May 25, 2009

Video Killed the Travel Writer

Ooooh uh oh oh!

A good discussion has popped up between some members of the ASTW regarding the recent announcement by News Ltd that they'll be looking for their contributors to provide more than just words and pictures from now one, they want moving pictures to embellish their growing online presence. This has raised a few hackles and stirred up some old wounds.

I joined in with my two cents worth, because I think this time the publishers have got it wrong and will fail to achieve the stated aim. Experienced journalists need not fear that their bread and butter will be swallowed up by a younger generation who are video blog savvy - the real danger is that the big brands in media will fail to see the folly of their ways before they go broke. Falling advertising revenue and competition from the internet is not what is killing the traditional media, it's the knuckle headed management of these companies that is still searching for that elusive free lunch.


You know I don't disagree with your sentiments Paul, but I do think that there's a big difference between photos and video when it comes to the devaluation of our craft. Market forces have made the most of the digital revolution in still photography, and that's the reality for guys like us trying to sell images. I don't think it's as simple as just pointing the finger at editors and publishers, there is a broader context than that - If not for the current quality of compact and DLSR equipment then those magazines you refer to would not have the material they need.

But digital video is a different situation entirely. There simply isn't the same depth of quality material available out there, so publishers will have to spend money if they want publishable videos. And in all likelihood they wont or cant spend that money, and their aspirations for content will remain largely unfulfilled. As Julie suggested the skills and equipment needed to generate a presentable video are far greater than a good shot. A 30 second TV commercial in Australia requires a dozen people or more to produce, and costs more than any of us make in a whole year.

What this move does signal is an opportunity for those who have the right talent and are inspired to chase it. Graham is looking at getting some training so he can join the party. Good for you Graham, I hope it works out for you. Personally I'd love to shoot more motion video but I have my hands full processing the stills and writing notes while I travel. I have a backlog of both at present, so how on earth would I find time to start editing videos as well?

But some ASTW members will no doubt be better able to meet that challenge. My guess it wont be many however. Video is fundamentally a different challenge than stills. Writers are predisposed to making the leap to photography, by virtue of passion and knowledge of the subject - the digital revolution simply made that step more manageable for many by reducing the logistical burden of film and equipment. Video is far more demanding because it requires significant resources to edit what you shoot, and it benefits dramatically from planning and advance research of the material. Cheaper and more compact HD cameras is not going to result in competitive content flooding the online travel sections, it results in teenagers posting mindless video-blogs on Facebook.

So I think we need not worry too much about being pushed out of the market due to lack of video to upload with our stories.

And a word of caution for the publishers out there. If you think you can access quality video content at bottom of the bucket prices then you may have a serious flaw in your business model. But some of these publishers are the same people who still haven't recognised that reducing your budget for content invariably reduces the appeal of your travel section to advertisers.

They're still looking for that free lunch.

May 14, 2009

Dick is Done

Today is Dick Day, a day when almost everyone in America has something to say about Dirty Dick Cheney and his cavalcade of Neo-Con carnage. The flaming wreck of the movement conservatives is engulfing the entire political landscape of the American media, and Dicky is fiddling while the Republican party burns.

I love it, I really do.

The comic relief began today with reports of former president Clinton giving some advice to Cheney - "It's over." While Cheney is firing shots in all directions in a desperate bid to distract the world from his failures, Clinton also suggested that Dicky could use a little target practice.

> Clinton has a laugh

It seems the rest of Dirty Dick's military prowess has been exposed, and Cheney's accuracy with the facts is no better than his accuracy in that ill fated hunting trip of 2006 when he fired birdshot into a Texas attorney isntead the quail. Maureen Dowd at the New York Times has a delicious summary of how Cheney is setting himself up as a lightening rod - the more noise he makes the more obvious that something went hideously wrong in American politics during the past ten years, or longer.

"Cheney has replaced Sarah Palin as Rogue Diva. Just as Jeb Bush and other Republicans are trying to get kinder and gentler, Cheney has popped out of his dungeon, scary organ music blaring, to carry on his nasty campaign of fear and loathing.

The man who never talked is now the man who won’t shut up. The man who wouldn’t list his office in the federal jobs directory, who had the vice president’s residence blocked on Google Earth, who went to the Supreme Court to keep from revealing which energy executives helped him write the nation’s energy policy, is now endlessly yelping about how President Obama is holding back documents that should be made public."

> Dicky gets done by the NY Times

There were a few old chestnuts waiting to be roasted from the sordid past of Doomsday Dick today however. Paul Begala wrote a succinct assassination of the Cheney failures in which he points out that Cool Hand Cheney deferred his draft five times during the Vietnam War. Dick the Dodger had other priorities at the time it seems. The full story is enlightening, describing the collective failures of Cheney and friends to act on intelligence before 9/11, plus the red-herrings introduced by their torture policy after 9/11.

> A short history of Cheney-isms

Deadly Dick was the main feature but the supporting cast was worthy of mention. His daughter weighed in with her own insightful contributions into whether Cheney's support for torture should be scrutinized by the new administration - "When did it become so fashionable for us to side, really, with the terrorists?"

I'm not personally familiar with Liz Cheney's qualifications or experience with international law, but there's a palpable air of desperation when a former Vice-President starts wheeling out the family to pitch hit on Fox News.

You get the feeling that something very important was missing in the interview, which is not uncommon for any news or current affair program aired by Fox. The missing ingredient was so obvious that Jesse "The Body" Ventura managed not only to spot it, but has the Bloggersphere in overdrive when he nailed it in a nutshell...

"You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."

> Larry King and Jesse Ventura

Dicky Desperado is squealing like a pig for one reason - he knows he got it wrong. Nobody was meant to find out about the torture (enhanced interrogation techniques), the methods don't yield actionable intelligence and their use simply adds fuel to the outrage against American foreign policy - they are illegal, immoral and ineffective.

Cheney and his comedy routine would be funny if it weren't for the fact that the entire world has been impacted by the tragic policies of the previous White House administration - many of which bare his stamp in spirit and letter. The misguided patriotism of this man helped to turn a tragedy on 9/11 into a disaster for the entire world.

We are none of us safer.