Vermont in the News

Marselis Parsons, News Director and Anchor for WCAX TV. Can we talk?

Labor Day in Vermont is tough.

Rather than fly back to NY, we spent the day at the Champlaign State Fair, just outside of Burlington,

Besides the rides, the fudge, the funnel cakes.. not to mention the world’s biggest horse ($1 to see it – I passed), the award winning sheep…. there was the booth from WCAX TV, the CBS affiliate in Burlington, Vt.

Now, to be fair, I have only watched WCAX online, and their website is pretty much a crowded and turgid as most other local news websites.  But I did get a chance to pitch some rather novel concepts in newsgathering to ND Marselis Parsons (pictured above).  He seemed to listen intently, but he didn’t say much.  I would say he was, in fact, rather wooden.

I was trying to sell him on the VJ concept for his station.

What motivated me was watching his crew at work at the Fair.

Here’s a shot:

Here, reporter Jack Thurston gets a ‘man on the street’ soundbite about the fair.

Now, Jack graduated from Middlebury in in 2002. Middlebury is a very good school, so Jack is no dope.

Jack should also be about 27 years old now – young enough to carry his own small camera.

Jack also won an Edward R. Murrow award in 2007 for ‘Best news features’ for small stations in New England. Like I said, Jack is no dope.

Now Jack produced a very nice piece. A feature piece, to be sure, but aren’t we always saying that the VJ model works great for feature pieces?  Here’s the story, and to be honest, quite nice for a small station in Vermont:

(they don’t have embed)

Come on Marselis. You’ve got 17 reporters on the payroll. You’ve got a talented staff.

I bet you don’t have 17 camera crews – or 17 edit suites. But you should….

Gimme a call.


19 responses to “Vermont in the News

  1. I love it! You were in my neck of the woods!!??!

    How perfect that you went to the fair. Did you
    have a maple creamee or our famous maple cotton candy? This year I ate 3 creamees, 2 bags of CC and a couple of funnel cakes. Yum.

    Here at Seven Days, VT’s alt weekly, we did not one but two VJ vids about the fair:

    Metal band Amadis at the fair
    Alice in Wonderland (this video was shot with the Flip Mino)

    You would have been proud of me walking around with my camera on a stick. A camera crew – who needs ’em!?

    I give Seven Days lots of credit for hiring a full-time videographer (me), video correspondents and eliciting video from their staff. With a circ of 30,000, this is an impressive commitment to video.

    I agree that the folks at WCAX could be shooting/editing their own videos and I suspect Jack’s would be fabulous. Change comes slow in this neck of the woods but who knows, maybe Marselis will call you one of these days?!


  2. Eva you badly shot stuff would be the reason camera crews are needed.

  3. cameragod said:

    Eva you badly shot stuff would be the reason camera crews are needed.

    that is according to you cameragod (moniker w/o link is questionable) – and yet she is being paid to do what she does.

    Seems to me, that viewers appreciate her style of shooting – so where does that leave the identity of the moniker – cameragod – and those professional skillz? Not everyone believes as the detractors do, that’s what makes the world an interesting place. Was her content at times difficult to watch? For me it was, but the world doesn’t revolve around a single viewer – if the viewers for the site she shoots for provide revenue to the publishers via advertising, then they are serving their customers. That’s the business model.

    Entrenched archaic rules are meant to be tested and broken – thinking outside the box??? Heaven forbid anyone would find a way to make a living shooting video without a shoulder mount beta or xdcam.

  4. Sorry to confuse you Cliff. I’ve been using cameragod as a sign in on other sites for over ten years now, I only changed to pencilgod on this site as a joke with Michael… ‘think of the camera as a pencil’ and because I was loging in from a different computer I forgot and did cameragod. So it’s just me… don’t know who $ is, not even sure where the $ with the extra line in it they use on the keyboard.

    As for Eva’s stuff, I just hate seeing things done half assed. To take just one thing. Look at how she uses the Dutch tilt. It’s a valuable tool. You can use it to give inanimate objects a personality i.e. set up right you can give a building ‘looking room’ to give it an open feel or you can tilt the other way to make it more menacing like its looming over you. You are telling a story with the tilt. In an iv it can give the talent more gravitas or it can be used to challenge the viewer to look at someone a new way.

    Now look how she used it. First she doesn’t commit to the tilt. It’s not a statement more of a question. Some of the shots look like she just got tired of holding the camera straight.
    She’s not using it as a story telling tool more a case of chuck it in and hope it helps make the story funky. It’s like a 6 year old putting punctuation in randomly hopping to get it right but missing every time.

    I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying learn how to do it properly and use it appropriately.
    Before you can think outside the box you need to know where the box is.

  5. Good Points Stephen 🙂

  6. Thanks Cliff and pencilgod for your valuable critical feedback. I didn’t go to school for this, I am learning as I go – so feedback is always helpful.

    I used the Dutch tilt accidentally but thanks for the lesson. I found shooting 5 people while walking around a fair pretty tough. Maneuvering the mono pod to capture my subjects (who were all talking simultaneously) sometimes resulted in a tilt.

    I put out 1-2 videos per week with over 20 hours of editing/video. I realize my shooting skills could be better but my main focus is on my subjects – making them comfortable and finding that essential, honest storyline.

    The response to my weekly arts & culture “Stuck in VT” videos has been really positive. My goal is to give people a platform they might not have ordinarily and to do something quite different from the nightly news. To that end, it is a success and continues to grow and improve over time.

    It is raw, it is DIY, but it is also very Vermont and I love my job.

    Thanks for your time.

  7. Interesting feedback, Eva. As your editor, I’ll be looking for improvement in your use of the Dutch tilt.

    Thanks, pencilgod. Looks like you’re a whiz with the camera. But perhaps not so much with the pencil, or its electronic equivalent:

    “It’s like a 6 year old putting punctuation in randomly hopping to get it right but missing every time.”

    I think you mean “hoping.”

  8. eva's biggest fan

    ooh, you make me so angry pencil/camera/mean god.

  9. Pencilgod: I’m afraid your argument would have been better served if you marked up your penciled text with some red ink. I just hate seeing blogging done half assed. For instance, take a look at your use of the words “its” and “it’s.” These words are valuable tools. The first shows possession, the second is a contraction. Now look at how you used it. First, you use “it’s” correctly (“It’s a valuable tool.”) but then you quickly follow that up with incorrect usage (“like its looming over you.”).

    Next, the strength found within your bold statement “It’s like a 6 year old putting punctuation in randomly hopping to get it right but missing every time” was quickly lost on me at the realization that you were essentially describing your own skills with punctuation (and, as Cathy pointed out, spelling). For instance, your first sentence, which addresses someone, needs a comma between “you” and “Cliff.” It’s also worth mentioning your incomplete sentences (“To take just one thing.”), which left me wondering where exactly we were taking something and what exactly we were taking. Considering it’s a popular trend in society, I won’t even mention your inexplicable use of ellipses when em dashes would have been more appropriate. Most importantly, though, the number of appropriate commas you left out, combined with the number of inappropriate uses of the comma, leads me to believe that you’re afraid of the comma.

    I’m not saying your errors are a bad thing. I’m saying learn how to write properly and appropriately.

    Before you can effectively criticize someone else, you need to critique yourself.

  10. I am not a film expert. But I know Eva and her career fairly well. I know that the response to her videos from her subjects is always great – they tell her again and again how well she captured their essence, their story. And the viewers, well, Vermont loves Eva and eats up her videos. To get that kind of effusive high praise from so many people, so consistently for as long as she has been doing this is impressive to say the least. I don’t think anyone gets the impression of apathy and half-assedness that you seem to perceive.

    What makes an artist? Technical skill? Innate talent? Passion? I think we all know that it is a combination of those elements that varies a great deal between individuals. Are abstract expressionist painters doing things “half assed”? Or experimental composers like John Cage? Some of the greatest artists human culture has ever known have had zero training, others went to technical schools up through the PhD level. There is no single correct way to do it. What matters is the final product and whether or not it resonates. And Eva resonates big time.

    So… up with random hopping!

  11. Ok first I’m dyslexic. I do what I can but I wouldn’t get a job as a copy editor.
    Second, I understand Eva’s passion about what she does but how much better would it be if she had a professional cameraman working with her?
    I’m sorry if I seemed to be picking on her but I was just answering her statement ‘a camera crew – who needs them!?’ when she obviously would benefit from one.
    Why do you guys who apparently support her want to limit her? Why stand in the way of her doing better work?

  12. There’s no such thing as “accidently” using a Dutch Tilt.

  13. Sorry, pencilgod, but dyslexia isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to being nasty. Feedback is always great, but calling someone’s work “half assed” is counter-productive, rude, and, in this case, completely overlooks the blood, sweat, and tears that Eva pours into her work on a daily basis.

  14. pencilgod, none of us want to limit her. I think that one part of this you don’t understand is financial restraints. Eva does not have access to a camera crew, or money for a camera crew. SevenDays is a small, independent print weekly with no money for or access to studios, extra film staff, fancy editing equipment/software, endless continuing education, etc.. Eva does what she does every week with little money, zero personal assistance, and very little time. She is the location manager, talent scout, interview wrangler, scheduling secretary, camera crew, on screen talent, editor, driver, everything for every video of hers you see.

    I think a lot of people would appreciate Eva more and criticize less if they realized just how meager her resources are. But being a bright, humble, enthusiastic creature, she doesn’t harp and complain incessantly about her circumstances the way some might be inclined. Maybe she should list her total budget, resources available, and time constraint alongside every video? Or record a commentary track!

  15. Every year I donate about $40,000 of my time and equipment hire to low/no budget projects as well as pro bono work (Cancer Society, SPCA etc.)
    I don’t say ‘well it’s freebee so it doesn’t matter if it looks a bit clunky.’
    The viewers don’t know what budget there was. They have no idea how tough something is to make. All they see is the finished product and in Eva’s case it’s a bit ruff.
    Does it matter? Is her content good enough to carry the viewer over the flaws?
    That’s up to the viewer but Bungalow Benchly why should I put up with someone saying my job is pointless and unnecessary when they don’t even know the basics of what I do? Isn’t that counter-productive, rude, and, in this case, completely overlooks the blood, sweat, and tears that I pour into my work on a daily basis.

  16. Well, I think that might bring us to the heart of this debate. As is so often the case with casual writing, miscommunication can occur due to the absence of speaking tone. When Eva wrote “A camera crew – who needs ‘em!?”, it was mainly self-directed deprecation, not externally-directed derision. And any small portion of venom that might exist in the exclamation/question is aimed at bland, cookie-cutter news directors – not at people like you who know and love their craft.

    I know that she didn’t mean to dismiss the importance of camera crews and camera men and women and all of their dedication, skill, and knowledge. I know she didn’t. She’s always excited and eager to learn from her more technically knowledgeable peers – far, far, far from finding any aspect of their work pointless or unnecessary. In fact, despite years of the more polished echelons being haughtily critical and dismissive of her work, she still regards them with admiration and esteem.

    I really think she was just poking fun at the image of herself all dusty and sweaty, trying to walk and talk and lug her camera around the fair!

  17. bland, cookie-cutter news directors… now there I have no argument 🙂

    I want to apologize to Eva. I do understand for the budget and facilities at her disposal she does the best she can.
    She didn’t ask for a critique of her work and this is a site dedicated to cheer leading VJ so she probably didn’t expect any negatives from lurking camera people.
    I hope I haven’t dampened her enthusiasm for what she obviously enjoys doing and wish her all the best doing it.
    Just don’t stop learning and keep safe out there.

  18. Bungalow –

    “I’m afraid your argument would have been better served if you marked up your penciled text with some red ink.”

    oh dear!

    either change “would have been” to “would be” or insert “had” before “marked up”.

    supercilious jerk?


    surely not

    pip pip

  19. Eva just had a look a some more of your stuff. I won’t comment on it here as that isn’t really fair on you but if you would like to talk about ways of improving your shooting email me.

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