Category Archives: Videovolunteers

Hello Bolly


She’s the little old lady from Utta Pradesh now…

James MacPherson is the publisher of an online website called Pasadena Now. is causing a lot of buzz in the journalism community. Not because it’s hyperlocal news. that’s old stuff.  But because MacPherson has announced he is going to outsource the reporting jobs to India.


MacPherson believes that since City Council meetings are streamed on the web already, there is no need for a reporter’s physical presence in the room, and the goings on can be covered just as easily from Bangalore.

Well, maybe

His move has caused such as stir that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has already picked up on the story.

MacPherson’s idea may or may not work, but it gave me a moment to think about the whole notion of outsourcing video production in general.

I am on the board of a wonderful organization called Video Volunteers.

It was founded a few years ago by a graduate of one of my seminars, Jessica Mayberry, and today it is a world leader in empowering people in India with video cameras, laptop edits and the skill sets to tell their own stories in video.

Some of our trainees have now been making video for several years, and are quite good at it. So good, in fact that I think perhaps it is time for them to break out onto the world stage.

It is fine to give out video cameras and teach people to ‘tell their own stories’, but after a while, perhaps it is time for them to start and tell other people’s stories as well. After all, that’s what happens when a crew from Atlanta or New York flies half way around the world to shoot stories in Thailand or Rwanda for ITN or CBS or the BBC.

Well, maybe it is time for our Indian camera crews to get into that business as well.

Of course, in India the median income is an astonishing $115 a month.  That’s one hundred fifteen dollars a month (just in case you thought that was a typo).  So my guess is that our Indian camera crews will be pretty competitive… and quite happy to work long and hard hours and produce a superior product.

At those rates it might just be worth it to fly the crews into the US for work here, in fact.

Bollywood indeed.

Grameen Video?


Brother can you spare a dime?

In 2006, Mohammed Yunis received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mohammed Yunis was and is a banker, and we generally don’t think of giving the Nobel Peace Prize to bankers. But Yunis was different, and so was his idea.

He was the founder of the Grameen Bank.

Grameen Bank (or Bank of Villages) was founded by Yunis in 1974 following the Bangla Desh famine. He made a loan of $27 to a group of 42 families so that they could get their lives back in order. They repaid, and an idea was born – microlending.

Today the Bank has 2247 branches, covering more than 72,000 villages. 97% of the borrowers are women, and the loan recovery rate is 98.85%, putting it far ahead of many currently failing mortgage lending institutions in this country. It is estimated that Grameen has lifted more than 50 million people out of poverty.

The Bank and its constituents are now worth over $7 billion.

All of this brings me to video.

I started to think of this after a board meeting last week of Videovolunteers.

Video is an exploding industry in places like India – far moreso than in the US.

The radical drop in the cost of cameras and edits, the explosion in platforms in satellite, cable and web… They all open the door for a different kind of structure in countries where all the cameras were owned by the state broadcaster.

Maybe, as with Grameen, the place for us to start is on the village level.

When I was last in India (or indeed in any part of the 3rd World), the profusion of television is astounding. I have been to the tiniest village in Laos where there is one TV set for the village, powered by a generator. Once, in Namche Bazaar, the last village in the Himalayas before the Khumba ice falls, I came upon the entire village gathered around a TV set and satellite watching Married, With Children, even though no one spoke a word of English.

But I am not talking so much about empowering locals with video cameras to report for CNN or webnews. That is still pretty far away.

But I think the infrastructure and costs are right to look at video as a cottage industry now.

I think we could equip and empower a whole generation of ‘local’ videographers who could earn an income by shooting and producing ‘village’ videos – weddings, local events, births, and so on. I have seen countless local photographers in villages across South Asia who make a living with gear that 47th Street Photo had in the throw away bin, even when they were still in business.

We could empower a kind of ‘Grameen’ Video, a very grass roots, yet self-sustaining local video infrastructure.

In time, these people, while earning a living, would also become increasingly sophisticated in terms of video production – and would, over time, seed whole parts of the planet with video literacy – something that is sorely lacking.

In time, they would become not only the ‘eyes and ears’ of events happening on the ground – they would become the ‘voice’ of the people that could speak to the world in a language we all understand…. and watch.

One day, perhaps, the notion of sending a ‘reporter and crew’ to Bangla Desh to cover a story will seem as quaint as the idea of sending a ‘regional governor’ to rule the place.