The assignment sounds simple – shoot some concert video to go with a story about an Elk Grove family of five children who are singing their way to a college fund.
A family friend might simply record a song and post it to YouTube or Facebook.
Bee intern Madeline Lear wanted to tell a complete story.
“You can’t get a video story (from a concert) because there’s no progression” in the story, she said.
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Instead she used several cameras and recorders to capture the scene at home, in the Fong family’s van and at the concert to add fun, color and detail to a story by Steve Magagnini about the College Fund Street Band. You see the Fong family writing out a set list at home, practicing, singing in the van and dancing at the concert at the Crocker Art Museum. Lear mounted a GoPro camera in the van and on stage, moved around with her camera, and had to do things like rush to Crocker before the family arrived to catch moments like the family unpacking their van.
If you visit sacbee.com or find our video on social media, you likely have noticed The Bee has significantly ratcheted up our video storytelling in the last year. We are part of a dramatic change in storytelling across the newspaper industry because of changes in audience and advertising.
Roughly 80 percent of those online in the U.S. watch video, and a Pew Research Center survey in 2013 found even then that 36 percent were watching news video online.
The more educated and affluent someone is, the more likely to watch news videos.
That number is growing. Education and affluence make people more likely, not less, to watch news video, Pew found. About half of Americans with at least an undergraduate college degree watch news videos and 57 percent of those who made more than $75,000 per year.
Creating quality video is a different skill set from shooting still photography or writing a news story. Nonetheless The Bee’s longtime photographers have produced many high quality mini-documentaries. Our reporters are becoming adept at capturing key parts of stories on video. One recent example is the video produced by Capitol Bureau reporter David Siders when Gov. Jerry Brown talked about the threat of extinction at a climate change summit at the Vatican.
The 49er fans among you likely noticed a number of videos in June tied to the team’s mini-camp, including video by The Bee’s Manny Crisostomo of Colin Kaepernick and Jarryd Hayne playing pingpong in the locker room. The most popular was a video showing Kaepernick and others working out during an organized team activity, with reporter Matt Barrows narrating the action.
When coach Jim Harbaugh left the 49ers for a job in Michigan, sports journalists suddenly had a far more interesting job.
“Harbaugh kept us sequestered on one section of the practice facility whereas we had access to all (three) of the fields prior to his arrival,” Barrows said. “With Harbaugh gone, the old rules that allow us to walk around all of the fields and provide better access were reinstated.”
As a result, expect to find far more 49ers video, along with other sports video. Our approach – whether sports or other video topics – will be different from the traditional television news report with a standup reporter or anchor and a few snippets of action. We will publish mini-documentaries, key news moments and, when warranted, raw video of breaking news that might be available from security cameras, citizens or public agencies.
We’ve been watching reader response to our video as we shape what we cover. To date, the videos that resonate tend to be about popular sports teams, breaking news (including raw video), “how-to” food segments or hot news topics like the recent vaccine debate at the Capitol. Many of you watched a time lapse video of the Lake Berryessa fire, by freelancer Justin Majeczky of Varient3 Productions, one of at least 11 fire videos we published in the last couple of weeks.
Expect us to be goofy on occasion, all in good fun. In May, sports columnist Andy Furillo and reporters Ed Fletcher and Ryan Lillis were inspired to show readers what to expect Memorial Day weekend when two competing music festivals set up on each side of the Sacramento River downtown. Furillo played his guitar on one side to show how sound would travel, while his colleagues had a lot of fun pretending they could play catch across the river with a baseball and a football, slightly deflated.
The goofing off was obvious, but it’s easy to manipulate video and vitally important for journalists to be ethical in their approach, and for viewers to learn whether news sites are honest or manipulative in their video reports.
Lear talked about what it took to show the full range of the Fong family story, as she edited about two hours of video and additional audio into a less than three-minute report. That editing means at times the video might have one song in the background but capture a visual moment from another song. It is a visual and audio summary, rather than an unedited chronological video of the entire concert, and within our ethical standards.
You want to capture viewers immediately and hold their attention. ... The ultimate goal is to be fair, ethical and interesting in the process.
Sue Morrow, Bee multimedia editor
“You want to capture viewers immediately and hold their attention and sometimes that (moment) can come in the middle of a story chronologically, but when you put it in the video it’s the first thing you see,” said Sue Morrow, a longtime photojournalist who gained video expertise the old-fashioned way – by going back to school to earn a master’s degree. “The ultimate goal is to be fair, ethical and interesting in the process.”
We recently started publishing iPhone videos taken by firefighters as they work the front lines. Such footage is a “game changer. Not only does it document what they do but it’s about accountability” and upfront access that journalists typically do not get, Morrow said.
As we obtain such footage, whether from public agencies or private vendors, it’s then our responsibility to ensure it’s real, and not manipulated. We will hold video storytelling to the same standards as our written journalism, whether we publish our own work or that of someone else.