Video at Newspapers Is About Profits, Not Storytelling

For my first post for Black Star, I thought I would lead off with the subject that drew attention to me in the first place: video at newspapers.

I first posted my opinions on this subject on in August 2007, and received a lot of feedback from other professionals facing this new challenge. I do not want to repeat myself but to continue this discussion. (You can
read the SportsShooter post here

I have been in this biz for about a decade, and I see our world changing. To work at newspapers tomorrow, you will need to shoot video and create audio/video slideshows for the web. And not just do it, but want to do it and be good at all aspects of it.

I have heard from everywhere (NPPA, Poynter, Tribune, these posts, my peers, etc.) that video is unavoidable and necessary, but I still disagree.

I agree with many of my peers that video can be a great storytelling medium, that sound and motion can add depth to a story. But video has been around for a few decades and until recently the job of a photographer and videographer were accepted as similar but separate.

Both professionals recognize the advantages and disadvantages of both mediums (video worries about sound and transitions, photography worries about saying it all with one photo and capturing that one moment in time) and some of us chose one path over the other. We received different training because we needed different skills, but now photographers are being asked to be videographers like they are the same medium with the same skills.

Skills and training aside, most of us would agree that still photographs can be just as powerful and sometimes more so than video of the same moment.

So, is the photojournalism community now claiming that we cannot tell stories as powerfully with stills as we can with video? If not, then why are so many of us ready to give up our cameras to be handed a video camera that we can pull stills from?

I know it is easier to go with the flow, and I know many professionals who are doing just that because they are “x” years from retirement. But I am concerned about the future of an industry that cares more about Web hits and mass production than quality, investigative reporting. And let’s be honest, no newspaper is making the move to video to do better journalism; it is all about making money.

And that is at the root of what bothers me about video moving into newsrooms. As a journalist, I am not comfortable with any story or endeavor I am asked to do for the sake of “making a profit.” I recognize newspapers are a business, and these are tough times, but the editorial side is supposed to remain objective and seperate from the advertising side. We have the responsibility to document history and tell stories, even if they aren’t popular and profitable, and I think the move to video in newsrooms is one more step in the direction of entertainment and a step away from covering news.

I’m curious to hear what you think.

[tags]videography, photojournalism, newspapers[/tags]

2 Responses to “Video at Newspapers Is About Profits, Not Storytelling”

  1. I agree that these are two separate disciplines, but it's quite possible that newspapers will insist on people that have both capabilities when hiring. So if you just want to shoot still photos, you could be completely shut out of the newspaper business within a few years. If you love shooting for newspapers, I just don't think there's any choice in the matter (or soon won't be) but to add video to your repertoire.

  2. I really agree with you, Heather. I have never really put into a justifiable argument like you have and I am glad I stumbled across this article, but I have always been feeling this way. Although I am happy to see the niche that has been created by people like Brian Storm ( and others, but what is to happen to our quality. I would be very curious to hear what Henri Cartier Bresson would say. He embraced the new technology of the day as a scientist, but also was to me one of the greatest prophets in preaching the religion of capturing a defining moment in time. I don't know. Maybe I am blowing smoke, but no matter what gear you have, you still need to Fill your frame and wait for the moment. Whether it is for 30 seconds or a split second. Thanks for the article.

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