Just last week NewsU International launched a new self-directed course to help journalists learn the basics of online video journalism.
NewsU International, a partnership between the Poynter Institute and the International Center for Journalists, has launched the Video Storytelling for the Web training course in Persian. An English version of the class is also available here.
The course will teach participants how to produce online reports for distribution in online media. The course is aimed at print and photojournalists who want to expand their skills into online video but is also open to any students and other people interested in journalistic standards and the capturing and editing of video.
After completing this course, participants will be able to:
- To select the best stories for the Web
- To plan their stories
- The basics of selecting and setting up audio and video equipment
- To conduct an interview for a Web story
- The basics of editing video for the Web
As a student in TV journalism with modules in online journalism I think this is a great opportunity for all those interested in producing their own online videos. If you look through this blog you will see our numerous attempts at it. Some have work, some haven’t but all were great fun to make and made you feel that you were doing something worthwhile that can impact on people’s lives in really important ways.
You may think that there is no need for such a course, that producing an online video is simply a matter of pointing your camera at something then uploading the results onto YouTube. However I can tell you from experience that this is certainly not the case. There are so many little important techniques and nuances of filming and research that without professional instructions can easily be overlooked.
What is so good about this course is that it is offered in Persian and this is no coincidence. In Iran, a country which severly suppresses free speech and journalistic integrity, it is great that an organization such as NewsU is offering the people this opportunity. As although the government may control the television networks’ output, they can’t control what is uploaded online. Thus we see the importance of learning good online video journalism techniques as in this way oppressed people can still have their true voices heard.
The first three months of 2011 haven’t exactly been quiet for global news organisations. The protests that began in Tunisia have spread all across the Arab world to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and even Syria, a place where any kind of anti-government action would have been unthinkable even a month ago. Add to this the biggest earthquake since records began in Japan, and the subsequent Tsunami which has so far claimed the lives of 11,000 people (and counting), and you have one of the most extraordinary annual quarters in the history of modern news.
It’s not only the fact that these stories are so huge, but that they are also incredibly fast-moving. As well as a lot of “business” for news organisations, this unique combination of global events has also provided opportunities for new outfits to take advantage of the current hunger for news.
Step forward Storyful, a web curation site which has this as its mission statement:
“Storyful’s golden rule is there is ALWAYS someone closer to the story. And in the last few months, we’ve worked with people at the heart of the action, capturing turning points in history in words, pictures and video.
Sometimes our sources are local journalists, amateur photographers, or filmmakers. But often the people with the best view of the action are citizens in the right place at the right time.
We believe that there’s a good chance that person is you.”
One of the most striking things about the way that events in Japan and the Middle East have played out in the media has been the prevalence of “citizen journalism” in so much of the coverage. More people than ever have the equipment (all you need is a decent camera phone) and the connectivity (a 3G phone) to record and share the events that are happening around them.
But, however good the videos and other content which citizen journalists are uploading to the net is, none of it really has an impact unless people get to watch it. That’s where Storyful comes in. Because they are not a traditional news organisation, they are able to focus 100 % on finding, and then curating the best stuff that has been posted online. And it’s not just about getting one viral video hit, and then putting their feet up for the day. Storyful tries to keep up with the story, and to gather the most important content on one news story all in one place. And that’s where it finds its niche. It is the fastest news organisation I have come across in terms of CURATING content that is already out there.
For example, if I’m following the events unfolding in Syria, I could do one of three things:
1) go to the website of a traditional news organisation, like the BBC . This would be the slowest, but most trustworthy way of getting the information I was looking for.
2) Go on twitter, and find results for Syria in realtime. If I wanted to find videos about Syria fastest, then this would be the best option. But the wealth of information and links on twitter can be overwhelming.
3) Go to Storyful and see what their latest content is. For me, this a great halfway house for people who want stories quicker than traditional news organisations can deliver them (because of the fact that they have more stringent verification procedures) and who also want someone else to do the hard work of finding the most recent popular virals on a particular subject.
I would seriously recommend going to Storyful and checking it out. It’s the best site I’ve found for keeping up with events in the Middle East, and it’s great at organising stories into different categories (e.g. Libya, Syria, Japan, Royal Wedding). The interface is really clean and simple, which makes it easy to take in the information.
If you’re not satisfied by reading their curated stories, you can also make your own. Go over to the Storyful community page, and you can start your own story, complete with tweets, youtube embeds and your own text.
I was astonished the other day to walk past my dad’s study and hear some hardcore rap beats pumping out of there. Now my dad is quite big on his music but I have never heard him listening to rap before. So I went inside to investigate and found him watching Loughborough rapper MC NxtGen’s video slating Andrew Lansley and his NHS reforms.
Now as a surgeon working in the NHS, it is a subject that is very important to my father but I still didn’t expect him to be watching a video such as this and enjoying it. I mean he could understand the quick flow of MC NxtGen and was left in stitches by his clever word play and well produced video.
MC NxtGen (real name Sean Donelly) has found himself a viral YouTube and Twitter celebrity after posting his video just over a week ago. Since then it has amassed over 150,000 views and seen Sean whose day job is as a binman featured in the Guardian and the BBC News website.
The song has it all, brilliant lyrics over a sample from one of my favourite songs, The House of the Rising Sun and a well shot, funny video. The rap features some great lines including, “The NHS is not for sale, you grey-haired manky codger!” with the hook repeating over again, “ Andrew Lansley, GREEDY, Andrew Lansley, TOSSER!” However what makes this rap so good is that NxtGen has done his research and knows his stuff.
Now as the state of the NHS is something that interests me, I have done a lot of research into it before for a documentary I made, but I found the way that NxtGen explained it in three minutes, was better than any politician or even NHS staff member managed in more than thirty when I spoke to them.
Take these lines for example, “So the budget of the PCTs, he wants to hand to the GPs / Oh please. Dumb geeks are gonna buy from any willing provider, / Get care from private companies.”
“These plans have been slammed by patient organizations/ Charities, unions, nursing and medical institutions/ The Royal College of GP’s even joined the attack/ Looked closely at the proposals/ and said they were crap.”
NxtGen has tapped into a deep well of feeling amongst the British people of uncertainty and wariness of these reforms. The idea for the rap actually came about because he has family and friends who hope to work in the NHS but are worried by the cuts. So in his own way NxtGen decided to do something about it, and to speak out and judging by the rapidly increasing number of viewers every day to his video, the comments left and his growing Facebook and Twitter pages it seems a lot of people agree with him.
Even Andrew Lansley himself couldn’t help but admire the 22 year old whilst still trying to defend his policies. The Health Secretary said, “We will never privatize the NHS but I’m impressed that he’s managed to get lyrics about GP commissioning into a rap.”
For me this video goes to show that video journalism can come in many different forms, our hands are not just tied by a strict news package type formula. MC NxtGen gives us his take on the story in an informative and entertaining way through the power of music accompanied with a video that would not look out of place on MTV.
In the rap world, when one rapper releases a song ‘dissing’ another then the other rapper usually releases his own diss record in response and the ensuing ‘beef’ can engulf the entire music industry – think Biggie and Tupac. So we all wait anxiously for MC Lansley’s musical retort.
I think we may be waiting a while.
Whatever your interests, you can use online video to cover pretty much whatever you like – whether you want to cover hard news or light entertainment. Here’s a few tips on how to find stories that you could shoot in order to make a video for online:
- Talk To People:
Are there any local issues affecting you, your friends or your family? Maybe there’s a new parking scheme that is causing a stir in the neighbourhood, or there might be a new shop opening or closing in your street which residents are unhappy about.
Asking people around you what’s going on may throw up an issue or an event that you could make a video about. Below is an example of a video I made about the student accommodation I live in and the problem of constant fire alarms being set off by students.
- Use Social Media:
Social media sites are a great way of finding stories –
1) Twitter: Twitter is a great communications and search tool. You can search for tweets that relate to what you’re looking for – for instance, a local area or an event (you could search ‘Islington’). This would bring up search results of various twitter feeds. Some feeds are dedicated to news solely about a certain place which can be very useful if you are covering a ‘patch’. Using hash tags (#) by placing them in front of key words is another good way of finding information. For more detailed information on how to use Twitter to your advantage, see one of our earlier posts by Will Teddy on Twitter and its Role in Video Journalism. Below is a news package Will Teddy and I made after finding the story on Twitter.
2) Facebook: Similarly you can also use Facebook (as well as Twitter) as a communications tool between yourself and people involved with stories you might want to cover. By searching for a person, an event or an organization you may find there is a ‘page’ or ‘group’ dedicated to this subject.
3) Forums/Blogs: Online communities (like this one!) are sites serving localities or online communities usually dedicated to a particular subject or range of subjects. They are very useful for contacting like-minded people and accessing and sharing relevant information. It was on one of these sites that my colleague and I discovered a story about a library under threat of closure.
- FOI requests: If you wanted information about a public service you can submit a Freedom of Information request. By law, the orgainsation is obliged to give you the information except in cases which may endanger national security. For instance, if you wanted to know how much your local council spends on hospitality or even on its Christmas party you could submit a request online. This can bring new information into the public domain which could be worth covering.
- Events: Whilst they’re not a scoop, events are worth covering in their own right. For instance, you could cover a protest or a local concert. Below is a video about an event I covered with my colleague Jonross Swaby. We found an advert for a talent show being held by a mental health charity in aid of mental health month in a local newspaper.
- Travel Blogs: Going on an expedition during your gap year? Going away with the kids this summer? Whatever you have planned, filming what you get up to when you travel can be a great way of getting footage and documenting the experience in the form of a video for online journalism. Below is an example of an informal video I made for online using footage shot by a friend during our time abroad on work placements.
- Existing media news sites: Whilst any good journalist comes up with original stories, you can often find stories already covered in the press which you may be able to develop or look at from an angle not already covered. For instance, a story may be published about a new scheme where drivers can pay their parking by text – but the story doesn’t say how much the scheme is costing the local council. By finding out the financial implications you have developed the story in an original way and could cover it differently to the previous reporter. The BBC has a great page which gives links to all parts of the UK, as you can see from the screen shot below:
If you click through from the map page onto a particular region, for example, London, you can access a list of external news sites that cover that same area. You can see form the screen shot below that it gives a comprehensive list of online media outlets including newspapers and radio stations.
- Local Authorities: Whilst we mustn’t forget council’s in the UK are political bodies and often have an axe to grind, they can still be a great source of stories. Press releases are published online, and you can contact press officers to ask about particular stories or for information or for interviews with councillors. You can find an A to Z list of councils across the UK by going to the Direct.gov.uk website.
Good luck story hunting!
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.
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.
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.