turn they will put up their rookie detectives who will NOT necessarily play along as seasoned pros would do.

So from less than a fortnight as our deadline, it had now become eight days. 8 days to learn how to make television.

It wasn't impossible. I'd once in the Holiday Inn in downtown Joburg taught four Ghanaian Journalists in three hours how to shoot basic: no editing, just good old solid shooting.

Crunch Time
By the evening as we were winding down to go home, Tony and I knew full well what was ahead.

Simply it couldn't fail. The delegates could not leave without fully appreciating the fullness of what they had either done or had achieved. It had to be whistle and bells on top of what they expected.

The industry and press was keeping an eye out and while no one would sing VJism amongst newspapers' success, if it went tits up ( horribly wrong) it might scupper any notion of newspapers becoming VJs - at least for the moment.

The Society of Editors across the UK were watching with intrigue.

That night I could have slept better, but then I only sleep 6 hours anyway.

The next day was the beginning of a huge curve and it started in a fashion that proved how everyone was going out and out, literally as well.

Drill mode on the front lawn

On the front lawn of the Manor we drilled, and drilled and drilled some more. And I really did take on the role, amiably, of the Drill Instructor.

"No where should you be?"
"You've crossed the line, can you see that?"
"Too long, the tripods down and set within 40 seconds- Press Conferences don't wait"
" Take the sequence, now, take it now"..

And so it went for the best part of the day.

later during a tea break two of the journalists would say they'd got it, what scientist refer to as the wow syndrome.

One minute nothings working, then the next it all falls into place. " Wow"!

We could even afford to be ambitious by pushing away the famous 3:6:9 rule.

And then it was Wednesday morning: day 8.

A lot went on between then, but I have edited heavily, to be talked about another time perhaps, but there was fun mixed with the seriousness and many of the journalists still had to get the odd article, set up an interview here and there.

"Ok guys I'm here, but not here any more. You know everything you need to know. We've done it many times and everyone's ready. I'm going to here but I'm filming you, so best of luck. Naah you don't need luck. Have a great time".

I said this before leaving and while we spoke on the journey to Cleveland - a 2 hour plus bus ride, understandable some of the 8 were nervous.

Katie's mic is turned backwards: there's a reason

Today, soon they would have to process a wad of information alien to them 8 days before: everything from white balancing, exposure setting, focus, sound levels, spiriting the tripod, and then concentrating on the journalism and the visual grammar.

In the set up at the press conference, I'm being parried out of the way. "Go away David", one of them says "I'm busy", as I try to film.

Katie leaves her microphone facing her.

I recently saw online another journalist laughing at what seemed like a basic error.

If that journo or anyone other VJ has been in this situation before you'll know at a press conference it pays to have your mic turned around so you can pick up clean sound in your question, while your interviewee speaks into another mic in the second xlr input.

That's the trouble with video journalism, many people read the manual and can't see any the other initiative. Example, the manufacturers would have you handle the camera in a defined way which goes against the grain of flexible shooting. And I haven't begun to tell you about the use of condoms in wet weather.

By now we're 20 minutes into the press conference, But there's a problem. A huge *****ing problem. And Tony and I are worried. Very worried.

To be continued....

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