News Leadership 3.0

June 17, 2008

Vaulting into video

In Newark, a television vacuum offers
the newspaper a video opportunity

“What do you think, can a newspaper newsroom produce quality web TV?” That’s a question posed by John Hassell on his exploding newsroom blog. And Hassell and his colleagues at The Star-Ledger and NJ.com in Newark are about to find out.

The Star-Ledger newsroom recently launched an aggressive strategy to grow audience with news and enterprise video.

“We want to produce great video journalism in New Jersey and to showcase local video of all sorts, whether it’s produced by our staff or not. New Jersey has been traditionally under served by the local network TV outlets in New York and Philadelphia, and that presents an incredible opportunity to build audience and revenue around video content,” Hassell says.

To get started, the newsroom invested in HDV cameras and intensive boot camp training for 20 veejays in May. Within the first few days of training, participants were producing video and Hassell says the quality is improving all the time.

“We believe quality is key when you’re talking about telling stories with video. Our newly trained veejays are still cutting their teeth, but the level of their work is already quite high and rising every week. The visuals should be compelling, the writing taut and the arc of story clearly drawn. Storytelling is really at the heart of what we’re doing, and we feel we bring a lot to the table. All of that said, there is also plenty of room for short clips where production and storytelling values give way to the simple act of witnessing something newsworthy, fascinating or just plain weird.”

The training also attempted to address and help avoid post-production logjams that many newsrooms have experienced in the rush to video.

Hassell explains in an interview with “Newspapers & Technology:”

“The class teaches students how to bridge the gap between gathering news intended for both video and print distribution, Hassell said.

‘What a lot of people do is when they first get a video camera and are sent out to shoot video they come back with a lot of video and that creates an inefficient post-production result because you get back and have three hours of footage that you have to watch and edit,’ said Hassell. ‘We are teaching people how to think about what they need to shoot for the story they want to tell so that the process of producing video stories’ becomes more efficient.’‘

The newsroom also shifted three print-oriented journalists to manage the new video enterprise: AME/Video, with overall responsibility for video efforts; Video Enterprise Editor, with a mandate to keep the standards high; and a new veejay who becomes a full-time producer and host of the daily noon web cast that launches next month.

You can link to a recent progress report on the effort by Hassell here and to one example of a new veejay’s work here.

Hassell says it’s too early to tell whether the video strategy is paying off.

“We’ll judge ourselves on the quality of our work, the traffic it generates, the revenue it produces and the extent to which we can build and nurture a network of New Jerseyans who are making and sharing video. It’s early to judge the results, because we only recently launched a video platform at NJ.com, but the viewership trends and number of user submissions are encouraging.”

 

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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