The Power that TV News Could Be

Television is the world’s most plastic medium.

It is about manipulating pictures, sound, writing, graphics, storytelling, music…

When we marry that power to news, it could be unbelievable.

It has such enormous potential to move us on so many levels that each time we look at it, it should just capture us.

Instead, what do we do? Stand ups? People eating bugs. Guess Who’s Coming to Decorate. What a tragic waste.

A great deal of the banality of television was inherent in the technology. When cameras were big and heavy and bulky there was a natural disincliation to use them creatively. We were content to perch them on a tripod and roll tape. The result: static.

Think about photojournalism.

In the early days of photojournalism, still cameras were also big and bulky and expensive and complicated to use. Images were shot on 8×10 silver haloid coated glass plates. The technical quality of the images was quite good, but the gear was so heavy and bulky; the exposure times so long that subjects had to stay rock solid while their pictures were taken.

You can see the results in any museum and in many attics. Subjects rigid and stiff in their best suits, staring into the camera.

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Abraham Linclon by Matthew Brady

In the 1930s, the Leica company invented a small, hand held still camera that used plastic roll film instead of plates. The images were so much smaller at 35mm. Indeed, to the professional photographers of the age, it must have seemed pretty much of a toy. Yet the Leica unleashed an entirely new age of photojournalism.

Because it was small and intimate and easy to use, it allowed a whole new generation of photojournalists, including women, to work in an entirely new way.

Their work gave rise to a whole new kind of photojournalism – one which was intimate, immediate yet incredibly powerful. By 1961, with Edward Steichen’s Family of Man exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, photojournalism had become an art form.

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Sudanese Refugees by Sabastao Salgado

Television news cameras are big, bulky and expensive.

The product we shoot with them looks like those stiff photos from the 1880s. Brian Williams sits stiff, formal, in an expensive suit, overly lit staring into the camera – much like my great grandfather, photographed in Hungary in 1889.

Small, hand held digital video cameras have the potential to do for television journalism what Leicas did for photo journalism – create a very different looking product – one that is more intimate, more immediate and much more powerful.

if we have the courage to change……

We could, of course, continue to use these small cameras to replicate what we do already.

We could also mount a leica on a tripod and take a very stiff formal photograph.

But that would be a waste of vast potential…..

One response to “The Power that TV News Could Be

  1. Pingback: Using handheld digital video cameras to shoot television news — earleyedition.com

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