This past week I was in a particularly news-hungry mode and spent the majority of one evening surfing around various news sites. I went to one of my favorites and found a story whose headline sounded interesting. I clicked on the link, ready to read about some new advance in technology when – bam! – I get slapped in the face with a video.
Whoa! Slow down, tiger; I thought. I’m not here for the video. I clicked on the pause button before the pre-video commercial could come on and scrolled down, hoping that, as there sometimes is, there would be an article at the bottom but the video was just on top. Nope. Denied.
So I went away from that website and started going to a couple of different ones. I found an article or two about national politics, which I really don’t care about at all, bored myself, and found another article that I actually wanted to read.
Click – bam! – video.
Blast! Denied again.
That article was about something I actually did care about, but again, I was slapped in the face with the odious stench of video.
My frustration with news sources’ growing reliance on video reporting over actually writing of news articles is multi-faceted, and both personal and professional. Personally, I like reading, and I want to read my news. But on a deeper level, I think I like reading my news because I want my news to be something someone actually put some effort into. My problem with video-clip journalism is the same problem I have with reality television. I don’t want to see something someone just started a video tape in front of and said “go.” I want a storyline that someone wrote and thought about and put time into. I want the end-product of the creative process. Same with news: I want the research and the thought that went into it. I want the word selection and writing style. What I don’t want is some yahoo who took a video camera to an event, stayed for 20 minutes, left, and put it up on his website. That’s just lazy.
This is the part that offends me professionally. Video clip journalism is just lazy. Personally, I think it’s a way for people that just aren’t very talented in this line of work to kind of cheat their way into doing it. I mean, how much talent or effort does it take to stand there with a video camera and then upload that video onto a website? None.
With how good young people are with technology nowadays, I’d be willing to bet you there are students at our local elementary schools that could do it. So when I see what’s supposed to be a legitimate news source doing that, it just makes me mad. I also think it’s kind of insulting to the people or event being covered. To me it says, “I care about you and your event just enough to show up, but if you want me to do any actual work, forget about it.”
Video clips. Ptooey. That’s what I have to say, at least as a main news source. Granted, I think video can be a great addition to news sites when added as supplemental content, but not in place of actual writing.
There are a couple of phrases in journalism that I’ve heard over the years that have stuck with me and I truly believe in. One is “a good reporter is worth their weight in gold.” It’s true. A good reporter is your front-line person, and their writing is the backbone of your newspaper.
So if a good writer is worth their weight in gold, I’d say a good video journalist is worth their weight in, well, you can pick the analogy.