Monday, February 19, 2007

breaking out of the box

Richard Koci-Hernandez of the San Jose Mercury News makes some great points with his latest 'journal' entry (he doesn’t want to be considered a blogger) 'A Desperate Plea.'

A colleague sent me a heads-up on this and talked about his own frustrations in our field. In one sense the newcomers to photojournalism/multimedia journalism have an advantage - technology, and are also at a disadvantage - learning to tell stories visually with more things to juggle on their shift.

When I started in this field, all I had to worry about was learning how to tell stories visually, either through singles or multiple images. Now a days, new folks juggle shooting, recording, learning and teaching new technology and code.

Not to belabor the point, I think Richard hits the nail on the head with two things, it is about TELLING THE STORY and it is about QUALITY. I would agree with him that a more cinematic approach is where news organizations (formerly newspapers) will be doing their best storytelling online, through video, stills, multimedia and interactive Flash packages.

Copying bad television online is just being lazy. Our audience is visually educated by TV, movies, magazines and ads, we should acknowledge this and produce quality work that captures their imaginations and hearts. There are great, fun ways to tell stories these days. I spend more time these days trying to expand how our print journalists think about telling stories, demonstrating how we can better tell stories online and in print.

The key, will be quality. More often than not, quality takes time. Either thinking things through beforehand or in 'production time' after leaving the office and returning. Now, more than ever, workflow becomes an issue. If a story can best be told with video, then shoot that. If it is a single, get in done and move on. If a story grows as you are covering it, communicate back to the office and adjust as needed.

I agree with Richard that we should take chances and utilize all the tools we have. But we should also think things through, and use the right tool in our kit. If we over cover something that doesn’t deserve it, or under cover a great story then we are failing as journalists. All the technology does not replace the digital journalist’s brain in thinking through and about their story. That is our biggest asset, we need to use it more frequently.


Andrew said...

Every once in a while I catch myself day-dreaming about being a photojournalist. In those dreams I'm a rock star of a digital journalist, capable of juggling all our tools, mastering html/xhtml/css, and producing excellent multimedia presentations. Then I pinch myself, and awake into the reality of the situation.

I'm a daily shooter, just beginning to get comfortable seeing moments, and telling stories with single images. As fantastically exiting as the prospect of multimedia can be, it frightens me. I feel as though I'm conducting an experiment upon my subject all in the name of learning to be a journalist, and that just doesn't feel right. Don't get me wrong though, our subjects always comes first, and when I'm out there working I forget all about the technical struggle.

However, when I choose not to take audio equipment into the field because I'm not comfortable juggling shooting and audio capture in an environment where I can't set the microphone down and let it roll, there's a problem. I feel like I should have the confidence to ask for assistance from my colleagues, and not feel like it might become a battle of ego's. No matter what task we're called on to perform as journalists, we should at the very least feel honored and dignified.

More importantly, I feel like I should have the confidence and technical ability to be able to juggle all of these skills on my own. My education is now feeling like a very expensive primer to technology, and less and less about the practice of journalism. And so, the education continues, as a professional in the working world. As much as I would like to do it on my own, I need assistance. Actually, I think we all need assistance in this endeavor to reform, and restructure what we formerly knew as journalism.

Thanks to people such as Joe Weiss, Richard Koci-Hernandez, Will Yurman, and countless others.

Now, where can I find $1200 for that multimedia workshop?

M_Fagans said...

First off Andrew you are a journalist, welcome to the club. Regarding your daydreams, welcome to the same club again.

I think you are right to worry about not experimenting on a subject. Do you feel that way when you are taking pictures, after all you are learning that skill on the job too? If you are feeling awkward, and we all do at times, perhaps practicing on a friend or colleague (in all of your free time) will help. If your are confident with your equipment, camera too, people are more at ease in general.

We tag team events here on a regular basis. I think I makes for better journalism and you don’t have to juggle as much. No one here sees it as belittling anyone else, we are looking at the final product. We take turns doing different jobs, we have team edited and produced work and in general enjoy these group projects. It is critically important to communicate while on these types of team coverage assignments, not only for good visuals, but matching up good audio with at least quick portraits of people.

Knowing where you graduated from, I would agree you have the technical background without as much of the j-school as you might like. I also think most students, except for some OU and WKU students need to learn the j side of things out of the gate too.

I don’t make the Joe Weiss, Richard Koci-Hernandez list too ;) (very tongue in cheek).

Ask your photo editor about the multimedia workshop. They can only say yes or no.

Andrew said...

No, I really don't have any of those issues when I'm using my cameras alone. It only comes up when I'm juggling the two mediums — still and sound. It's merely a logistical issue, and internal debate with myself over the appropriate time to put one down and engage the other. One response might be: 'You'll know when it's the right time to do one or the other, then just follow your gut.' I've been down that road, and have been burned. Perhaps I'm just thinking this through to analytically, and there isn't a balance. We accept the nature of the beast, and will arrive at a technical compromise when picking up a video camera, or HD, or whatever it's proper name is today.

As far as the workshops, there's no funding for professional education. We're on our own in that respect, which is why I turn to fellow colleagues through the internet.
$1200 is the cost of Multimedia Boot Camp, by the way.

M_Fagans said...

As to following your gut, ping me and I can send some thing along from Brian Storm regarding audio. There will always be things you miss as a photog and as an audio technician, that is part of life and journalism. The trick, in my view, is to set aside interview times, often at the beginning of a project and some time during the project at a set time. The key to that second interview, is you should start to get an idea of what questions you need to ask or what flavor your piece will be.

I know what the $1,200 was for. I’ll be there this spring, on my own dime so far.
If there is no professional training budget, and more often there is not, push your boss to get to things like that.

You are struggling with things that many of us are working through. Don’t give up hope, embrace the uncertainty and create good, humanly flawed work. The really good professionals make things look easy and simple, which can make things frustrating for the rest of us.

Will said...

I'll put in a plug for the Northern Shortcourse if you're looking for some training/inspiration. It's not the boot camp, but it's a lot cheaper :). We'll have a day of multimedia workshops and a multimedia shootout on the second day. Plus a pretty good lineup of speakers on Saturday. March 8-10 in Warwick, R.I.