Live event blogging: when text and video come together

screenshot courtesy of guardian.co.uk

By Phil Georgiadis

Live event blogging was originally conceived as  a substitute for video coverage- a way of keeping web users up to date in the absence of any pictures.

It started in the mainstream sphere through sports coverage- a chance for people in the office or without Sky to access some form of coverage.

Its success is clear- a simple look at the Guardian Sport website shows that whenever live sport ‘minute by minute’ coverage has been available on any given day, it invariably is one of the most read items. As you can see from the image (right) – today’s live coverage of the India vs Pakistan cricket World Cup match is the most viewed page in the sports section.

More recently the phenomenon has moved to news coverage. Staying with guardian.co.uk, they are currently running Middle East daily live blogs, as well as their regular politics live feed.

But, crucially, video content and live blogging do no have to exist entirely in separation; particularly in journalism, where holding the rights to various sports’ is not necessary to stream video content.

This screenshot from bbc.co.uk demonstrates how successfully text and video can be integrated into live event coverage

Here, text, graphics and tweets are used to augment video feeds from BBC World and the BBC News Channel, to add an extra dimension to the news coverage. Additional reports and viewer feedback further build on the video journalism.

Sky News’s ‘Live Plus’ service, available via skynews.com offers a less text rich service. Instead of a timeline of text updates for major events Sky tends to use tweets from their own journalists to build up a picture of the news to add to their video content.

As is visible from Sky’s screenshot, they also offer users the opportunity to ‘Chat’ via Facebook during political events- further incorporating social media into the experience.

It is clear, therefore, that the recent developments in the online coverage of live events have blurred the divide between traditional web journalism and live video content.

They exist not in separate spheres but instead in symbiosis- with each adding to the others’ strengths.

 


An Evening With Guardian Films

By Emily Craig

Jacqui Timberlake was emphatic. ‘We are a broadcaster’, she declared to the assembled audience. And the Production Manager of Guardian Films has good reason to make this claim. Guardian Films’ 2006 production, Baghdad: A Doctor’s Story, which screened on the BBC and HBO, won an Emmy.

The film is a 45 minute offering and, in the days before many people uploaded or streamed video online, it was made for TV. It’s possible to find excerpts of Baghdad: A Doctor’s Story on the Guardian’s website, but it wasn’t designed as an internet documentary.

Back in 2006, the Guardian Films team had pitched their idea to the BBC. Now, says Maggie O’ Kane, the Editorial Director of Guardian Films, they’re competing with the same broadcasters that they relied upon before.

Broadcast journalists are not the only ones out on the street with a camera (Creative Commons)

Maggie O’ Kane had pushed for the creation of Guardian Films in the days before video journalism had become an online phenomenon. As one of the newspaper’s foreign correspondents, who spent time in the likes of Burma and Afghanistan, she says broadcast journalists would come to her and her colleagues, after they’d been working on a story, and expect to be handed a list of names and contacts so they could follow up with a film piece.

When the BBC’s Fergal Keane did just that after she’d endured the discomfort of the Burmese jungle as part of her research for a G2 feature, Maggie O Kane asked the question of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger: ‘Why aren’t the Guardian making films?’

As a result of their conversation, Guardian Films was created. And, with the development of Internet technology, its focus has shifted from TV features to the newspaper’s website. Now Guardian Films produce videos to tie in with articles that appear in the newspaper and, simultaneously, on guardian.co.uk.

Many of their videos could be described as investigative. As Maggie O Kane put it, by incorporating video into a piece of journalism, ‘It’s a way of saying ‘This is important”. Their undercover report into the racist violence of the English Defence League is an example of this theory in action. The video appeared on the Guardian’s website as the print edition went to press with the story in article form on the front page, above the fold. And the newspaper ensured maximum coverage by publishing the story on the day that the EDL planned to stage another demo in Newcastle. The video has had some 195 000 views – and counting.

Sometimes, the Guardian Films team will write the article accompanying their video. The rest of the time, they link up with journalists on the paper. But Maggie O’ Kane admitted that ‘it can be a case of the left hand not talking to the right hand’. Recently they were forced to work solidly for 48 hours in order to make sure that their Wikileaks Iraq log video could be uploaded alongside a print story due to be published.

The Guardian Film team insist that video media is not only a compliment to online copy, but it can be a way of introducing the viewer to a story. In other words, the video can come first – it’s not a badly-produced afterthought.

And the other bonus of making videos exclusively for the paper’s website – and not for a broadcaster – is that the videos exist in ‘web perpetuity’. Newspapers own this distinct advantage over the likes of the BBC and C4.

And, whilst this was an event promoting the output of Guardian Films, more and more newspapers (the New York Times, for one) are eager to draw attention to their investment in multimedia journalism and their successes in pursuing it. Their message? Broadcasters beware.

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?

The battle for Zawiyah – professional journalism trumping online video content

By Phil Georgiadis

Many of the posts on this blog have been looking at how powerful user generated videos have been at documenting the unrest throughout the Arab world.

Clearly, the power of social media offers a glimpse into events which otherwise would go undocumented, as mobile phones and digital cameras become powerful tools at offering the outside world glimpses of events.

But some of the professional journalism which we have been watching throughout the unrest has highlighted the flaws in citizen video journalism.

Youtube clips of demonstrations and atrocities do not offer a coherent picture- instead they are snapshots into events, often presenting a dislocated narrative which it is hard to form a clear picture through.

Recently, Sky News has been showing a report by its mulit-award winning Asia correspondent Alex Crawford, which documents the battle for the Libyan town of Zawiyah with extraordinary clarity and power.

If you haven’t yet watched it I recommend you click on the video below- it is a brave and compelling piece of journalism.

Most importantly, this is a rare opportunity to gain a full idea of what was happening on the ground. Instead of snatches of footage from the protestors, this is a linear narrative of a full weekend in the town, as it came under relentless assault from pro-Gaddafi forces.

The fact that it is also presented from a personal perspective, the first person narrative is particularly striking, adds both to the coherency, and also verifiability of the piece.

Crawford is a trusted journalist, we know when watching the report that isolated incidents are not being hyped upped- it is instead a sober and realistic view into life under assault in Libya.

It is a staggering piece of journalism, and although online video content delivered via social media has essentially been the heartbeat of media coverage of regime crackdowns in the Middle East, this report should make us all take stock, step back, and remember that on the rare occasion that it is possible- professional journalism from the scene remains the most powerful way of reporting global news events.

VJO at Broadcast Video Expo 2011

By Umar Farooq

Last month, a few of us at Video Journalism Online (VJO) were fortunate enough to attend the Broadcast Video Expo 2011. The 3-day event at Earls Court 2 was home to production staff and broadcasters keen to market the future of the industry.

We felt the event had to hold an online element and we weren’t far wrong. Upon arrival, I was able to track down representatives from three different online video providers and conduct short video interviews. The key question was: how does your website help or promote video journalism in the online world? The analysis follows the video:

Maria Elena, ClipTV

Clip TV describes itself as an online viral video agency. The company deals with caught on camera reality footage from the comedy to dramatic rescue. In other words, the site encourages and promotes citizen journalism and clients can browse through a selection of the material online. Looking through the site, I came to the conclusion that the agency was like a ‘You’ve been framed’ video library. So, how does it help the video journalist? Well, although it doesn’t help them directly, Maria makes an interesting point when she says that the film-makers tracking reality footage have a great deal of variety to look through on Clip TV. However, whilst the market for viral video cannot be ignored, the lack of journalistic content on the website is a worry.

Cato Salter, Clip Canvas

At Clip Canvas, the attraction is high quality HD footage and graphics. In simple words, the website hosts an online catalogue allowing potential clients to look through a number of animations, backgrounds and landscapes. The site offers top quality stock footage for documentary and studio-programme makers. The catalogue itself is generic and some of the content can be used in journalistic video. There are, at the moment, 140,000 clips online so the diversity and variety cannot be questioned. The only small criticism which Cato himself alludes to in the interview is once again the lack of journalistic content on Clip Canvas. Despite this, providing high quality and HD video for clients means they’re on to a winner.

Emma Simpson, Journeyman Pictures

It was a pleasure to meet Emma from Journeyman, a film distributor specialising in “topical news features and documentaries.” The website is a video store, allowing you to either watch online or purchase on DVD. The YouTube channel has video clips from over 350 films and around 112,000 subscribers. The company itself was found in the 1990’s but the online elements are the most fascinating for our purposes. Content is journalistic, most specifically current affairs documentaries and there is a great variety once again. The ability to watch the documentaries online upon the payment of a subscription fee is a feature worthy of praise. It means Journeyman is a niche video-sharing website with a catalogue which can only be described as immense.

I will be back with more video journalism analysis, in the meantime don’t forget to take part in the “Online News Video Watchers Survey.” The results will be analysed very soon.

Thanks.

* The links in this post can be accessed and shared on the VJO delicious page.

What’s the Shorthand for ‘Video’?

By Ross Cullen

Trainee journalists are constantly reminded of the need to bridge the different media and be cross-platform reporters. But what of those who have already broken into the industry? How do they adapt?

Budding hacks are well aware of the importance of starting their career with established blogs, Twitter accounts and audio and visual editing skills, as well as the ability to write for online and printed media. They are not alone; the reporters ahead of them on the career path have also recognised that they have to change with the times. How are they doing it?

Staff at the Reading Post, in Berkshire, have turned their hands to online video journalism. Long gone are the days when a newspaper journalist only had to be a fast shorthander; now there is a need for video skills. The paper’s decision to launch a daily online video news bulletin illustrates a few different things:

1) An awareness that newsprint readership is diminishing and/or moving to the online versions of the publications. The editors need to hang onto their readers and interactivity is a great way of doing so.

2) The public love video. Citizen journalism is on the rise and, as previously discussed on this blog, broadcast media have already built whole pages on their online presences dedicated to video. Newspapers have to follow suit.

3) Time is of the essence. People are in a rush. Understanding that they might not have hours to sit down and read the paper cover-to-cover, the editors can still hold onto loyal readers as they visit the Post’s homepage by offering them quick, direct news in a free, 60-second video.

The Post uploads their daily video at lunchtime, giving online readers updated news during their midday breaks. As the media world changes around them, reporters need to be ahead of the game (and their competitors) in order to remain relevant and exciting. For a newspaper, enlisting the help of video on their webpages is a relatively easy and effective way of expanding their reach.

The margins of the different media are blurring. Local news services have to elbow and barge their way to the front of the public’s minds to continue to be noticed. The major TV channels tapped into video long ago. Online streaming is now clearly not solely the preserve of broadcasters.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvPtzG-6Bzg&feature=player_embedded#

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: