Category Archives: Newark Star Ledger

Quality?

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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.

Nonsense.

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.

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The New Star Ledger

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Star Ledger VJ Andre Malok’s tour de force.

Take a look at the quality of the reporting, the shooting, the editing.

The whole package.

The Newark Star Ledger is recreating itself as a digital content provider.

It’s the model for the newspaper of the 21st Century.

Could this be the future for newspapers across the country?

It’s a hell of a start.

Here’s the link to the paper’s part of the story. Print story by Amy Ellis Nutt.

News from Newark

A shy New Jersey chiaropractor suffers a stroke on a golf course, and his life is suddenly transformed. He can’t stop making art.

We were out in Newark this week at a mass meeting to talk about new directions for the paper. As the largest newspaper in New Jersey, and as New Jersey is the only state in the US without a major network TV news operation, we think the potenial here is limitless.

Contrary to popular rumor, the paper is not going out of business. It has shed a great deal of its costs however, and is now lean and mean and ready to embrace a new digital and video future.

The promo above is but a tease for a video/print special release this weekend.

This isn’t dodgy hand-held video. And it’s great reporting as well.

We think it’s a preview, not just for the weekend, but for the future of online journalism as well.. and newspapers.

The One Percent Solution

Time is money….

Yesterday’s posting of the Star Ledger desert murder piece caused a lot of interest and a lot of discussion.

As I noted, I don’t think the piece is perfect. Far from it. I sent extensive notes over to the paper on ways in which they could have done it better. That having been said, the piece is very interesting because a New Jersey paper was willing to tackle a complex and difficult story some 3,000 miles away, and do a pretty good job of it, in video.

And this was not your standard 1-2 minute online video job.  It was a 13-minute investigative story.

Well done.

It was just the kind of story that 60-Minutes would tackle.

And in some ways, it was the way they would do the story – sans Mike Wallace, and admittedly better shot and cut.

However…..

60 Minutes would have spent, all in, about $250,000 to produce their own 8-minute version of the story.

That’s including salaries for their hightly over paid correspondents; their camera crews, their editors, their hotel bills, their meals, their researcher and so on.

The Star Ledger, (and here I am only guessing) probably spent about $2500 to make this piece.

One percent of the cost that CBS News would have spent.

One percent.

Now, some of our professional TV friends looked at this and said “weak”.

Fine.

I am sure Steven Spielberg looks at 60 Minutes stories and says “weak”.

Because for $25 million , Speilberg can make an 8 minute piece that puts 60 Minutes and their professionals to shame.

So we are on a spectrum. A cost/benefit scale.  Is the Star Ledger piece pretty good for $2500? I think so.

I think it’s a damned good start… and especially at those prices.  Will it eclipse 60 Minutes? I doubt it. Will it find an audience that appreciates it? I think so.

A Mystery in the Desert

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The Star Ledger is very much alive.

Having resolved their union issues, the paper is back in business, and fortunately the video project is remaining a main focus.

Above, a 13-minute documentary on the disappearance of New Jersey woman in Nevada.

Produced by Star Ledger VJ John Munson working with reporter Kathleen O’Brien, it’s a very powerful piece of work.  Take a look. It’s not perfect… yet, but it is a great indicator of the enormous potential to be found in newspapers that have the courage and foresight to empower and unleash their staffs.

Great job all around!

Star Ledger Lives!

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The Star Ledger, New Jersey’s biggest newspaper seemed, for a while, to be in trouble.

All newspapers are in trouble today, but parent Conde Nast was threatening to sell the paper unless the unions took a number of concessions and some staffers took buy-outs.

It’s ugly, but The Star Ledger is hardly alone. The NY Times just laid off 100 journalists from its newsroom- the first time in it’s 150 year history.

Now, it seems that The Star Ledger is going to survive.

Meanwhile, Ledger Live, our online daily video webcast is looking better and better.

This Just In…

Here’s the headline: End Of Discussion!

Yesterday, our regular reader from Fox wrote to me:

The day that paper, or any other in the country, covers the headline story of the day, every day, with a video version, is the day your empty claims will have validity.

So far you, than they, are batting zero.

Ironically, on the same day, I received emails from John O’Boyle, a videojournalist at The Star Ledger and Seth Siditsky, who is running the video project there. They both wanted to inform me of the paper’s video coverage of the paper’s front page story for the day – the sentencing of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James.

Writes O’Boyle:

Thought you might be interested in this.
This week former Newark mayor Sharpe James was sentenced to prison for
political corruption.
All the tv stations were at the courthouse, most with 2 cameras.
But only two stations had any video on the web and that was just the
recycled 5pm newscast report.
Our video reports started being posted at around 11:30am with “raw” video of
the defendants and the prosecution walking in the courthouse. (notice the 4
camera angles of Sharpe James entering)

Here’s a summary of what was available on the web:

Channel 4 – no video
Channel 7 – 5 o’clock news report
Channel 2 – 5 o’clock news report
Channel 5 – no video
Channel 9 – no video
News 12 – must be a Comcast or Cablevision subscriber or pay a fee to access
site

Star-Ledger
-James, Riley and Christie enter courthouse
-Ledger Live report
-Joan Whitlow analysis
-Report on a family living in one of the run down apartments involved in the
illegal land deal
-Full video recap of the day’s events

So the newspaper folks who “can’t shoot news” on video had “raw” video of
the defendants and prosecution entering, a noon newscast, expert analysis, a
feature on the people impacted by the crimes followed by a full narrated
report of the day’s events.

A few minutes later, Siditsky’s email arrives:

So I’ve had a few people here comment on how we’ve been criticized on not
being able to do news related video and yesterday was a pretty good example
of what we can do.

So I’m passing it along if you are interested.

Links are blip when I have them or the NJ.com video links.

The former mayor of newark was sentenced to 27 months in prison yesterday.
In addition to regular still and writing coverage, we had 4 videographers on
the trial.
Clips of every key player walking into court in the morning and available
for use in Ledger Live at noon.
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And in the show we sent a VJ and reporter to one of the shoddy apartments
that were in question with corruption case

Then after the verdict came down in the afternoon, we took one of our
columnists and brian and did this

And produced a wrap-up video of footage and press conference info (with
narration)

You are not going to get that kind of coverage with that kind of depth from
any tv station.

Need I say more?

OK.

I would say that our ’empty claims’ now have validity.

When we started with the VJ concept, first it was the ‘quality’ issue. As you can see from any of the pieces posted here, that is not an issue. The doubters then retreated to the ‘breaking news’ defense. ‘OK. It’s ok for features but not for ‘real’ (ie, headline) news.

We have now laid that one to rest as well.

All in all, I think, point, set, game and match for the journalists at the Star Ledger.

As we say here in Tuscany, Mazel Tov!