Karen Peterson: Readers can see the story when journalists post video

Executive EditorJune 15, 2014 

“They keep putting me off, saying, ‘We’re backlogged. We’re backlogged,’” the Marine veteran said.

He was one of about 20 vets gathered at the Tacoma VFW post to tell U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, about their problems getting medical care from the Veterans Administration. The quote comes from a story written this month by our military reporter, Adam Ashton.

The statements from the Marine and other vets were filled with emotion. But the story became even more touching when you heard a vet’s voice crack as he leaned on his cane, pointed to his chest and said: “I’m the one that suffers because I can’t get medical care. I can’t get medical pills for my heart. I’ve been without my pills since 2013.”

Video helped us tell the veterans’ story at an even deeper level. Video storytelling is a skill newspaper reporters and photographers are learning and using as one more tool in their professional toolkit.

Modern-day reporters still must do the hard work of reporting and writing. Nowadays, they also post stories online, share them on Twitter or Facebook, and shoot photos and videos.

Advancing technology makes it easier to produce news videos. It also creates a bigger demand for them, particularly on smartphones and tablets.

A March report from the Pew Research Center found that 63 percent of U.S. adults watch video online. More than half of them watch news videos. (Music, comedy and how-to videos were more popular. Sports and political videos were less popular.)

Among adults who own smartphones, 88 percent watch video online. Most of them watch news videos.

The younger generation is even more video-oriented. Nine in 10 18- to 29-year-olds watch video online; about half of them watch news videos. This medium is a new way for us to reach an audience that often isn’t reading a printed paper.

Before the Internet, newspapers didn’t have a way to broadcast news videos the way TV does. Even then, the cost of hiring video cameramen and buying TV-quality video cameras was prohibitive.

In recent years, the proliferation of smartphones has put a video camera into the hands of millions of us. We record birthday celebrations or funny pet tricks and share the videos with our friends.

It’s a small step from there to train reporters and photographers to shoot video clips while on assignment. Over the past two years, we’ve equipped reporters with $300 iPods they can pull from their pockets and use to take pictures or shoot video. Preloaded apps help them edit their work. They post the video from the scene or send it to an editor for posting.

Courts reporter Adam Lynn, arts reporter Rosemary Ponnekanti and business reporter C.R. Roberts have become fluent in shooting and producing videos. Photographer Drew Perine also has taken to this new storytelling form and is creating elegant video stories.

Experience will tell us which kinds of videos work best for readers. Short clips from a crime scene are among the easiest to shoot and the most-watched. At the other extreme, we can devote hours of shooting and producing time to create a several-minutes-long documentary piece. Time constraints restrict the number of stories that get this treatment.

So far this year, our most popular videos have been:

1. Marine reunited with his military working dog Thor at Sea-Tac Airport.

2. Deluge drenches University of Puget Sound graduation.

3. Order restored at arraignments of Aaron Livingston for homicides.

4. Police: Tacoma teen claims he killed father.

5. Tragic accident on Commerce Street.

You can view these and the rest at thenewstribune.com/news-video.

Photo editor Joe Barrentine chuckles when you ask him about video.

“We’re the only people who think video is new,” he said. “TV has been doing it forever.”

Barrentine leads our video efforts, buying our gear and training us how to use it. He’s shared enough video of his two adorable daughters to prove the power of the medium and how easy it is to produce (and also to prove he’s a proud papa).

Video is just one more arrow in our storytelling quiver, Barrentine said. It allows readers to know more than what someone said; it lets them listen to the way the person said it.

“It’s a way for us to give readers more information,” Barrentine said, “to take them there with us, to tell a better story.”

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434
karen.peterson@thenewstribune.com

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