Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Videojournalism - lost pages from an early UK source

David Dunkley Gyimah shares this videojournalist piece, from being a panelist at NewsXChange 2012 #nx12 with NHK, Globo TV and Czech TV in Barcelona.

Its essay form provides an insight into the changing world of journalism, and in particular foregrounds his impending doctorate thesis on film, videojournalism and broadcast futures, with a nod to Michael Rosenblum et al.

(shot on the Hero Go pro)

You have to be there! - videojournalism

Viewmagazine library

Where do babies come from mummy?

And so at some point liberal or adventurous parents let their child into the secret. Next time Ben will be at the birth.

Our proclivity to ask questions, followed by the satisfying need to addressing them is human nature.

Journalism, a social construct, came a second best, but if you weren't the curious type, then you could hedge your bets that by the time you completed your J-program, the phrase, "you had to be there" would be drilled into your psyche.

Curious then, that having watched the floods in the UK, and the effects of Hurricane Sandy in the US, the mainstay of the media practised the equivalent of Aftermath journalism. Otherwise we were treated to what ITN's Alan Hart perfected as "Action journalism".

You know it well. It's the scene were the reporter stands facing the storm trying to deliver something pithy and then gets blown away - something for the next edition of candid camera. It looks dramatic, but it is a false drama.

Certainly broadcast journalism can't be accused of being tardy, so why the stark absence from the event?  Why the lack of presence-journalism? Why can't we be given a closer feeling of what it's like?

Because, because, journalism one might argue is not involved in the conveyance of feeling. But that doesn't explain why conflict journalists want to be in the ruck when chaos kicks off, why they do stand in the rain afterwards to say, "here I am". Perhaps conflict journalism as a convention doesn't need tutoring.

Are journalists cowards? No! Are they not adventurous? Certainly not. So why? For traditional journalism it has become a job. At five I clock off. Foreign correspondents know differently. Journalism becomes a calling.

This calling - the photojournalism praxis mixed with the traditional reporter's guile was to be the domain of videojournalism, but it's yet to have staked its claim, leaving this form of richly textured experience alone for literary journalists.

Videojournalism, I'm reminded from a lecture I gave in Germany in 2005 was about getting down and dirty. This was to be one of its rekindled narrative - a sort of quasi-cinema verite.

Today, as floods devastate Britain, many familiies will be coping through the worst of the rising waters and desperate conditions.

We'll find out their conditions when reporters wearing waist-high waterproofs wade through waters delivering pieces to camera tomorrow.

That's not enough! Videojournalism as devised twenty years ago needs to reclaim its ambition. Stories don't stop, videojournalists, like their photojournalist equivalent seldom do.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How broadcast journalism taught its audience to be savvy and how the audience went one step further

David, as a panelist at NewsXchange

Every lecturer knows and acknowledges their standing. You lecture students to be better than you. The student in the back row sitting meekly staring at her screen is the editor of CNN in 5-10 years.

I have ongoing proof.  You know stories like this. One of my favourites is Tamer Almisshal. He was hard working and conscientious. 

Tamer Almisshal
"Mr David I have something to tell you", he proffered in the lecture room. "I'm now the BBC's Gaza Correspondent". He was 24 at the time beating people twice his age to the job. I remember my words to him: "Now teacher, it's time for me to learn from you".

Tamer has since moved to Al Jazeera.

Today the professional classes in journalism have come to the same realisation except the consequences are far more dramatic.

As a lecturer, my grey matter requires constant reboots and updates of knowledge from an impending PhD, engagement with experiential learning, various seminars and presentations, and the acquisition of independent sources of knowledge, with the intention to share, and to make a living too.

Two weeks ago, I presented to Denmark's senior journalist on dramatic changes in story form from my PhD. A month before that I was sharing ideas with the Institute of War and Peace in Tunisia. In December I return to Egypt where I made my film that explores memories and subconscious.

____________________ Denmark _________________

Hi David, Just want to say thank you for your performance at VP. The VP-thing was better than we hoped it to be, and all the reactions were more than positive. Danish jouranlists go to a lot of conferences, so they arenot just being polite, and they - and Søren and I - were overly happy with your performance. Hope you have time to come again when we do it again this summer?! Kind regards,
Martin Ramsgård 
Rebooting Journalism
For the professional journalist, competitive advantage is a prerequisite and an editor might be damned to think the student walking in could truly do her job in a couple of years. 

Remember that interview question that asks what you want to do in five years that gives the panel a snigger when the candidate says they want to do your job.

As the professional you're so busy putting the shows together you almost have no time to take in twitter's endless paraphernalia in research e.g. twinangulate, twitscoop and twirl, let alone understand comprehensively that our collective attention to narrativity is irrevocably evolving.

And as LiveStream's presentation at NewsXchange 2012 illustrated the next generation of journalists will also need a head for F1 type real-time analytical data.

The conundrum facing broadcasters is an ineluctable paradox. They've been so good at what they do that they've done themselves out of their once elite jobs, almost.

For having taught their audiences, by dint of showing their news for the past 50-odd years, the prosumer audience now believes they can do it themselves.

Philosopher Roland Barthes' would have loved the rich irony. Not only does the prosumer know how to negotiate codes within news, now they see fit to create their own.

All the senior news personnel in my study, such as Stuart Purvis, state news production, in spite of its briliance, is creaking.

He said: For many years we perpetuated a myth that television could only be done by the professionals, Channel One TV (videojournalists) proved otherwise.

At NewsXChange in Spain one of the more profound tweets focused on Chris Crammer a former senior executive at CNN and the BBC. Melissa Fleming the Chief Communications and spokesperson at UNHCR tweeted the following:

Chris Cramer "We used to think we led and they followed... We have to dispel our distain for citizen journalists, bloggers."  
Chris Cramer- "shock value news insults our viewers.. our job to let know why they should care, why they should give a damn" 

How journalism is changing
We train ourselves to understand narrative
It makes perfect sense. As David Bordwell, one of the leading film cognitivists notes, film makers teach the audience to understand and makes sense of film narrative. 

Once the audience becomes savvy, filmmakers need to be aware, you either have to be clever with the next film or be even more resourceful in how you use existing semiotic codes.

And that's been the Broadcasters' Achilles. 

As I mentioned on the panel on alternative broadcasting, if you accept Columbia Professor Michael Schudson's definition of journalism, that it is a cultural construct, bound by literary conventions and social practices over time, a number of things make sense.

Firstly, the object of journalism must indeed splinter in line with postmodernist and post structuralist thinkers such as Henry Jenkins. It becomes many things to different people. 

The way the West informed the East, South and North of news production now smacks of cultural snobbery. Yes there may still be truisms and certain standard, but if videojournalists filming attrocities in Syria preface their shoot with "God is Great", what says you?

Secondly, a number of previous journalism parameters, such as objectivity, that so defined traditional journalism, come under threat.  

As a practising videojournalist, can I be subjective and still tell the truth? This was the exchange on the day with the amazing keynote speaker Pulitzer prize winner Sonia Nazario.

 ‏@viewmagazinenxsocial Grrr twitter froze during sessions, so heres catch up. Sonia Nazario epic journalism  which changed society... 
 nxsocial I spoke to Sonia afterwards. Few can do what she did by riding the train of death, Mexico. This is literary journalism.... 
nxsocial similar to Sonia in textual and immersive prose is my fav. Luis Alberto Urrea - the Devil's Highway. Perils crossing into USA... 
viewmagazine  Thanks for the shout-out. I also agree "Under the Volcano" a must-read. 
nxsocial I said to Sonia she's doing cinema. She agreed. Worth reading Malcolm Lowry "Under the Volcano" (1947) for literature as cinema

The new thinking that is required is not by any means a precedent. So fights for the structural and epistemological compass of 21st Century journalism, needs to vigorously contested.

Modern journalism evolved from pre 17th century Addison and Steele, to their use of equitone and uni vocal narrative, to the 19th century when objectivism, informed by the social sciences and positivism planted its stake in the ground. 

And, Flaubert's Madam Bovery drove a new narrative away from equitone to multiple voices.  I trust I will not have demeaned Sonia when I say her journalism pays homage to the literature of Flaubert, or that as she agreed its cinema transcends denotative journalism on par with Luis Alberti Urrea's The Devil's Highway.

That rich textured journalism is plaintively cinema, not the fictional form from modern usage, but the transcendental which so scared journalism executives or their minions when they were building its form seventy years ago. 

Its events such as Newsxchange and its dialogue in and outside its conference walls that provide industry thinking on how to address 21st Century now that the lid on journalism practise has been forced open.

The tail wagging the dog's tail wagging other dogs is such we're finding out some old lost habits and new goodies that may end up shaping its future. 


My thanks to Amy Selwyn and Takehiko Kusaba  for the opportunity to appear at NewsXchange
Amy Selwyn MD of NewsXchange preps the floor before the main events

19 October 2012 09:42 David Dunkley Gyimah is a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster. He started his career with the BBC in 1987 in radio and TV e.g. Newsnight and later Channel 4 News. He is a recipient of the prestigious Knight Batten Award in the US and a juror for the RTS Broadcast Innovation. You can find out more of his work from 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Make an appointment for NewsXchange - Europe's largest gathering of News experts Friday 16th Nov 2012

In the last couple of days, I have been at NewsXchange, Barcelona, one of the largest gatherings of news experts. 

According to NewsXchange Managing Director Amy Selwyn there are more than 400 personnel here from 60 different countries.

You can find an agenda and what's on later today here.

I'd also suggest you follow the tweets at #NX12.  Tomorrow's stellar speakers merit close attention tweets.

Here however is a run down of what's transpired

14th Nov

First of the NewsXchange sessions over and the theme is minning data on par with F1 racing to give competitive edge to newsrooms. This was an impressive look at qualitative and quantitative breakdown of news' audience share in real time.

15th Nov
Sonia Nazario epic journalism  which changed society. spoke to Sonia afterwards. Few can do what she did by riding the train of death, Mexico. This is literary journalism similar to Sonia in textual and immersive prose is my fav. Luis Alberto Urrea - the Devil's Highway. Perils crossing into USA..

I said to Sonia she's doing cinema. She agreed. Worth reading Malcolm Lowry "Under the Volcano" (1947) for literature as cinema

Then  showed the trailer of her film capturing universal language of personal cinema, "Where my heart beats"  What emerged over dinner was the lengths and sacrifice she'd gone in Afghanistan to make her film which has since been shown at the UN. And the trailer was edited in LA by a Hollywood film editor.

In our session which I'll expand on in much detail later, three different networks showed how they're turning journalism inside out an alll for the better.

Click here for insight into major new findings on

What is videojournalism on the web, in multimedia and offline - a major study and film - and why it matters

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NewsXchange - why broadcasters and journalists have to be think like trojans to succeed

We're gearing up for the largest news gathering, NewsXchange, in Spain, and in line with most conferences there are private meetings, PR fetes, and innovation hubs on offer.

NewsXchange is a large social where the industry can reflect, exchange, and pick up ideas about News - a commodity whose packaging is continually under threat.

We'll always want news. From Plato'c cave to your sibling's pregnancy( gasp) have you heard the news...Jane's pregnant.

But obviously we've become discerning about what we want, and how we get it. We always were, except the Frankfurt School said otherwise.

And to comprehend this amplified change we have theories upon theories. Knowledge really has become the internecine war of today.

There are some observations that, to me, are quite evident. What's fuelled the social network culture has been the visibility of innovations that firstly got to the heart of cognitive behaviour. That is they helped address a symptom that eventually everyone would welcome.

Secondly, that they were in themselves disruptive against modernism and its appetite for grand gestures, for example broadcasting, and Utopian narratives.

For that reason alone, the rhetoric is that broadcasters and journalists are particularly weak at aforementioned innovations, because by the very description and functionalists of these innovations, they seek to disrupt their own business.

Social Networks 
Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, may be the great levellers now paradoxically building communities, but paradoxically they started out as projects which addressed a cognitive need and disrupt a status quo. Postmodernism at its best.

By this logic alone, which the avant garde film makers discovered, once you cease to be hip and innovatory, a new leveller muscles in. Avant garde has been responsible for pushing the language of film as a continuous cycle. Think of all the old and new film makers who come in and out of vogue.

Bullet time, which was hip to a Matrix generation is now pastiche.

The lesson then is that whilst the doors are continually open for innovation, broadcasters and journalists trying to innovate tend to do so with their commodity in mind, to build audiences, when the converse should be starting out to disrupt their base and start anew.

The BBC's Iplayer is an interesting case in point, but works because it addresses a need and takes viewers away from the act of family, appointment viewing broadcasting. But not all companies are this fortunate.

There's innovation out there, but the people behind it will have to be more left-field than the structuralist approach they've hitherto adopted.

David is a panelist at NewsXchange and a jury member for the UK's most prestigious news innovation prize, The RTS News Innovation Awards

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why the BBC will prevail with a new radicalised structure

British newspapers didn't hold back. The Sun Newspaper (Murdoch), no friend of the BBC, must have thought Christmas had come early.

It was by the measure of experts on influential Sunday political show,  The Andrew Marr show over the top.

We will be reading, and you may have read several accounts of the BBC's self immolation, brought on entirely by itself according to one of the UK's most respected media analysts, Steve Hewlett, a former BBC senior programme maker.

You've most likely read about the cause of this. In short,  one film about an extremely popular entertainer, Jimmy Salville, whom it turns out was a paedophile, was withheld from being broadcast on the BBC's flagship news analysis programme, Newsnight.

Saville died last year aged 84 years.

Then a new film made by the Newsnight team which alleged there to be a child abuser, someone powerful in public life, turned out to be emphatically untrue.

The programme had committed an egregious error. If you're a Masters student studying libel, this is the case study No.1.

Newsnight is the programme I cut my BBC TV teeth on back in the 1990s. Back then I recall an incident when mixed up pictures led to a mistaken news item that  cleaners at Heathrow were asylum seekers. It was a simple case of editing the wrong pictures to the words.  Newsnight duly apologised.

Then on the rare ocassion, Robert Maxwell was libelled. The presenter that day breathed a sigh of relief; thank goodness you can't libel the dead.

No this post is not about Newsnight's errors. I have fond memories of my time there. But a couple of issues arise from this BBC affair.
  • That the Chairman Chris Patten says the BBC has more senior managers than the Chinese Communist party and that the BBC structure needs to change.
  • That Jeremy Paxman levels the lack of resources and cut backs in BBC journalism, instituted by the former BBC Director General Mark Thompson who is due to start work at the New York Times as Times tomorrow.
  • That with just over 50 days in the job, the outgoing DG, George Entwistle, was being tasked with the impossible. How could he monitor, check the work of journalists, when programme editors hold that responsibility?
In an era of evolving media and destruction of traditional structures, the inevitable murmurs are whether the BBC will go the way of Hoover PLC, MG Rover Group, ITV digital? It's possible but not probable.

However the collorary of this debacle is that perennial question. Is the BBC at 30,000 employees just too big?  A global brand, which has restated its influence in the digital, online world, but the costs?

Perhaps 50 years on this will be a moot point; the journalism, no I'll use the term non-fiction storytelling to emerge from my study favours an approach that is at odds with traditional journalism's values.  That said, the BBC's brand of journalism may become more valued.

No that's not even my point I wanted to moot. The real essence of this post was to empathise with next generation journos looking to join the BBC. If what emerges from this intense period of self evaluation results in the direction towards a smaller, more nimble, BBC, then sad as that might be in-house journos, it's the next crop who will be under pressure to find employment.

George Entwistle's extended garden leave won't last long. It's widely known he is a decent chap with a wealth of broadcast knowledge that headhunter will snap him rather sharpish.

What happens to the a stream of people about to lose their jobs is another matter entirely.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Journalism innovation Newsxchange and what's next?

David makes comparisons between 1920s and contemporary media with the Phantom Carriage, a 1920's Inception.

 By David Dunkley Gyimah. Connect with him on Google 

Next week it's the gathering of international journalists at NewsXchange, where the industry looks at what it's doing and how best in can improve on itself.

Journalism, if there was any doubt is a living and breathing commodity,  but really it's taken the Internet and new media practitioners to make this explicit.

I'm going to be a panelist with NHK debating innovation in journalism and it's an area I'm familiar with as a closet geek. I've been online since 1996 and more recently have been one of the judges for the UK's most prestigious innovation in television awards, The RTS ( Royal Television Society).

Last year that RTS for innovation went to Al Jazeera's The Source.  Last week in building a presentation for Danish journalists I have to say I was a little disappointed to see that improvements to the show have jettisoned the very on-the-go style that appealed to many of the jury.

Today it's all grown up, the playground's been taken over by the adults.

Video Play - Denmark

Timetable for videoplay in Denmark

Last week, I presented to Danish journalists in Denmark, closing a very popular 5-day conference that included:

  • Seth Gitner, Syracuse University US.
  • Ibrahim Hamdan, Al Jazeera, Qatar whose film: Images of the Revolution, about citizens recording extraordinary scenes in Egypt's  uprising is a must watch.
  • Mark Carlson, Associated Press, renown as an exceptional media maker
  • David Wright from National Geogaphic, UK whos embers were still smouldering long after he left.

I was asked to look at the future of videojournalism, which as it happens is part of my PhD research at University College Dublin, but something that I have been wading through as a videojournalist for  nearly 20 years and one of the first in the UK.

In my thesis I also contend, if you have experience of traditional news making; I started with te BBC in 1987, then that's hugely beneficial.

It was a 2 hour presentation, but frankly I could have spoken for four hours, but I am very grateful for the generosity and reception from delegates.

The essence of the presentation was to provide an overarching theory - based on the scrutiny of data I have collected from around the world, films such as this one Tahrir Memento, and interviews explaining where video story telling is going and why.


And it is this why, underpinned by philosophy and pragmatism, which I will aim to reflect at NewsXChange in Barcelona next week, though we'll be looking much broader into innovation.

Call it technological determinism, supervening necessity, or meaning-making through cognitivism, why is it somethings work and others don't?

The philosophy behind this depends on a myriad of social, cultural and historical factors and I explain change by mapping various external theories on the landscape to provide, above all,  robust reasons, than our flailing penchant for new suppositions.

Theory, as I have come to learn is more complex than what we think, theory is generated through, in my case, what's observed, supported with other theories to see if those observations can be discredited.

And on the many Masters in Journalism modules that I have taught, that is far more invaulable. That is understanding how to interpret the many complex signs that make up media.

See you in Barcelona.