How to Produce Great Web Video

New York Times videojournalist Brent McDonald shared some of his tips on producing videos for the Times.  He made his comments at the Region One Conference of the Society of Professional Journalists at Stony Brook University on March 23, 2012.

Click to see the video.

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Cops and media: Why can’t we just get along?

Zuccotti Park is just the latest run-in between police and news videographers and photographers.   Many journalists were arrested by police while covering the crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protesters.  But many other news videographers have been harrassed or arrested by police in Maryland, Milwaukee and in Suffolk County on Long Island.   But police are also targeting citizens who are not members of the news media when those citizens point a camera and start taking video of them as well.  Because of the increasing confrontations, Hofstra University’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter hosted a session called “Police and Journalists:  Why Can’t We Just Get Along?”  The PIO of the Nassau County police department attended and acknowledged that journalists should have the same access to a police scene as any other citizen.  But, as you can see in this video of the event, journalists also need to be aware that at tragic crime scenes, police may have emotions that could be taken out on media trying to take video–and journalists need to be aware of that.


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Thinking Visually

An interesting discussion developed recently on a listserv of videojournalists wondering what the future of video at newspapers will be.  Some commented that people often don’t come to a newspaper or magazine website to view a wonderfully produced video feature story.    That was confirmed by Ann Derry, the New York Times editorial director of video.  She says, “This is what drives traffic: news, news, news.”    She made the comments at a Press Club of Long Island seminar, Thinking Visually. 

Despite people wanting to see straight hard news online, Derry and fellow panelist Craig Duff of Time magazine spent most of their time talking about well developed feature stories that their videojournalists have been producing.   Duff recommends that VJs write for the ear, because that’s the way we tell stories when we speak.  He says don’t overload the story with narration, but also don’t let the characters take over the story either.

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Becoming a Videojournalist

Hofstra University’s public relations folks interviewed me about my new book, Going Solo: Doing Videojournalism in the 21st Century.  They asked me for tips that people who want to become videojournalists should follow.  Here’s the interview posted on YouTube.

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Wayne Freedman on using nat/snd

Wayne Freedman is one of the best known TV feature reporters in America.  He is a multiple Emmy Award-winning Multimedia Journalist at KGO-TV in San Francisco and the author of It Takes More Than Good Looks To Succeed In Television Reporting, that he is reissuing with updated tips for reporters and videographers.    In 2005, Wayne argued against solo videojournalism at a NORCAL RTNDA seminar, but has converted to solo videojournalism in the last few years and is embracing the concept.  When I visited KGO-TV, Wayne and I chatted about several storytelling topics, including using natural sound. I shot the interview with my Canon T2i, using the on-camera microphone and the available light in the edit bay.


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Multimedia Journalists at KGO-TV

Bob Goldberger is Dayside Executive Producer at KGO-TV.

KRON in San Francisco became a controversial target in 2005 when it converted reporters and videographers to solo videojournalists (VJs).  But now many other major market stations are adopting the VJ system as well.  At ABC affiliate, KGO-TV in San Francisco, solo videojournalists go by the name of Multimedia Journalists (MMJs).  The station has one MMJ doing “day of” stories, or turning a story every day for a deadline.  Other reporters and videographers have converted to MMJs that work on stories that are “hold for release,” or HFR, that don’t have a tight deadline. KGO-TV Executive Producer Bob Goldberger talked to me about how the system is working.

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To narrate, or not to narrate…

Multimedia reporter Angela Grant works as a solo videojournalist.

Many newspaper VJs as well as a lot of television videographers like to tell their stories without writing any script that they narrate.  One of them is multimedia journalist Angela Grant.  In this video, Angela tells us what she looks for in doing a non-narrated video story and how she puts it together.

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Converting to a VJ

Melissa Penry on being a VJ

Melissa Penry started as a reporter at WKRN, the ABC affiliate in Nashville.  When the station converted reporters and videographers to solo videojournalists, she had to learn to shoot and edit.  Melissa describes what the advantages and drawbacks are of working as a VJ in this video.

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Why use “videojournalist” instead of “video journalist?”

VJ Angela Grant studied at the University of Texas and has worked for newspapers and hyperlocal websites.

The old term, one-man band is no longer in style and definitely not politically correct since many women work as both reporter and videographer.   There are several titles news organizations are using to replace one-man band, however.  Some places call them videojournalist, backpack journalist, digital journalist, solo journalist or multimedia journalist.  

What I have settled on is the term solo videojournalist or sometimes just VJ.  The word videojournalist is a combination, like the term photojournalist. Solo, obviously, implies someone who works alone, unlike a TV reporter and photographer team who work as a pair, but each is still in his or her own right, a video journalist.  The term videojournalist seems to be generic enough to cover the spectrum of companies that have adopted the concept in whatever nomenclature they use.

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Helping educate solo videojournalists

For many years TV reporters or photographers got their start as one-man bands.  As equipment got lighter and cheaper, as newspapers and magazines began using video on their websites and as budgets got tighter and tighter, more news organizations turned to what we now call backpack journalists, multimedia journalists, solo videojournalists–or just plain VJs–to cover the news.  This site aims to help students and those already in the business understand what the stengths and limitations are of working as a VJ and how to make that tough job a bit easier.

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