Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Four smashing summer reads sparking fresh thinking

The morning run was particularly eventful. I closed my eyes and reflected on four books I'm reading that have been enriching in different ways.

Just a Sound Guy- The Life of a Film and Television recordist is Ken Mellor's biography working in television news flitting from one assignment with lords of Yorkshire manors to the next moment unwittingly agreeing to work in war--raven Da Nang in Vietnam.

It's a jaunty read of some 200 pages written in a conversational tone. It'll make you laugh out loud in places; Mellor's humour and often put-downs are quintessentially old school brit gentleman. Otherwise, you feel the angst of Mellor's predicaments.

More prominently, Mellor's account from being one of the first sound employees of UK commercial outfit ITN News shows how the world has changed from five to one-person crews. There's a prescient moment when Sony Beta-cams emerge as a substitute to film and Mellor notes the game was up.
His vast jazz collection and masterful recollection of the media through photographs and diaries has now become his hobby-career.

Daniel Kahneman's international best seller Thinking Fast and Slow opens up the reader to the way we think, using two systems. The first, system 1, refers to intuitive, snap judgement. The second, Kahneman explains is more reflective.

Kahneman's psychological tour explains some everyday reasoning we may take for granted. Why when we're tired we're much more likely to agree to tasks that normally we would not. How saying something over and over again does become convincing as the truth.

If there was ever a way to underpin stolid scientific study of human behaviour to describe patterns behind social networks away from the nonsense blabber you read online, this is the book. Kahneman is a psychologist by trade and a Nobel Prize winner for Economics.

 It features several studies written up in a couple of pages. Wisdom of crowd he notes doesn't work efficiently if the crowd come from similar pools of interest.

The more diverse, the better. Reason enough to build eclectic communities if you're in the 'proving' game.

Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo explains a number of methods great TED speakers use to grab the attention of their audience. There is an underlying set of principles Gallo detects from studying successful TED speakers, such as personalising stories, injecting humour and not necessarily being bound by power point slides.

As it turns out Gallo links this process back to the teachings of Greek philosopher Aristotle, where good storytelling involved ethos, logos and pathos.  They stand for credibility, logic and emotions respectively.

Good TED talkers were heavily bias towards pathos - emotions and emotional engagement.

When set aside Kahhnerman's book a construct emerges that helps explain the classical language of journalism and emerging paradigms of social networks news.

Film Theory - An Introduction by Robert Stam is an encyclopedic foray into how cinema and how its interpretation has changed, and the difficulty in understanding the totality of cinema. It's a rich, perhaps compact book for the non-aficionado, but what Stam does it to underline the varied and different theories that have ceded each other to explain the world of film.

Importantly, there is no one theory that adequately explains patterned observations in our work of cinema. I used Stam and several other key books for my doctorate thesis to explain the need to combine theories such as film, cognitivism, semiotics and multicultural theory.

Changing face of Journalism
Presenting at the World Association of Newspapers in 2008

I have learnt the hard way when it comes to presentations, so of course wish I'd had access to these when I was starting as a public speaker when I was in South Africa way back in 1992.

The four mentioned books have a particular resonance for the changing face of new journalism. The combination of social networks and videojournalism-as-cinema promotes a revised way of seeing the world, which is at odds with normative journalism.

As Gallo notes storytelling amongst TED speakers, a barometer for what's new in the Net world, points to empathy and emotion as key indices in storytelling. It's a theme observed in Social Network speakers such as Richard Millington of Feverbee. I've found Millington's work intriguing; Kahneman's work provides psychological theory behind our behaviour patterns.

In an era of social, a multicultural view point is a valid, to-be-taken-seriously-point position. We've tended to favour Western ideas as superior when the East, South (Africa) contain valid view points that ought to take precedence on the world stage.

In less than a month, new cohorts will join the International Masters programme for a year of new learning. On average Masters students joining programmes will be born into a world of digital and subsumed into practices that promote empathy in storytelling when traditional journalism does not.

It's aptly captured in this scene from the hit show, The Newsroom.

These systems are having to live with one another, sometimes uncomfortably, and it requires new fresh confluent thinking for them to make sense to various constituents,  and that's what these four books reveal for me.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Video Journalism: How a variability in confidence impacts videojournalism news stories

Students being entertained by one of the UK's most respected journalists, Jon Snow
When someone asks you how you're doing?

The common response could be: I'm doing fine, otherwise, 'I'm fine, how are you?'

This reciprocal effect to the common usage of language is best illustrated in teaching manuals for the travellers to foreign countries.

You know it well, when learning Spanish, French or when a non-English speaker is learning English for the first time.

Invariably the recipient of your phrase can judge you to be a novice. Where local parlance would do, such as when Brits say: Alright! with the inflexion indicating a question, this can be lost in translation.

Every language moves from a first-base approach of communications to more informal. less rigid, exchanges.

In 'Good Morning Vietnam' Robin William's character breaks the rules with his Vietnamese class he's gate crashed.

'Give me some skin!' he intones to one student as a response to 'how are you?'

Poets are some of the leading proponents of up ending words and meaning as this video I created about the British poet Lemn Sissay shows.

In effect, poets and those who purposefully veer away from 'Im fine, how are you'?  exhibit what I call an indexical variability in confidence.

It allows them to do things, in which they confidently assume others may understand. Television, a domain, I have been associated with intimately for more than 25 years as both a news reporter, producer or anchor, and then a lecturer is one of the most interesting areas for observing this variability in confidence.

In my PhD thesis looking at communications and reportage in the 21st century, I took on the task of trying to understand how TV News was shaped from proponents of documentary, factual and even cinema. There are many strands that I will delineate through this blog. Here's one of them.

The understanding that video is not a language in the same way as the spoken word is a fixed now, but it is agreed by scholars that it is language-like. The way we use a camera, which is naturalised, depends on a filmic language.

Many educationists, teaching programmes, training centres and tertiary study programmes teach this language, and heuristics shows this to mainly be the: 'how are you?', I'm fine approach'.

It makes sense too. It is the most accessible and though may sound banal and simple guarantees a lot of  novices and 'foreigner's will understand.

Fo that reason, the language of Television News in the way video constructs meaning has not changed much, compared to how poets would orate.

But my studies came across a group of individuals, significant by how they are respected by their peers, exhibiting a variability in confidence in their language of video. They are neither tethered by social communities, and come from different territories, which makes it even more interesting.

They perform functions with video that would normally be eschewed. A German scholar Wolfgang Kissel brought to this my attention almost a decade ago, when he was evaluating my work.

The video of Lemn Sissay is perhaps an example of video interpreting an event, breaking the 'how are you?'.

But now I prefer to turn the tables on others to find out what makes them tick.

Confidence Evangelists
What then enables them to do what they do? On observation is this confidence comes from, among others, being radicalised by practitioners outside of their domain.

An examples of this is, if you work in television journalism  and I say: when you think of news amongst people like Cronkite, Murrow, Snow or Amanpour, what would you say?

The chances are  you're likely to reciprocate a dialogue along the lines of one of the above, or even journalists closer to them.

If you ask for any other influences. If you're depleted, you'll say nothing else.

Interestingly, a couple of things are happening. psychologists such as Robyn LeBoeuf and Eldar Shafir identify what I have done as 'Anchoring' you to supply an answer based on the question supplied.

However, those journalists that I have researched from my six-year PhD thesis exhibit a)  a confidence so they break out of the anchoring and b) deliver answers that are surprising.

They are less inclined to name a journalist, but more inclined to posit filmmakers, such as: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Andrei Tarkovsky,  John Ford or David Fincher, and many more.

What does this tell us?

That the aforementioned filmmakers are recognised in some guise as being poets of their craft. The 'give me some skin' parade.

That for videojournalists, what matters, surfacing for the first time is an interest in the process of fllmmaking, rather than solely journalism, as the writer/reporter, which appears to be a given.

And that just as over the years poets of the spoken/written word have been recognised, that an assumption is these videojournalists, whom though disparate in numbers are being recognised by industry, will likely inspire others.

In a couple of weeks time, I'm travelling to Columbia to engage in a debate about the future of television. Though I will not discuss this, it anchors into an overall schema for a new type of television-like I call the Outernet - a hybrid system.


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Why you wouldn't want to follow someone on twitter?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Power of You: Moment of Thought

I see it now!

Scientists refer to it as the ‘Aha’ moment. Otherwise, also the ‘penny drops’, or that moment of lucidity, when strangely the answer appears so blindingly obvious that you wonder why you were held up in the first place.

Cognitive torpor. So slowly you roll the person over, metaphorically of course.

By the end of the academic year, as the Masters students on the documentary programme of the University of Westminster prepared to hand in their final project, I had an idea.

Nothing extraordinary on the surface, but there was something in it! What’s the most memorable form to tell a story?

A story that is self-contained, but because of its internal dynamics, could leave a secondary message of pedagogy in our times.

That 21st century conundrum which, if it weren’t for the precedent in the enlightenment, we could surely argue this is a period of unequivocal great change.

Except it isn’t. All generations wipe the lens of their glasses until their rosey enough to distort history. The citizen journalist, for instance, has forever been amongst us, in the super 8mm users clubs of the 1910–80s .

Jessica Borthwick, a pioneering filmmaker of 1913 was a CJ, whilst women were still fighting for their due rights. Borthwick took a camera course, a couple of guns and headed off to Bulgaria to film the conflict between the Balkan states e.g. Greece and Serbia and the Ottoman empire. She spent a year and showed her films back in London.

Paul Garrin, my favourite delivered an homage to Russia’s naughty boy filmmaker, Dziga Vertov. Garrin who in 1989 filmed riots in New York’s Lower East side became a national figure amongst news folks with his hi-8 camera. Oh and his hommage was ‘Fuck Vertov’. Tasty!

Mustafa Hussein, filming the Ferguson riots in Missouri is our contemporary vision.

Like the many millions who see video as the communication medium par excellence, while I don’t deny its prowess, there is a nuanced view I take in its potential.

The conflict between video that shows a message, invariably used in news and video that interprets with connotative images, reserved for cinema, is a long contested one.

Before narrative became the dominant expression lifted from literature and theatre, all film enveloped a style, Gunnings called The Cinema of Attraction.

At its heart, it is the moment, the spectacle, the cinema idyll. Pre-narrative cinema around 1907, the progenitors and actors acknowledged the camera, breaking the fourth wall. They were expressionists. The creators were not bound by rules.
Oh just look at the shimee. Film too was about to get a buff. Hollywood, then in development sensed how to make a buck with imagined stories, and thus Griffith, Porter, Chaplain found a home.

From thereon, cinema had its surrogate, and the new kid on the block to play second fiddle was documentary, except in and amongst the documentary modes of Western Europe there were still artists who saw how they could use cinema of attraction’s metier in their films.

Even the daddy of documentary, Grierson was described by the daddy of suspense Hitchcock on Scottish TV in 1961 as a man of the cinema.

Now, if that hasn’t confused you!

But in that great tradition of how we promote conventional wisdom, which French philosopher Michel Foucault would call a discursive formation, collective thought is subsumed by authority.

And that authority is so respected we suspend huge areas of independent knowledge to their wisdom. The news brand in front of you, knows so much, it’s not worth you thinking.

How on earth did the BBC collaborate or even goad Yorkshire Police into a public carnival to search Sir Cliff Richard’s home on allegations of sexual assault. They should know better. Ah!

In this period of quint enlightenment, the most impressive and necessary role for educators and baby boomers is to help address this fandom to the phantom immediacy of new knowledge, as if the world was stupid before 2000.

Without yesterday, we wouldn’t have today.

As Carolyn Marvin, author of When Old Technologies were New, puts it:
Focusing attention only after people start relying on a medium misses the critical era in its development. By the time an audience has gathered around a source, many of the negotiations over purpose and mission are complete. Routines have already been developed. Limits have already been set. A “hard pattern” of processes and purposes might already be guiding the product.
Everything now has an antecedent, and helping ourselves and others to understand them and their contexts is enlightening.

How could then this idea amongst Masters students be put into practice? I call it videojournalism-as-cinema. And technologist Rob Ojok and myself see huge potential.

It is a transmogrification of media and its ends, a respect for factual, but also what the giants of filmmaking bequeathed us that we have somehow forgotten.

You never forget a movie Metz, a film scholar, once said, even when it’s a bad one. The film is called Moment of Thought. Its function is to entertain, but also educate in a discursive way.

I’ll be dumping it onto in a couple of weeks.

When I finished explaining this to a friend, he uttered: ‘I see’.

No you don’t, I replied. Not just yet!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How journalists and police complicitly played hard and fast with the law

Wherever events surrounded Sir Cliff Richard end up, he has been hard done by. The public press coverage is a powerful lynching stick, loaded with supposition and winks.

The presumed innocence before being charged and tried is overarching, but something more strategic is at play.

According to Leveson's recommendation unless the alleged perpetuator is a risk to the public, they shouldn't be named, when accused.  They blame the BBC.

However, the police in proceeding as they did have played a cynical but legal loophole card. 

To charge someone, means the case becomes active and no contextual pieces can be published by the press. This often diminishes the chances of others from coming forward because they may not know the detailed circumstances/ history of the charge. 

Furthermore, police are presumably deprived of any potential investigative leads that may be unearthed by the press, in an era of squeezed police resources.

In this situation the CPS, in considering the case, must attempt to build their evidence on that of one person against the alleged offender.

By putting the story in the public domain, and not charging, the press are free from the constraints of contempt on an active case.

Moreover, others with so called 'relevant' information, if that is the case, may feel compelled to add to the charge. 

When the CPS deem they have enough evidence then they may feel emboldened to charge the accused. 

Surprising however that the BBC, the moral arbiter of journalism standards should be complicit in this story, if that is reports it tipped off police are true.

One can only surmise that the Savile scandal has swung their ethical pendulum.

But the wider concern is journalistic probity is compromised. Do the means justify the ends?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Vice Magazine's ( became successful and its presence that can be replicated

'No Violence'

'You don't know violence'

'You deserve it'

The man smartly dressed in a dark suit approaches his seated subject with deference. "Excuse me'. he says. Moment's later he is straddled across the man knocking seven bells out of him.

The scene is not staged, and at first glance it appears that a TV reporter has lost his sense of decorum.

Few scenes in a documentary elicit as sharp an intake of breath and gasps of incredulity as this. 'What the F***' !!!! chime several of the younger viewers in the room I'm in.

The suited man is Okuzaki Kenzo, a war veteran who single-handedly is trying to track down army officers in his regiment who committed unpunished war atrocities 32 years ago whilst holed up in Japanese camps in New Guinea.

These crimes included eating captured soldiers. Locals were dubbed 'black pigs' and captured Americans, 'white pigs'. Black pigs were eaten.

This multiple award-winning documentary by Japanese filmmaker Kazuo Hara is an exemplar in the field of documentary making. The Emperors Naked Army Marches On made in 1987, by today's standards might be called 'Immersive'.

Indeed, immersive journalism is observed amongst a new generation of filmmakers as a new category in factual filmmaking. Witness the rise of Vice Magazine, whose juggernaut of uber cool filmmaking owns, if not is wholly responsible for custody of this new term.

The rise of Vice Magazine is often retold in mythical terms,  some believe it to be a johnny-come-lately overnight, but as this Independent newspaper articles shows it's an eagle rising from urban regions of Canada; its birth place via a government grant. That was 20 years ago.

Today it's a global empire and a hard won reputation exemplifying the mantra:' you've got to be in it to win it'. No wonder Mr Media Murdoch came calling. Vice's popularity is well earned in an industry that tends to reward media executives with mimicry and the ability to tinker at the edges.

What made The Emperors Naked Army Marches On particularly absorbing derives from qualities and cultural milieu that Vice sails close to. Though it's yet to feature any of its reporters beating up their interviewees.

But Vice too is not a phenomenon in the ambit of cultural wonderment, but an example of some basic tenants more fundamental of human behaviour, and the sneaking middle finger to corporate media befuddlement.

A minor point first, which might seem like angels dancing on the head of a pin, but stay with me.

Has Vice found a new journalism called immersive? No! Does its constituents care? No? Is mainstream media worried? Yes! And for that traditional media needs some way to define Vice's output  at board meetings with an accompanying consultant so they can replicate the franchise. That mimicry thing again.

The narrative is Vice is doing cinematic journalism. It's an ambiguous phrase. What does cinematic mean? To the generalist, it is the mimicry of a film perception whose fidelity is 4K, use of music integral to the form, and subject matter which is populist and youthfully-skewed.

Generally speaking all memorable factual films are immersive, and the argument of separating 'immersion' from 'Gonzo' as a special genre is a problematic one. Critics claim immersive differs from the Hunter Thompson approach that wraps the story around the author, as opposed to the experience of the author as the defining theme.

Channel 4 in the UK in the late 80s, early 90s took the radical approach of eschewing professional reporters for its documentary strands like Unreported World by looking for authors who were professionals in their field.

The comparisons fashioned between 'immersion' from 'Gonzo' in their respective fields of film amd print, fundamentally different media, is and ill-suited one.

The daddy of Gonzo, Thompson, was an essayist/columnist and a bad-ass writer, whose recourse to sell-destruction and daring-dos became the story in print.

It was the equivalent of Jim Morrison of the Doors penning The End after a mind-bending white-dust session.

In film, it would be like giving Marlon Brando, or Steve McQueen a camera in the 1970s to document their wild times.

In the 70s any television, whether journalism or documentary couldn't dare come within a comets distance to anything resembling drug-fuelled reportage.

Reporting and the documentary business framed by Western standards was generally respectful and professionalised.  Robert Drew's Primary (1960), Jean Rouch's Chronicle of  Summer (1960),  Ed Murrow's Harvest of Shame (1960)  are themselves captivating and immersive examples of of journalism for reasons that the audience are lost in the wash of the films.

And all of them, a significant point for this articles, were different to the prevailing status quo.

But for a closer definition of this so-called immersive journalism without the gonzo-fest, Paul Garrin's Fuck Vertov (1989) stands head and shoulder above anything in its time.

Garrin, an artist and activist, publicly and in a monumental way shows the power of a new handheld video cameras,  which was ridiculed at the time as the home movie camera.

Garrin talking about the revolution

He films himself getting caught up in New York Lower East side's clashes between residents and NYPD police. The story went national and Garrin's life was threatened. But not before proclaiming a new form of de facto immersive journalism.  He was not a reporter, and so did not have to play by the rules and somewhat immodestly frames his discovery as witnessing.

Garrin's 1989 film trope however did not become a mainstream style, but the 1990s were looming and a fundamental mutant relationship between technology and societies' behaviour was about to become a defining moment.

The key to Vice's Success
If, as a culture writer or social historian, you examine the different styles of film/news styles and the audience's reception to it, something both illuminating and fascinating occurs. By marking a genre, that is broad key film styles, you can define the time and the public mood at the time.

Each period of the 20th century possesses a dominant and generic style of film/documentary that is strongly motivated by what's going on in society - that is how we're living.

A key moment I have chosen to start from is the 1960s. Turning points can be detected from the war years apriori as society, worn down by the conflict, looks to restore respect and deference that mirrors the style of film and reporting that emerges. Grierson's documentary mode of the 1940s reigns.

In the 1950s, and cusp of 1960s, society begins to shift. Young people are being placed at the centre of consumerism, Beatlemania emerges, Rebels are without a cause, the Paris Riots spark a global renaissance. Equality in the Civil Rights underlines humanities push for equality.

All these both reinforce attitudes and individual attitudes erect behaviour which affect governance.

The film style of Robert Drew, and before that Free Cinema emerges from Drew and Lindsay Anderson's antipathy to corporate TV and film, and the pair are as irreverent as any young person to scheduled news today.

Filmmaker Robert Drew discusses his ideas that created American cinema verite (1962) from Jill Drew on Vimeo.

Cinema intimacy and mockumentaries, such as David Holzman's Diary, appear as answers to prevailing deficiencies in life. In the UK, society can begin to look inwards and 'take the piss out of its self'.

In the 1970s, there is an attempt towards the recalibration of traditional values. 'We are all in this together', as Lyndon Johnson tries to fix the narrative for 'our' boys and the Vietnam war. The mood transitions from liberalism to the hard knocks of Nixon.

The clues aren't to be found necessarily and exclusively on Television News. TV's journalism structure is on a high to make money and has no wish to change then as now.

But in documentary and cinema, there is a shift to capture the woes, anxieties and ambiguity of society. It is a reflexive state notes documentary scholar Bill Nichols.

Core films e.g. Coppola's Apocalypse Now and ET mirror new national bogies and uncertainties. Cinema Verite is waylaid in the 1970s, subsumed, of sorts, Robert Drew would tell me in an interview into mainstream TV.

In the US 60 Minutes, conceived in 1968, imbricates this new style of TV journalism reportage as 'participatory' journalism, meshed with the new found verite.

It comes into its own in the 1970s. In this scene from Ed Bradley's report on Vietnam boat people fleeing their country bound for Malaysia, Bradley the reporter becomes rescuer. So much for the objective reporter.
Ed Bradley helps Vietnamese boat people in his film

There is a tacit wink to personalistation, 'immersive' filmmaking then for the time and place. In the UK World in Action invents a style that is aggressive documentary making without a reporter. Paul Greengrass is one of its more famous graduates.

By the 1980s, the gloves are coming off. Whatever lessons society learnt from the 1960s are about to be put into practice. Baby Boomers of the 1960s, now adults, can start to fathom an individualism glimpsed way back. In the UK Thatcher, both innovatory figure to some and divisive to others reflects the whims of society.

We're allowed to get emotional. The Brits welcome Phil Donahue onto daytime and for the first time shockingly start airing on national TV their dirty linen.

In film mode the reflexive style, as detailed by documentary scholar Bill Nichols gives way to the performance strand. Nick Bloomfield, a soundman, peculiarly fronts the screen as reporter. It's weird-looking at the time and is redolent of the professional expert as spokesperson.

In 1991 it culminates in Bloomfield's signature film, The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife.  It is a brilliant film that sends up South Africa's Right Winger Eugene Terre'blanche,  and Terre'blanche never gets the subtlety.

The 80s and 90s is about meism.  Me, me, me, me, me.  Films in this period largely rejected the status quo writes Nichols that is : 'Voice-of-God commentary not because it lacked humility, but because it belonged to an an entire epistemology. or way of seeing and knowing the world, no longer deemed acceptable'.

Even corporate television that had played with the style, but rejected young people for the 'conservative' reporter, gave in.  In the UK, BBC Reportage, made by young people, presented by young people, and  the Word landed on TV like a French Exocet.

Reportage broke rules and the niceness of TV's conservatism. It  tracked down paedophiles, mercinaries who laundered their money in the city, how criminals could steal money from your bank account with nothing more than a plastic plain card, and asked if young people do the crime, f***ing don't cry.

BBC Reportage from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

The rules were blown to smitherins. It's in this climate that Vice is born, alongside youth movements such as The Face, ID magazine ( which Vice would later buy) and a new rage in people activism.

Younger generation were demanding more from the media and could finally settle on outlets that could sate their appetite.

Vice had an invisble helping hand to later stardom in Canada. Whilst the TV Networks were still predominately older fogeys,  City TV in Canada invented the concept of the videojournalist, with young cafe-societiees wanting to run the show.

City TV in Canada, just like Channel One TV in London, which also embraced the ethos of young people TV had a good run, before they changed tack, or in Channel One's case, closed down. Reportage also saw out its time. The brash approach was giving way to a softer edge again, or so we're made to think.

Society was entering an 'US' phase - individualism upended by social networking. It was no longer de rigeur to show off. But here's the big difference.

Vice kept going. Vice TV could never have worked on TV because of the manner in which TV's business advertising interests is skewed to baby boomer high earners, as Current TV found out, but by staying in the game, Vice is reaping its rewards.

For Vice, and other big youth hitters at the time, like and F1 (a music site now defunct)
online presented fresh opportunities towards a different growth proposition. The embrace towards Vice, via a long tail of fandom is a reaction to the times were in. The audience, younger, tired of hearing what they should do or want, now has its own voice and outlet. It's MTV slanted to popular current affairs.

The style is performative, reflexive, observational and to older folks 'brazen'. In fact it's a post modernist stew largely prescriptive towards performance.

In interviews, including ones with me about new styles,  Vice is often cited to me as an example of cinema. It is, but of a particular type of cinema for largely its western audience. That's not a criticism, but that societies export styles they're used to within a given time and region.

For that reason one thing's clear, the audience will change again, a different style that soothes the audience will become dominant, the web will enable the recycling of tropes that are historical, but have been distanced from our viewing, and so long as Vice is alert to those dynamics, its relevance will hold.

All companies, a bit like followers on twitter, are prone to losing fans. The key is to be able to lose enough, but not so much it leaves you lean.

What's next  then as a style guide with society's witnessing sharing, greed, barbarity, extreme lengths towards compassion, is anyone's guess. Transcedental perhaps and going behind words and images towards deeper emotions.

That would be some Vice!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Videojournalism-as-cinema: reinventing television news, as the new videojournalists

Next month I'm speaking at the World Documentary Conference in Falmouth about this strange new film form called: videojournalism-as-cinema.

As with most academic presentations, I had to produce an abstract; a brief about my presentation, which is a couple of paras down.

But videojournalism-as-cinema is not some abstract theory of a film form. It was born from various questions.
Before Vjism, smallest camera made  in 1947 B&H  Filmo
  • Why do video news providers struggle to capture the attention of various audiences, generally younger 15-30 years? 
  • How did News networks muck up this thing called videojournalism by making you think it was all about one person making the news, when such practices are as old as news?
  • What is the point of Videojournalism-as-cinema?
  • Why would we pay to go to the cinema, but not pay to go and watch the news?
  • What's some of the best cinema that's grabbed you?

At its heart it proposes ways to reach users by considering aesthetics, form function, style, technology, cultural and sociological and ideological values,  and human behaviour.

Here's the abstract
‘The first impulse is to record it or to interpret it’, says Film Director Martin Scorcese (Silver Docs, 2006), being interviewed about filmmaking. He adds: ‘One says to record it is documentary and to interpret it is dramatic fiction’.

This ‘common sense’ view has persisted when comparing the television documentary form and Hollywood’s subjugation of the word cinema to denote dramatic fiction.

Academic studies, coupled with the pragmatism of filmmakers have yielded forms such as Cinéma Vérité (O’Connell, 2010), Docufiction (Lipkin, Paget & Roscoe, 2006) and the journalistic essay in Personal Cinema (Rascaroli, 2009). These forms imbricate cinema modes e.g. visualisation, structure etc. with non-fiction forms, such as news and the television documentary.

In this presentation, using empirical evidence, David Dunkley Gyimah maps out the infusion of cinema in news making that stems from within the discipline of videojournalism.

An under researched field, videojournalism’s public reframing is much needed, however in his 20-minute slot, Dunkley Gyimah presents evidence of a stylistic form used by exemplary videojournalists, known as videojournalism-as-cinema.

Arguably, mains stream news (MSN) uses cinema artefacts, but according to Dunkley Gyimah videojournalism-as-cinema practitioners are more overt in their appropriation of dramatic fiction styles as influences, as well as cinema’s earlier framework in Russian cinema.

The implications are many, but in this instance, Dunkley Gyimah focuses on how videojournalism exemplars create news films that are memorable.

Above all it involves the effective communication of ideas involving a wide pool of styles.

follow David @viewmagazine

O’Connell, P. J. (2010). Robert Drew and the Development of Cinema Verite in America. Illinois: Southern Illinois University.

Leyda, J. (1983) Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film - Study of the  Development of Russian Cinema, from 1896 to the present. Princeton: Princeton  University Press.
Lipkin, S. N., Paget, D., & Roscoe, J. (2006). ‘Docudrama and mock-documentary: Defining terms, proposing canons’ . In: Rhodes, G. D. & Springer, J. P. ed. Docufictions: Essays on the Intersection of Documentary and Fictional Filmmaking, 11-26. (6th Ed). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co

Rascaroli, L. (2009). The Personal Camera: Subjective Cinema and the Essay Film London: Wallflower Press.

Silver Docs (2006). ‘Interview with Martin Scorsese, Documentary Vs Narrative’. AFI Discovery Channel Documentary Festival. Available at: [Accessed: 5th September 2013].


David Dunkley Gyimah is a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster lecturing in videojournalism, documentary and online/ social network practices. A former broadcast journalist/producer at BBC Newsnight/ (1990) Channel 4 News and ABC News South Africa, Dunkley Gyimah is also one of the UK’s first NUJ recognised videojournalists in 1994. He is the recipient of a number of innovation and journalism awards e.g. Knight Batten and is chair of the jury for Broadcast Innovation at the RTS. Dunkley Gyimah is an artist in residence at the Southbank centre and has recently submitted his PhD that examine videojournalism and its offerings towards a future journalism. He graduated from Falmouth postgrad in journalism in 1989. His work can be viewed from the sites his built 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Jon Snow's gaza piece. There's objectivity, compassion and professionalism. Broadcasting needs a reboot

Jon Snow’s Gaza appeal risks reducing reporting to propaganda 

Journalists have cried ‘something must be done’ before, but they must avoid emoting

The headline appeared in the Guardian newspaper and has split the broadcasting fraternity. I replied on the Guardian site and have reposted here.


I guess Loyn's use of the word 'risks' allows from some wiggle room.

There is a classical illusionary view that the grandees of television news adhere to - an 'objective' approach. 

Thank goodness then for an alternative outlet e.g. the web.

Because while there are some pretty unprofessional things in this space, it does allow for reportage of a kind that is responsible e.g. Jon Snow's appeal, but does not have to wear the detached, impersonable clothes of reportage Wyndham Goldie, the Sykes Committee et al prescribed for news. 

Those rules for impartiality were a veil of protection for misleading the public, but their blanket adoption meant reporters would not be allowed to show any emotion.

BBC news presenters placed behind a screen (1954) were the most extreme of this emotion ban. 

Granted it's held pretty well and yes TV might be a different place, if in every piece a reporter spoke personally about what they saw, or said hello to dad and shed a tear describing their experience.

[see Al jazeera reporter, though I'm not sure about the hello bit.] But for goodness sake, give it a rest when you go online. 

Online isn't just an adjunct platform for broadcasters, though perhaps some wish it was. It's a place where reporters don't have to be bound by regulations. 

That nuance is easily separable. Similarly in blogs, and magazines, such as the New Statesman where Jeremy Bowen expressed his opinion about human shields in Gaza, it should be the prerogative of the journalist to say what they want whilst being professional. 

Insofar as they adhere to television's impartiality ruling on TV and from Snow's conduct grilling both sides in this affair, this appears fair, what's the fuss? 

The converse and bogeyman to all this is the US and the lack of a fairness decree, but the lack of impartiality does not preclude honesty and the journalism industry should be working to find new ways of codifying the profession in the 21st century.

Richard Sambrook talks about transparency. It's one of several routes.   There's a lot to be said about US scholar Michael Schudson's point that: journalism is a cultural construct bound by literary and social conventions.

Thus, you should be able to report emotion without risk being a propagandist.

Post script.. added

Roy Greenslade weighs in stating there is no such thing as objectivity in journalism

More notes: It must be remembered why impartial journalism was introduced into broadcasting. In Grace Wyndham Goldie's autobiography, she points to the limited number of news outputs at the time ( circa 1940s) that led to various committees setting up and maintaining impartiality.

How's your google glass? Google's world

David Dunkley Gyimah at Google Glass HQ in London testing glass

How's your glass?

Doh!  I meant the one you're wearing, not your $1500 50mm lens.

And so it was that another conventional term transmogrified, forever lost by a community of photojournalists to a populace comparing the aesthetic, ergonomic and tech functionality of their google glass wear.

It wouldn't be the first and last time a word has been misappropriated; there's Face time, killer, and videojournalism. Get over it!

Currently in its development phase, piquantly pegged as 'Explorer programme', Google's X project behind the driver-less car, is also reprogramming the fixed 'hunched back' surfer.

Glass' raison detre is a no brainer for how it will revolutionise the web, and mobile data retrieval. When I made this 'wild claim', Lars put me in my place in twitter.

Oh no I added, you've misunderstood me. Many of those core-functions, walking and texting, double-bent over a latte watching Breaking Bad, as the person next to you lifts your bag, should reduce in numbers.

At face value, Glass is a mobile phone attached to your right-eye, and so it eliminates all the functions that involve you having to look down onto a screen.  

Hence, it mimics futuristic car dashboards  and I can see how institutions will sanction their students wearing glass thus reducing those pesky social networkers from hiding behind a screen sending their loved ones emoticons.

However mind your glass: there is a version that comes with no lens and thus by this absence draws attention to the device itself. There is another version,  with lenses I'm wearing which disguises the glass's functionality.

It still draws attention, but also masquerades as fancy specs with a wierd thing on the side.

In fashion shows, no one need peek into their screen, and miss the bit where Ms Campbell does something spectacular. Meanwhile as the show unravels, premium front row members will be accessing data  e.g. price, background videos relevant to the show.

Easy really, all you need is to produce bespoke sites that glass can access. Glass becomes the utility as well as the phrase for those that wear it.

Google's quest to have their product mass adopted is not a question of technological determinism. It won't happen because it must, but because as Professor Brian Winston points out technology is usurped by a need, a supervening necessity.

Pricing, will be key, and the sums will no doubt be caressed to push maximum take-up. Trend extrapolation provides a hint of what's to come.

First it was cameras and phones merging; the iPhone and iPad kickstarted an industry spawning new apps, accessories, and receptive media-responsive websites. Glass will no doubt do the same. 

David in NY making a film using Glass

A new industry of websites lay ahead of us. In 2006, I envisioned the Outernet - a scenario where the Net breaks free of its fixed desk screen. Apple featured it on their profile page together with a hearty article that if you googled 'David' and 'Apple' there I was by my lonesome at no.1 in google. 

The mobile phone accessories industry will also be hit. This assumption comes from how filmmakers and their propensity towards more reality e.g. hyperreality,  plays out.

Anything that takes the fuss out of holding a camera as a community of head-mounted GoPros illustrate gives us a glimpse of how a permanent 'google' lens, which films 16g, will take its place.

In virtual reality, as witnessed during the Chinese Expo, Glass users may enjoy 3D virtual environments, where non glass users see the world in sight-3D.

Less talked about, but important no less is security. In London, spates of mobile phone thefts have risen, when all the users were doing was making a call. With glass in full display, either encrypted data or units that are keyed to work on unique frames, will deter opportunists.

Another feature is privacy. There is no visible guide for a recipient to acknowledge you're filming. These are issues that sociologists, technologists and cultural Neos will grasp to help shape a new discourse.

For me as a filmmaker, educator and web entrepreneur, its wider expansive use will come from revolutionising filmmaking, videojournalism and POVs that have become the norm.

 Think Cloverfield, Quarantine or Lady in the Lake - which involved singular, linear film views.

In any case it need not be POV, multiple filmmakers/ reporters will break open the proscenium of performance filming. Everything is on.

I could have done with it when shooting the last scenes for my PhD video in Southern Turkey.

The technology flow we're encountering with Glass is perhaps the redolent of those components associated with Star Trek. The mobile communicator, touch pad devices , holodeck and now a more elegant form of Geordi La Forge's visor have been represented.

Tele transportation, is that next?

follow David @viewmagazine

Thanks to Dominic and Ben at #GoogleGlass for letting me play with glass and taking these photots.

You can see more of my work here and here and here....:)