The Morning After

Until you learned to read and write, this thing was utterly worthless….

In the past two weeks, we have trained 80 people as new videojournalists, plus the folks at McGraw Hill and the folks at the Star Ledger we worked with during these 14 days, and we’re at a grand total around 150, give or take a few.

That’s not a lot.

Not when you consider the magnitude of what we are trying to accomplish.

This is not about teaching people to make video.

This is a revolution in literacy.

Video Literacy.

We are, today, a society that is defined by video. It is, for better or for worse, the Lingua Franca of our culture. The average American spends 4.5 hours a day watching videos, either on TV or online. That number is primed to get much bigger as video migrates to the web. ‘

Video is the way that we, increasingly, communicate stories, news, information and even ideas to one another. It is powerful because it often transcends barriers of language and of culture. It is universal. It is powerful. It drives everything from politics to religion, and much in between.

Yet the vast majority of the population (on the order of 99.99 percent) is and remains largely video illiterate. That is, while they can watch video, they cannot create it. Thus they are cut off from participating in creating the very elements of our public discourse, as well as our entertainment. They are, in effect, second class citizens.

What is worse, is that we are all the poorer as a culture when we place this incredibly powerful medium in the hands of a select (or self-selected) few.

It is a crazy and terribly destructive thing to do.

So no, we are not teaching people a skill. We are teaching them to participate in the formation of our culture, instead of being simply passive observers.

The morning after the printing press was invented in 1452, there was almost no one in Europe who was literate. Literacy was then the purview of a tiny and elite fraction of the population. The great and vast majority of the world was incapable of reading and writing.

So while the printing press was a wonderful machine for democratizing learning and ideas, it had to go hand and hand with a rather rapid process of teaching people to read and write, and empowering them with the idea… the idea… that they could do this. That it was, in fact, both their right and their responsibility.

This transformation took several hundred years, and not an insignificant amount of blood was shed in its defense.

Today, we live in a world in which print literacy – the ability to read and write, is viewed as a fundamental unifying principle of our culture. We teach people to write in school, not in the hopes that they might one day earn a living as writers, but rather so that they might fully contribute to culture as a whole.

Now, as we move rather rapidly from a print based to culture to a video based culture, it is equally important that we teach people how to communicate their ideas in video. Not so that they might one day earn a living as cameramen (though they might), but rather so that they might craft their ideas in the medium in which we are all increasingly communicating.


9 responses to “The Morning After

  1. “This is not about teaching people to make video.”

    That’s your problem right there. Because they will be competing against people who do know how to make video. People who work as a team, evening out each others weaknesses to make something better than its parts.

    “So no, we are not teaching people a skill.”

    Of the 80 you have unleashed on the streets maybe 2 will get it. Another 3 or 4 will be OK and the rest will suck or take so long make a story it doesn’t matter.
    Management will look at the mess, the 6 or 7 that actually produce usable content and say “why don’t we just use them?”
    Congratulations you have just reinvented the camera department. So why not focus on training them at the start instead of wasting time and money on trying to change the world?

  2. “This is not about teaching people to make video.”

    I’m not with you on this Michael.

    Stephens right on this – to a certain point. Although I’m not a so called trained VJ, I am an experienced photojournalist. Being able to understand composition, correct exposure (not auto exposure – ie – manually set your exposure, use your zebra settings and know what they mean when selecting 70 or 100 setting), set your audio levels manually so that auto gain isn’t making a mess of your audio, etc. This should be a part of training these shooters – it doesn’t matter that it’s for the web – these skills should still be a part of a solovj’s training.

    Newspaper shooters already have the advantage of knowing how to find a story in their communities – they need the skills for shooting video properly – but not in the rigid dogma of broadcast video journalism.

  3. 4 out of 5 households in the US own video cameras. MR’s 99.99% illiteracy rate proves that less than 1 in 10,000 has found the record button. Either that or they can’t remove the lenscap.

    Surely the cameras should be sold with some sort of instruction manual?

  4. I stand corrected. Out of a global population of 7.5 billion, how many people do you think are actively and aggressively creating content in video? 700,000? That would give us our 99.99 percent video illiterate. 7 million (perhaps closer to reality?) That puts us at a mere 99.9 percent illiterate. No matter how you slice it we have a very long way to go.

  5. “Out of a global population of 7.5 billion, how many people do you think are actively and aggressively creating content in video?”

    How much of that 7.5billion still can’t read and write? That would be 21.4%…..556 years later….and of the other 78.6%…how many of those can read the text but suck at putting together a string of words that make sense….even as a hobby….now there’s a number I’d like to know.

    My point today…I think you hinted around to it….It’s actually a plus for the trained Video Proffessionals if the public is trained to understand video…even if it’s only a hobby.

    Watching Video is the reading…Shooting/Editing is the writing.

  6. Watching Video is the reading…Shooting/Editing is the writing.

    Well said on your analogy, Chris 🙂

  7. I was one of the 40 in D.C. At least for me, it was a “defining moment” kind of expereince. A jarring experience that forced me rethink how I communicate with my employees, how we communicate with our customers.

    Did I walk away looking at the world differently… yes. Am I now a seasoned pro? not by a long shot. Trust me, I’ll still work with my agency, still trust their creative and avoid the temptation to play expert crew member.

    But, my satisfaction level with my communication just took a big hit. I’m nowhere close to where I want to be – even when that communiction is limited to the corporate mainstay PowerPoint.

    So I produced two 1 minute videos – a poorly written/poorly narrated piece on a Thai restaurant and another on my interpretation of a local tattoo artist. Is that going to change the world? No. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with…

  8. crimzomblogger

    wow idc hahahahahah

  9. Pingback: Afisz: Drukarnia « szalat

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