Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SPJ Report on Staying Relevant Shortchanges Videojournalism

The Society of Professional Journalists has issued a report on how to stay relevant in a digital age when both "professional" and "journalist" have taken on significantly new meanings. The report pays lip service to "digital media," "multimedia," and "emerging technologies" -- and the struggle to stay abreast of these trends while staying rooted in traditional values and principles. But despite its commonsense conclusions, the report seems to be missing an opportunity to meaningfully incorporate video into the mix.

Or perhaps the findings of the panel participants merely reflect the wobbly state of online videojournalism.

Mark Luckie, national innovations editor for The Washington Post, blogger at 10000words.net:

“I think that there is sort of a ‘wow’ factor for multimedia. The attitude is, ‘Now, we’re going to be doing this because everyone else is doing this,’ but people are not identifying how ‘this’ works for a particular newsroom. Are you doing photo slideshows and video that your readers want to watch? You can just do them, but are they good? People understand they should be using multimedia, but a lot of people are reluctant to do it themselves, and they don’t know where to start."

Wendy Ruderman, investigative reporter at the Philadelphia Daily News, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting:

"You can’t just go out and shoot video and audio and come back and put that on the Internet and consider that deep investigative journalism. There isn’t any replacement for getting out of your newsroom and pounding the pavement, whether you do that with your camera or a notepad....

I don’t know how the hell you go out and shoot video, edit audio and write a story... I think journalists have to strike that balance, where maybe you team up with reporters who specialize in multimedia, to give them help in the things they already know how to do...

"A lot of the interns and a lot of reporters come in and they know a lot of multimedia, but they don’t really know how to put a story together or have the writing skills and interviewing skills....

"SPJ needs to do something for tech-savvy journalists who want to learn storytelling, basic storytelling, and what makes a story a story."
Of the committee's ten solid recommendations, this one came closest to addressing the need to prep and train videojournalists:

Teach journalists and their managers the theories behind why they should use new media technologies and examples of best practices, rather than just providing lessons about how to use equipment.

Among the bright lights SPJ's Digital Media Committee enlisted for this roundup were media analyst Ken Doctor; Joshua Benton, Nieman Journalism Lab; Josh Breitbart, New America Foundation; author Clay Shirky; Pulitzer Prize winners Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, Philadelphia Daily News; former Seattle Times executive editor Mike Fancher; digital media pioneer Howard Owens, Washington Post National Innovations Editor Mark Luckie; Jay Rosen, New York University; Tom Rosenstiel, Pew Research Center; media analyst Alan Mutter; Rick Edmonds, Poynter Institute; and Mark Briggs, author of “Journalism 2.0.”

The independent committee, appointed by SPJ’s president, interviewed more than a dozen media experts to advise the 101-year-old, 8,200-member Society on how to stand out among more than 90 national journalism organizations.
Its top recommendations include:

1. Bridge the divide between new and old media by aggregating and spotlighting high-quality journalism and facilitating communications among online start-ups and legacy media.

2. Create a vibrant network for new media start-ups to share ideas online and in person.

3. Take stands on hot-button digital media issues affecting the future of information sharing. Become an advocate for expanding access to the Internet, news and information.

4. Teach reporters to use powerful emerging technologies, from software to websites and gadgets capable of providing greater depth to stories and increasing public participation.

5. Educate members and citizens in the basics of journalism because proper information-gathering and storytelling techniques are more important than ever in the digital age.
You can read the full report and list of recommendations here (PDF).

The committee also recently published a two-part “Digital Media Handbook” filled with training tips on new media. Part I of the handbook is available here; Part II is available here.

Video is addressed, perfunctorily, in "What Makes a Good Video Story," by Rebecca Aguilar:

Video stories have become a vital part of online and newspaper multimedia reports, but not every story should be turned into a video report. I thought I’d ask three television news videographers to help us in our quest to figure out what makes a good video story and when should it only remain a story in print.
Conclusion? In a nutshell: good action, good characters, good audio.

SPJ also offers free online "Training on Demand" to members, including Basic Video Techniques in three parts: camera movements, shot composition, and Flip cams.

What else do you think SPJ can and should do to promote videojournalism?


SPJ Report

SPJ Code of Ethics

SPJ Blog

SPJ Training on Demand

Digital Media Handbook, Part I

Digital Media Handbook, Part II

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