Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We've got training

The problem is not that we aren’t eager. People are begging to learn about multimedia, especially video, as Angela Grant pointed out recently. What they're not receiving is training.

Although decision makers in newsrooms move more slowly, we're scrambling to learn as much as we can as quickly as we can.

My newsroom is providing training, and that seems to be a rarity. Especially print reporters in the unfamiliar area of video are going to need to know how to react when we're handed a camera and told to “bring back some video.”

So let's use this blog as a starting point. Come train with me.

Your teacher: Stacey Jenkins.

We were lucky to find Stacey in Wichita. Stacey trained as a documentary filmmaker, which is exactly what we needed. The web is opening up these great opportunities to tell stories in different ways. And when it comes to video, the trend is leaning toward more of a documentary model than the historic television model. Stacey has that kind of background. She’s from Canada and worked for public television there and Portland, Ore., before her husband took a job for Bombardier in Wichita.

The first session consisted of three photographers, our photo editor, and me as the only reporter.

Stacey began by asking how we decided what stories would use video each day.

“Uh,” we said. “We just kind of decide on our own.”

“It’s not discussed in the morning meeting by the editors?” she asked.

“Uh, no,” we said.

First, she said, we need to learn how to identify stories that could benefit from a video component.

If editors aren’t asking the question, the reporters should be. The photographers said they depend on communication from reporters, who despite being communicators, I admit, sometimes don't talk to anyone.. Yes, I can hear grumbling. What? We already have to assign still photos, now we have to figure out video, too. Can’t we just write a story?

Multimedia takes planning. You can’t just dial a phone number, jot down a few quotes, write an inverted pyramid story and phone it all in – that’s how newspapers have bored people to death, and maybe caused their own deaths, over the past half-century.

Stacey outlined a quick thought process, which should take about three minutes out of your day:

- “Think about a story in terms of media,” she said. Do you need audio? Would a gallery of stills be best? Or a slide show? Or video?

- Any story with action cries out for video. Covering a new dance class? The aftermath of a tornado (I am in Kansas, after all).

- Even someone with a compelling story might be worth sitting in front of a rolling video camera. “Let them tell their stories,” she said. “There will be parts that you want people to see and hear, because it will never be as powerful reading it.”

This is what filmmakers and broadcasters know well. It's called pre-production. It’s like outlining a story. It’s like deciding what interviews you want to do.

Not all stories may work with video. But ask yourself those questions. If the story fits, you might want to grab a video camera, or talk to a photog who shoots video – or another reporter you’ve seen learning it.

If nothing else, when – not if, but when – an editor hands you a video camera and tells you to add it to your tool box, you’ll at least be able to recognize when to whip it out.

Mark Bowden says he discovered this when he compiled for his paper what would become the outstanding narrative non-fiction book “Black Hawk Down.”

Before it was a book or a movie, back in the old days of 1997, it was a multimedia package.

Now, Bowden writes, such reporting crucial to our work:

“I think the print edition will probably endure to some extent, but, without any doubt, the future of daily journalism is digital, not because it is the latest thing, but because it is, quite simply, a far better medium than paper and ink.”

Bowden is one reporter who thinks video when he tackles an assignment for The Atlantic Monthly:

“Nearly every story I write today for the Atlantic, and every book I undertake, I do in conjunction with a documentary filmmaker.”

Tomorrow, we’ll review the basics of the shot.

1 comment:

  1. That's a great lesson, and very fit to be your first.

    In our newsroom, we often plan this type of thing days in advance. I look through the photo requests and find a lot of video ideas that way. I've also asked reporters to contact me whenever they've got stories that would work with video.