Before I get started with this, good to hear from Peggy Phillips on the last posting. Hope you’re enjoying yourself Peggy and please let us all know when your blog returns. Hope it’s soon.
It’s been one year into the VJ thing here in Nashville so I thought some of you might be interested in hearing what I think now of shooting, writing and editing my own stuff, day after day, week after week.
Most days it’s really really good. Some days it isn’t.
What…you want more than that? I could say that about most jobs I’ve had? Well, except for the last one.
The thing that I like most about video journalism is that it truly allows a beat reporter to completely immerse themselves in their subject. For me, it’s covering religion and ethics which has been an interest of mine for years.
Instead of spending an hour or more each morning in a news staff meeting, listening to story ideas for general assigment subjects (ie: what was in the morning newspaper) I am able to maintain contacts with clergy, ministers and Rabbis who continually feed me ideas for stories. I’m also able to stay abreast of things that are about to hit the news and have those on my radar far in advance.
Instead of waiting for stories to hit the newspapers, beat reporters who maintain good contacts can learn what is happening and be better educated to cover those subjects. So maybe it is the beat system that smittens me.
Then again, the freedom of being a vj is far more enticing than I imagined. Several times in the past year I have set out late at night or on a weekend to shoot a story that otherwise would have been overlooked or simply ignored. A half-dozen times I have shot stories that happened at midnight. In a typical newsroom, I would have had to get permission to shoot the story, enlist a photographer to not only show up but to have an interest in sharing that story with the viewers.
None of the 5 or 6 midnight stories I shot were covered by any other news organization. Was it because the story wasn’t interesting? No, it was because they happened at midnight and to cover them, a reporter and photographer would have to agree to be out until 1:30 or 2 in the morning.
I also enjoy the vj and beat system because not every story has to turn the same day it was shot. Doubling our reporting staff gives the station twice the package count each day, so my story doesn’t “have to be in a newscast” because producers have more stories to choose from to fill up each show.
Most of the time, the people I’m interviewing never mention the fact that I’m shooting the video and asking the questions. Oh, sometimes I hear “boy, they don’t give the religion department much of a budget do they?”, but just as many seem rather impressed that one person is doing it all.
In one year I have worked with another photographer four times. Three of those were for out of town stories with multiple live shots, the other time I requested help because they didn’t allow cameras in the service and offered a feed of the service in another room where we could record the event on a deck.
I cannot say that I am always completely satisfied with my finished packages. Just like when I was part of a two-man crew, there are many days when I look at the story on-air and wish I had the time or the foresight to change something. Recently, one of my stories hit CNN and the guy in Atlanta called our producer to compliment us on how the story was told and how it was shot and edited. Our producer told me the CNN producer was a little surprised when told a vj put it together.
My situation here is not the same as every video journalist working today. Some turn stories each and every day. Some, many maybe, are general assignment reporters, getting their assignments by 10am each morning. I might now have such a glowing review of the vj model if that was my situation.
But after a year of vj’ing under my belt, I can honestly say it’s better than I thought it would be. Better with the quality of stories and the shooting, and better with the scheduling and the workload.
I know there are far more people in the business hoping VJs go the way of 8-track tape players and carbon-paper anchor scripts but I don’t think so. Other stations are trying it out at some level and I think they will find it to be just as good or better than the standard 2-man news crews.
I am in for a bit of a change this week. I’m losing my newsroom desk and will move to the VJ area of the building. Instead of editing on my desktop pc I’ll get a laptop. I’m not crazy about the change but it’s hard to campaign to keep my desk when I’m not in the newsroom any more than I am. We have at least two new reporters this month and one also anchors weekend mornings. I suppose they’ll sit in the newsroom more than I do.
The laptop will allow me to edit from anywhere which only adds to the freedom I already enjoy. They told me this time last year they expect 3-4 stories every week and I’m producing a steady 4. I’ve also added a weekly newsletter that goes out to about 350 ministers and then there’s my other blog.
Last July I told a former co-worker and reporter that this job was the best reporter gig I’ve ever had “but ask me again in 6 months”.
It still is. Isn’t that cool?