The best newspaper webcast I’ve seen yet: Ledger Live

Remember that time when I spent two hours out of every day, five days a week, writing, shooting, and editing a daily newspaper webcast?

It stunk. It was no fun, a waste of time, and a poor way to engage online readers with video.

No one — and I mean no one — wants to watch you read from a script for two minutes.  It’s a good start, and adding photos is the next step on the way to adding actual news video to the bit, but what you really need to do is leave the newsroom.

That’s right, get out.  And take the camera with you. And do some reporting instead of reading.

Coincidence: Two people asked me about daily newspaper webcasts in the last hour, and I told them both the same thing.  Then I spotted yesterday’s Ledger Live, from

At about 2:40 into this one, which is good and fun, and has personality and life to it, even if there’s some desk-sitting involved in the process, Brian Donohue takes a typical crackpot reader comment about immigration and does the fricking reporting.'s Ledger Live

Check it out.  When I worked in California, we had some regulars, the crackpot immigration people who would leave some racist comments and blame every single problem in town on the Mexican community.  And more or less, we found is better to not engage them.  Just don’t look.

But, of course, the right thing to do is to debunk their claims, or at the very least, depending on your opinions about objectivity, demonstrate how complex the problem can be.

So, Brian took the crackpot question and the camera and went out to find some answers.

And the result is a great piece of journalism.

I hope my friends in Newark are posting some of the individual stories coming out of this webcast and archiving them in some sort of SEO-friendly way, because this is great evergreen content.  I want to see this piece on immigration and housing show up every single time those two keywords show up in a story on their site.  That’s the long-term value of a great Local Explainer.

Watch the webcast, and if your newsroom reads the headlines into the camera and/or fields crackpot reader questions on a regular basis, think about the opportunity you have to get away from your desk and shoot some answers.

via John Hassell

6 thoughts on “The best newspaper webcast I’ve seen yet: Ledger Live”

  1. I had some trouble watching the video — it refused to load in Safari and Firefox on a Mac. Was able to finally get it to play when I pulled it up on a Windows computer. Anyone else have that problem?

    Very interesting webcast. Gives me some inspiration to see what we might be able to produce.


  2. Ryan,

    Thanks for the kind words. We’re trying as much as possible to let users at drive the content of the show. Today, we had an interview with a conservative critic of the state’s fiscal policies after a commenter on the show’s blog suggested it. Pretty cool.

    And I totally agree about the need to archive and optimize for search not just the show, but its component parts. You can find all the segments in our blog at http://www/, and all of our videos in a searchable gallery at

    Wes: Sorry for your troubles. I’m not sure what the problem was; I work on a Mac and use Firefox to watch the show daily without a problem. And I just tried it out on Safari with no issues. Hmm, I’ll keep poking at it.

    John Hassell, The Star-Ledger


  3. Uh… so you click on the video, and get sucked into’s site in order to view it. Have you guys SEEN how YouTube and Vimeo work, or are you willfully just that arrogant, self-involved, and stupid? I mean, really, you figure YOUR video is so unique and precious that it should work in a manner contrary to users’ expectations – which are based on their experiences with, oh, EVERY OTHER VIRAL VIDEO ON THE ‘NET?

    Here’s a hint… it’s NOT.

    And Jeff “tell the client what he wants to hear” Jarvis had a hand in this? Figures.

    Epic fail here. Just appalling. It’s no wonder, really, that is as God-awful as it is. No doubt the hyped ‘re-design’ will be just as inept. You just don’t get it, and the ‘consultants’ you hire to ‘get it’ for you are tired, talentless hacks. But hey, they’ll tell you you’re doing a swell job before they cash your check.

    And shame on the backslapping Sholin for ‘forgetting’ to mention the fundamental problem with your ‘video experiment’. With such keen observation skills and passion for the truth, it’s no wonder journalism enjoys the prestige it does today.


  4. I’ve been keeping track of Ledger Live and it definitely is improving. I really like their attempt to involve the community. We are currently producing a daily webcast of upcoming news headlines. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t get very many hits. I believe it is due to a variety of things: very little promotion, our website is a muddled mess, and the show is scripted and stiff. I shoot and edit the show and I try to locate art, video anything to “spice it up” but it doesn’t really work. I originally had envisioned more of an off-the-cuff, unscripted show. Something that engages the public like what Ledger Live is doing. Good luck to them.


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