Friday, April 26, 2013

Integrated Multimedia Videojournalism's New Ideas. Please bare with me

Prepping on late night food for the Arab Media Summit in Cairo

It's 11.30 pm, we've just stepped of the flight to Cairo to find out in the morning the agenda we had planned for their summit needs to be changed. &^%$£?? Major ouch! Journalism is in a crisis in Cairo, that swiftly needs a solution.

It's different to what I am aware of  in the UK and US. The pros are, they believe, suffocating under the weight of social media and the independent news maker.

Nothing stays the same, everything changes.

Followers of this blog, which principally deals in videojournalism, , ideas, academia and journalism innovation may have noticed how strangely the blog has changed over the past couple of days.

The reason being I'm experimenting with a new layout. After six years of blogging and with a whole wealth of information to hand from my extensive work, the need has arisen to display this on a more open, and easily navigable blog site.

Some of that info includes work I'm about to start with the Comedy theatre, one of London's most successful comedy houses, as they go digital in a big way, looking to expand into India.

Equally exciting is another company, OrgVue which has found a way to use data visualisation to help companies figure out their output/ staffing etc.

More rceently, I have had the pleasure of working alongside a medical data company, Dendrite, supervising a true talent who has built a top rated site from scratch.

Pragmatic ideas
Then there's my own personal work from my thesis, which, if the logic holds means the way we teach doc making/ videojournalism and news needs a radical overhaul. The text tells you how, with some powerful people in the industry combining their thoughts. I'm looking forward to sharing that with the industry.

Couple of years back I received this email from the BBC.

Dear David 
We are currently organising BBC Worldwide's annual Leadership Conference in October which is aimed at the top 150 senior leaders across the company. We would like to invite you to speak at a session focusing on 'Creativity and Innovation: Creating the Winning Idea' which currently has speakers including Innocent; Ten Alps and Bebo. The session will run on Thursday 5th October from  11:20 - 13:30. With your fantastic experience in both old and new media and your insights into next generation TV both in the UK and US, you would be a valuable addition to the panel. Your slot would be around 20-25mins, followed by a 60 minute Q&A panel session in which you would jointly answer questions from our staff.
About the Leadership Group Our Leadership Group consists of around 150 of our senior staff from acrossour seven business areas: Global TV Sales, Global Channels, Content &Production, Magazines, Digital Media, Home Entertainment and Children's. They are a lively and talented group of people who would greatly enjoy theopportunity to hear you speak and we very much hope that you will find the event interesting too.
Head of Communications

More recently, I spoke to executives at the BBC, so with my new findings rather hope I can share some more with broadcasters.

Recently speaking at BBC Meetings

In June, however,  I'm in Denmark presenting to their journalist in a week which includes some of the world's best thinkers in image making, such as Bombay flying Duck, Drea Cooper  from Califormia is the Place and Michelle Michael, a highly respected VJ from the US.

Timetable for Denmark talk.

One that I hope meets the need of the pro and pragmatism of the student, whether that's academia or life-student.

Unfortunately, many of the blog skins treat key words as categories resulting in a mis-alignment of pages. Horrible!

I'm hoping this can be resolved really soon. So in the meantime, I have reverted to the blog of old and hopefully over the weekend can present the new site, without all its detritus. So please stay in touch and we'll get this experience to where it should be.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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

What is videojournaism and why it matters?

What is videojournalism?  

This could be a boring academic question, but it isn't. Many have defined, or described it, but few have attempted an anthropological (historical) examination.

Some people have, but as journalistic enterprises and as a journalist myself they've made for interesting reads, but I wanted to attempt something different. A deep invasive examination into what it is, and its purpose. I secretly refer to it as the lost chapters.

Why does this matter? Here's an analogy. You can't begin to understand social media, without the contribution of web 2.0, web 1 and unequivocally going back to the break out of the web itself into the public domain in the 1990s

Only by interrogating its past, provenance,  can you understand the potential of its future. And that's what I have set out to do.  In the 1990s there were around five different pioneers that emerged in the US, UK, Denmark, Germany and Japan.

What if some of those people never went away. What if they quietly continued with their craft? What if they harboured deep thoughts about it and amazingly emerged and said we did it quite differently.

What did they mean? Then they showed us and from that we could see the endless possibilities, its potential and where videojournalism was strangled. Yes its potential was pared down.

You may think I sound like a salesman. That magic snake potion for the media's woes. But actually my research has the dryness warranted from academic research. No hyperbole, but substantiated facts.

The process has taken me to China, Cairo and Chicago. Its language and construct is more expansive, yet as previous posts going back to 2007 show it's not a utopia. There is no such thing, but the form when it bears its fangs it constitutes an artistic form par excellence.

But why would anyone bother reading it?  Its 85,000 words, involves more than 150 interviews.

They include the figures that brought videojournalism to the BBC and has taken 6 years as a part time PhD.  So when I do publish please feel free to skip to the conclusion then work you way backwards.

5 Reasons for presenting

Why would anyone consider reading it. If you don't mind here's 5 rhetorical answers
  1. I was one of the first official (National Union of Journalists) videojournalists in the UK in 1994.
  2. I have spent near 20 years immersed in its form and style, in one year creating 500 stories on air. Before being a videojournalist I worked for the BBC e.g. Newsnight, was an on air reporter for BBC 2 Reportage and ITN's London Tonight and produced for Channel 4 News and ABC News.
  3. I have used it on projects to create: 
    • commercials, turned around in a day that went out on CNN International
    • Being Heavyweight boxer Lennox Lewis videojournalist during his fight with Tyson. 
    • Creating the first ever Country-to-Country videojournalism broadcast (Ghana and South Africa)
    • Launch the UK's first newspapers training with the Press Association
    • Created films that have been well received international, winning international awards
    • Used it t create Obamas 100 Day film showed at the Royal Festival Hal

     4. It's been one of the most difficult things I have undertaken and I'm grateful for opportunities such
     as being a judge for the UK's television Emmys, the RTS that opened my mind some more.
    5. Its work that extends from winning the J-lab knight Batten Awards for Innovation in Journalism
     and the international videojournalism awards in Berlin.

And I'm looking forward to sharing it with as many people as possible, my good friends in the US and universities, Europe, China and Ghana/South Africa. They're linning up nicely.

Its place in a future of journalism when its done and that's soon, because I'm also making it into a film. The results I believe will question videojournalism to the point that "there is no such thing as videojournalism, yet there IS videojournalism". This almost drove me mad.

In the meantime I look forward to sharing and explaining some of its preliminary findings such as the image above, how videojournalists read a scene in making a film.

Monday, April 08, 2013

10 things social media is yet to get right in the new society

The clamour for all things social could make you think nothing else existed remotely similar before 2000. Hobbes, 300 years ago puts paid to that. 

Whilst it would be difficult for anyone to deny the benefits of social media, the corollary is that its blind side obscures an array of pernicious tendencies.  Put succinctly, we have acquired social tools without the social etiquette or an acknowledgement of the framework that Hobbes considered important for the social contract. That is things that are ethically and morally right to do.

The effect has been a growing, perhaps more selfish (meism) social class, sometimes unable to see past the effects of their own screen. Of course this will change, but before that here's 10 things that social media and its evangelists are yet to help us get right.

1. Anti-social classrooms.

Until universities understand how to thoroughly uses social media in lectures and one of the deepest thinkers here includes Howard Rheingold, the design and exchange of knowledge will be found wanting.

One of the biggest setbacks is the now antiquated front-facing design of lecture rooms, followed by the inevitable FB time inbetween that crucial link in information. You could argue if the lecturers were more engaging this wouldn't happen, but that's not always the case. I have come across past students who

  • from the onset are buried in their FBs and when asked will say they can multi-skill. 
  • or that they were not supposed to be in lectures in the first place. 
Multiskilling is a now an almost ubiquitous function, yet as many scholastic works prove, left side brain associated with reading, and right side brain in watching are two separate brain functions.

In my own simple tests, I have students read a book then attempt to play ping pong at the same time, otherwise a more severe act with sometimes tragic consequences is texting and driving at the same time. It's not advisable.

Until we evolve more efficient brains or find ways of making lectures more socially engaged, (I now build social media breaks into lectures which appear far more important than tea-break) the lecture hall becomes the anti-social classroom.

2. Dear Ms Elizabeth Landy.

Oh no, the social media generation opt for the more "Hey Lizzy ". A blurring of social space and real space means increasingly its difficult to separate who's your friend and the people with which you ought to be building a professional relationship.

We're only a click away from addressing our next potential employer, Jonathan Barnes OBE, for that banking job, with "Hey Jonny". Either we get socially etiquetted up or a new range of finishing schools will emerge to help us understand that there are your friends and professional friends.

3. Likes You.

Liking and disliking someone and their exchanges has moved from the water cooler into a social space, where authors, particularly budding journalists struggle to understand that the whole point of journalism is to "be on the record" .

"Oh no if I reveal myself, I'll get lower grades", I overheard this once. What you're not prepared to say in person, refrain from saying on public space. We're actually getting much better at this is my perception.

Partly because, whilst an out of place comment is one thing, tipping your hand too far is likely to incur the law of defamation (if you can afford it), a potential beating (which I would not advise) or an exchange which may hurt you when you realise the person you've taken on has bigger google juice guns than you.  Overheard, a student photographer asking her lecturer to take down his comments about his brilliant writing as it occupied the top ranking of her name, and the photographer wanted to be known for his photographic work.

Quick win solution:  encourage trainee journalists to learn to say what they feel without always hiding for the wrong reasons around anonymity.  You're going into a profession where you get paid for critiquing with your byline attached.

4. Eyes on your forehead.

In 2056 human beings will have their eyes situated on the crown of their heads. If that doesn't happen, the number of fatalities walking the road in a straight line into traffic, whilst texting, will continue. It's more dangerous than you think says Laptopmag blog. In the US, according to the Guardian newspaper, fines will be issued to those walking as if they needed a tan on their necks. The walking talking texters have created their own social rule so that they have right to way on crowded streets. But what happens when we're all double bent walking along a-texting?

5. Damn politics.

3,000,000 online petitions versus 3,000,000 people lining the streets. Which one appears more potent? No one's saying online campaigning doesn't work, but its been said on more occasions than I care to remember that the lot who campaigned against Thatcher's poll tax were more political active on the hustings compared to today's youth. Is this all myth?  Will it be social media that makes politics cool to the point we hit the streets again? Would the poll tax have been abandoned solely if people adopted an online strategy, not withstanding the occasional Flash mobs?

6. The Coward Boss.

Not up to breaking the news, as it should be, on something as dramatic as a loss of job, or ending a relationship, a generation of social mediasts might argue what the fuss is about.
As a media exercise I pose a question to delegates that challenges when and where they would report casualties in a combat army. Some are quick to express how Facebook would be ideal. Then there are those that acknowledge that the ideal situation would be to firstly contact by phone or face-to-face someone from the injured person's family. Social Media scholars may need to provide the blue book on what is socially acceptable to say and what requires the human touch.

7. Its not on google, it never happened.

Yep, it's that simple, social media's omnipotence means a generation believe if its not on google, it never happened and if it's not on the front page, it's not important. Mediastorm are arguably one of the best global cinema journalism storytellers, but you won't find them on page one of "cinema journalism", though I'm certain that will change.

This reliance on the world's leading internet service provide led one scholar Professor Tara Barabazon to ban her students from using google and wikipedia. My own reasons for cautioning the exclusive use of google is the loss of flaneurism - the art of physical wandering and serendipity finding new contained knowledge from journals and books.

But actually a more pressing reason also exists. Dr Alison Williams, a colleague of mine, has just completed her doctorate and part of her study showed how physical spaces assist in creativity: going for a walk, a shower, riding in a bus. So walking to a place where knowledge is, the library, may provide additional, hidden reasons for creativity.

Undoubtedly, google and Wiki (Wiki leaks) have proved their importance, and google continues to digitise the world's brains, but knowledge from social media does not yet trounce all the other media entities. Confidential agreements, and research knowledge still restricts information.

8.  Think before you reflect.

Social media has made us more prone to speak without sometimes reflecting on what we're saying. Cognitive awareness is being substituted for immediate emotional gratification and sometimes playing to the gallery, making us perhaps more socially impoverished. Paris Brown, 17, one of the youngest youth police commissioners in the UK, found this out to her embarrassing costs when she tweeted .... "or I am an anti social, racist, sexist, embarrassing XXXX. Often its the latter." Here are examples of Tweets gone wrong from ReadWrite Social.

9. Lonely girl, lonely boy.

Paradoxically, and not unsurprisingly we're social beings who like physical company. And while social meet ups via social media may increase our social network, nothing beats physical space. That feeling of finding friends online, combined with other factors, can lead to the most un forseen consequences e.g. grooming.

Dating, or trying too in the social space has led to a new word, Catfish, and the series from MTV featuring couples meeting up for the first time and realising all is not well.

10. The secrecy syndrome

Social media makes us increasingly unable to hold secrets, but also inadvertently creates the perception of one upmanship. Paraodixically, the hiearchies we so complained about in journalism, have been replaced with a new breed, endoresed by their social media status.

The more folowers you have, the more important you are. Except that we know that's not the case, but online that's the perception and has led to the practice of tweet-trawls ( I have made this up) where we discover how Tory Minister Grant Shapps in boosted his twitter followings,  first broken by Channel 4 News.

Bowie's comeback album was not only a triumph in music, but in presenting a majestic surprise to his fans. It didn't make social media. Neither did an important assignment endorsed by President Obama who had to act as if nothing unusual was taking place at a correspondents' dinner when Navy Seals were prepping for that mission.

The argument isn't whether we need to keep information secret. That debate still rages in the wiki-saga, but that in dealings where we would prefer personal information was not divulged it stays secret.

I often say to students I can give you the on the record of what's going on in  journalism and the off the record, which comes from private conversations and since those conversations  can be damning, I'd prefer they were not discussed, but you decide on the arrangement you want. Chatham House rules or no rules.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Flow - Like minds, the cinema journalist and high performance car driver - business

Flowing in the Porsche with cinema journalism

They call it 'the flow' and if all you see is the car and the driver, you're missing that something.

It is a point of contact between the car and person, Woman and the machine in concert, the physical and transcendent.

Formula One racers could write poetry about it. Ayrton Senna did, but through his unworldy performances. Kevin Haggarthty, a name you're unlikely to be familiar with and his protege, does too, though he'll be the first to feel deeply embarrassed by any comparison.

10.00 am Bank Holiday and we're hurtling about through country lanes testing the Porsche 911 Carrera. She is a beautiful beast and my lack of respect for her and her driver have twice made me feel like throwing up.  The G-force in the car is measurable, made visible by a dial on he dash board.

Kevin, a high performance driver is making his monthly assessment, road testing the latest super car. What a job eh? Lucky so, so and so.

We've known each other for a fair while, but today the conversation goes into an area between him and Patrick, which is almost uncar like, but I get it.

"What's he looking for in a car ?", I ask

Response. How it communicates back to me, he says, adding, it's how she feels, not as a series of technical measurements, but....

Here you almost  imagine Haggarthy as Claude Lelouch shrugging his shoulders with that 'Je ne cest quoi' look explaining that epic scene in Rendezvous 1976..

Epic. Irresponsible! Epic. [below]

Kevin does his with a series of spurts and tight bends on a secret location and whose speed I won't even humour you with.

He continues. When a driver becomes one with the car, it's called the flow. I recognise this. At some point labels that distinguish between forms become meaningless. When you're making a film and understand the audience, the rules that once guided you become irrelevant.

I reply, you rely on instinct, learned instances that become reflexes, so you're judging the future, limited time ahead and making decisions.  Sometimes you're wrong, but you're more often right. And what evolves from the process is meta language, a flow.

A place where commitment seems casual, but involves a heightened sensorious state.

In a couple of weeks we're meeting  up again. Kevin, with a new car. Me, with a new insight into how I might use artistic practice to get more out of this assignment. Now that would be a double flow.

For this shoot we used two go pros, the 5D and a  Panasonic. The next shoot will be built around 5 go pros and the 5D. We've found something we want to exploit.