And the winner is…? What I’ve learned from the UK’s highest awards for TV Journalism.
It’s been a while. The UK’s highest awards for television news, The Royal Television Society (RTS) resumes in person, following the pandemic and a remote ceremony last year.
This time tomorrow, the victors will be celebrating into their wine glasses and runners up looking to another year of good fortune.
Over a number of years I’ve been privileged to be a juror and in that time have seen a change in television journalism’s style, which is almost akin to what I call cinema journalism, or otherwise great television news production.
Cinema journalism is a journalism that borrows heavily from the tropes of cinema, visually, in narration and performance. I first came across it in the 90s, but was both naive and guarded to understand it. How could Journalism be cinema?
It wasn’t equipment driven. This was a philosophy. In 2005 two major events occurred that would influence change.
Firstly, I’d be the recipient of an international award at Berlin’s videojournalism awards. The film I made was described as cinema — even though it was a piece of journalism.
Secondly, I was asked to train the UK’s regional press in the form, whilst observing the emergence of a select number of videojournalists and mobile journalists revelling in the form.
Could the phenomenon bear scrutiny? Did it have legitimacy? Could it be taught? And could it withstand academic rigour?
Over a number of years pursuing a doctorate in Dublin, I could prove it did. But admittedly I was alarmed at how naive I had been as a practitioner in spite of my experience in television commencing in the 1990s.
Cinema and Journalism are two sizeable domains with their own rich histories. Their forms and rules are concretised, and any attempt to deconstruct them must involve multiple entry points and understanding.
Photography, design, narratology, documentary, painting, radio…all these and their inception offered a way in. I confess today, I’m forever still learning, but what became obvious academically was the proof to frame cinema journalism, and pragmatically a new breed of journalists and camera operators grasping the form.
And in case it smacks you as absurd the great Robert Drew behind Primary ( 1960s) framed Direct Cinema or Cinema Verite. Drew looked to include cinema into journalism.
The films, I have judged over the last couple of years at the RTS demonstrate a real shift, though it’s still not widespread. That’s in part because its complexity begs questions that are trying to be answered.
Can cinema journalism be impartial? Questions like this.
Cinema journalism offers a tangible expression of how culture impacts storytelling. There is no one-size fits all, which television journalism set out to be.
But change in factual storytelling is happening, not least because of a new genre of camera operators who hail from film school, and journalists who are stretching their craft to stand out from others, and also that a new generation of viewers demand storytelling that challenges them.
Last year I had the opportunity to further share my findings and craft with Russian, India and Scandinavian journalists. Today, I’m left wondering for tomorrow who will further validate this new journalism form.