Acres of innovation - so what can video do for you?

Slowly but assuredly, we are witnessing the maturity of video journalism into varied genres while it pulls away from the conventions of traditional television.

In the UK, we have more than tested the water. More than a decade ago, Channel One burst onto the scene as "Feisty DIY TV". Many VJs emerged from C1 with all-round skills and some such as Chris Hollins, Tim Muffett and Julia Ceaser have made names for themselves on television.

The industry, however, was not so embracing at the time. It was cheap TV, where one person couldn't possibly do it all, and the quality was appalling. Years on, some are still trying to force that same debate. It's time we moved the conversation on, because things have irrevocably changed.

Now, everyone's doing video-something, or at least has the tools to do so. The BBC has a division of VJs, Channel 4 has won awards with them through its indie scheme, and regional newspapers are breaking interesting and fertile ground.

One experienced BBC VJ told me: "The real threat for video news will come from the newspapers."

Newspapers doing video journalism? It sounds incongruous, but we really shouldn't be alarmed. The first UK custodians of VJism were from Associated Newspapers, under the keen eye of the late Sir David English and Julian Aston.

What's different today is the capital outlay needed to get you started — and a community of vloggers, videocasters and mobloggers nipping at the heels of professionals.

But there are still acres of innovation outside of deploying video news.

Global Voices, this year's Batten winner for Innovations in Journalism, adopted web evangelist Howard Rheingold's ‘smart mobs' approach to blog news [smart mobs emerge when "communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation"]. In Denmark, newspaper Centrum Morgen has found a way for bloggers to shape the evening edition on sale. And in the US, Newsday.com's multimedia affair, The Cost of War, captured 12 million hits in one day, demonstrating the power of interactivity.

Like it or not, video is here to stay. The genie is out of the bottle and the way we treat moving pictures is wide open.

Newspapers and magazines producing video may ape TV news to the point of mirroring the early tribulations of broadcasters as they were developing the news format, but the market should mature.

VJism, barely a teenager, has time to get rid of its spots. But it ought to be bold at pushing a new paradigm: its bendiness, its intimacy, its ability to write its own rules warrants that.

Why rely solely on the news construct, when short vlogs could be an alternative? Why use video news to round up an issue when the package could pose more questions for users to answer? What about your subject (in the right circumstances) shooting their own story/video diary? Why not use VJs as smart mobs descending on a story as multiple authors?

And then there's video hyperlinking — linking one video to another. Still in its nascent phase, the ability to tag and attach has the great potential for users to eventually build up their own storyline.

Those four minutes of unused Q&A from your five-minute interview now has a new lease of life. That much I know from development at viewmagazine.tv.

But it's the architecture of combining tried and tested media — text, podcasts, trackbacks, video — with synchronous online behaviour and the enviable YouTube engine which has real power.

If Current TV, an interactive cable channel where viewers send in video stories they've created, launches in the UK with Sky, then I wager we'll see users create a MySpace with personalised TV content: a new news network potentially in the offing.

Of course, not everyone feels the need to turn visual. It's bad enough being bi-media — writing for the paper, doing the blog — so the prospect of handling pictures, multimedia, video, user-generated content and the blog/article is just plain crazy. How much more are we expected to do?

The new generation of journalists, however, may see no lines of division. In week two, almost all the PGDip students at the University of Westminster had a blog, talking and comparing notes with similar students around the country. By week four, many were podding and videoing.

Soon there will be little to distinguish publishers from broadcasters. How to retain your assets by paradoxically giving some of them away, if you want to grow your brand, is something we're having to learn. What is Creative Commons again?

The rural affairs editor at icWales, Andrew Forgrave, produced the most exquisite promo in a session on harnessing user-generated content. If it ever makes it to his company's website, I ask them to brand it, encode it and let it go. That much the ad industry has proved works with virals.

Ask not only what you can do with video, but what it really can do for you.

David Dunkley Gyimah is this year's winner of the International Jury independent video journalist award held in Berlin, for his film 8 Days that showed regional journalists turned video journalist at work. He is the 2005 Batten Award winner for Innovations in Journalism and a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster

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