Newspapers still seem to be coming to a decision on video

In 2008, the American Journalism Review trumpeted a 'video explosion.'
So where is it?
A record player
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As a native Mainer, I occasionally visit the Portland Press Herald website to keep up on news from the Pine Tree State. One feature that will keep me coming back is “The Newsroom Sessions,” the brainchild of the newspaper’s music writer, Aimsel Ponti.

The Press Herald had just built an ersatz TV studio when the inspiration struck her.

“We have such a vibrant local music scene in Portland and a vast array of regional and nationally touring acts come through Portland it occurred to me that maybe we could get some of them to come in and perform a few songs and have a chat,” she told me in an email. “I’m also a huge fan of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts and thought maybe we could come up with our version of acoustic music magic here in Portland, Maine. It took almost no time to go from concept to first gig.”

My favorite of the “Sessions” is the one above featuring Dave Wakeling of The English Beat, which was a staple on the once-great radio station WTOS when I was in high school. Ponti books the guests and serves as host; a staff videographer shoots and edits. All told, the process for one session can take hours.

Of course, good journalism in any form takes time. I’m just puzzled why more newspapers — given diminished readership and advertising — haven’t been quicker to embrace video. I’ve thought for a long time that newspapers ought to turn their websites into something that resembles a local TV newscast, complete with a video-savvy anchor introducing videos and generally talking up the rest of the content.

‘Figure-it-out stage’

An American Journalism Review article in 2008 trumpeted “The video explosion” and said video on newspaper websites had turned “from a significant trend into a near stampede.” The article quoted a Washington Post editor, who said, “We’re still in the figure-it-out stage.”

Fast forward to 2014, and it seems that my beloved newspaper industry, despite the advent of the “multi-media journalist,” is still trying to figure it out with video. For example, the reporter questioning Jay Paterno in this Erie Times-News interview is not using a microphone:

The headline on a Philadelphia Inquirer story from last fall: “More newspapers turn to streaming video to expand audiences.” But the newspapers cited were national players: Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today. The article provided no examples among local newspapers, including the Inquirer. 

Late last year, the E.W. Scripps TV and newspaper chain paid $35 million to acquire Newsy, a digital video news service. With 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, it’s pretty clear that there’s a vast audience for this means of storytelling.

Three great examples

Like the “Newsroom Sessions,” the three videos below — and an app called Videolicious — demonstrate that creating great video content doesn’t have to be complicated.

The American Journalism Review article cited the efforts of the Scripps-owned Naples (Fla.) Daily News. Here’s a recent Daily News video — “Jerry’s Cleaners, 50 years in the making” — that packs a lot into two minutes:

The headline of this video by Central Penn Business Journal photographer Amy Spangler referred to Royer’s Flowers & Gifts (a client of mine) going the extra mile for customers, but that’s what Amy did, too. She shot most of this footage in the midst of Valentine’s Day 2013 (in addition to photos that appeared in the business journal’s print edition). She didn’t get to publish it right away, but she loved what Tom Royer had to say and finished the story this February.

I found this video from The Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press in spring 2011 when my Boston Bruins were on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years. My wife, son and I had a blast shopping for the components and turning out our own version of the National Hockey League’s championship trophy.

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