Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid….

Courtesy, “Buck” at Thanks, Buck, for always including me in your tag line.

Our pals over at, the website for professional cameramen, have posted the above photo in response to a local Florida TV Station, Tampa Bay 10, starting to gin up the role of “Citizen Journalists’.

This kind of stuff scares the crap out of the old school guys, and they’ll come up with a million reasons why this is a bad idea. Of course, the number one reason is that it just brings the close of their careers one day closer. After all, if ‘anyone’ can create content for air, then what makes them so special? Good question.

Of course, in the world of print, almost all writers are ‘citizen journalists’. They don’t have to go out and hire scribes or even typists to crank out their ideas. They just sit down at the word processor and have at it. Computers and word processors were the death knell of ‘professional’ stenographers, typing pools and scribes. That’s what technology does. If you’re a scribe, the printing press was a bitch, but what are you gonna do.

Of course, just because you can pick up a camera and point it at something does not mean you can create great content. That’s a matter of storytelling talent. Some people have it, some don’t. At the Travel Channel Academy (and other places) we’re very much reaching out in to the community at large and trying to locate and nurture people with the talent to tell stories. It’s good to see that places like Tampa Bay 10 and The Travel Channel, among others, respect these people.

Oh, and as for the photo above. Well, in point of fact, this kind of ‘danger’ does not really happen. I remember many years ago, when I was at CBS News, we were required to have an IBEW Union ‘Engineer’ in the room with us when we screened UMatic tapes. The ‘engineer’s’ job was to put the tape in the deck and hit the play, stop or pause buttons. When I asked the ‘engineer’ why I could not do it myself, he replied that left on my own, I could ruin the tape. Yeah……

Below, some photos from Travel Channel Academy Texas this week. Don’t see too many people with tape wrapped around their heads, do you? Does not really happen….. Sorry for the former ‘engineers’.


41 responses to “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid….

  1. SSDD from the b-rollers…

  2. Come on Michael. Even you must admit $20 a story is a raw deal.

  3. I don’t disagree, and as soon as the excitement of the ‘new’ wears off, they’ll have to pay more. How much more is an interesting question, however.

  4. Pingback: video 2 zero » Video: from bespoke to off the shelf

  5. Michael,
    You are right about old-school guys finding ways to knock the concept of “citizen journalism.” Up until a couple weeks ago, I was one of those old-school guys who saw “citizen journalism” as a way for print publishers to get the public to provide content at no expense — kinda like asking someone to cook their own steak at the restaurant. Dumb.

    I was laid off by a newspaper a couple weeks ago. And it wasn’t until I took the Travel Channel Academy bootcamp in San Antonio that I saw the light: You guys are turning citizen journalism into something real and usable.

    You’re right: some folks will never have a gift for storytelling. But, hey, if they know how get great video and are in the right place at the right time, guess what, they’ll be damn good citizen journalists.

    Thanks for everything at the TCA bootcamp. Opened my eyes.

  6. Gary how will you survive at $20 a story?

  7. Gary and Cliff, both would be getting a $20 raise from what they are making now if they took the station up on this offer!

  8. ah…. those who live in glass houses should be very very careful.
    Having a very interesting meeting with a network you will know quite well next week. As my Aunt Betty used to say, ‘you never know what’s coming’.

  9. $ – don’t be such a Richard Cranium…

  10. $,

    ain’t that line of thinking getting hard to defend these days?

    you are watching even your own getting shown the door on a weekly basis due to budget cuts… even the top $ earners like yourself.

    like the title, pal.

  11. Great article; however, you missed another important and related point. Journalism these days, especially on television, is rapidly decreasing in quality for sake of creating an “interesting show”. It’s quite obvious to most intelligent people. A lot of stations these days don’t have a problem with adding their opinion and twisting facts to make an interesting story (e.g., the pregnant man). Less coverage of celebrities and more of the war, please. Combine that with the growing rate of commercial breaks, and I am tuning out. I talk about this quite a bit at Salon1. Thanks.

  12. Journalism these days, especially on television, is rapidly decreasing in quality for sake of creating an “interesting show”

    This is such an understatement – And who’s to blame? Basically the programming directors who allow this pablum for the masses to be broadcast in the first place.

    Of course to tell intellegent thought provoking content on the taditional corporate broadcast news media would endanger their viewership ratings with the sheeple of this country. Instead of having the courage to say “Get me some solid stories”, they instead opt for the low, easy road.

    And the programming heads wonder why their viewership is transitioning to the net for viewing content. It’s very simple – at least on the net – you have a choice. Traditional Corporate Broadcast dictates what you watch and when – appointment tv is dying – soon to be dead. Internet content distribution free viewers from BS programming – you watch what you want – when you want.

    Question to ask now is who’s willing to take the risk and produce content with substance – instead of superficial pablum for the sheeple masses?

  13. Cliff – your dire predictions re: the future of big media broadcast television may be premature. On-line television is growing, but so are sales of big plasma monitors. And trust me, the people shelling out big bucks for the HDTVs are not going to be happy watching Flash files. The companies that have the technical infrastructure to distribute very hi quality content will continue to do well if they are smart about their content. After all, haven’t you heard: content is king?

    I am much happier watching Discovery Channel’s beautiful new series about Ancient Egypt on my big TV than on-line. This is not to say that people aren’t watching vids on line. They are, but on average only 2 minutes at a time. This will no doubt change as on-line vid technical quality improves, but those big screens are still out there.

    In regard to the deterioration of quality, television is a business. $$$ drives programming decisions, so as long as there is an audience for any type of program, it will be presented. When people stop watching and the ratings go away, that genre of program disappears and is replaced by something new.

    In some areas of television production things are coming full circle. A casting director friend of mine was telling me that when she gets an assignment for “real people” the first place she lists are databases of actors, who then come in for the parts and are often cast. Granted, most of the actors have day jobs so they are technically “real people”, but if there was more dramatic and sitcom work, they would not be waiting tables and working on reality shows. So the “real people” are actually actors. Perhaps the Citizen Journalists or Video Journalists will soon be “real” journalists, too.

  14. Dear Steve
    You may find these statistics of interest, (courtesy, Jeff Jarvis,

    And then there’s TV. Comscore just said that Americans watched 12 billion videos in May, up 45 percent over last year. Say that again: 12 billion. It’s a mass medium, still: the mass of niches comes to life.

    Some more video stats: Google has a 35 percent marketshare. Fox is a very distant second with 6.4 percent. Huli debuts at 10th place with 0.7 percent, but I’ll bet it will rise quickly. More:

    * Nearly 142 million U.S. Internet users watched an average of 85 videos per viewer in May. Google sites also attracted the most viewers (83.8 million), who watched an average of 50 videos per person.
    * 74 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
    * The average online video viewer watched 228 minutes of video.
    * 82.2 million viewers watched 4.1 billion videos on (50.4 videos per viewer).
    * The duration of the average online video was 2.7 minutes.

  15. Steve – although I see your point, you’ve missed a crucial part of the equation of online content distribution – that of HD programming being viewed via high speed internet connections on HTPC’s connected to those big tv screens. Compression codecs are such now that mp4 encoded videos can be played either via qt or flash player. Add to that the ability to subscribe to ANY content online – not just what Appointment TV would dictate what the consumer watches.

    I just don’t buy the idea that broadcast is the end all. The stats are irrefutable – people are consuming video online in ways that heads of corporate broadcasting can only dream of.

    Don’t get me wrong, I too enjoy watching programming like Discovery Channel – its only one of a handful of stations I actually go out of my way to watch, but I find myself watching less and less mainstream cable programming. I can find alot of great content online – sure it’s not on big HD tv’s – not yet anyways.

    The constant go-to defense of “tv is a business” can only go so far from my POV. It’s the same weak excuse to justify the lack of quality programming that broadcast media is giving the viewer. And it’s the very reason why, if viewers want to watch stupid people tricks, they can find it online – for free. Give them a reason to see value in what is suppose to be the gold standard for broadcast programming – it’s not going to happen – too much corporate broadcast media constipation

    Online content distribution and consumption is set for the next phase – With free HTPC applications such as LinuxMCE and Mediaportal, the ability to consume multimedia content online is inevitable. They can burn said content to their hard drives and view it when they want – no matter if its video or audio. With issues of DRM, companies like Netflix allows you to subscribe and watch movies online – in real time – they understand the concept of immediate gratification – on the viewers terms, not the head of programmings.

    HTPC’s are a whole separate topic – but suffice it to say that this technology is becoming the center of online content distribution for households in the very near future.

    Add to that the continued refining of skills for solo vj’s and the improvement of solo vj content quality – the shoulder mount crowd has alot to be concerned about IMO.

  16. Cliff –

    I make my living in the television “business”. Saying that “tv is a business” is not some abstract defense of bad content. If I work on a program and it doesn’t rate it goes away and I have to find another program to work on. Making videos for the internet that people can watch for free will not pay my mortgage or feed my kids.

    Show me a business model where you can afford to produce quality long form content and make a living at it by distributing it on the web for free.

  17. Steve – no sense trying – you’ve already made your mind up.


  18. Cliff get a job

  19. MR wrote – “Of course, just because you can pick up a camera and point it at something does not mean you can create great content. That’s a matter of storytelling talent. Some people have it, some don’t. ”

    I’m glad you said it…because those are the skills that (alot, not all) proffessional cameramen (I prefer photojournalist) already have. We’re not just cameratoting, button pushing monkies. Well…I know a few.

    And Cliff, no matter if Steve has his mind made up…he has a point…what’s your business model. No trade secrets but do tell….are you making money?

  20. Chris
    Truer words were never spoke when it comes to the art of storytelling. The client, and the audience, is interested in the content and the story. If you can deliver that – and if you can deliver it fast, easy and great – you are home free, no matter what platform and no matter what the technology is…

  21. PG – weak excuse for a comeback.

    JOB – Just Over Broke…

    No Thanks – I prefer being a multifaceted entrepreneur – something that takes alot more skill and experience than just working a JOB.

    Chris – as part of what I do, yes – I’m making money.

  22. Cliff you insult me with your flip dismissal of my comments. My mind is not made up. I think you are the most close minded person here.

    I hire video crews for a wide range of projects. I try to use the appropriate crew and equipment configuration for the project. I’ve hire VJs (individuals with their own small camera packages who also edit) and I also hire guys who own varicams and have big grip trucks with HMI’s and kinoflo’s. It depends on the job.

    I agree with Rosenblum completely — it’s about the ability to tell a story. That is a cross platform skill and will work for you whatever budget level or distribution channel you decide to work to.

    If I understand correctly, you would have the entire industry go away, except for your little, and I mean very little, corner of it. My perspective is that there is room for everybody. I would like to see you and other VJ’s succeed, and the huge increase in video play on-line should speak to that. Except there’s still no working business model, and you certainly have not provided any input to that.

    So instead of flipping me off with a one word dismissal, how about answering the question?

    A while ago I suggested a business model that would work like ASCAP and BMI works for composers, but the performance rights society would be funded by the companies most directly benefiting from internet use — the ISP’s who we pay every month for access. I don’t know if you are familiar with how performance royalties work in the music world — if not, you should look it up.

    I’ve changed my business model to include the use of small camera/laptop editing configurations, but it’s not appropriate for everything, and never will be. Sometimes you have to shoot in real HD and finish your audio in a big ProTools studio – especially if you have to answer to network (especially cable network) QC.

    I encourage you to open your mind and join the larger production community. As an entrepreneur you may see some value in embracing the opportunity for better, higher paying work.

  23. At lest I come back not ignore anything that interrupts your fantasy world with cold reality.
    If you are getting paid work it could be time to update your CV then… Cliff, Oh master of nothing… except bullsh!t web sites.

    [quote] Experience and
    Videojournalism ● Currently developing self generated assignments and projects for
    ● Currently working with or developing smaller commercial video
    projects for clients including Light & Motion Industries and All Natural
    Pest Elimination.
    ● Have created various self assignments with specific deadlines to
    simulate real world scenarios for online video content distribution
    ● Experienced with NLE video editing in SONY Vegas Pro 8 and
    compressing video for the web. [/quote]

    Show us some work… real work… not you fantasy.

  24. Cliff,

    How’s life enjoying your jobless world as a VJ?

    Have you figured out yet why no one feels your work has enough value to pay you for it?

    Lots of wind coming from you with no economic substance to back it up.

    Good thing for you there are food stamps!

  25. $ & pencilgod – I’m sorry – did you say something that was important or relevent to the discussion at hand?

    I didn’t think so.

  26. No problem Cliff.

    The noise from the traffic going over the bridge you live under in poverty probably just made it difficult to hear the truth about those who think having a job is beneath them.

  27. $ – LOL 😀 – another weak attempt at a come back it seems.

    When someone resorts to hiding who they truly are and making derisive adolescent comments like this – it’s plainly evident why no one takes anything the detractors have to say with any amount of credibility.

    It’s clearly apparent you’re in stage 2

  28. I’m sorry Cliff, did you say something about you having a job shooting and editing video?


    Didn’t think so.

  29. Cliff just try thinking for yourself for a moment. How can anyone make a living on $20 a story? Is there a real world model where this is possible or are you some elitist snob who thinks camera work should only be done by people that don’t need to be paid for it?

    I’m not angry… just frustrated by your stupidity…

    I guess you do have a job, in a world where Michael is plundering the carcass of the fallen like a pirate, you are his parrot. What does that pay Cliff?

  30. pg – I never said anyone should sell out for $20.00 – that isn’t a wise business move. That’s where having business sense comes in – I know I wouldn’t work for $20.00.

    I’m not stupid either – I just see things differently.

    Calling me a parrot isn’t accurate either – you espouse the opposite of the solovj paradigm and do so as frequently as I do posting here – so the tables could be turned to say you’re a parrot for the detractors, b-rollers, etc.

    But I really don’t want to get into name calling – why is it none of you guys can take the high road and just have a civilized discussion?

    I’m not an elitist snob, I work hard for my pay from my clients. I have turned down work because the price someone was willing to pay wasn’t worth the time and energy. The issue I have is when the detractors come along with their brand of elitist snobbery and try to squash anyone trying to get their foot in the door because they don’t want to play it the way the detractors want.

    That very kind of response only pushes people like me harder to prove them wrong – I haven’t professed to be making a full time living from shooting video – I do other visual content creation for the web – and video is a part of that and is increasing as I market myself, but video is where I want to devote my full energies in the near future. Anyone who responds in a less than respectful and integrous way seems to me to have issues delving deeper than just their profession. Like $.

    $ – when are you going to grow up and respond in a civilized adult manner instead of another pathetic attempt at an adolescent come back – go back to your faux news J.O.B. and leave the forward thinking visual content creation to those willing to take the risk. Its apparent you have chosen not to.

    It’s apparent for all here that you don’t have the integrous personal character to show your true name and links to your work. That in itself speaks volumes. You’re like a little child who isn’t getting his way, throwing a temper tantrum with anyone who doesn’t agree with your narrow world view.

    So I’ll say it once again – put up or shut up.

  31. Put up what Cliff? Its not hard to find out who I am. Any real reporter would know in five min. I keep putting up links of my work and you don’t even comment.
    I’m a freelance cameraman who has been working in the industry for over 20 years. I work for a wide range of clients earning over $140 Thousand a year. Most of its repeat business.
    I’ve worked in newsrooms all over the world. I’ve even worked some time as an OMB… what a VJ was before Michael invented it.
    I don’t hate VJ’s just some of the over the OTT rhetoric that seems to support what is a very minor part of the bottom of the industry.
    The facts are Cliff the ‘all VJ’ model doesn’t work. I don’t base that on the invention of the printing press or even what Napoleon did back when.
    I base it on my experience and the fact that it has been a disaster everywhere it’s been tried in TV for the last 10 years… maybe it will work for newspapers but shrill ‘We’re kicking ass’ followed by poor video is not very convincing.
    Not many people can shoot edit and report as a total package… there are some but they don’t need Michael, they are already better than he will ever be.
    Video is my job and I’m very, very good at it. I like working with others who are very good at their jobs too. I like being a team player getting a product that sings all it’s parts in harmony.
    There are lots of news stations out there that suck and rather than drag the whole industry down to their level by going VJ, I wish we were building it up, not wasting energy on a failed model in the hope that this time it might work.

  32. Rose

    I agree with the sense of your initial claim that broadcast types are scared s-less about video journalists / citizen journalists. Let’s face it, any nitwit can pick up a camera and point it at a face or a head and get some video. It just ain’t that hard.

    However, if anybody attending the Travel Channel Academy thinks he/she can make money at documenting a story of public interest, they’re in for a disappointment. The name of the game here is exploitation. Take a bunch of suckers, tell them they’re important, tell them they are special, pay them a pittance – wait a minute, isn’t that what they do already at newspapers and television stations?

    One thing I want to reinforce to everyone reading this post: Your time is valuable. Whether you’re a CJ, a VJ, a videographer, a journalist or a blogger, you deserve to be paid for your time.

    And that is never going to happen as long as you work in broadcasting or journalism. Get out while the getting is good. Do it for yourself, do it for your family. It might take re-education, but it’ll pay off. Something you can never say for media work.


  33. JS said:

    Your time is valuable… you deserve to be paid for your time.

    Accurate assessment JS. Having taken small business courses helps in this area – know when to accept or reject a project based upon what the job is worth from a purely financial basis.

    The way the shifts are occurring in the profession, those who specialized in only one area – shooting for example – are beginning to feel the anxiety around a lack of a sense of security for their jobs. Not a great feeling.

    Freelancing does have certain advantages, but again, only having one skill set isn’t a great place to be these days. I’ve discovered skill diversification to encompass not only shooting, but understanding & working with audio, editing (and not just on a MAC – many news orgs are PC based), finding stories, web design (and several of the technologies involved in this area) will provide a greater sense of security around working as a visual content creator.

    Becoming a tech geek is going to help with understanding such things as content distribution opportunities via the net – again, another skill not typically associated with how shooters have done their work in the past.

    I’m not about to say that ANYONE can create compelling content – Sure they can create content – but what about the artistic/technical skills?

    There needs to be a base understanding of not only finding, shooting and editing a compelling story – but also such things as how to use WB, zebra stripes, proper audio settings, etc – those technical aspects in turn make shooting content less intimidating – especially when going to post.

    From what I’ve seen up to this point, Michael has done a good job of training newspaper shooters to make the transition over to video and it’s only going to get better. The web isn’t broadcast and broadcast isn’t the web – yet there seems to be this resistance to the idea of both existing – each providing a venue for content.

    How that fully pans out has yet to be seen.

  34. Cliff says “pg – I never said anyone should sell out for $20.00 – that isn’t a wise business move. That’s where having business sense comes in – I know I wouldn’t work for $20.00.”

    You work for free Cliff.

    You covered the Obama event in Oregon for free and then handed off to Huffington to use as they please!

    Twenty bucks would have been a raise for you Cliff but they didn’t even need to give you that to have you spend your time and money to cover FOR FREE!

    Your business sense is non existent and your claims above are proven wrong by your actions.

    You have no job as a VJ anywhere!

    Why is that Cliff?

    Why won’t anyone hire you if you know so much about how to do this with all of your “business sense”?

  35. $ – you’re clueless about what I do and definitely lacking in some part of your life – get over yourself.

  36. Stephen – the comment about put up or shut up wasn’t directed towards you – it was directed at the Village Idiot known as $.

    Sorry for the miscommunication on my part regarding that last statement 🙂

  37. Are you a working VJ Cliff?


    Didn’t think so.

  38. $ – Your comments are comical.

    Grow up.

  39. Comical?

    Yes, but unlike yours, factual as well!

  40. $ – whatever you want to believe.

  41. Pingback: shooting by numbers » Online Video Videojournalism » Video: from bespoke to off-the-peg

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