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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