Thursday, June 18, 2009

Newspaper Video

Maybe it's an aberration. Or maybe the St. Petersburg Times is starting to grasp multi-media, specifically that having video on your website is not enough by itself. It actually has to offer some reward for people who click on it and sit through the embedded ad that runs before the story.

As traditional media race to the Internet, multi-media has become the buzzword. Giving people a story in different forms so that they can experience it either by reading, watching or listening to it since you can do all of this on the web now.

This is why TV stations often don't run job ads for "reporters" any more. They want "multi-media journalists," who -- by themselves -- can deliver content on air, online and in print.

This is the kind of work I did for -- shooting, writing, narrating and editing a video story then writing a print-style story to accompany it.

You'd think TV stations would have a built-in advantage in this convergence because between audio and video they have most of the multi in multi-media covered. The hindrance for TV stations is that people don't think of TV news as real journalism.

Newspapers have the opposite problem. People think they're more complete, if not more credible, sources of news but they're late getting into the audio/video game. To catch up some have lured people from TV stations to run their video departments.

The results for all have been mixed. Text versions of TV stories typically don't provide any more information that you would have gotten from watching the broadcast story. We'll forget for the moment that many TV news stories don't translate well to TV broadcasts let alone the web.

Some newspapers have adapted to video better than others. The Washington Post and New York Times have done excellent work, including The Lourdes of Twang, a Times piece about the Martin Guitar Company factory in Nazareth, Pa. It features still photographs with recorded ambient sound from the factory with audio interviews and narration. Interestingly, the Times had a different reporter write the print version of the story.

Both the Post and the Times have avoided the mistake of trying to do television stories. TV stations are already doing those. If newspapers' video reporting is going to differentiate them, they're going to have to offer the detail and depth not found in most TV reporting.

That's why the St. Petersburg Times efforts have been so disappointing. Most of its videos are poorly shot and edited and, if narrated at all, reported at a college level. (The Tampa Tribune, or what's left of it, gets video from its fellow Media General-owned WFLA-TV.) What's funny about this is the disdain most newspaper types have for their television counterparts.

But, today, a glimmer of hope. A simple story from the Times used amateur video shot by the story subject augmented by steady, well-framed professional-looking video of the scene as well as an interview. It also had a separate reporter write the print version of the story.

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