Interview with British Heavyweight Champion Dereck Chisora

Dereck Chisora is the current British and Commonwealth Heavyweight boxing champion. A couple of months ago I went to an open press event as he was preparing for a shot at the world title against Wladimir Klitschko. Unfortunately the fight has been cancelled twice and it now seems unlikely Chisora will get a chance to fight Klitschko after the Ukranian agreed to fight another Briton, WBA World Heavyweight champion David Haye.

Dereck Chisora

In the interview below, Chisora seemed very confident of beating the much more fancied Klitschko but it is fair to say the majority of the press pack didn’t agree with him. I must say after watching Chisora train up close, I didn’t think he had much of a chance either. He looked to have a good punch on him but he seemed rather slow on his feet. Obviously this was only a sparring session and he was probably holding back a bit but I think it may be a blessing in disguise for him not to fight Klitschko yet. Chisora remains unbeaten professionally but he has only fought 14 times compared to Klitschko’s 55. A bad defeat could have ended his career before it even began.

However what was most interesting in this interview was the insight into Chisora’s character. Here is a man that has previous convictions for assault and last November was found guilty of beating up his girlfriend after he found text messages from another man on her phone. He avoided jail but received a 12-week prison sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to pay £1500 in compensation and serve 150 hours of community service.

Now nobody expects boxers to be held up as shining beacons of morality in our society but what Chisora said in regard to his conviction was quite unsettling. When quizzed about how his personal life will affect his boxing he rather proudly admitted, “I’m a rebel. You know what my boy Skepta says, ‘bun dat.’” This is to say, you know what, I don’t care.

His management team became very agitated with this line of questioning and would not allow any further questions on the subject. However the damage was already done. Chisora came across as an arrogant man who believes the rules don’t apply to him.

I for one am glad that this man has been denied the opportunity to represent Britain as Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Yianni Meleagros


Experiment in online video: protests at Libya conference in London

Today, 44 foreign ministers met at Lancaster House to discuss the future of Libya. In a cafe just up from the corner of St James Street and Pall Mall at 1.30pm, three men sat wearing official badges displaying the Libyan and flag and the word DRIVER, speaking quietly. From outside the cafe, resounding raised voices could be heard. I went out with a camera to record interviews as an exercise in online video journalism.

Two groups of protesters had formed outside the conference venue. Chanting ‘hands off Libya’, the larger group of about 150 people waved green flags in unison, a symbol synonymous to them with both peace and Colonel Gaddafi. I spoke to 20 year old Marwa Issa, a housewife who came to the UK from Libya with her husband two years ago. She was with her son, Naset, 1 year and 8 months.

The Stop the War activists had positioned themselves on the other side of the road, in demonstration of their opposition to the Gaddafi regime. Chris Nineham, national organiser for the Stop the War Coalition, arranged their protest.

After recording the interviews I came home to work out the technical process of making them into online videos. Having connected the camera memory card to my laptop I uploaded the footage as .MOV files to my youtube channel and was able to embed them via their URLs directly into this post. I’ve also learnt the importance of investing in a microphone.

Laura Heighton-Ginns


Should Newspapers be cutting back on their online video content?

According to a study of 100 US newspapers undertaken by the Associated Press, a large number of them are cutting back on video and video journalists. As the current financial climate continues to bite hard at newspapers, it is often the video that is first to go.

Kevin Roach, Director of US Broadcast News at AP led and the study and found that financial reasons were often the main factor in the decision to cutback but he wouldn’t disclose the specific findings of the study.

He is of the opinion that newspapers should stick with their online video content as he believes it provides an important part of editorial output. He also thinks that there are new opportunities emerging for these newspapers in how people consume their content, e.g. through social media and new devices such as tablets.

He suggests papers must publish breaking news of local interest quickly in order for their videos to be effective. With the change to the web that social media has brought, getting news up quickly is essential.

Below is Beet TV’s interview with Kevin Roach.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/goRrgqDXZwI%5D

However as others have been cutting back, the Miami Herald has been reaping the rewards of increased investment in its video content. Last year, MiamiHerald.com saw about a 25 percent growth in video traffic, making it the second biggest traffic driver behind articles.

They found over a period of study of six years that the most popular videos were sports and breaking news. These were already strong points at the Herald but with further investment and improvement they were able to build up a loyal audience.

The Herald uploads on average 60 to 80 videos a month and has partnered with Miami TV stations including WSFL-TV and CBS 4 in Miami to try to extend its reach. They share content with WSFL and cross promote content with CBS 4 which helps to increase the site’s traffic. The Herald also posts many of its videos to YouTube where they can get thousands more hits than on MiamiHerald.com and thus further increase it’s reach.

So if more newspapers could follow the Herald’s example of investing more in video then perhaps they too would experience similar success and not have to cut back on a vital component of news.

Below is a video from the Miami Herald, which I believe illustrates well what they are trying to provide: breaking news of local interest. It also shows the advantage of using video over simply just print, seeing pictures of the dogs elicits more emotion in us and gets us to engage more fully with the story than just an article could.

Miami Dade Animal Services Centre

Yianni Meleagros


Interview: Harmit Kambo on forensic journalism and the future of the audio slideshow

Harmit Kambo is an innovative online journalist [see post 10 pioneers in online video journalism] focusing on a niche form of online video: the audio slideshow. Having trained at the LCC in photography, he has developed a wide ranging portfolio through work on various projects with charities and campaign groups, including the multi-story, multi-platform Environmental Justice project. His work combines stills with music, text, voices, ambient sounds and sometimes video.

LHG: You trained as a photojournalist and documentary photographer; what made you decide to focus on producing audio slideshows?

HK: Firstly, I should say I love photography books, and photos on gallery walls. And I think photography in these forms will always find an audience.

However, these avenues can be expensive, and arguably only really available to you once you attain a certain level of success. While you can self-publish easily and relatively cheaply these days, I would question what kind of audience your book will actually find. And while you can probably find an exhibition space on the cheap, how many people are really going to see it?

For me, I’m not a just a photojournalist for the love of it. I want my work to be seen, and by as many people as possible. So, of course, the internet is the right platform for me.

But just placing still images on a website would be like some of the first movies – which were a camera trained on a theatre stage. Movies quickly evolved into a separate form than theatre, playing to the possibilities of the format.

In the same way, I’m one of a number of photographers who wants to use photographs in a way that plays to the strengths of the web platform. For me, photographs are just one aspect of the story. Music, text, voices, ambient sounds combined carefully with stills (and indeed video) are all vital components in online photo-based storytelling.

So, I see audio slideshows as the best way of showing images online.

LHG: Tell us about the most memorable project you’ve worked on?

HK: I see a lot of fantastic photography and photojournalism, but sometimes, even in the best work, I think the narrative can be simplistic. You’re often told what to think by the photojournalist. They can also be highly selective in what they present, to strengthen their argument. So, while I respect photojournalists as photographers, I do think many are actually poor journalists. It was with this in mind, that I set out to undertake a project in a way that I think it should be done.

I worked on a massive project last year called Stories of Environmental (In)Justice . It is made up of 27 different stories, 11 of which are multimedia, others are stills accompanied by a separate audio track, and others are short audio. So, rather than it being a multimedia piece, I see it as a multi-platform piece. The Environmental Justice project was my attempt at being a fairly ‘forensic’ journalist, looking at an issue in detail, providing balance and analysis.

The whole project, from start to finish, was completed over 3 month period. I spent time in 3 different parts of the UK, conducted 20 in-depth interviews, invited a number of people to write blogs, worked closely with an academic research and an activist, to create what I think was an in-depth, engaging, photography based analysis of a complex issue.

LHG: Your recent audio slideshow, Down the local, was published by BBC.co.uk. Do you think audio slideshows have a permanent place in the online journalism landscape?

HK: Yes and no.

Just in the last few years, we have seen that major media players such as the BBC and the Guardian are using a lot more audio slideshows and videos instead of the traditional text-based article with an accompanying image.

So, as print newspapers continue to decline, and content increasingly becomes geared towards being delivered online (the iPad and Kindle have recently ushered in the next stage of the cultural shift from paper to pixel), we’ll be reading less and less, and watching more and more. The balance between these elements will vary from one publication to another but we will see fewer single stills and more slideshows and videos – because the technology makes it easy to do so now.

However, I’m not sure how long the ‘audio slideshow’ format will survive. It’s a format that still lacks definition and shape. I mean, really, what is it? Is it a documentary? Is it just a way of presenting photographs? How long should a slideshow be (we can all agree that a movie should be roughly 90-110 minutes, with a few 3 hour epics around, and that a documentary can be between 30-90 minutes), but who can really define the ‘audio sideshow’ form.

Even though I’m a real fan and champion of it, I wonder if it already looks a bit ‘quaint’, and that the technology’s already moved on, just as it’s starting to get recognised. Professional digital SLRs now have HD video capability, and over the last two years, I’ve started to see a lot more video from people who might still call themselves photographers.

So, what we currently see as audio slideshows, based on stills, might mutate into short documentaries, based on video.

We can speculate about the direction that this will head in. But what is clear is that photographers who want to find an audience through the internet, need to be thinking beyond photographs, but also be thinking about audio, text, graphics and, of course, video.

Down the local: The Marquis of Lorne

You can view the BBC version here.

Laura Heighton-Ginns


Interview: Raul Gallego Abellan on reporting wars and how technology is changing the role of a journalist

Raul Gallego Abellan is a video journalist from Spain currently employed by Associated Press. His work has led him around the world, between war zones, natural disaster sites and international award ceremonies.

LHG: Your website states that your first role in the industry was as a freelance in 1998. In what ways have you found that the expectations of independent video journalists have changed since then?

RGA: Technology is going through a big change in our profession. Equipment is more cheap so more people have access to cameras and can potentially become journalists, producers, filmmakers etc. But because there is a bigger market and bigger group of people ready to shoot, media companies are using this fact to devalue the conditions of our work. There are so many people willing to work as journalists that media companies are taking advantage and saying: look if you don’t take this offer I have hundreds of people knocking on my door willing to work for even cheaper.

But though there are more people with a laptop and a camera it doesn’t mean that quality is improving. Actually it’s getting worse. General quality in shooting, editing and even reporting is getting lower. There are stories that I see now on TV or online that, when I was starting out, would no way have been broadcast.

I love to work with just a little camera, a laptop and a satellite phone. That makes it so much easier for me to travel around. But working with a little camera is more difficult; there is less stability and you have to make a bigger effort to shoot properly, make sequences etc. than if you work with a big camera.

However there are now people doing great work with very cheap equipment. More people are able to produce something and show their talent and new ways of storytelling. Before, production was very expensive. Now, with less money but good quality and hard work you can do what before you had to spend big quantity of money and send a big crew on.

But I do feel that what is wrong is that the conditions of our work, salary, level and quality, etc., are decreasing in recent years.

Now, a freelancer has to be someone ready to do everything. Shoot, edit, report, write, take photos, tweet! I like to be a multi skilled person but now it’s getting too much. It’s evident that if you try to take photos, shoot video, edit, report, tweet, all at the same time, the quality will be not so good. Especially in daily news or breaking news, for example a text writer cannot take good photos if s/he doesn’t have experience and is using a little snapshot camera. What you do when something is happening in front of you? Take photos? Shoot video? Also, I think that if you shoot video with cameras like HD SLR and then you do a frame grab you are killing photography.

LHG: You’ve been covering the unrest in Libya for Associated Press and have entered many conflict zones for your work in the past. How do you prepare yourself for entering a hostile territory?

RGA: I don’t have a set way to prepare myself. I always try to think positive but at the same time be aware of things that could happen; all the options, all the possibilities that I might face. I believe that motivation is also very important. People have to know why they are going to cover conflict. For me it works if you have the intention to show the reality of the conflict, the suffering, and if you see journalism as a tool that means things will at least be registered. We as journalists can not create much change in the world but at least we can try to or try to expose something that is wrong. If somebody that has a rich life in the EU or the US sees one of my stories and decides to give a donation to an NGO or just becomes more aware of how lucky s/he is to live where s/he lives it’s kind of worth it. Sometimes a camera in a conflict can give a little hope to the person that is suffering just to let them talk in front of the camera. Sometimes a strong image can mobilise a society in big or small groups or individually.

Every war reporter has different reasons for covering wars. And it’s worth noting that covering war doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be constantly on the front line. People are bored of the bang bang images. They are so bombarded with them that they don’t care anymore or are not touched by one or two minutes of fighting, explosions or images of people injured or dying in the hospital. An example of this is that some people remember more of an interview with a Libyan rebel fighter I filmed in the few days before he started fighting, when he was living in Denver Colorado selling donuts, than any of my fighting images where I was risking my life for it.

But the last uprisings in Tunis, Egypt, Libya etc. shows how important the media still is and how important journalists are in mobilising people despite, at the same time, mass media becoming a little like a circus with correspondents just explaining how difficult and dangerous it is for them to work there than actually what is going on on the ground.

LHG: What would you say is the most memorable project you’ve worked on to date?

RGA: I have lots of stories in mind. I cannot say one was more important or more memorable than the others. Covering a historic moment is incredible. When you are recording with the camera and you are thinking, this is history and I am experiencing it in a front row seat. Also, when your story helps someone, that is the best feeling as a cameraman or journalist as it’s when you feel that your work is really worth it.

Last year the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) recognised online news for the first time, and awarded Raul the Edward R Murrow News Series prize for his three part video essay A Marine’s Diary, about the lives of US marines in Afghanistan.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Laura Heighton-Ginns


Interview: Yermi Brenner on his early work in China and the steps to becoming an independent multimedia journalist

Yermi Brenner is a self started, independent multimedia journalist. His work has been published on international websites Video Journalist Movement (VJM) and Huffington Post and on the Israeli news outlets Channel 10, Ynet and nana10. Much of his reporting is dedicated to raising awareness of issues related to Israel’s conflicts with its neighbours. He is based in Tel Aviv and self shoots and edits all of his video reports.

LHG: How did you set yourself up as an independent multimedia journalist?

YB: In May 2007, as I was about to graduate from journalism school, I decided to buy a small semi-professional video camera. I had never before done any filming or even photography. I decided to buy the video camera to improve my chances of finding work as a reporter. Use of video reports in online news outlets was at the time – and still is – growing and developing in a fast pace, and I hoped that, if I can offer myself as a text and video reporter, it will increase my chances of making a living off journalism.

In the next few months after graduation I practiced using the video camera and the editing software (Premiere CS3). I learned by doing. I made several video reports; choosing a topic, going out to shoot, and later editing at home. As I was a beginner in both filming and video editing, I asked many questions and got answers from friends and from Google. Non of my first 5 reports were picked up by any media, so I created a blog and posted them there to get some feedback from friends and family.

I guessed that if I can make a video report that shows something that is not often shown on Israeli media, than there is a much bigger chance that a Israeli TV/online news outlet will buy it. So, after practicing filming and editing video for a few months, I decided to travel to the Balkans. At that time – December 2007 – Kosovo was on the verge of being recognized by the UN as an independent country. I traveled to Pristine and to Belgrade, filmed some interviews, collected visuals and edited it as a 4 minute report. I then wrote an article based on the investigation and interviews that I did, and offered it as a multimedia report to Ynet (Israel’s leading news website). They were happy with it and bought it from me. This multimedia report (in Hebrew) was the first report I ever got published in a news outlet.

But I still did not succeed in finding a steady job in a news organization.

The most interesting place in the world at that time was China, a massive rising economy that was 8 months away from hosting the Beijing Olympics. I offered myself as a China correspondent for Israeli online news website Nana10. I suggested to them that they would hire me to report from Beijing – producing weekly text/video reports about the preparations for the Olympics and on the Chinese society. They agreed to hire me but on a very small salary. I was happy with that – living expenses in China are quite cheap – and bought a plane ticket to Beijing.

I reported from China from February 2008 until September 2008. During this time I produced 3 video reports per month and posted regularly on my “Beijing Diary” blog which appeared on the Nana10 website. I was still using my small semi professorial video camera, but did buy a better quality microphone to make sure my interviews come out clean.

When I look back at some of my reports from China, I am embarrassed and proud. In some of the video reports I look ridicules and unprofessional when doing my stand-ups. But some of the videos showed really interesting angles on Chinese society and Chinese people and I got several replies from people thanking me for providing material which is usually not available for the Israeli media consumers. One of my reports was picked up by Israeli TV channel 10. It was a video report about Chinese university students preparing to be Olympic volunteers.

Once I got back to Israel I was back to being an independent journalist. I started making reports for VJM – a non profit organization (based in Amsterdam) whose goal is to promote magazine style video reports from different parts of the world. I suggest story ideas to VJM, and once an idea is approved I produce the video report from start to finish. I like working this way because I work only on stories/topics that are interesting to me. I do all the stages of production: researching, investigating, coordinating, scripting, interviewing, filming, editing, narrating, and translating. I do learn a lot for the guidance of the VJM editors who view early versions of my reports and give me feedback on my work.

The most recent step in my development as a journalist came one year ago (March 2010) when I started blogging for the Huffington Post. It is very important for me to regularly write articles/posts, and not only do video. Practice makes perfect and from my experience the more I do something the better I become at it. While for VJM my reports are only video, Huff Post serves as the stage for my text along side my videos. In the Huff Post blog I embed the video reports I make for VJM and add next to it a text which compliments that video and add  more information or interesting angles that were not presented in the video report.

LHG: What would you say is the most memorable project you’ve worked on to date?

YB: The most memorable project for me is a multi-format report (text, video, photos) I prepared about a renewable energy project initiated by an Israeli NGO in villages of Palestinian peasants in the West Bank.

For this report I spent three days in South Mount Hebron documenting the construction of solar panels and a wind turbine in a small village. Living in Israel, I rarely have any communication with West Bank Palestinians. I enjoyed working on this report because it gave me the chance to communicate with Palestinians my age and older, and learn about their lives and thoughts. It also taught me a lot about the reality in the West Bank, as I experienced first hand the friction between Israeli soldiers and local Palestinians.

LHG: You produced a piece about the Israel Defense Forces’ new media unit last year. If the internet is increasingly a mouthpiece for the interests of international states, what are the main difficulties facing an independent online journalist?

YB: The internet serves as a mouthpiece for states, and also for organizations and people. I try to keep in mind that there is always an agenda behind information spread online. The difficulty I face is to comprehend and make order of the endless stream of information which at times includes tweets/posts/reports that contradict each other.

Yermi Brenner’s steps to becoming an independent multimedia journalist:

  • Teach my self multi-format journalism. I started out doing only text, but then bought video camera and editing software and slowly learned how to use them efficiently.
  • Create a blog to post my stories. This way the stories have a stage even if they are not bought by a media.
  • Work for very low pay in the beginning in order to gain experience and recognition.
  • Offer material that is attractive to news outlets reports (for example video reports from other countries).
  • Constantly pitch story ideas to news organizations, even if 90% of the times I don’t even get a reply.
  • Make stories all the time, even if they are not commissioned. That is the most important thing in my opinion.

Laura Heighton-Ginns


Interview: Erik Olsen on the freedom of being an online VJ and his most memorable experience to date

Erik Olsen is a trendsetting video journalist working exclusively for the New York Times website. Largely self taught, he has achieved success in TV and online, and traversed issues in politics, art, the environment and even cooking. His inventiveness with the camera is notably demonstrated in a film about an art installation by Maya Lin, about which he later commented:

The installation, called “Storm King Wavefield,” was a series of tall grassy hills that were built to look like waves. It is very lovely. The problem is that the day I went to visit Maya at the installation, it was overcast and the light was very flat — so flat, in fact, that you couldn’t really see the amazing depth of the grass waves, which was really a key part of what the piece was about. I stewed over what to do, and shot the installation from every angle imaginable. But it never looked right; you just couldn’t perceive the depth of the waves. So instead, I asked Maya to walk over the crests of the waves starting from the furthest one away, and shot the whole thing on a tripod without moving the camera. Then I crafted a nice little opener to my piece where Maya seems to float around the wave crests at various distances, which I think helped convey the beauty and depth of her work that was obscured by the bad light that day.

I spoke to Erik on Thursday, about the creative freedom of working for a website, the discerning nature of the online audience and his most memorable project todate.  Listen to the full interview:

 

 

 

 

You can view “Nikolski: An Alaskan Village in Crisis” here.

Laura Heighton-Ginns