Sunday, April 4, 2010

First Prize for Excellent Advice

Videojournalist Colin Mulvany was elated to find that he won an "honorable mention" for one of his Spokesman-Review video stories (pictured) in this year's NPPA Best of Photojournalism contest in the multimedia category.

Until he realized that his was the only award in that category. There was no first, second or third prize. As he blogged:
What gives? This is the second year in a row I’ve placed in this News Video category. Last year I received a 2nd place, but no third was given. This troubles me. Not because I didn’t place higher, but because the judges didn’t see a video that reached a high enough level of excellence to place.
Rather than stew, he sought to figure out what was missing. During an online chat with the contest judges afterwards, he asked forthrightly why they chose to withhold those awards. Their response, as we previously reported, was illuminating:
"This was a real struggle for us. Many were full of technical errors and ignored the basic principles of photojournalism. We saw lots of evidence of urgency, however we really couldn’t award anything that had technical or fundamental errors."
Then as fate would have it, Colin subsequently helped judge the NPPA’s Monthly Multimedia Contest ... and saw for himself what the other judges were seeing.

"Video at newspapers," he concluded, "needs to improve. Dramatically."

Here is the gist of his prescriptive advice, but we advise you to soak up the specifics. Based on what we see every day at KobreGuide, in our quest to discover excellent videojournalism, when it comes to what's missing in 99 percent of the videojournalism stories out there, Colin has really hit the nail on the head.

Among the recurring problems he finds:

* Storytelling (making the transition from still images to video sequences)

* Bland Videos (no surprising revelations or engaging hooks)

* Structure (lack of dramatic narrative)

* Technical flaws (jarringly distracting audio and/or video glitches)

* Editing (lack of pacing, transitions, sequencing, layering, orchestration, audio mixing)

* Journalism (lack of basic reporting principles, the most frequent offense being the absence of multiple sources)

Colin recommends that videojournalists not be shy about collaborating with whoever can strengthen the story -- a print reporter, a video editor, even a script writer and narrator. He concludes, as we have, that newspaper videojournalists shouldn't strive to emulate TV news crews, but at the same time need to acknowledge that we have much to learn from them. We should embrace opportunities to partner with them, and even immerse ourselves in video workshops so that we can get better acquainted with the basic fundamentals of producing solid video stories. (He recommends a few that are worthy of your attention.)

"Until you know what you are doing wrong," he writes, "you can’t improve your video storytelling."

Go follow Colin's prizeworthy advice, and before long you will be winning those awards!

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