Friday, October 16, 2009

A New Golden Age of Visual Journalism: KobreGuide's First Anniversary (Part 2)

I conceived of KobreGuide to the Web's Best Videojournalism when I could not easily locate quality multimedia and video online. I knew it was out there because I had looked hard to find it. Today, with the KobreGuide assembling all the best multimedia and videojournalism stories in one place, I have for the past year been wowed by the range and quality of the material being produced around the world using this story-telling format.

Since the KobreGuide launched last year, I also have witnessed a vast improvement in the overall quality of multimedia/videojournalism, often produced by former newspaper and magazine still photojournalists. Many of these talented shooters working for local papers or national magazines were handed an audio recorder and/or video camera and told to start making multimedia stories -- while, of course, they were still shooting their daily print assignments.

The first attempts of these newbie multimedia makers were not always polished. Photographers had to learn the skills of interviewing, voiceover, and collecting natural sound. Even their shooting approach had to change. No longer was it enough to watch and wait for the one telling shot that would make the front page or magazine cover, or win a Pulitzer. No longer did the photographer need only seven dynamite pictures for a picture page. The multimedia photojournalist had to bring back 40 good shots -- enough images to cover a 3- to 5- minute multimedia piece. The multimedia photojournalist had to capture images that would serve as transitions, images that would carry a story line, images that would reveal the past or anticipate the future.

Still photographers, who were at home with their Nikons or Canons, were handed a Sony or Panasonic video camera and expected to quickly master this new hardware, which featured strange buttons, XLR plugs and shotgun mics. Not only does a videocamera take pictures at 29 frames per second, it also simultaneously records sound. Photojournalists were expected to interview subjects and gather far more information than traditionally necessary for photo captions.

Still photographers, whose former sole job was to capture meaningful still images to accompany a writer’s story, were now expected to become the writer, the producer and the editor of their story in the new online world. They were tossed into the role of soloist in a one-man-band, with an unfamiliar instrument.

While some photographers balked at the assignment, others leapt into the fray. They had, in fact, chosen photojournalism in order to tell stories with pictures. Now they had their chance. No longer stymied by a lack of space to run photos in the newspaper or magazine, no longer second fiddle to reporters, the new multimedia/videojournalists could find, report, shoot, interview and produce a complete, comprehensive, original package without depending on anyone else.

Today, former newspaper and magazine photojournalists have morphed into complete visual storytellers. Newspapers from the St. Petersburg Times to the Spokane Spokesman-Review are producing memorable multimedia stories. The Associated Press, Reuters, the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times showcase strong short documentaries daily. For many photojournalists, online multimedia and videojournalism have inaugurated a new “Golden Age” of compelling visual journalism.

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