Video Journalism & The NY Times

This morning I met with Nick Kristof and Naka Nathaniel at The New York Times.

Kristof and Nathaniel have been very aggressive in trying to use video in their reporting for The Times. You can see the best of their work at the NY Times site. (I particularly recommend ‘Between Love and Death‘, but there are a lot of very powerful pieces). I have posted one from ‘youtube’, but there are many, many more to see.

Kristof is a journalist and columnist for The Times.

Nathaniel has been with The Times for almost a dozen years. He started on the website, NYTimes. com and has been at the paper ever since. Nathaniel carries the video camera (he uses a Sony PD150), and edits on FCP.

(Full Disclosure: I was the founder and first pres of NY Times TV. We tried to introduce small cameras and edits into The Times. Kristof and Nathaniel have pulled it off brilliantly).

Kristof and Nathaniel are in a unique position to develop a new kind of ‘digital journalism’, a story telling that carries the impact of video, but is about really important issues.

I met them when I wrote to Kristof, after screening a few of his pieces from Darfur.

It was refreshing to see video work that was not ‘mentos and coke bottles’.

I wrote and said that I thought it was possible to create video that could be a powerful as his writing. Their access to people and stories is unique. Their platform, NYTimes. come, is widely read. And The Times is paying them and backing them… and they have access.

The opportunity is there.

The question is if they… or anyone.. can now transcend simply reproducing conventional TV for online use (gramatically at least) and start using video and digital technologies as a primary recording and story-telling tool. To take the viewer into the story as opposed to just reporting it.

And to see if it can be done about stories that really matter.

Television news rarely deals in ‘significant’ issues. This is for a number of reasons – first, it is extremely expensive to commit to send a full ‘crew’ to place like Darfur. Second, real reporting (the kind of reporting that Kristof does regularly for The New York Times) takes time on the ground. It is fine (I suppose) to send Katie Couric to Iraq for the photo-ops, but at $14 million a year, no one is going to release Katie to ‘go wander around and find a story – or spend days working a source to get it right). It’s just too expensive – particularly with the crew, producer and make-up person in tow.

(If you want to see a stunning example of time spent = great reporting, look at the video of the woman in Africa in need of an operation. Kristof and Nathaniel find her in a flea-bitten hospital, donate their own blood to help her, and then spend the night at the hospital and the next day to follow the tragic story. )

The upshot is that television, for all its impact, cannot afford to commit to doing ‘real’ on the ground journalism in far away place (or often in nearby ones, either).

Remove real reporting from the TV fare for a 30 odd years, and you create a generation that is just not educated in foreign affairs, nor used to seeing it on TV… or in their lives at all. That is why what Kristof and Nathaniel are doing is so very important.

(It’s on days like this that I wish I were still at The Times).

5 responses to “Video Journalism & The NY Times

  1. I’m on a “that’s too long” kick today, so maybe I’m being insensitive. But to me, the Carter story is “too long.”

    I think it would have been really energetic at 3 minutes.

    Is this a problem because “The Man” said “I need 7 minutes, so come back with 7 minutes…”

    The friendly amateur Jim, who is looking only to hone his own skills.

  2. Video journalists need to find content that will interest an audience.

    Once viewers are watching, the goal is to keep them interested so they won’t turn away. That is where craft and creativity play a part.

    If you have 7 minutes worth of interesting video, great. If you don’t then edit it down. Knowing how to do this takes experience, practice, talent and skills.

    I did not watch the video, so this is not a critique.

  3. You are not being insensitive Jim, its way too long. Running time doesn’t really matter if you have something good to show but that piece was a poor excuse for journalism, a dramatic piece shot to hell. I would expect much better from the NYT. First it was repetitive; the reporters said the same thing that Carter said and the former president was much more effective. The reporter mentioned the medicine man and the clinic, well? SHOW IT DON’T SAY IT, this is not print, if you are going to make video then make it visual. You are supposed to be a professional journalist, no excuses, go and get the material, interview the doctors, show the medical facilities or the lack of medical facility. You are not going to raise awareness by talking; you have a camera in your hand, it’s a powerful tool, put it to work. Then there’s the monotone voice of an untrained narrator, one who doesn’t know how to create drama or emphasize with his voice the severity of the situation. What a shame, they went that far and what a waste. They use video to write their report.

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