Friday, September 11, 2009

TV News vs. Videojournalism: A Case Study

It's often tough to describe the difference between a TV news report and a videojournalism story. Because of the different demands of each medium -- both the way that the video is shot and edited, and the way that it's experienced by their respective audiences -- it's rare that they even cover the same subjects.

However, when a TV reporter and a videojournalist do happen to cross paths, it's illuminating to watch how they each handle their assignments.

Such is the case with this story about a retreat for wounded war veterans, which was covered both by Spokesman-Review multimedia staffers and a TV news reporter for Spokane's KXLY TV news. The videos appear on their respective Websites. The newspaper version is a bit more than twice as long. videojournalist Colin Mulvany noted other differences on his Mastering Multimedia blog:

My most recent project “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon,” is yet another collaboration with Spokesman-Review reporter Kevin Graman. We spent a couple of days at a retreat for local wounded war veterans.

Local TV news (KXLY) showed up just after we did. They grabbed a few interviews, shot some b-roll and were gone in 30 minutes. We stayed 48 hours and shot a dozen interviews. When I watched the TV version of the story, I was actually impressed.

They defined the story quickly, gave viewers the pertinent information with context from the injured soldiers. The writing was brisk, and snappy. But as I sit here seven days later, I have not much recollection of their story. It didn’t really stick with me.

I think the narrative, from both the veterans and the reporter voiceover in my video, go much deeper. I tried to keep the pace moving by editing in strong sequences of action between the talking heads. In the end, I can’t say my edit is any better. It’s just a different way to tell the same story.
Tell us, what differences do you perceive between the two styles? Which do you prefer?

The TV News version:

"Local veterans getting much needed retreat: The transition back from the battlefield for veterans is by no means a walk in the park, but for one week some local veterans are given a chance to try and put their bad thoughts behind them. KXLY4's Dave Erickson reports." (1:58)

The Videojournalism version:

"Beyond the Yellow Ribbon: The Veterans Outreach Center and the Spokane Valley Fire Department bring 20 severely wounded combat veterans together to share their experiences during four days of healing at the Pinelow Retreat Center in Deer Lake, Washington." (4:15)


Amanda Emily said...

Mulvany had two people on his story, him and his reporter Kevin Graman.

There was two journalists on the KXLY story too. The photojournalist who shot and edited Erickson's story for KXLY name is Kevin Johnson and he holds just as much stake if not more in the story that him and Erickson worked on.

These two styles, TV verses print online are comparing apples to oranges. Johnson had a drop-dead you meet slot or else broadcast deadline that afternoon to meet, unlike Mulvany who had the luxury of 48 hours and flexible deadlines on his package.

(in interest of being ethical with full disclosure, I am a former KXLY employee)

David Campbell said...

Fascinating to compare these, and while the question of who had more time to produce is important, there are some significant differences driven by the formats/site of the story, differences that for me means the VJ trumps the TV by:

- the use of the veteran's opening the story in their own words, compared to the fast-paced framing of the TV journalists voice;

- the greater use of subject interviews in the VJ version;

- the greater use of natural sound in the VJ version compared to the packaged sound of the TV version, with the natural sound giving you a sense of being there rather than simply watching on.

When combined, these elements to my mind produce a dramatically different story from the same event. The TV version casts the story as a matter of vets 'leaving it all behind' and 'being thanked for their service'.

The VJ version is much more sombre, and deals more openly and deeply with the question of how people were injured, what the consequences were, and how this is still being dealt with (rather than left behind). It is the veteran's own voices that drive the story in this direction, and we get a richer and I think more rounded account of the consequences of war.

It is interesting, then, that different formats and production protocols might lead to substantively different narratives.

Finally, it's worth thinking about how the siting of each story affects the viewer's comprehension -- the TV version goes by quickly, bookended by the upbeat patter of news anchors, meaning it can be lost in an endless stream of information.

In contrast, people have to choose the VJ version, by starting it at their own behest. Perhaps fewer people see it overall, but by choosing it their engagement will be much richer too.