Friday, September 11, 2009

Newsday Explores Documentary Filmmaking

Excellent interview today on Knight Digital Media Center's Online Journalism Review.

Robert Niles (pictured) talks to Newsday's Thomas Maier about the paper's ambitious multimedia investigation into the aftermath of U.S. nuclear testing in the Pacific.

The topic: Can the Web forge a marriage between newspaper investigations and documentary filmmaking?

I asked Thomas if he'd answer some questions for OJR readers about the project. His responses got me thinking about the ways that newspaper investigations are naturally evolving into the same space as documentary filmmaking, thanks to multimedia convergence on the Web.

Having sat through so many PBS shows and pledge drives where hosts offer up copies of the network's documentaries on DVD for $20 a pop and up, Newsday's initial steps into documentary production suggest, to me at least, a possible alternate medium for newspapers to pursue their so-far elusive paid-content dreams. Forget about reading text on the Web for a moment. How about getting folks to pay for newspaper-produced investigative documentaries on Blu-Ray and DVD? Or pay-per-view or short-term rental via cable, satellite or movie distribution networks such as Netflix? What are the possibilities for long-form video news storytelling?
The in-depth interview explores Newsday's ambitious pioneering efforts, and is well worth your attention. It concludes:

Robert: How do you would justify future multimedia of this magnitude to a skeptical, cost-conscious management? (And if your management loves you now and is willing to fund future projects, how would you advise journalists in other newsrooms to elicit that kind of support?)

Thomas: The future for smart literate newspapers and magazines is clearly in multimedia presentations, showcased in ways that reflect who you're trying to attract as an audience. The old style of newspaper editors who prefer simply car accidents and cop arrests, turning the Web into a police blotter, are quickly fading. The challenge for newspapers will be in translating the "brain" of the newsroom – all those reporters working beats and developing sources and able to write print stories on deadline – into compelling and complementary video that can be quickly produced, scripted, narrated and edited with the quite efficient technology already available today like Final Cut Pro and Avid. Developing video and print stories together – under the same newsroom umbrella and not as separate units wary of one another – is the only way to go. That's especially so if your idea is to extend and capitalize on the affluent, well-educated audience of a suburban paper like Newsday and bring it profitably into the video age. This is no easy task, but it should be embraced by any journalist who wants to bring their stories to the widest audience possible. I do believe any print reporter – armed with a small HD camera and after some quick training on Final Cut Pro – can produce a five-minute video to accompany the next important print story you do. ... Documentary-making is the natural video expression of the newspaper investigation series. It's only a matter of time until newsrooms and their audience realize this.

* Interview here.
* Robert Niles bio here.
* Robert Niles Website here.
* Newsday multimedia investigation here.

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