For all that self or citizen film making is heralded as groundbreaking, whether that’s using mobile phones, camcorders or video journalism, it generally hasn’t revolutionised the style of news making we’ve become accustomed to seeing on television, which has migrated online.
You couldn’t distinguish a story made on a mobile phone from one made on a professional camera and you might argue why should you. Yet technological breakthroughs have more often than not generated new ideas and styles in visual, textual and video journalism.
Television [video] news periodically attracts criticism for what it does and while key industry members know it should reform, TV is a highly resilient medium. In the UK, according to the BBC’s former media correspondent Torin Douglas, writing for the RTS, Brit audiences still get 80% of their info from live TV.
TV generally responds by innovating within the boundary of its knowledge and passing that on as relevant practice. This is evident in what some refer to as Social TV — a convergence of TV utilising social network practices to enhance the experience of watching TV. In this context TV generates the content for Twitter and the likes to echo and engage active participants in ongoing conversations.
However, TV’s form of news storytelling, whilst slowly integrating itself into modern practices retains a recurring Achilles. Its form, born in the 1950s from a particular wide set of cultural, technical and social circumstances has not fundamentally changed [read this].
This is fundamental issue and news’ slowly depreciating audience sees this clearer when faced with an alternative. The type of story, where it’s being viewed, who’s telling it matter, but what’s slowly creeping into the consciousness of a new generation is the style of story being offered.
The evidence is news audiences started to dip before the Internet took off. It wasn’t the Net that’s killing TV; TV was atrophying anyway. The audience was changing; news wasn’t.
The New Unknown World
Story form, as viewed through either narrative or style, determines what gains traction with audiences and what’s shared. For what it’s worth too, the argument of making films on mobile because its cheaper is a circular phenomenon. Mobile phone’s killer app is its functionality as an access-all-day-studio linking with social tools. It demands a different style.
What is news and journalism, like many other disciplines, should involve a continually evolving process to address ever complex and nuanced issues and behaviour in our lives. But why change a cash cow? Reasons for the big media to keep on doing what they’ve been doing.
Only, advertising money is migrating elsewhere, and if the UK’s conservative party ends the BBC’s license fee, it really is Kapuwt!
Meanwhile, just as data journalism, social media, and web-based story form have emerged from outside the periphery of main stream journalism, so the form I have been investigating with colleagues, cinema journalism, is a field gathering under the radar.
It makes sense when you think about it: if everyone’s publishing video, and the same story, what makes what you do standout? But that’s a presumptive reason, there are more concrete ones I can illustrate.
So, what if you could explicitly combine contemporary design aesthetics; Art, literature, coding, and styles refined by fictional films into a contemporary form of journalism using video?
Firstly, why would you want to? Because you want to attract and inform an audience in an emotional and intelligent way and ensure they remember you. As Metz, a famous film theorist would say you never forget a film (cinema) — even when it’s a bad one.
Secondly, there has been a shift in consumer taste and behaviour exemplified through social media in the 21st century. We like to share and the evidence shows we share the personal and emotive, as opposed to the impersonal and detached — which television news was moulded from.
Oh and just for the record, the word ‘cinema’ when it was invented was not about making fictional films, but a spectacle. That’s why you can look at a factual scene or real picture and call it ‘cinematic’.
Why shouldn’t a video journalism form reflect this in a way that connects with audiences in a emotionally intelligent way?
Over the course of my career and in the last seven years I have created a body of work which has received awards. I’m humbled. I have shared at venues like the amazing SXSW [see video below], IfJ and MojoCon. Comments from industry figures about this work includes: ‘artistic’, ‘original’ and impressionistic’.
I have investigated and discussed with the pioneers of earlier cinematic films, such as Robert Drew who made Primary (1960) which has been placed in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for its historical significance. Drew pioneered Cinema Verite (see film below).
I travelled the globe analysing contemporary pioneers of cinema journalism news story forms and the evidence is clear. It’s a form on the rise.
Vice, is but one the emerging organisations that practices an iteration of Cinema journalism as I describe in this post: How Vice magazine came to represent a generation in news.
There are several issues that you might want to know? Cinema is not a one size fits all and to teach it requires an epistemology outside of broadcast’s environment. But there’s no denying it will become prominent.
It existed before television journalism and it’s returning under a variety of styles.
If you’re a broadcaster, publisher, an outfit, or an individual who shares this passion, do get in touch. You can find more about cinema journalism and my work here on Medium, Viewmagazine.tv and videojournalism.co.uk. A more in-depth version of this post can be found here.
Contact David Dunkley Gyimah at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @viewmagazine
David after presenting at SXSW in Austin Texas. David’s taught cinema journalism around the world e.g. US, China, Lebanon and the near the Syrian border, and trained journalists such as the Financial Times and the Press Association. His milestones include filmmaker for Heavyweight boxer Lennox Lewis’ fight with Mike Tyson; producing and directing a seven-part production between Ghana and South Africa; creating a series of shorts on intelligence by interviewing the former head of the CIA James Woolsey; being made editor of NATO’s global war games; and launching digital platforms. More from his website www.viewmagazine.tv.