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VIDEO Videojournalism -- new media and the activist milieu

I had been researching the various online options in way of advancing one's political perspectives. So I moved from cinema verite to documentary making to journalism -- but to a new type of journalism : video journalism

This new option is rather interesting phenomenon that warrants some scrutiny.

Video journalism or videojournalism is a form of broadcast journalism, where the production of video content in which the journalist shoots, edits and often presents his or her own material. While you may come across it appended to some TV news segments where it has been embraced keenly in among the British print media as a way to develop and extend their online news wares.

Of course this sounds very much like YouTube journalism -- and it is indeed a development from 'web tv' -- but its new enough to start now being formatted and theorised over so that now it is being taught at any number of journalism schools as standard upskilling.

In the person of figures like David Dunkley Gyimah -- video journalism has been generating its own stars.If you read your Gyimah you'll be taught that video journalism is the best thing since Caxton's printing press.

Perhaps there is a point to the assertion -- but if you can transcend the hype, especially in Great Britain -- you begin to wonder that if the pros and would-be-pros can do it, why can't we?

Of course that's what we do and have done for a few years now. The activist milieu got into using light portable cameras to produce short YouTubable videos a few years back and the phenomenon keeps growing apace such that if you go to a political event, especially a rally, you are likely to be able to find a video of it online the day after shot and published online by a fellow activist who attended with a video camera.

In fact, for some events, rallies and demonstrations especially , video has become the main medium of representing and recording them.

That said, now that the professional journoes are working the same territory in much the same way, that doesn't mean that our voice still can't get a hearing. It does mean however, that while we can ape the big boys as we can with publishing newspapers, the issue,as always, is distribution. (More on that at another time).

In this regard a post by Adam Westbrook -- The ultimate budget film making kit -- is well worth reading, as for now there is a lot of technological obsession among video journalists that can cost newbies well over $10,00 to match.

On the Activist Toolkit we may suggest a much cheaper budget than even Westbrook does. Of course spend more and you'll get better quality image and sound -- but the content is always going to be up to you and really content has to rule.

As the famous photojournalist of the 20th century, Robert Capa (he shot picture right) said, "If your picture isn't good enough, you're not close enough." Given Capa's life, I don't think he was talking just about inches or centimetres. I think he was talking about the issues and the politics. Indeed that's what we've got and the main stream media does not -- we identify with the content not just make it.

And in an ironic way, as the theorists are getting their teeth into the entity called 'videojournalism', they are trying to take that imperative of working close and generalise it as a principle. In doing so they begin to format protocols for the use of equipment that make a lot of sense. As Gyimah argues this ain't television -- this has a new language which is anti-aesthetic. He could have easily suggested there aren't any rules either just the time pressure of the finished edit.

As I've written here before, the everyday Venezuelans who make video at AlbaTV are doing it almost organically -- the working in close, the vox pops, the clip's narrative style,the primacy of content over form, etc. as they are working in a very populist mode where audience and videographer are more than likely in head space sync.

But there's one other element I think is worthwhile noting, and for me it has to be a key feature of these new tools/toys: formality collapses. In this regard I want to refer you to a conversation which I published in a post last year -- Ten: Abbas Kiarostami's new digital wave. While Kiarostami is an artist he works in a sort of cinema verite/reality TV style and in that understands how tool and subject get on or don't get on.

He has some potent points to make about these new Mini DV digital cameras that are well worth taking to heart, long before the videojournalist hype drowns us in expensive rhetoric.

In that regard his outlook is closer to videobloggers like Jay Dedman *(who toured here last year) than to the professionalised milieu of journalism.

However to get a feel for the point being made, any documentary film you think was terrific -- Fahrenheit 9/11, Super Size Me, Harlan County, Dont Look Back and An Inconvenient Truth to name a sample -- were all shot with maybe 3 or 4 person crews or more crawling all over their subjects getting the image and sound just so, with any number of set ups. (Although Super Size Me was possibly not shot that way). What Dedman and Kiaraostami are alluding to is something that is not 'in your face' -- that is relaxed in the way it sponsors a reaction from the subjects. That rachets down the formality and artificiality involved with 'looking into the camera.'

*Jay Dedman's theories about videoblogging were bought to Australia in may this year. I missed his talks but if you want to catch up, read his books or chat with him by joining the videobloggers egroup.

3 Com:

Jerry Lazar | October 13, 2009

For the Web's best videojournalism, visit KobreGuide daily, and its accompanying blog, KobreChannel. It is published by SFSU professor Ken Kobre, author of the bestselling, "Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach" (6th edition), and inventor of the popular LightScoop SLR flash attachment.

Jerry Lazar
Editorial Director
KobreGuide / KobreChannel


David of www.viewmagazine.tv | October 13, 2009


Nice comprehensive post. Would have loved to have scribbled back some links for you, but I see you have disabled links, so here's a response to your post here:

Videojournalism's such a rich varied form that it's hard to capture it in one sitting.



ADMIN | October 13, 2009

See David's intended post on IM VIDEO JOURNALISM

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