Frustration is growing in the ranks of many newspaper multimedia departments. People like you and I, who changed their skills sets years ago in preparation for the digital boom, find ourselves slithering to a digital future by those with little to no multimedia experience.
The problem across the board is that multimedia producers constantly have to follow the newspaper’s lead, whether you’re a daily or Sunday title and section editors don’t consider the multimedia possibilities at the point of commission. This isn’t their fault, it’s simply a case of not understanding how multimedia works, which means that treatments get rushed through, rather than planned ahead like many of the articles published. It also explains why the majority of video content on newspaper sites is between two and three minutes long, because multimedia is an afterthought and generally follows the half day shoot / half day edit practice of TV newsrooms.
Multimedia journalists are a rare breed. Those that do exist are experienced journalists who’ve developed cross platform skills in radio, tv, online and in print. And most, myself included, hope for a future where we are commissioned to create truly multimedia experiences for our audience using the skills we’ve been working with for years. Instead we find ourselves in a state of limbo, adding a multimedia flavour to other journalist’s stories, while decision makers receive training in what’s been happening in the digital world over the past decade.
Interestingly the majority of multimedia journalists are actually broadcast journalists who’ve ve set their sights on a future in TV and are working for online platforms as a way of gaining experience, a good plan given the growing number of channels and the lack of quality content available.
Radio journalists too are now developing video skills for a digital future, as are quite a few photographers. The latter tend not to have the journalistic background and while their work looks great, lacks flare editorially. The same can be said about the surge in DSLR filmmakers now touting themselves as documentarians – the production values are outstanding, but the narrative is often non existent.
It really is a great time for video journalists and filmmakers. We’ve finally reached a period where equipment isn’t a luxury of the rich and we can be as creative as we like. Yet very few print journalists are making the transition. Perhaps this is because print journalists tend to be academics and struggle with the practical elements of production? With this in mind why is it that so many newspaper journalists hold onto the notion that “editorially speaking” they have a better understanding of what’s needed? Surely, If anything, such comments highlight a lack of editorial experience if only because they can’t see there’s a difference between print and broadcast editorial.
To make matters worse, younger senior staff who are aware of this fundamental problem believe they’re the solution. Again, these are people with no multimedia experience but are in the boy’s club – “yes” men with friends in positions of authority. Always charismatic but never any substance. They use their youth as a trump card.
The way I see it, those that recognised the changing landscape more than a decade ago need to be the point of consultation. New digital executives should be established, made up of experienced multimedia producers, television producers and newspaper editors. By covering all platforms their collective knowledge could then be used to pave the way to a successful digital future. Instead it seems where such bodies exist, they are made up of people from areas of the business in no way related to multimedia. I know of one multimedia decision maker who started working in multimedia in August 2011!
Inevitably the boys club will win. They’ll get the plaudits, the pay rises and collect the awards. Fortunately they’ll also know they they had nothing to do with winning them.
Mobile reporting: Drowning in a sea of crap footage