Vidiots on Parade

June 15, 2012 

Last week was a video-producing marathon for me, with daily deadlines Monday through Thursday. It's been a fairly steep relearning curve as we've jumped wholeheartedly back into producing web videos and I've had very mixed results since then.

The BtF faithful will remember my struggles with keeping track of what still shots and video clips I had already gathered while covering the High Tea Social at the Kennewick Senior Center.

I did a better job of cataloguing my visuals at the Boys & Girls Club for Sunday's story by Michelle Dupler about its Triple Play program that promotes healthy eating and active lifestyles. I managed to capture a couple of fun moments,

and thought I had some fun shots in the video, which you can see linked on the top of this post with all the other videos I reference. President Brian Ace sent me a nice note thanking me for producing the video, which means a whopping 5.6 percent of viewers wrote in. That would be an overwhelming response for a print article with 37,000 copies floating around, but in this case, it was a why-did-I-even-bother 18 views.

One of those was probably mine to make sure it published OK.

Monday took me to Prosser for Washington State University's annual Cherry Field Day. I approached it more as a visual sidebar and had professor Matt Whiting explain the Upright Fruiting Offshoots, or UFO, system in the video. For an orchard tour, I thought it turned out pretty well. The UFO system also gave me some nice lines to work with for this photo,

which also provided some interesting information since the woman in the photo happened to be Deb Pehrson. She told me she hoped to get similar test orchards set up in Pullman where she is the farms manger for WSU since the slight differences in climate and elevation created a redundancy that would save research in the event of a devastating freeze.

I added a standard Q-and-A snap to the mix too:

Somehow, the video got the most views out of this bunch, garnering a non-spot-news-Kai-high 342, but that was probably only because "UFO" was in the headline. Hope I didn't disappoint too many alien lovers.

On Tuesday, astronaut Ellen Ochoa visited the Pasco middle school named after her to help celebrate its 10-year anniversary. I was actually excited about tackling this video, especially since Ochoa was going to play flute with the school band at the assembly. There was a fun moment at the assembly as Ochoa helped honor the teachers who had been there since the start,

she played the flute where I could get a nice student-filled background,

and fielded questions from staff and students at lunchtime:

I was pumped to get back and start editing the video until I realized that I had somehow turned off my microphone during the assembly, losing all of the most energetic moments to maddening muteness. Thankfully, I had grabbed Ochoa for an interview at lunch, but what could have been a fun presentation of the day ended up being a run-of-the-mill chop job of voiceover and b-roll.

I at least tried to be clever with the opening, but even a rare visit from a bona fide astronaut only got 87 views, which added to the frustration.

Wednesday brought a cute story about a senior fitness class throwing a surprise 90th birthday party for Ermine Thomas. I went with the sidebar approach again and didn't worry about the birthday angle for the video, especially since it was going to be a very short impromptu party and I wanted to make sure I got decent stills from both the workout and the party:

Plus, I knew the story wasn't going to focus a whole lot on the class itself, so I tried to add to the online package with a little feature on the Better Bones and Balance class. Only 45 people watched that video.

Thursday's Domestic Violence Services clothing giveaway fared a little better, snagging 124 plays, but I thought that was the worst video of this group. Working around most clients' understandable desire to not be identified made shooting stills and video in the cramped room tough, but Brittany Steinborn was open to it and spoke frankly about her situation. Ultimately, a lot of her interview didn't fit the constraints of a short video about the $10,000 giveaway, but she was a subject in both video and still:

I'm undoubtedly learning how to shoot more concisely and plan my videos in the field better. I'm also getting faster at editing them and usually end up with something close to what I had envisioned. The next step for me is to come up with more informative and interesting videos. I seriously doubt any of you will sit through all of these, but the nice thing is being able to see precisely how many people are watching our videos.

Here's hoping we learn from these numbers and figure out how best to apply our resources to provide online content that actually enhances our readers' understanding of the stories we cover instead of just overloading them with moving pictures they can't be bothered to watch. Until we reach that epiphany, however, I guess I'll just work on these rudimentary video skills because while it's clear that quick online videos are not going to save the newspaper industry, good luck feeding yourself as a visual journalist these days without being able to produce them.

In other video news...

Multimedia journalism leader MediaStorm announced it would start charging $1.99 a pop to view its stories. It's a bold move and founder Brian Storm's quote that "We believe that our industry is in need of a sustainable business model that will allow us to continue to report and produce compelling stories," is spot on. But I can't help but agree with one commenter who snarked, "The title of this article should be 'How to reduce your audience of millions to hundreds overnight.' Pay walls rarely work with the amount of fresh, free content on the net."

That's just one industry growing pain in this week's news as Advance Publications announced it will cut about 600 jobs at its Alabama papers and its flagship, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, where more than 200 found out they were losing their jobs.

And while the Times-Picayune brass are getting booed for the shift, my college paper is getting praised for a similar move to reduce its print editions in favor of a web-centric model. The future business model for journalism is still evolving, and the biggest challenge is still figuring out how to make enough money from an online news organization to support the staffing needed to produce quality work.

The bloodletting in the Times-Picayune's newsroom doesn't seem like it will be able to continue at the same level of excellence. This Gambit article gives a voice to some of those poor talented souls, some of which are unnamed due to a non-disparagement clause in their severance contracts.

Speaking of not disparaging, a Colorado Gazette reporter has been placed on administrative leave after supposedly violating his company's social media policy by refusing to take down a Facebook post with an article about his paper's parent company.

A supposedly sloppy magazine cover went viral as part-time grammar snobs laughed about Rachael Ray's apparent cannibalism, but it turns out that was a fake. Insert cries for proper vetting and fact checking here.

And for something fun to end this week's blogcast, check out this spotlight on Sean Simmers' awesome Jawa photo at The Image Deconstructed.

~~~~~

kyau@tricityherald.com
(509) 585-7205
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