La muerte de Brad Will desde su propia cámara, posted at Mirá! — the video here has English subtitles.
Translation of the post:
Brad Will was a journalist with Indymedia. He died, assassinated by Mexican paramilitary forces on 27 October, in shooting during the uprising in Oaxaca. This video is a complete version of the last material captured by Brad Will. It contains some interviews and the 9 frightful minutes that preceded Will’s death, captured with his own camera. The end of the take is — probably — one of most dramatic registered in the history of journalism.
There is no need to say more about the quality of this video.
A provocative interview with Tony Sleep, a freelance editorial photographer based in London, gets at the heart of some big questions facing visual journalists today:
Photography has been emancipated by digital, but it has also turned into a bunch of headless chickens that have invented their own benchmarks — the snapshot, the banal and prurient, the instant and effortless, and above all free. It’s us pros who are out of step, not them.
The same questions about quality apply to online video as well, as witnessed in a lively debate here earlier this week.
Well, heck — we can say the same questions apply to all of journalism online, yes?
Amateurs are doing our jobs.
I don’t think this would bother us so much if: (a) journalism jobs were not under threat already, and (b) amateurs never produced good work.
My all-time favorite example of why we cannot dismiss the so-called amateurs is the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph from the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, taken by amateur photographer Charles Porter. (Porter describes that day in detail, and how he got the picture, in this excellent interview at BBC News.)
With amateur video, we have the classic case of the Rodney King beating in 1991. The video, shot by amateur photographer George Holliday, exposed a reality that many people live with every day, while their neighbors across town know nothing about it.
We must concede that amateur photographs and amateur video can be great. We have irrefutable evidence of this from the days before the Web began to replace other media as the information medium of choice.
Speed must not trump accuracy.
These are the twin burdens of journalism. We are supposed to be fast. We are supposed to be accurate and truthful in all cases, under all conditions. Well, everyone who has worked in journalism knows about the tension between these two. In a perfect world, my story would always be the first posted, published and cast — and it would be flawlessly accurate.
Amateurs can help us to be fast. To be first.
Amateurs may know little or nothing about our standards of accuracy. Everyone who has taught a photojournalism course has seen that puzzled face or heard the question, “Why can’t I Photoshop out the ugly wire, or post, or sign — if it would improve my picture?”
It’s up to professional journalists to continually educate the public about the lengths we go to to ensure accuracy. If we have lost the trust of the public, then it’s imperative for us to work hard to get that trust back. So many people today have the ability to manipulate their own personal photos — don’t you think they question the veracity of our news photos? And our video?
Video offers plenty of opportunities for staged or faked stories (remember ABC News’s unlabeled “re-enactment” in a 1989 espionage story, for which the network later apologized). Yes, this is a problem for all of us in journalism — a problem we can’t run away from. It’s much better to acknowledge the danger than to pretend it never happens.
Weegee used to move things at a crime scene before he made his picture. Every photojournalism student today is taught that to change the scene in any way is dead wrong, a violation of ethics.
I am arguing that we also need to teach the public (all of whom are amateur photographers) that these ARE our ethics.
Battling banality is our daily work.
My favorite example of banality in photojournalism is baby ducks. At least once in your life you have certainly seen a picture of cute little ducklings waddling or paddling behind their mama. I hope you did not see it on Page One, but maybe you did.
As Tony Sleep points out, our fight against the banal must be waged in content, not in technical execution — because technology has made it easy to produce a picture that is technically good, or even great:
Technical excellence has to an extent displaced “having something to say.” To put another way, there are an awful lot of perfectly executed photos around that say nothing at all except “yo!”
If you compare MSNBC.com’s “Editors’ Choice” with their “Readers’ Choice” in The Year in Pictures 2005, you’ll see another aspect of this issue. The public likes the baby ducks. Loves ‘em, in fact.
This is just another part of the journalist’s job, though, and all I’m saying is that really, not much has changed. We have new tools. We have new challenges. It is our job, our responsibility, to make sure that the important stuff gets covered, gets published, cast, blogged, streamed, and posted — no matter the medium.
I don’t care if amateurs make the picture, shoot the video, write the story, dig up the dirt. I care about whether it’s true, accurate, reliable. I care about whether the public still trusts us, you, the journalists, to tell the truth, to deliver the truth.
And of course, we have to make sure the good stuff — the real journalism — is still being produced.
We can’t depend on the amateurs for that. Daily, ongoing journalism costs money.
You can always hope that an amateur might show up on the scene and send you what you need — but if you don’t have a trained, professional staff back at the editing desk, I’m afraid we’re going to be seeing a lot of baby ducks.
To produce the online and print package Ohio River Ramble: Nine Districts in Nine Days, Washington Post journalists Jim VandeHei, Chris Cillizza and Chet Rhodes went to “one of this year’s most contested political regions” and found out that voters are angry.
They visited five states snuggled against the Ohio River: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. Cillizza blogged it in The Fix, his regular politics blog for washingtonpost.com. Cillizza and VandeHei wrote a traditional print story each day about the congressional district they visited that day. Rhodes shot a video wrap-up each day, with the two reporters talking on camera about the district.
Okay, here’s my problem with this: Two reporters talking to me.
Don’t take my word for it. Go out on the street and ask some non-journalists who they would rather see in a video, explaining people’s opinions about the upcoming election — some folks who live in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky or West Virginia? Or two reporters from Washington?
For example, in the Ohio District 1 campaign (see video), immigration has been a hot-button issue. Why not ask some local people what they think about immigration? I see people from Texas and California on TV all the time, talking about immigration. I don’t have a clue what the people in Ohio think about it. Ohio is far away from Mexico, a country that comes up a lot in talk about U.S. immigration issues. So what are the issues in Ohio? Let me hear it from the people who live there.
I have some ideas about the answers to these questions I am raising, but explaining why we see so many videos of reporters talking at us will not address this problem. I see this as a big problem in the communication between a news organization and the public.
What I’d like to hear journalists explain is, Why don’t you talk to the people? Why do we continue to see a journalism of official sources and talking-head reporters when clearly that has alienated the public we supposedly serve?
In support of my opinions about online video, I’m posting a link to a feature produced for the Star Tribune newspaper by my friend Regina McCombs. This story about quad rugby (an indoor sport also known as “murderball”) demonstrates the documentary style and tight editing that, in my opinion, differentiate the best Web video from traditional TV news video. Length: 3 min.
It’s fast, it’s informative — and best of all, it’s not boring.
Granted, this is quite different from breaking news video. I’ll be looking for some good examples of breaking news video produced for the online medium.
Your suggestions are welcome. Send an e-mail or post a comment.
Anyone looking for a job today needs to understand that he or she will be investigated before being hired. For any savvy editor — print, broadcast or online — that means a Google search on your name. A survey by CareerBuilder tells us the results:
Of those hiring managers who used Internet search engines to research job candidates, 51 percent did not hire the person based on what they found. Of those who used social networking sites to research candidates, the majority (63 percent) did not hire the person based on what they found.
The first step to managing your online reputation is to Google yourself. And use some other search engines too, while you’re at it. Use your nickname, use your middle initial or not, and make sure that you don’t see any compromising information.
Consider setting up a page for yourself at claimID (it’s free and it’s easy). Learn about the OpenID specifications. Read more about this stuff at if:book (the blog of the Institute for the Future of the Book).
You might also want to buy a domain name and put your resume online. If you use your full name as the HTML title for the page, after a few weeks that page should come up first when someone Googles you. See an example — that linked text in the search results? It is the HTML title of the Web page.
I don’t want to go into detail about what I find when I Google students. In some cases, it’s awful. I also look them up on Facebook and MySpace. It may be that an editor wouldn’t reject you over a few drunken party photos. But what about that photo of you at a political rally, holding a sign in the air? Your integrity as a journalist immediately comes into question. I’m not inventing this — editors have told me so.
It’s not just about sex, drugs and alcohol. If your politics — of any stripe — are on display, that might be considered a breach of your ability to take a reasonably objective stance in your reporting.
It could cost you a nice job.
So Google yourself today. Before you send out those resumes.
It’s a great list. I wish I’d thought of it first!
One of the biggest mistakes that news people make, I think, is they stay too much inside their own field. They go to journalism Web sites. They read other journalists. They spend their online life too much with online journalism. They need to “go abroad” more and see what non-journalists and non-journalism sites are doing and talking about and getting excited about.