Much hysteria on the blogosphere of late as first WUSA in Washington, DC and then yesterday KPIX in San Francisco announce that they are going VJ.

The quality! The quality!

The quality will suffer!!!

Viewers will leave in droves because without a professional cameraman, the quality will deteriorate.

As if this were a given.


I have spent a good deal of time this week screening the finalists for the Concentra Prize for Videojournalism.  $15,000 to the winner, and a breaking news winner as well.

We had several hundred entries from all over the world.

Now we are down to the final 50 or so, and I am still screening.

Above, one of the local entries, from John Munson from the Newark Star Ledger. Munson was a still photographer who picked up a video camera.

Take a look.

Do you really think the quality has suffered?

Does this look like Youtube?

Does this look like he really would benefit from having a camerman accompany him? How about a reporter?

The day of the two man team is rapidlly drawing to a close.

But ‘quality’ does not seem to be suffering too much from what I can see.

in fact, as with the coming of the Leica and 35mm film to photojournalism, I think we are in fact at the beginning of a much more interesting period for television and video journalism.

9 responses to “Quality?

  1. You are right….Quality is not dependent on how many people work on a visual story. The best photojournalism is shot by one photojournalist. The viewer does not know or care about who is behind the story. They see quality in the content, the craft, the commitment and the creativity. Provide those things. It doesn’t matter how.

    Once a talented person becomes proficient with a video camera, they certainly can produce outstanding, high quality, compelling videojournalism.

    One person’s vision and focus can be sufficient, and sometimes more intense and rewarding. This is contingent: The person must be skilled in the craft areas: shooting, editing, writing, producing. They must be skilled in technical requirements. And they must have talent to make a story interesting, visually and creatively. Talent separates great from average.

    The big difference in this debate, I think, lies between the definition and understanding of “videojournalism” and “television production.”

    TV News is – dare I say – 90 percent “production.” Cliched, cookie cutter, parody ridden production work. It is not video journalism. TV news is live trucks, graphics, talking heads, staged interviews, reporter involvement, teases, standups, press conferences, phoners, staged events. It is simple treatment of content. Run and gun, get it done, live live live. For this type of work, two person crews can “get it done” probably faster and with more quality than a one person VJ. That’s a generalization of course. Two people can work on different things during spot news events for instance and get LIVE on television faster and better usually.

    I look at the two approaches (VJ and TV Production) as separate and not equal.

    When it comes to video journalism, pure visual storytelling, I agree 100 percent that one person can do high quality. I know because it’s been my interest and passion for decades.

    But I also know that the daily TV news business is a different animal and requires more than video/journalism. The end product of a TV Newscast is (unfortunately) usually not video journalism. It is production.

    The debate continues. Which approach is better? Which approach is faster? Which approach produces higher quality? And its becoming more than just a debate… its becoming a battle…. or competition to the death economically perhaps. So it is important.

    I love video journalism, welcome anyone doing it or wanting to learn to do it well. I am a video journalist, and think video journalism is the closest thing to reality that exists. Done well, it has great impact and value.

    The debate continues in TV newsrooms….
    Do viewers want TV news production more than they want to watch video journalism? Certainly, most TV news managers think TV production is what viewers want to watch. And then they ask… is it more efficient to use two people to pump out the daily product, or one person. Again… the important question to ask is, what is the end product you are producing, what do viewers want to watch, and how can it be produced the most efficiently.

    I have always liked both. Have both at your disposal for different situations. I prefer great video journalism, however, hands down. I think viewers appreciate it too.

  2. Hi Michael

    My take it’s going cinematic [need a new word for it]. At least a group of Vjs using greater DOF, wider viewing windows [I’m playing with 950X400] , free framing, etc – all within the swift turn around time frame. Just come back from Mainz and will be Wemedia and SXSW showing some recent stuff.

    p.s Germany’s just found itself a Dan Rowland – v. original

  3. Hi David
    Always good to hear from you.
    Hope you are going to pay us a visit at DNA2009 in Brussels. I got to get to Mainz next year.

  4. David said:My take it’s going cinematic[need a new word for it]Cinevj’ism???

  5. Damn eb, I made the mistake of reading your post before rushing off on a 4 hour car drive and ended up thinking about what you said the whole way.
    Good post.
    I think it brings home to my why VJ does suck. In news I’m one of the guy’s who has to get something/anything on air at a quality I can live with… as a team, even with a few week links, we do work so much better with a lot less stress than one poor fool.
    News never ends, it is a continuous progression of deadlines, a marathon in which no single runner is ever going to beat a relay team to the finish.

  6. Hi Michael

    Hope so, who’s coordinating? Already signed up for SXSW, so hope it won’t clash.

    Was a juror this year for the UK’s Royal Television Society (RTS) Innovative News. Some very interesting things emerging from traditional broadcasters and the new ones.

    And at ZDF, Vj sits alongside traditional News making. Very much I reckon what the BBC was seeking in its local news model.

    I’m at Wemedia week after next in Miami for the game changer debates – if you’re there, catch a drink or something.


  7. Pencil God,

    That is true.

    Yet, it’s not a race, per se.

    Two men, or crews will definately win the race when their race is being run.

    But individually, I think I made it quite clear, that the single VJ is perfectly able to produce high quality journalism. There is nothing stopping them. IF and only if the race they are running is the one they win. 😉

    The point is: Do what ever it takes to win the race you are running in. The question is exactly that.

    What’s the race? What do viewers want to watch?

    The race is called Programming.

    Create a very strong program with video journalism, and see if it succeeds.

    Who has done that? Yet?

  8. eb, do you know what its like working day by day fighting with a stupid little camera, having to work harder and smarter just to get close to some guy who is not even trying with a real camera? Its like trying to compete against that relay team and having someone break your leg before you start.
    And all the time you can’t help but think about what you could have done if you had the right tools and the team… I’ve done that and its heartbreaking if you care in any way about the product.

  9. whoah this blog is wonderful i like studying your
    articles. Keep up the good work! You know, many persons are searching around for this information, you can aid them greatly.

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