Newspaper Video: Who shoots it and how do they do it

The corner of the media blogosphere I hang out in has been buzzing with some great tips, clues, hints, debate, and analysis of newspaper video lately, and I’ve been too damn busy to chime in much, but here’s a few key pivot points for the uninitiated:


  • Photographers toting around HD cams to shoot video, record audio, and grab still frames from for print and Web use? It’s happening, right now, at the Mercury News, and Merc Web Editor Mike Bazeley argues that your photographers should be leading the way to good-looking visuals across platforms at your newspaper. Makes sense to me, but budgets, time, and training are all obstacles to adoption. I’m guessing this is easier at papers with more money, gear, staff, and a younger group of shooters.
  • Reporters with sub-$400 point & shoot digital still cameras that shoot decent video in their jacket pockets? Again, already happening, in places like Bakersfield. Howard Owens likes it, and I tend to agree with him on this. Think of video journalism as an element in the overall story: It doesn’t need to be a three-minute standalone feature to serve your audience’s desire to know more. Twenty seconds of reporter-shot video at the scene of a car wreck, of the game-winning homer in a high school softball game, or in the kitchen of a restaurant getting reviewed can have just as potent an effect as the feature-length version. Andy Dickinson provides a counter-argument of sorts: “If they want YouTube, I’m sorry to say, they will go to YouTube. We need to give them something else.”


  • If you’re going the reporters-with-point-and-shoots route, Bakersfield Web Editor Davin McHenry is ready with tips on the “Soft Sell,” or how to ease reporters into shooting video without making them feel like they’re leftist revolutionaries/interlopers/clumsy. Here’s one:

    “When we started, we basically put cameras in reporters hands and sent them out. When they came back with footage we gave them feedback and made every effort to put what they had shot online. Nothing kills enthusiasm more than spending time on footage and then seeing it go in the trash. If you can, put up video that isn’t perfect to send the message that this is something worth their time.”

  • If you’ve been tasked with shooting video for the first time, whether you’re a reporter, shooter, or Web department newcomer to news, Chuck Fadely has an awesome list of practical and physical guidelines — this is required reading for anyone trying to record news video.
  • Don’t know a MCU from an SWF? Mindy McAdams reviews the video vocab that I take for granted, having learned it first in Ms. Spicer’s TV Studio class in ninth grade, and then over and over again in film school.
  • For those of us with the job of actually getting the darn stuff up on the Web after it’s in the can, Mercury News multimedia guru Richard Hernandez runs down his favorite apps for handling, encoding, and posting video, audio slideshows, and other multimedia projects.

So where do you start?

What’s the first step in getting anyone at all to shoot video at your newspaper?

Here’s the plan we’re putting into action where I work:

  1. Start with talking head in the newsroom video updates. Yeah, it feels like broadcast, but it will get your readers accustomed to seeing video on your site, and it will get your newsroom accustomed to having a camera around.
  2. Add still photos to the video updates. Break up the talking head with actual pictures of the events he or she is talking about. Works wonders.
  3. Get photographers and reporters to start shooting short video clips on morning assignments and cut those into the video update. Now you have a reporter talking over stills and video from the day’s news.
  4. After you’ve been doing this for some time, photographers and reporters should be getting more familiar with the medium. Start putting together a 2-3 minute feature video once or twice a week, and cut a bit of that into your video update on the day it runs. Now you’ve got feature video, plus a promotional tool for it in the video update.

We’re somewhere at the beginning of Step 2 right now. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What’s going on in your newsroom? Who shoots feature video? Are your reporters afraid of getting *behind* the camera, or are the taking to video like a camcorder-toting father of a 1-year-old?

7 thoughts on “Newspaper Video: Who shoots it and how do they do it”

  1. Actually, Ryan, I’ve had a change of heart on video, as I noted at the bottom of a later blog post. Though I’d love to have photogs involved with video, I don’t see it as necessary. And in fact, we are seeing more and more web and multimedia and TV people with no still photo backgrounds go into newspaper video and do just fine. And I really like what they are doing in Bakersfield with the reporters. Whatever works.

    (BTW, doesn’t the phrase “newspaper video” sound like an oxymoron?)



  2. Hi Ryan

    Just to clarify a little here.

    Im all for the approach of thinking about video as another bit of content and keeping it short and sweet when we need to.

    The You tube quote refers to a broader concern that getting to wedded to the ‘youtube’ ethos and the quick and dirty approach -and some do – might backfire when it comes to funding and support from above.

    It was a very specific concern rather than a general statement. If I was to broaden it out I would say If they want Youtube they will go to youtube but if they want something with a bit more substance in a form they will recognise we should make it so they come to us.


  3. Ha! Andy, I don’t think you have to worry about funding from above 🙂

    But even besides my company, it’s a lot easier to get $400 than it is $8,000.

    Newspapers that aren’t in video need to start somewhere.


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