Covering the Campaign: A newcomers perspective to video journalism

As the newspaper industry focuses more on Video and multimedia production for online presentation, more reporters and photojournalists are reaching for video cameras instead of pens, notebooks, voice recorders and still cameras. At many newspapers, reporters and photojournalists are learning new techniques together, giving them more common experiences and further blurring the distinctions between traditional writing and photography roles.

Journal Times reporter Janine Anderson (spouse of Journal Times photojournalist and WNPA Webmaster Scott Anderson) wrote about her first experience as a video journalist for the paper. Here is her insightful and occasionally humorous report.

By Janine Anderson
for the WNPA

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visited Kenosha for a campaign stop on Saturday, February 16, 2008, three days before primary day here.

I learned she would appear at the Brat Stop in Kenosha. Our newspaper, the Racine Journal Times, had a photographer all ready to go, and I had my two assignments: write a story about her speech and write one about the crowd. No big deal.

But just as our newsroom settled on a game plan, I got another phone call. Scrap the pen and notebook routine, I’ll be shooting video.

Active Image
I’ve never been trained on the paper’s advanced video equipment, so I got a crash course in the high-tech Canon XH-A1 from Scott and off I went.

I rolled into the Brat Stop about 1:45 p.m. and found the press area. Greg Shaver, our top-notch photojournalist, was there already and staked out a prime spot for me to set up.

I set up the tripod, screwed the shoe on the camera and hooked it all together.

All right. Good to go. But wait! It’s a video camera, so I needed to figure out the sound.

The windshield for the shotgun microphone was missing, so I wanted to try hooking into the venue’s audio system, but we didn’t have any cables.

I borrowed one from Dave, a local radio guy, and a videographer from a local television station helped me hook in. Greg loaned me his iPod ear buds, and I tried to figure out if I was getting any sound.

I pushed record and waited a few seconds, hoping to be able to review the footage to see what was coming through. It took 20 minutes and three people to figure out how to get the thing to play the clip back. And I wasn’t getting anything.
So, the helpful TV guy managed to track a staffer down for a sound check. That I could hear. Ok. Now I was all set, right?

Channel 4 to my left, a still shooter in front of me, and a clear shot to the podium where Clinton would be speaking.

But wait. We forgot about the traveling press. Clinton’s staff started buzzing around, trying to figure out where the national guys would get to set up.

Suddenly, I was in the way.

I dropped the tripod down about 18 inches, to try to free up some room over my camera for people to shoot from behind, but that wasn’t enough. They wanted me to back up 2 feet from the edge of the stage.

Active ImageSuddenly, I had to find a way to protect my shot. This isn’t something I usually have to worry about. There’s no shot to protect when you’re taking notes. I’ve just got to be able to hear and see what’s going on around me. I don’t have to capture the view in any concrete way, so I’m generally willing to give space up to the folks with the cameras.

This time, I was one of the ones with the camera, and I had visions of the traveling press swooping in at the last minute and setting up right in front of me. Greg came up and gave me a quick bit of advice: “Don’t move any more.” Then he scurried back to his spot.

The Secret Service guys perked up, the traveling press stormed the stage, and my heart rate went up.

CNN was so close to my right side that I couldn’t pan without catching his sleeve in the frame. The still guys in front of me lifted their cameras up to get a better view of Clinton’s approach which gave me a clear shot of the back of their gear, and not much else.

Flashes went off everywhere, huge cameras swung around, and I was stuck in the middle, unsure how to use my gear, and completely unprepared for the pre-event frenzy.

When Clinton started speaking, everything slowed down. There was no more need to jockey for position.

Just at the moment when I would have had to really start working to write a story, I was pretty much done. All I had to do now was keep the camera rolling.

And that I could handle.

Leave a Reply