New intel on Web video

As multimedia journalists try to figure out how the Web changes video storytelling, it’s important to stay on top of research on the topic.  Frank N. Magid Associates recently released results of a study that seems to indicate that TV stations need to develop a Web video strategy and fast.

Overall, the most-watched online videos are not professionally produced. According to the survey, video shot by consumers pulls in 43% of regular online video users. The second-most-viewed online video comes from news stories: 32%. Then comes music videos, 31%; movie previews, 29%; and comedy/bloopers, 26%.

Now, the good news in this is that just under a third of videos viewed are, in fact, news stories.  But, what are TV stations doing to encourage appropriate audience contributions?  And why aren’t all TV stations posting their own stories online?  These are the questions TV stations need to be asking before they lose the video edge they still have.

Other important points from the study:

  • 20% of all online video viewers watch less TV as a direct result of using online video.
  • Young males watch the most — 70% of men 18-24 watch online videos each week, including 25% who watch daily.
  • The biggest female group was girls 12-17. Fifty-six percent watch weekly, including the 13% who watch daily.

Journalism advice on YouTube

YouTube’s new Reporter’s Center is already getting lots of attention from journalism bloggers and the 30 or so videos posted there have already garnered more than 100,000 views.  

The YouTube Reporters’ Center is a new resource to help you learn more about how to report the news. It features some of the nation’s top journalists and news organizations sharing instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting.

NPR’s Scott Simon does a good job on the subject of storytelling and both Katie Couric and Tavis Smiley offer interviewing tips.

Of particular interest to multimedia journalists are the segments on how to shoot breaking news with your cell phone and how to shoot interviews – both on-the-fly and in a more formal setting.

Telling visual stories with “no visuals”

There are few television journalists who have missed out on the pleasure of getting assigned a story where a mug shot is the “best” visual element.  With creativity, though, some are able to create compelling stories. 

mugSo, how do they do it?  Bob Kaplitz of the AR&D media consulting company recently posted an entry on the company’s site called “Just a Mug Shot.”  In his vlog entry, Kaplitz shows a story from Eugene, OR and then embeds his teaching points in the video.

His primary takeaway?  Show and tell is most effective when you can take advantage of multiple locations, but as in every story, it’s important not to waste the viewers’ time.

What isn’t clear, though, is whether the re-enactment portion of the story was clearly labeled as such when the story aired.  Assuming it is, this piece is a solid example of how to tell stories with nothing but solid information and a creative reporter-photographer team.

Photojournalists’ rights when dealing with police

A WBTV photojurnalist in Charlotte, NC says he was shooting an accident scene this week when a police officer ordered him to stop, tried to grab his camera and it was damaged when it fell to the ground. He was handcuffed and put in a cruiser where he was held for about an hour without charges.

Photojournalist Travis Washington says when he asked why they wanted him to stop shooting, one officer said, “Because you’re not showing proper respect to people in the accident.”  The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are now doing an internal investigation.

It’s not uncommon for police officers to try to limit a photojournalist’s access to a scene, so it’s critically important that journalists shooting video  know their rights.

NPPA has created a good resource on the topic – a pdf document which outlines what photojournalists can and cannot do.  A couple points to remember:

  • The Constitution protects the media’s right to freely gather news, which includes the right to make photographs in a public forum;
  • When journalists are denied access, they should avoid confrtonation and arrest and instead gather as much information as possible so that they can later seek relief through proper channels.

As a multimedia journalist, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with these issues and have a good understanding of your rights and responsibilities.

Five tips for video stories

Let’s say you’re already pretty good at the fundamentals of visual storytelling. You’ve mastered the camera, you understand lighting, and you’re capable of shooting sequences and capturing crisp natural sound. What else do you need to know to tell great visual stories?

Consider these suggestions:

Focus. Decide what your story is really about. If you don’t have a clear focus when you start shooting, figure it out as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’re liable to wind up with far too much video–a lot of which may be really nice but doesn’t add up to a story.

Variety. Shooting wide, medium and tight is a good start, but you can elevate your game by changing your perspective. Colin Mulvany, multimedia producer at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, says that when he’s shooting he reminds himself to be more creative. “Get your camera low or high,” he says. Award-winning photojournalist Mark Anderson advises: “Zoom with your feet, not with your lens.”

Structure. Video is linear. Think beginning, middle and end and avoid tangents that take your story off track. Don’t leave a shoot without an opening and closing shot. Make sure you capture shots you can use to transition from one story segment to another. For example, if you’re going from an outside location to an inside one, you might want a shot of someone walking in the door.

Matching. The visuals in your story should match up with the words. KARE-TV photojournalist Jonathan Malat likes to use the phrase, “Say it, prove it.” What he means is that if a sound bite or a line of narration describes an action or mood, you should use video to reinforce it. As Mulvaney puts it, “When the fire chief says: ‘We gave mouth-to-mouth to six kittens’– I don’t want to see his face, I want to see the kittens.”

Pacing. Shots and sound bites that run on too long risk boring the viewer. That doesn’t mean you need an edit every one or two seconds. Rapid cuts are great for drawing attention but they can also overwhelm your content. If you’re dealing with a complex story and you don’t want viewers to miss the meaning in the narration or sound bites, keep the editing pace moderate to slow. If your content is primarily visual, like on a breaking news story, feel free to speed up the edits.

Read more tips for video storytelling at Mulvaney’s blog, Mastering Multimedia, which inspired this post. Thanks, Colin!

Never stop learning

The best journalists I know are life-long learners. They’re good at their craft but they never think they know it all.

John Gross is one of them. He’s a photographer and feature reporter at KSTP-TV in Minneapolis who’s won his share of national awards. But when he speaks at workshops and conferences like the recent NPPA Northern Short Course, he comes early and stays late, attending sessions and taking notes. At the age of 62, he’s still trying to improve his work:

Planning for breaking news

It may sound counterintuitive, but you really do need a plan if you’re going to do the best possible job of covering breaking news. The more prepared you are, the less you have to worry about when the big story hits. That’s especially true online.

Consider the elements you’ll want to add to your Web covereage of breaking news and make sure you’re ready to build them in a hurry. The list would most likely include maps, timelines, resource links and slide shows ( because they’re more flexible and generally more popular with users than video).

If you don’t yet have a game plan for reporting a crisis online, consult the tip sheet Mark Luckie has put together at 10,000 Words. He links to tools that can help you produce interactive elements fast. For a quick Google map mashup, for example, he suggests FM Atlas.  (Is it just me, or does it seem like there’s a new mapping tool added every week?)

Breaking news coverage on the Web requires more than a few interactive elements, however:

Most importantly, all the print stories, multimedia, interactive graphics and blog posts should be aggregated on one page to serve as a single destination for those looking for information related to the crisis. Not only does a landing page make content easily accessible but it makes the hunt for the latest news less of a struggle when time may be a factor.

Figuring out how to do all of this before a big story breaks will pay off big time when it does.