Posted on May 4, 2007
So you want to become a video journalist?
A student who will graduate this Saturday came to see me earlier this week. She wasn’t a journalism student, but she has decided she wants to be an independent video journalist. From me she wanted advice: How should she create a Web site to accomplish her goal?
Does she know any HTML? No. Has she taken any of the university’s courses that include Web design and production information? No. And she’s less than a week away from graduating.
You can just imagine how many varied thoughts flew through my head.
But you know, I did not want to tell her: “Don’t do it.” Maybe it’s a crazy idea, but maybe not. She took the time to make an appointment and come to meet with me. She seemed sincere and intelligent. And … she already knows how to shoot and edit video. She’s had some training in that.
The advice I gave her: Start a free blog on either Blogger.com or WordPress.com. She will need to research how to compress and upload her video, but she can start by simply putting it on YouTube. She can embed her YouTube Videos directly on her blog posts.
What she absolutely should not do is wait. She should not wait to read a fat, fat book about HTML. She should not wait until her boyfriend or someone else “builds a Web site” for her. She should not plan, design and build a vast Web site with multiple sections and features.
Why not? She’s only one person, first. She doesn’t know anything at all about HTML, second. And third, if she did all that, she might end up with a big empty Web site that looks great but has no content.
Her idea is to produce content — video journalism. She already knows how to do that. Well, the best advice I could give her, or you, or anybody, is — START RIGHT NOW.
Don’t wait until you have read that fat book, for heaven’s sake! Stop waiting. Just sit down and begin. If you run into a dead end, THEN open the fat book and consult the index.
There’s a manufacturing strategy or system called “just in time” that, back in the 1980s, was credited with the rising success of the Japanese auto makers. The idea behind “just in time,” or JIT, is that you don’t waste resources by first stocking a big warehouse and then starting production afterward. JIT means you set up reliable systems and lines of communications so that the auto parts you need for the assembly line arrive days or hours before they are needed. Less warehouse space needed, lower financial overhead, the ability to change quickly — it was more efficient. It crushed the U.S. auto industry because it was a better system.
In software and Web application design (as well as manufacturing), a related idea is rapid prototyping. An apt example of that: You’re supposed to create a demo, and you decide to learn a new technology to get it done. BAD IDEA!
The point is, if you can get something moving without months of development work, then you can quickly see whether it works, how it works — and adapt.
If you spend lots of time and money developing a new thing and then find out it does not work — all that time and money were wasted.
Moreover, given human nature, you will probably continue to support that bad product for longer than you ought to — because of all the resources you invested in it.
If you start a free blog and after a few months it still has no audience, it’s really no big deal to quit. Or change it.
So stop waiting until you read that book or take that class. Just start doing what you have in mind. Small investment, small risk. Small failures are not so bad, in every way imaginable.