Thursday, August 14, 2008

Video killed the publishing star

People are getting dumber. It’s a simple observation anyone could make after taking a fleeting glance at the video streams now being produced by the cash-strapped publishers of the print media world.

The folks actually purchasing newspapers or reading them online must be so bereft of imagination or attention span that the simply can’t visualize what a reporter is explaining. And the reporters themselves must be devoid enough of descriptive narrative that they can no longer evoke the sensory perception carried in some of the finer works of literature; for disinclined readers, all those books without the pretty pictures. And the publishers, well they must have IQs that are plummeting faster than either the ability of their writers or the cognition of their readers. This is especially if they believe the recent scourge of net videos is going to somehow grow their markets.

Today, all of the Capital Region’s daily newspapers carry some form of video. Naturally, the Albany Times Union was the first to include the feature. They were quickly followed by the Post Star, which was joined this year by the Saratogian and Troy Record. Coming in last in the race to animation, was Schenectady’s Daily Gazette, which has just recently included “copyright” videos on their fledgling Web site.

In the TU’s case, the video sometimes –let’s stress sometimes –show a greater degree of insight into events that would either be difficult or impossible to explain in print. Taking cue from the networks, they typically keep their news videos to less than a minute. They appear to be shot with a decent resolution camera and usually offer degrees of narration, whether it’s from the subject or a reporter explaining the subject. They also seem to devote a reporter solely to shooting video, instead of having the poor sot switch between filming and writing.

Were they to call it a day here, life would be good. But in the TU’s typical bombastic style, they had to go one step further. Enter the so-called Night Cam. So you want a recipe for disaster? Take an entertainment reporter, give her a microphone, send her into a drunkfest with a ludicrous question to pose to revelers and then cue some ultra-cheesy stock music for the background. The resulting video would have made Victor Frankenstein proud.

The Post Star had made news inroads into video similar to the TU. They post them in relatively decent resolution, almost always contain some sort of narrative and are kept short. Unfortunately for the non-union staff at the paper, reporters are often faced with both writing and videoing the news. Does this mean they get paid double? Well, let’s allow the readers to decide that one.

And then there’s the Saratogian. To even view one of their shoddy flicks, one has to sit through a 30-second advertisement, which would be fine if the footage was even remotely worth watching. Unfortunately, it’s not. In fact, after watching the long, often dragging videos, there is usually a sense of remorse for a moment of life that was needlessly squandered. Again, the Saratogian’s news crew isn’t unionized, so reporters are now faced with both shooting video and reporting the news. Here’s a tip: Why not just have them paginate the paper and deliver it too?

Last but not least, there’s the hapless Gazette, which seems to be pioneering new lows when it comes to Internet video. Granted, the Gazette is more than six months behind even the Saratogian when it comes to video. But even that isn’t an excuse for what the paper has fortunately buried anonymously on its still-developing Web site. The footage is blurry, shaky, often without narration, and of subjects that usually don’t warrant the effort. Cue the Roger Wyatt jokes here.

Seemingly, the newspaper outfitted its reporters with dime-store video cameras that are barely passable to shoot the family vacation, much less something that will appear beneath the paper’s masthead and before thousands of online viewers. It’s bizarre the paper doesn’t utilize their photographers for the task –fancy the thought that a camera jockey would know how to shoot video. And. judging by the quality, the reporters have very little knowledge of the instrument they’re using or how to edit the footage they shoot.

But who could blame them? As with the Saratogian and Post Star, it’s doubtful anyone is getting anything extra for their new job detail. Not to mention, the addition of video footage seems to coincide very nicely with the Gazette’s most recent spate of layoffs. In other words, dump a few salaries, buy a dozen shitty video cameras with the savings and then pray to the circulation gods that everything will somehow pan out. Now that’s forward thinking.

Yet no one ever accused the news industry of forward thinking. If the media moguls thought for a half-second, they would have ditched the idea for cameras and simply started posting the hours of footage shot by their ‘news gathering partners.’ The Post Star almost endeavors into this realm with NBC affiliate WNYT. Sadly for the Gazette, they’ve got a partnership with CBS 6 Albany, which has great difficulty in simply grasping the basic precepts of journalism. Still, posting the station’s ‘raw video’ would behoove them better than the pathetic video graffiti now posted at their site.

The bottom line is that the Capital Region’s newspapers still don’t understand their bread-and-butter lies with the printed word. Sure, outlets like the New York Times can afford to craft professional-looking video feeds that are both alluring to the eye and interesting to watch. But with the cash-strapped budgets of most newspapers with less than 1 million subscribers, it’s best to invest the time and effort into with what they know best.


Anonymous agphoto said...

Gee, I usually wait till others jump in the pool, but I guess i can be leadoff (or close…)

A very interesting and opinion-laden post, with exactly the right % of bile and snark. I totally salute the tone.

But I dissent with some things, and wish to advance the discussion on others:

1- We all take great pains to chide the print media for being uncreative, boring, and passé. Also inaccurate, anachronistic, and dumb. The embracing of video would seem to at least be a good idea to try.

2- Quality issues that you raised and smacked – all in agreement here. The biggest indictment I have with print is that they are half-assed in their approach to ‘new media’. They should be budgeting properly before they make their move, jeez… special kudos for the media partner footage repkg. – in fact you can listen to cap news 9 on the radio now…
3- In this guy’s opinion, the best ‘hold in your hand’ print vehicles recently developed have been the monthly magazines that both Saratoga Today and The Saratogian have put out. In the case of the daily, they should just surrender and do more of ‘spirit...’ before the place just implodes from lack of, well - everything.

4- You are under-rating the power of things like nite-cam. The bond that people have with their newspaper, blog, what-have-you is only as strong as the feeling of ownership of, and investment (at least investing time) with the given entity. Why do you think we write you? Different strokes…

And does it come as a surprise to you that there is no shortage of drunken idiots in this region? If done right, this could be the motherload. People might actually wake up and see their hangover-in-the making broadcast. Delicious and ewwwwy at the same time. Move over, Simon Cowell… and in this case, newspapers need the eyeballs more than FOX23.

Thnx as always for the soapbox.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What amazes me is the lack of understanding from publishers that what people really want is good quality journalism and stories that are relevant. Pretty basic stuff here, but the litany of crap that gets paraded out to "modernize" newspapers is ancillary if the main product – delivering news – is decaying.

NOTE TO PUBLISHERS: Seek out and reward good journalism! That is your sole point of leverage, and without it you are no better than the shoppers you put in your Sunday edition or opinion blogs, like this one.

3:42 AM  
Blogger A small "r" republican for fairness said...


I thought I would take a moment to tell you that I really enjoy your insightful responses on the blog, and your writing style.

You are obviously a thoughtful person with considerable intellectual gifts.

That is R-E-A-L-L-Y refreshing given the plethora of moronic posts you have to dig through to get to those like yours.

Thank you for being a breath of fresh air in a very polluted, albeit noble corner of cyberspace.

Small 'r'

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey small r!

Knock knock?
Who's there?
Dictate who?
Don't dat dick tate good!

(stop fluffing ag's nuts)


The moronic polluters of isaratoga

3:32 AM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

I just want everybody to know that the cream worked.

3:34 AM  
Anonymous agphoto said...

thanks for the props "r". that's high praise coming from some other republican says: dittos.

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Faulkner, now that I know the cream has worked I guess I can shake your hand.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous agphoto said...

anon 3:32 -

your social failure-o-meter is in the red zone.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We in the media have to stay current with technology, like web video, or we risk losing our currency.

While it would be great if I could focus all of my energy on print journalism, the truth of the matter is that most readers want a fuller package: blogs, videos, the ability to comment on stories, etc... If we don't give it to them, someone else will, and not necessarily another newspaper. Readers can find much of what they're looking for through a combination of blogs like this one and YouTube. To compete against that, we need video (and other trappings of web 2.0).

This is a rat race, and we're all just trying to stay ahead.

That said, I sure do wish someone would give me a little extra for my multiplying responsibilities!

Also, thanks for the tip, I'll try to keep my videos shorter in the future.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your retort is in the no-humor zone.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Steve Shoe said...


Anonymous at 10:16 summed it up nicely, and agphoto hit the nail on the head, I think, with point #4.

Look, you might not like the videos, but people watch it (speaking for our site, at least). Whether they like it or not is another matter. I don't get any feedback from the public (except for you and that paragraph. I won't lie: that stings a little, my friend). But as a young professional whose fist year working in the field passed over the weekend, I relish the opportunity to try my hand at something I never received any formal education in: shooting and editing video. My guess is that many colleagues at other print outlets feel the same way.

I know I'm not going to win any awards with what I'm doing right now, but I'm learning from each experience behind the camera and at the editing computer.

Ultimately, I think, that sums up the whole "convergence" or "new media" trend: Nobody has an REAL answers about what works or doesn't work in this new landscape. It's a trial-and-error learning curve.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous mamie said...

Speaking about a joke, this blog is a joke. At least disutopia will post comments. If someone is a sleazy rat bastard let's get it out there. (John Tighe) comes to mind!

5:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of a joke, the latest I'm hearing about this Pat Southworth guy is a laugh. He is just a stooge set up by McTygue and co. to tweak the other side of the dem committee. So much for playing nice. How to you possibly call yourselves Dems United pulling a stunt like that ?

5:05 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


Or should I call you mamie? The only joke around here is you and your McTygue lust. On topic, or on a different thread. This one has nothing to do with either the former DPW commish or Southworth. There are other posts that do. Find them and post there. Otherwise, you're missives will hit the virtual circular filing cabinet.


You're more than free to submit whatever you want over at (dis)Utopia. Maybe he'll be a little less discriminating with your off-topic, profanity-ridden rants. But you won't goad me into publishing your cyber-troll nonsense here. So in no uncertain terms, piss off.

Steve and 10:16,

I suppose my point is that I don't think it's good to be mediocre at a lot of thing. It's much better to be really good at one thing, and then market that skill to the public. Frankly, I think you overestimate the public interest in video.

There IS interest there, but it's no where near great enough to justify the hiring of a separate staff solely to produce video journalism. The papers that force their reporters into toting cameras are either placing too much of a burden on their staff or risking a decline in their printed product. In summation, I guess I see it as a two-way street. Pick a direction and go that way. But you simply can't travel in both directions at the same time.

5:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was reading the front page riveting news today in all of the local papers about those fat pigs wolfing down hotdogs who were hoping that this bizarre contest would somehow make them wealthy and famous.

In my mind, I pictured Steve videoing this event while one of the contestants choked to death.
Now that would be fun to watch.

On a side note, the pig that won this event was a teacher from Boston, NY.

7:30 AM  
Anonymous agphoto said...


you make a compelling case as always, and i considered reconsidering, but at the end of the day i cannot.

Reasoning: it's a matter of resources. Certainly the Fox network has no trouble with media synergies, and more certainly the differences in major market generated vs. capital region outlets is more than apparent. But local flavor / incompetence could turn out to be quite endearing to some people. Harkening back to a simpler time? Back to the future in a strange way- driver, via the Disney-toga portal please...

But as far as 'picking a direction and doing one thing well, etc.) we have countless post-and-volley opinions right here at i-central as to just how well the "Lake Ave. Bugle" does with their main bizness i.e. a good day is a c+, maybe.

So maybe they should just hire videographers- could it get worse?

Shoe, if i rubbed salt on you and your company, know that i wish you well in learning a new branch of the biz. to a small extent your employer may in fact be giving you the tools to achieve your own exit strategy. Good luck.

Finally, can anyone give me their opinion as to who is gonna win the Travers? I am totally clueless, and would love to hear from any or all of my colleagues here. 1st/2nd/3rd please. i need to make up for rain outs and lost time.


12:37 PM  
Anonymous Andrew J. Bernstein said...

So, there isn't enough interest to hire a separate staff, and it's hurting the print product to have reporters take on the additional task of editing video... so, would you have all five capital region dailies abandon their video?

I think the challenge is to excel at both, and I do think it's possible. What we're experiencing now is growing pains, and they will pass.

Do you have any statistical or anecdotal evidence that the media is overestimating interest in video? It seems to me that there is great interest, although I could certainly be wrong.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This says it all the Saratogain is worth 3 cents a share.
Personally I wouldn’t pay a penny.

Journal Register Company
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7:00 AM  
Blogger Ben Arnold said...

"You're more than free to submit whatever you want over at (dis)Utopia"

That's pretty much the cyber equivalent of leaving a flaming bag of shit on your neighbor's doorstep. Thanks a lot!

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

flaming bag of shit = Mamie

You said it; not me.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


My sincerest apologies...'mamie' brought it up, suggesting (in a since-filtered diatribe)there's a discrepancy between our posting policies. Frankly, I think were both about as liberal as they come when it comes to filtering this sort of cyberdung as it comes floating across the internet...

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys wouldn't have near as many hits if it wasn't for the DUNG!

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of DUNG! How's John Tighe these days? Still hiding under fake names?

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aug 27, 2008 9:30 pm US/Central
Mariotti Quits, Says Newspapers Are 'Dying'
Star Sports Columnist Says He Wanted Out Because Paper Can't Compete On Web
CHICAGO (CBS) ― In a bombshell announcement in the world of sports journalism, star columnist Jay Mariotti has abruptly resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Only after taping his last ESPN TV from the Sun-Times newsroom today did Mariotti open up.

Mariotti told CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker that he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.

6:38 PM  

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