29 February 2008


Welcome to SPOTLIGHT, a new series of posts for the JP Digital Digest where we focus on a key area of interest within digital journalism.

The fortnightly feature concentrates on local news providers and will include a round-up of recent blog stories on the chosen theme.

It will also offer pointers to useful web-based resources for visitors who want to find out more.


In this first instalment we’re looking at online video, a development referred to recently as “the most visible change for local papers” in the digital age.

According to university lecturer and blogger Paul Bradshaw, the possibilities of using the medium online “have gone largely unexplored” by local news publishers.

Well, let’s take a look at some examples to see how newsrooms are taking up the challenge of video production.

Incidentally, we’ll be leaving vlogging, vodcasting, mobiles and user-generated videos to future posts and concentrate here on in-house video news packages.

Being First

Breaking news stories provide fertile ground for effective local news films and this week’s earthquake saw one site in particular making the most of the opportunity.

The Grimsby Telegraph found itself in the middle of the action and captured footage of repair operations before daybreak on Wednesday.

[‘Quaking News’ Draws Web Traffic]

Journalist Gareth Parry-Jones also secured video interviews with a fire officer and the manager of a Tesco store close to the epicentre.

Later on in the day, the Manchester Evening News added an ‘earthquake aftermath’ piece to their website showing damage done to properties and featuring interviews with residents.

The MEN gets its video news from local TV station Channel M, which now shares an intergrated newsroom with the newspaper.

From breaking news stories to exclusives – and a couple of newspapers recently demonstrated their commitment to being the first with local stories through the use of video.

First up is video journalist James Shaw at the Shropshire Star, who filmed two different sets of protestors greeting the arrival of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Telford.

Shaw stuck around and was rewarded with exclusive footage of clashes between anti-war campaigners and police officers.

It was a more sedate exclusive produced by the Bradford Telegraph & Argus meanwhile, as the newspaper secured a video interview with David Cameron.

[Website Has Cameron Video Exclusive]

Editor Perry Austin-Clarke led from the front and carried out his first filmed interview and emerged with some great local news quotes from the Conservative leader.

However, the experimental camerawork did get a bit of stick from one poster in its comments section.

Anything TV Can Do…

Efforts to produce content similar to that of broadcast news groups are growing and the Devon Express & Echo recently deployed video equipment to enhance its coverage of a rape trial.

[Devon Rape Trial Receives Multimedia Coverage]
Three reporters covered the case and produced daily video updates from outside Exeter Crown Court.

While the Express & Star in the Midlands is using video to enter the football arena by featuring team news, score updates and results as part of its Sporting Star Live service.

[Video Service For Footie Fans]

Meanwhile, the Kent Messenger is one of a number of newspapers offering web users a video bulletin of local news every weekday.

Go Your Own Way

Other newsrooms seek to do the exact opposite and provide content which their broadcast counterparts simply could not or would not consider.

For example, the Bristol Evening Post is behind a project offering live webcasts of city council and committee meetings on their site.

[‘I’m A Councillor – Get Me Out Of Here’]

Meanwhile, the Wrexham Evening Leader is using video to encourage user participation with its Your Justice initiative.

The project asks visitors to watch lawyers argue the defence and prosecution sides of a fictional case before making a judgment.

[Users Decide With Interactive Courtrooms]

Experimenting with video content is also on the agenda at the Western Daily Press, where a head-cam provided unique pictures from a Boxing Day hunt.

[‘Horse Cam’ Creates Hunt Film]

So the past few months have seen some interesting uses of video news across local newsrooms in the UK.

Rest Of The World

If you’re interested in examples from further afield, a recent three-part series on video journalism is featured on the Editors Weblog with lots of links to video journalism projects in Europe and the US.

In addition, this American Journalism Review story contains examples of innovative use of video by news groups across the States.

For some award-winning examples, see the Digital Edge blog for links to websites which have just scooped prizes for innovative multimedia storytelling.

And from an international perspective, here are the finalists for this year’s Concentra Award for video journalism.

Finally, for information on non-print media outfits supplying video news, visit the European Journalism Centre.

Online Resources

The web is teeming with resources for those who want to know more about video journalism so here are just a few examples for follow-up.

Firstly, what better way to keep up to date than by following a couple of blogs produced by those in the thick of it – the practitioners.

James Shaw’s blog provides a behind-the-scenes look at life as a video journalist – three hours to film a hole anyone? – while Colin Mulvaney offers an insight into his role as a multimedia editor on the Spokesman-Review in Washington

For keeping up with video news, blogs from Andy Dickinson and Cyndy Green provide UK and US perspectives respectively.

Dickinson also recently produced a piece for journalism.co.uk offering advice on video equipment for those on a budget.

The Shirtless Apprentice is a valuable resource for technical tips and offers video tutorials on subjects such as lighting, techniques for shooting interviews and filming in extreme weather (Just to clarify now - the aforementioned apprentice is male, and indeed shirtless).

Further advice on how to shoot interviews can be found on Mindy McAdams’ Teaching Online Journalism blog, which has lots of other points of interest for budding video journalists.

More general advice can be found in the OJR’s top tips for shooting online, while this recent Poynteronline feature discusses the use of HD video for those wanting to stay ahead of the pack.

The Future

Digital is an ever-changing world and it’s a challenge for journalists to keep pace with developments.

For some predictions on the evolution of online video, have a look at this New Yorker panel discussion featuring the Huffington Post and Craigslist founders.

Another interesting debate about the future of newspaper video featured earlier this year on the blogs of Andy Dickinson and Mindy McAdams.

While correspondent and Black Hawk Down author Mark Bowden throws his two-pennorth in on the future of journalism in the multimedia age here.

Any Ideas?

So we’ve reached the end of the first SPOTLIGHT post and we hope there was some useful info in there for you.

Future themes for this section could include mapping, mobile, blogging and user-generated content, but we’re really keen to hear any suggestions of areas of interest to you and anything you’d like to see come under the spotlight.

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At 29/2/08 11:55 am, Anonymous Andy said...

Great round up louise. I hadn't come across the shirtless apprentice before.


At 3/3/08 7:59 am, Blogger Louise Thomas said...

Yes, I was a bit uncertain opening it at first (!) but it seems pretty good. Thanks for the feedback.


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