Monday, April 6, 2009

Special Videojournalism Issue of 'Digital Journalist'

Dirck Halstead invited me to guest-edit his special April issue of The Digital Journalist, the monthly online magazine for visual journalism, now on a Webstand near you!

TDJ has been on the front lines of reinventing photojournalism since its first issue 11 years ago. This month, the issue is devoted to videojournalism, and we’re blessed to have some of the nation’s top practitioners contribute. They tell and show how they are changing this emerging field, and we strongly encourage you to head right over to and see what they’ve prepared for you. Here are some highlights:

Spokesman-Review’s Colin Mulvany is a highly decorated visual journalist whose portfolio and commentary serves as the cover story. Colin was among the first and best to make that bold leap from still photography to video. He also personally trained and groomed his paper’s photography staff to produce great videojournalism along with him. He recently received yet another award -- second place in NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism contest for Web news video for Warming the Homeless. Read about his long, steady trek to the top.

Kathy Kieliszewski generously shares her perspective as leader of the Emmy Award-winning video staff of the Detroit Free Press. Their staff keeps wowing us with their labor-intensive projects, each one reflecting a strong level of collective commitment. How can such a small unit spend a year chronicling life inside an orphanage? How did they ever find the time to put together their ambitious multi-faceted Emmy-winning 40th anniversary salute to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” ? And how many staffs would dare to undertake a 50th anniversary celebration of Motown Records by preparing FIFTY short video stories? Kathy takes us behind the scenes at to show us how they keep churning out the hits.

New York Times videojournalist Erik Olsen treats us to an inside look at how he personally made the transition from ABC TV news shooter to creating video stories for a newspaper – and why he’s so much happier for it. As a “one-man-band”-style VJ, he finds that having the opportunity to edit his own stories (instead of handing over footage to an editor, as usually happens in TV) helps him better visualize the final result as he’s shooting – making for a better story overall. As part of a crack team of fifteen videojournalists, Erik lends fresh insight into how one of the nation’s top news organizations is wholeheartedly committing itself to pioneering first-rate videojournalism.

With newspapers shrinking and dying, videojournalists worry that there will be no outlet for their work. One solution, for the entrepreneurially-minded, is to strike out on your own and take a shot at freelancing. But who will buy your pieces? How much will they pay? (A budget-slashing paper surely can’t be a potential customer.) What are the protocols and procedures? Do you pitch ideas, or only peddle finished stories? So many questions, so few people in a position to answer them. Luckily we found one – Brent Foster, a former L.A. Times videojournalist who packed it in this year and headed for New Delhi, where he’s setting up shop as a fulltime freelance VJ. We asked for details, he graciously provided them, in his “Email from New Delhi”

Probably the best potential market for freelancers is not cash-starved newspapers, but organizations and associations whose Websites are designed to communicate to their membership. A few have already experimented with videojournalism. Among those who’ve produced the most successful results is the gargantuan 40-million member American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The good news for videojournalists who’ve been laid off is that represents a viable freelance market. AARP multimedia producer Nicole Shea, whose background includes stints at National Geographic and Getty Images, gives us the inside scoop on what AARP is looking for – which should open your eyes to other possibilities for institutional videojournalism markets.

For this special issue, the KobreGuide mavens distilled a list of “Ten Tips to Improve Your Videojournalism.” One of those tips is to tell a story from an alternative perspective. When Reuters’ award-winning photog Lucy Nicholson attended an intensive MediaStorm workshop (her first foray into videojournalism), she impressed us with her fresh look at an old icon, by profiling the underwear-clad Times Square musician who calls himself “The Naked Cowboy” -- from his girlfriend’s point of view. Our Q&A with Lucy illuminates her creative process.

Another tip is to find a singular character on which you can hang your story. It’s such important (and oft-neglected) advice, that we asked KobreGuide contributor Kathy Strauss, an accomplished visual journalist in her own right, to share her favorite character-oriented videos from KobreGuide, and demonstrate why each story was immeasurably improved by having a single human stand in for an abstract issue or theme.

To illustrate what differentiates videojournalism from other media, we created a hypothetical story – “Building a Sandcastle” – that also serves to show how a videojournalist can show us something we couldn’t find anywhere else. In “The Future of Videojournalism,” we offer a peek at some new and emerging trends that we feel will soon be used to improve the medium’s viability and versatility.

We’re confident that you’ll find plenty in this issue to help you improve the quality of your own videojournalism. If you’ve found or created something worthy of, please let us know by clicking the “Recommend a Story” tab on our homepage – we’re grateful for all the extra eyeballs that help us locate those proverbial needles in the haystack. And if your newspaper wants to join the KobreGuide Consortium, enabling it to feature the Web’s best videojournalism on its own site – and to have its own video appear on Websites around the world – both at no cost, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We’re grateful to Dirck Halstead and his professional team at for this golden opportunity to guest-edit this special issue and share our videojournalism adventures and insights with you. Please enjoy it, and let us hear your feedback.

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