After 10 years of video journalism, it’s finally sunk in

In my career so far, I’ve had two tranches of top-notch video journalism training. A decade ago my University of Central Lancashire tutors Andy Dickinson and Paul Egglestone introduced me to the possibilities of multi-skilled, multi-platform journalism when the concept wasn’t even in its infancy. Then three years ago I spent a fraught but hugely rewarding five days lugging a Sony DV camera around Southampton, absorbing the enthusiasm and experience of trainers Lane Michaelsen and Harvey Mars, high-ups in the broadcasting division of Gannett in America.

Dozens of packages have been exported out of my Avid software since; a mix of planned, longer shelf-life features and set-piece community events alongside hard news footage of fires and crime scenes. Some videos have notched up thousands of views; others have bombed despite the prominent promotion they have received in newspapers and on website home pages. It took months, years even, of trial and error to get a feel of what audiences wanted to view in their droves rather than their dozens. Perhaps I’ll tackle that in a blog post at a later date.

The punchline to this blog post, though, is my most-viewed video didn’t involve planning, or hours of footage, or fancy cameras or even any editing. It was badly framed, filmed on a £150 three-inch high Flip video camera and received no promotion beyond a Twitter message to a few hundred followers. But because it was unique, on-the-spot footage of a live event (a reserve team football game in front of a crowd of about 100) it found an audience and notched up over 70,000 views on Vimeo within a few days and 90,000 in total.

If you’re interested, here it is.

So what are the lessons? Well, I would encourage as many journalists as possible to learn how to handle a full camera and sound kit, to storyboard a video shoot, and to weave together hours of footage. But what’s much more important vital is making a habit of taking out your Flip camera or mobile phone whenever you can – and cajoling colleagues to do the same.

If you pass an accident on the roads, or go out on a fire, why not film it for a few minutes? When you’re interviewing someone, video one of their answers at the end. Press conferences, grassroots sports events, community events, unsigned band nights, even birds flying overhead… whenever you’re out of the office and spot something interesting to you, film it. Chances are there’ll be plenty of others who enjoy it too. If there aren’t, it should have only taken you a short while to film and edit, so it’s not exactly a disastrous waste of time.

Many of us like to talk of newspaper newsrooms being multi-platform hubs nowadays, but it’s only when we start producing a high volume of videos daily that we’ll live up to our own hype.

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1 Comment »

  1. Andy said

    Great post Paul. Very much in line with what I tell students now – process in to content. Include a bit of multimedia in to your reporting and newsgathering and you never know, you may get something useable. The kit means you can be there to catch the stuff and if it doesn’t work the, as you say, it’s not a disastrous waste of time.

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