A Trip Into Hell

Yesterday, I descended into the jaws of Hell… or at least it looked that way.

I went down a long series of rickety, narrow metal stairs to a massive construction site under what used to be The World Trade Center, (or at least part of it). I was accompanying a print journalist from one of our client’s magazines. She was doing an article on a monster building project going on right under our noses – or at least right under the streets of lower Manhattan.

The site, once you got down there, was cavernous. It was as though we were in one of those deep gold mines in South Africa. Illuminated by arc lamps, giant digging machines, concrete pours, arc welding, re-rod, pneumatic drills… And all happening while the city progressed relatively unaware just over hour heads.

The reporter I was with is a writer with a well known print publication. Our client owns the publication, and our job is to transit the publication to online video. Having seen her at work, and the pure visual content that surrounded her, this is an exciting opportunity.

Her work is highly respected. Everywhere we went on the site, architects and engineers knew and praised what she and her magazine had done in the past. They were eager, perhaps even proud, to talk with her. And she has been a print reporter with that publication for ten years. She knows what she is doing.

One of the impacts of the Internet is that magazines, like the one she works for, are going to transition to the web. This has enormous ramifications – weeklies will become hourlies; content will sit on a server instead of paper and ink; reporters will be able to upload immediately from anywhere in the world… and so on.

And as the web goes to video, any magazine that moves to online (and they all will) must also have a video component.

That does not mean that the magazine will turn into a TV show. Far from it.

Rather, we are going to see the rise of a whole new kind of grammar for journalists – one that incorporates both print and video in the same place. What works well for print will be written – but where video can tell a story better – or show something that print can’t, then our digital journalist will use video. Stories online will be a rich tapestry of print, video, stills, audio, graphics and hyperlinks – all on the same page.

As I followed our intrepid reporter yesterday, she took notes on a pad with a pencil. Replace that pad and pencil with a small digital video camera – essentially a digital reporter’s notebook, and we now have an ability to a) record soundbites accurately as they happen (instead of madly scribbling away) and b) capture and communicate to the reader (viewser) exactly what she saw.

We can now take our reader/viewser into a story, in a way in which they have never been taken before.

When she returns to the office to write her story, she now works from the nonlinear digital visual notebook, (easy to navigate – and great for her as it is a perfect record of what she just experienced), and when appropriate, simply drags the video clips into the text.

The finished product …. a rich tapestry of print, video, sound…. the ‘printed page’ of the new Gutenberg Revolution. A vision of Hell Under Manhattan – and the future of journalism – all in one.

7 responses to “A Trip Into Hell

  1. i’m wondering if her camera/recorder was “rolling” the entire time as you walked down those “rickety, metal stairs” up to and including when you stepped foot off the site?

    it seems to me that you never know when news will be made…it’s not like you can plan it, right?

    just curious how these things are being approached.

  2. well since one does not write all the time why would one film all the time.? It only takes ‘one’ button to start rolling the camera and shoot what you need.
    A video journalist is not a cameraman. He is a journlist ‘with’ a camera and with a pencil and with a brain so he is not just posted ‘behind’ the cam but works ‘with’ the cam.

  3. michael.

    i think your ideas about vj’s are facinating. offering a real break from the status quo of television news. but why do you have a regular blog and not a video blog or (vlog)?

    also. is your program only for newspaper journalists? or on-air talent that don’t know how to pick up a camera or operate an editor? or do you teach fundamentals of journalism too?

  4. Hi Joe
    Vlog coming soon! (I am just wrapping my head around this, but I think that the amalgam of video, text, photo and hyperlink is probably the grammar of webtexting, so stand by).

    As for the bootcamps, they are open to anyone. We generally like to fill them with a cross-section of people – print, television and former techs from tv. I like the cross-fertilization in the groups. We teach fundamentals of journalism as well as technical stuff.

  5. ernest, then why wouldn’t you be “rolling” all the time?

    instead of looking to your vj as a journalist with a camera, why wouldn’t you look at them as an information gatherer?

    you can write whenever. and from an exact record…be it audio or visual.

    perhaps i’m missing something, but it seems that the shot of a lifetime might not wait for you or anyone to set up and hit that “one” button.

  6. I’m one of the editors from the same website/magazine as your reporter. Like Joe, I was surprised to hear that you would be shadowing one of my colleagues and not shooting any video! Of course, secretly I was hoping to snatch some footage to illustrate her story when it hits our website. We have a story on site now with video embedded…just a talking head…but it’s a start. I love to see the photo box come to life. We see the company CEO and then there he is talking to us. It reminds me of the paintings at Hogwarts Castle coming to life in Harry Potter.

  7. Hi Jan
    Our next step will be a video demo that we will be conducting with one of your sister publications next week. I expect you will be getting our full report, but I also expect that in the not too distant future, video will be a regularly and naturally intergrated aspect of any good digital journalism – and I have every hope and expectation that you and your group will be on the cutting edge of this new and exciting world.

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