1. Watch this wonderful effort from the Reading Evening Post. 2. Do the exact opposite.
Paul Bradshaw's two posts on bad newspaper video content are much in keeping with my own thoughts and serve to show that, despite video online content now being the norm for newspaper websites, editors still aren't thinking about what they post on there.
Having worked in both, I know there is a fair bit of difference between print and broadcast but the differences aren't so huge that you can't spot elementary mistakes. Look, both the BBC and ITV do local news bulletins every night. There's no harm in taking notes and copying ideas from those who know what they're doing.
I'm probably repeating some of Bradshaw's criticisms here, but they can't be stressed often enough.
1. If you're doing a 'groundbreaking' 60 second news bulletin, video blog, or anything else with reporters talking to cameras then don't leave it basic errors like crashing the title music over the reporter or leaving in a point where the reporter stumbles over their words. You're pre-recording it, so if they get it wrong either go again or stick in a graphic or an OOV to cover the edit where your journalist stumbles. And shoot anybody in the background who talks while you're filming. Leaving small, simple errors in is just amateur.
2. Do a basic screen and voice test for all your journalists. Find out which of them are keen to face the cameras and which have good speaking voices. If there's only a couple to start off with, so be it. At least they'll sound authoritative. There's nothing worse than watching somebody who doesn't like the lens and isn't comfortable speaking in public being shoehorned into a role they never trained for.
3. On that note, for those that are keen to face the cameras, give them a bit of voice training. It's not difficult to master.
4. Just because you can put something in video on your website, do you need to put something in video on your website? Stop. Think. Newspapers have editorial controls for the paper. Why do these suddenly go out the window the minute somebody brandishes a video camera. Sticking any old videoed tripe online is not only embarrassing, it devalues a newspaper's brand as a whole. Newspapers are meant to be authoritative. They are not meant to look like they could be outdone by a 14-year-old in his bedroom with basic equipment.
5. Just because you have wonderful flashing special effects on an edit suite does not mean you need to use these either? You don't use every flashy bit of Quark or InDesign, and you don't make newspaper pages difficult to read for the sake of being able to use a really neat software feature. Think. How many news bulletins can you think of that employ sliding edits between newsreader and story? There is a good reason why broadcast journalists don't do this, and it's not because they have no sense of fun. It's because they don't want their viewers to get headaches. Or laugh at them.
6. While we're on the subject of edit suites... As it's become standard practice to get print reporters to video stories for their websites, why not include these in your bulletin. Moving pictures look sooooooooooooooooooo much better than static ones. It's really not difficult to create a OOV (or Ulay). Hell, if you're being really adventurous you could even do a link and clip. Neither of these are rocket science or mystical powers only available to those who enter TV newsrooms. They're just the product of a combination of common sense and a basic understanding of how TV news works. And as journalists are supposedly intelligent people, the latter really shouldn't be difficult to pick up.
All this neatly sidesteps the question of whether a 60 second bulletin is necessary for a newspaper website (I personally don't think it's a bad idea, especially if it's embedded on YouTube - it gives the busy reader a chance to catch up and could drag in new readers from elsewhere if it's tagged correctly) but it's certainly got more point to it than a weather report.
If the Reading Evening Post genuinely believe they're providing an exciting, groundbreaking, and professional video service here then whoever's in charge of online video content needs to take a long, hard look at themselves. Newspaper readers are getting increasingly web savvy and it's almost a tad insulting to dump unedited, error-ridden video online and then crow about it.
I've always been on the view that if you're going to do something, then do it to the best of your abilities and I refuse to believe that's the best of the abilities of staff on the Reading Evening Post. There's so much potential here that could be utilised, but that can't even be touched on until you get the basics right.
It's been over 18 months since I touched any kind of video editing software, and I try to avoid the camera if possible, but I'm pretty sure that with the same tools I could produce something a little more polished. In the unlikely event anybody from the Post is actually reading this, the above advice is free. I'd be happy to show you how it works in practice for a very reasonable fee.