The power of video

Dwayne Dail’s story would be compelling in any medium. Wrongly convicted of rape, he spent half his life in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him. But Dail’s story is even more powerful told in his own words, with still photos and video, the way photojournalist Shawn Rocco of the Raleigh News & Observer tells it. I almost never click “full screen” to watch an online video. I did for this story. Turns out it’s the first time the newspaper has offered a full screen option. (Thanks to Richard Koci Hernandez for the link.)

The story behind the story by Rocco’s colleague, Travis Long, is a must read. Here are just a few of the lessons he shares:

  • Persistence pays. When Dail was released from prison, Rocco stuck with him “while all the other photographers and news crews packed it in to file their stories,” Long says. The relationship they developed led to this story.
  • Planning pays, too. Long and Rocco took the time to outline the five-minute video before beginning to edit, using sticky notes to create a storyboard.
  • Collaboration counts. A three-person team put the main multimedia package together.  Two worked on the video edit; one built the Web layout using an existing template.

There’s much more to the package than the outstanding main video. My only criticism is that it’s not well promoted. The “additional material” link at the bottom of the video frame doesn’t begin to convey what’s behind it: additional interviews, audio files of Dail reading letters he wrote home, photo galleries and documents. And I’d like to have controls on the video and audio files, but maybe that’s just me.