Should online video be held to TV standards?
An interesting post this morning from Al Tompkins at Poynter about the online video judging in the National Press Photographers Associaton's "Best of Television" photojournalist contest.
In commenting specifically about the "online video" category, Tompkins notes no first prize was given. First, no TV stations entered because they are not going to the Web first with their video (unlike many newspapers that are starting to break things online). Second:
"The category itself is in its infancy, and it showed," judge Erica Simpson, a photojournalist from KGTV San Diego, said. "It is obvious these were people who came mostly from newspapers and were trying to learn a craft. They were making basic mistakes in telling stories with pictures. Since we have no bar set, since this is the first year NPPA has offered these categories, we didn't want to set the bar too low and say this is what national award-winning online video looks like. We chose the best of the lot, but this is not where the bar of excellence should be." The judges said the most common mistakes they saw were backlit interviews, sound bites that lasted far too long, jump cuts that were jarring to the eye and stories that were overwritten. The judges also said some stories used too many special effects. The best surprises were sometimes buried deep in the story, and while many of the entries were heavy on useful facts and information, they lacked memorable central characters. The judges also are put off by natural sound "pops" that constantly and unnecessarily interrupt the storytelling.Later:
This should start an interesting thread on places like the newspaper video group on Yahoo. Among the questions and observations I can see throwing into the debate (and I speak as a former broadcaster as well as print person):
While this is a photojournalism contest, the judges commented about how so many of the online stories were narrated by reporters whose delivery was flat and unemotional, and often dragged the story down.
"It's hard not to hold the writing against one of these pieces," said Regina McCombs, a veteran TV photographer and now multimedia producer/photographer at StarTribune.com, the online division of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Veteran photojournalist Mark Morache, KING-TV (Seattle), said:
We saw some good journalism -- journalism with a big 'J.' We saw a lot of work that was not fluffy and not a filler. But what caught me was that so many of these stories had an emotional disconnect.
When you are watching a great story, you see it, you know it, you feel it in your gut. It sticks with you, and when it is over, you say, 'Re-rack it and play it again.'
With the amount of time and space these stories are being given online, these online photojournalists could be doing stories that make us drool and make us want to leave our TV jobs.
- These are in many cases newspaper people, not trained broadcasters. Should their delivery be held against them? (Probably, because you can't alienate your audience, but at what level do we cut some slack?)
- TV and video on the Web are not the same thing, the argument goes, so should they be judged by what seem to be similar standards? What differences, if any, should there be?
- It's clear that "print," to loosely use the term, is shifting more toward the broadcast model, which relies more on emotion to tell stories. How far should that shift go? (Sort of a corollary to the previous question.)
Over at B-Roll, Lenslinger (from the Greensboro, N.C., area) throws a bit of a verbal bomb:
But before they can conquer new frontiers, they must come to grips with the basics. And a little humility wouldn't hurt. Having long held broadcasters in low regard, many inkslingers are now telling us they can do our medium better. To that I issue a hearty 'Up Yours'. Were I to saunter into your Editor's office, slam my midnight prose down on his desk and pronounce it far superior to anything in-house, you'd rightfully laugh me out of the room.
That wasn't the original intention of my post. There were truly some things that gave me pause and that I thought needed discussion -- someone at the newspaper video group put it well in bifurcating TV standards vs. TV style. I agree wholeheartedly that if the tech standards weren't there, there shouldn't be any slack. I've written about that before here in "Web Video is Not Dumping the Notebook Into a Camera." But I was mulling over the comments from some judges about too many NAT sound "pops" or soundbites being "too long," which got me to wondering whether judges were judging against the common TV local and network news standard of 8- to 12-second bites, for instance. That, I think, is worth discussion.
So stop being so defensive, Lenslinger, and let's all talk. And while I'm happy to be labeled part of the "Print Contingent," a quick reminder that, if pressed (and they still existed in working numbers), I could probably take a shot at changing a CP 16 in a black bag in a couple of minutes (OK, I'm rusty). And I have had the joy of trying to balance a TK-76 on one shoulder and a recorder on the other. So I'm not inexperienced in such matters. Old, perhaps, but not inexperienced.