Multimedia – New responsibilities for photojournalists

There are many videos linked in this post.
All of them are in HD and will take some time to load.
If the video is laggy, pause it and let it load before you try and watch it.
They are all worth the wait to watch.

A few months ago, multimedia photojournalism was revolutionized. Canon released the first ever full 1080P HD video camera that was integrated into a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) body – the EOS 5D Mark II. It is a terrific tool. A photographer can utilize this camera as a 21 megapixel still camera or as a high definition video camera.

It wasn’t long after the release of the camera that beautiful videos were hitting the web. The first and probably most famous yet was Reverie shot by Vincent Laforet. It showcased the cameras abilities by shooting at night with Canon still lenses ranging from Fisheye lenses to a 500mm lens and even a couple perspective correction lenses. It was not photojournalism nor was it intended to be.

The next video that caught my eye was that of German photographer Julian Stratenschulte. He did two videos on cyclists. They were unique because he was able to attach the camera to the bikes. One of his videos was called Backflip and the other was called Nachtfahrer. To view them, click on the movies link on his site. The last two videos (the ones sponsored by Canon) are those two.

At this point, everyone in the photo community was blown away by the abilities packed into this small camera. It was still yet to be seen how it would be used for photojournalism.

That is when I came across the work of David Stephenson, a staff photojournalist for the Lexington Herald-Leader and the photojournalism adviser to the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s student paper. He put it to the test for a photojournalist. Here is the video:

David Stephenson wrote his review of the camera on his blog.

Now I don’t bring this video to you to argue its technical execution or use of light and lenses. I think it was shot beautifully. My concerns come with the way the story was told.

With the advent of new technology in photojournalism, journalists have to be more careful than ever to maintain objectivity.

If you look at any of my multimedia pieces, you will see that I let the subject tell the story. Narration or title slides are sometimes necessary but I try to avoid that. My way isn’t the only way and it is probably not the best way. But it is an objective way.

David Stephenson did a great job of gathering beautiful shots. The problem is that most of the video was narrated by a reporter. While I’m sure unintentionally, her tone was one that makes you sympathize with the boy and his family’s story. It worked. That should not have been the job of the story.

Photojournalists are there to inform. Not to take sides. We are used to carefully crafting pictures and words to meet a strict objectivity guideline. Slight changes in tonality and word spacing in narration can change the connotation of the message.

I don’t think any damage was done with this video. It is a happy story with beautiful imagry. It just makes me think about how video and multimedia will evolve photojournalism and if advocacy journalism is on the rise. My good friend Lanz Bañes hopes so.

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