Local News – The Future

screenshot courtesy of Ledger Live

We’re all familiar with a newspaper’s ‘comment’ section. Or, as some of them like to call it, their ‘opinion’.

These have been stalwarts of print journalism for many years. But, as Toby Coaker outlined for videojournalismonline back in January, The Times is the only UK based paper to transfer this type of journalism onto the web in video format.

In the States things are a bit different – one example of local political opinion transforming into online video is Ledger Live, from New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger.

Here Brian Donohue gives an often sarcastic/satirical take on the affairs of local government.

A good example is this not too complimentary assessment of Govenor Christie’s selective economic policy.

How does this relate to the UK?

Donohue’s producing something that doesn’t really exist in the UK, because national broadcasters (the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky) have to be impartial and national newspapers just haven’t got on board with the idea behind Ledger Live.

The Future

David Cameron’s been a champion of local government since his time in opposition.

As Prime Minister he’s devolving power and says he wants to create more vibrancy in local politics – to get people interested in the affairs of their local councils as part of his ‘Big Society’.

And Jeremy Hunt’s plans for local TV news slip nicely into line with this ideal.

But if the whole plan works and political activism flourishes once again in the boroughs and constituencies of the UK, you can bet that intense frustration will be kindled in the general public when it comes to local TV news.

Local output’s required to be impartial too. As a result Council failure won’t be reported with the angst needed to reflect the voters’ views.

In this political climate there’ll be an opportunity for partial ‘comment’ or ‘opinion’, and the websites of local newspapers will be the platform capable of supporting such a development.

Could they afford it?

On one hand it’s unhelpful to draw comparisons between state newspapers in the USA and their British ‘equivalents’ because New Jersey, for example, has a population of about 9 million and the Star-Ledger’s circulation is about 220,000.

Each UK constituency has an electorate about 66% smaller than the Star-Ledger’s readership, and local papers would reach dramatically less than that.

But print journalism’s suffering in the US in the same way it is here.

Sponsoring online video is now an option – adverts screened prior to the content beginning – and could bring in valuable revenue.

And if Ledger Live shows us something else about the future, it’s that you only need basic equipment to bring politics alive for the next media generation.

Here’s The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank proving this very point. Can you imagine a similar video poking fun at 4 or 5 candidates in Garston and Halewood?

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Modern Media’s Multitask Task

By Alex Dibble

Doing the broadcast splits is too big a stretch for some

Traditional news media’s being forced to branch out. As the amount of news content consumed online increases, both newspapers and television news departments are adapting and taking their material onto a new stage.

The problem for newspapers is they’re having to do something that wasn’t in their job description until ten years ago – producing video for their websites.

But if a major demand of the internet viewer is video content surely TV channels are laughing when it comes to online supplements?

Not so.

The problem for TV is similar, yet (crucially) different. Channel 4 and ITV have, like the rest, produced news websites to accompany their television output.

But ITV News doesn’t have a huge budget – it’s around the £35m mark. That pot used to fund just its TV service, but now has to pay for the website as well.

It’s not a big surprise, then, that the ITV News website is relatively poor. More than this, the website’s video content is lifted straight from the main television broadcasts. In the process of transferring news from one medium to another, nothing changes in the way it’s presented.

Contrast that to the BBC, who’s budget’s in another stratosphere. Not only is their news website vast, it offers an alternative method for viewers to consume content – it’s not just a re-hash of BBC News at 6, for example .

Stories (almost always) appear in written form (despite the fact that the BBC has never been a newspaper), and these articles are supplemented with video (Paul Bradshaw calls this the ‘Daily Prophet approach‘ after the newspaper in Harry Potter).

The two aspects combine to produce a news experience that reflects the unique demands of the internet as a new medium.

Channel 4’s online offering seems to find some sort of middle ground. No editing’s done on TV packages before they’re uploaded, but video’s still accessorised with written content.

Expert Opinion

VJO asked award winning video journalist David Dunkley Gyimah why the multitask task is proving such a challenge.

“The relationship between video content and online news output is such a recent development that broadcast media are learning an awful lot very quickly.”

For Gyimah though, the key is maneuverability:

“You want to watch news, get directed to somewhere else that contextualises what you’ve just seen, and then come back.”

“The nearest thing we’re getting to this at the moment is PBS in the States. They imbed video in a way that facilitates wider consumption.”

Organisations like ITV literally can’t afford to experiment in this field – their funding is to produce television.

The “newbies”, as Gyimah calls them, can play with the platform because that’s the market they’ve entered. Their principle objective is to master it.

Paul Bradshaw agrees, and offers Rocketboom as an example of how it looks in practice. A new kid on the block can grapple with online video journalism without the baggage of a print or broadcast history.

You Chose the News- Skynews.com TV

By Phil Georgiadis

The blurring boundaries between TV news and online journalism- a new phenomenon which has only taken off in the past year or so? Maybe not.

Between 2007 and 2010 Sky News aired a half hour long evening programme called ‘SkyNews.com’, presented by the brilliant Martin Stanford, which brought the web’s agenda onto our TV’s for the first time.

As the channel proudly proclaimed, it was a groundbreaking programme, which ‘set out to change the shape of television news by integrating the web and TV’. Sky and Stanford realised that web content worked well on TV, and also that streaming TV content online offered access to a wider audience.

It won a prestigious Royal Television Society gong in 2008 for innovation, with the judges praising it because “it lets the public rather than the news editor set the agenda.”

Well before it was the accepted norm for channels to stream their content live online it simulcast on TV and on the Web, and even offered exclusive content for web viewers while the main TV channel was off on advert breaks.

The show would track topics which were ‘trending’ across the web, and offer a rundown of the day’s viral videos, taken from sites such as Youtube. It also took a serious journalistic interest in the internet, and how it was increasingly shaping the news agenda.

It created a ‘user-generated agenda’ well ahead of its time, and is missed.

Take a look at the clips below to get an idea of how the show worked:

Online Media’s All-Seeing Eye

By Alex Dibble

For news websites citizen journalism is now a widely used source of online content.

In fact, it’s so widely used that we as consumers often don’t notice we’re watching it, unless the video is of noticeably poor quality, or unless the footage is very obviously being shot in a rushed or unplanned manner.

A very good example is this video, taken by motorists on the A1(M) in January 2010.

Without the footage, the incident didn’t even make the local news. Two months later the video was uploaded onto YouTube, the story became a national item and it was taken up by news media across the country.

This particular video nicely illustrates one of the questions we must pose when defining citizen journalism. What’s the difference between an eye-witness and a citizen journalist?

Does anyone and everyone become a citizen journalist merely because they own a phone?

It’s important to appreciate that as a crucial element of user generated news content, citizen journalism is produced by people who aren’t journalists by trade. Instead, they just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

For this reason the motorway footage just mentioned is a perfect example, because only a handful of people (those also on the A1(M) at the time) could have captured the event taking place. A professional journalist could never have been there – it was statistically improbable and logistically impossible.

However, had a professional journalist been there, they would have chosen to report on such a remarkable event. And this is the point: citizen journalism doesn’t create stories – stories create themselves. But citizen journalism provides a way for stories that wouldn’t otherwise make the news to do just that.

Citizen journalism also provides news media with a source of content as wide and deep as the population itself – a reach that would be impossible to possess if the tools of modern technology did not incorporate Joe Bloggs into the media realm as a contributor.

Suddenly a phone (while not turning everyone into citizen journalists) means that an event which happened in front of just a few, can be distributed to a few million. As soon as it’s uploaded online it’s there to stay and news media reaps the benefits.

Setting Up Citizen Journalism

By Alex Dibble

Your role and mine in shaping the world of online media

Since a camera was first added to a mobile phone, citizen journalism has come alive. A story without an image is much less of a story (at least in the eyes of online media organisations) than a story accompanied by visuals.

And so with a mobile, Joe Bloggs suddenly had the potential to generate online news content.

Stephen Jio is the eBusiness Programme Manager at Dell, and says that “no discussion about citizen journalism can happen without talking about the photo taken by Janis Krums on the 15th January 2009.”

On that date a US Airways airliner crash-landed in the Hudson, with all passengers and crew surviving. Krums happened to be crossing the river on a ferry, and took this photo.

The image has come to all but represent the new media phenomenon. If you search ‘citizen journalism’ on Google images, it’s right at the top.

Within 24 hours it had been viewed more than 40,000 times. More importantly, it was used by news media around the world. It couldn’t have been a better shot.

While that’s a fantastic photo, we’re here to uncover the role of video in online journalism.

Smart-phones have made citizen journalism incredibly easy from a video point of view: get your phone out, record something and upload it. All in a matter of minutes.

The value of this user generated video content will be the subject of future posts.