Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Videojournalists Should Be Shot

We've often thought it would be a good idea if journalists-in-training were required to subject themselves to a reporter's interview, so they could get an empathic sense of what it's like to be grilled by a stranger who may or may not care about (nor even understand) what they are trying to tell them.

Then the student journalist should be required to read what was written about them -- and think about how they'd feel if it were published for the world to see (without, of course, any pre-approval). They'd get an opportunity to see if they come across in a way that accurately represents them, their thoughts, their feelings. Do they feel they've been accurately represented and quoted?

Ditto for budding photojournalists -- they should be forced to endure a session with a photographer who follows them around at their home, office, or other event. They should experience that intrusion first-hand, and feel what it's like to be posed or asked to perform certain activities for the sake of the camera.

And then they should look at the resulting pictures, and ask themselves if they feel they've been accurately portrayed to the world.

Now we can take it all one step further. Up-and-coming videojournalists should be followed by an inquiring videographer who documents their every word and mannerism. And, again, they should view the final results, and ask themselves how they feel about it.

So it is with great interest that we stumbled upon this item from the Canadian Journalism Project, by part-time journalist John Longhurst, who has both conducted interviews as a reporter, and been in positions which required him to be interviewed by reporters.

He argues that professional journalists should subject themselves to this "shoe-on-the-other-foot" treatment, to periodically be reminded of their subjects' vulnerability.
It goes without saying that the subject cannot see the end result before it is published or broadcast. To maximize the anxiety, the final result should be posted on the Web or some other conspicuous place where anyone can see it.

Oh, and let's not forget about pictures: lots will be taken and you won’t be allowed to go home to change into different clothing. Some video will be a bonus.

Speaking of video, all TV journalists will have an additional requirement: They will have to do "the walk" or one of its equivalents — sitting at their computers and looking busy, reading a report and looking terribly interested or answering a fake phone call and pretending to be fascinated by the person on the other end.

Trust me — it isn’t easy to "look natural" when walking nowhere while a camera is trained on you.

Once a year, all reporters should be required to be interviewed. I think it will, in the end, make them more sensitive and better journalists — or at least just as intimidated and anxious as the rest of us.
Full article here.

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