Monthly Archives: January 2011

Arizona Shooting and Local Media

The last thing we thought of writing about for this week’s entry was the massacre in Arizona this past weekend.  The reason: it seems like the media is already dropping the ball on this story.

My editor and I were sitting in a movie theater, waiting for a movie to start on Saturday when a mobile blast buzzed on our cell phones alerting us that Gabrielle Giffords had passed away.   The source: NPR.

I had to wait through two hours of Natalie Portman turning into a black swan before I could rush home and check out all the latest news on the story.  When I browsed a few web pages for The Arizona Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times and yes, NPR, I discovered that Giffords hadn’t died.  Argue what you will about the overzealous nature of breaking news producers these days, but it should be noted who in fact got their facts straight.  It was KOLD 13 News in Tucson.

My editor is friends with a woman by the name of Brittney Kelley, a KOLD 13 News producer there who has been working non-stop on the latest developments in the story.  We had a long phone chat with Kelley about what she has been seeing in the trenches as the story plays out.  “It’s been chaos here in Tucson.  This story will continue to be the story that rocked Tucson for a long time to come”, Kelley mentioned.

Local television news channels all across the U.S. have been hit with layoff after layoff, just as the newspaper industry has seen in recent years.  I wanted to get her take on how she and her news team have been going about reporting this story.  “Our head producer used a flip-cam to capture video of the ambulances carting the victims away.  No network cameras, just a flip-cam”, she mentioned.

What’s fascinating is… newspaper reporters have been doing the same thing.   The video footage her producer was able to capture came about because he happened to live only a few miles away from the scene of the incident.  In a way, he was acting not as a trained professional, but as a citizen journalist.  The footage, which gives you a clear picture of the chaos that resulted from the shooting, was much more fascinating than the talking heads interviews later shot by KOLD 13 camera crews out in the field asking ordinary citizens their thoughts on what had happened.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that KOLD 13 didn’t botch the story out of the gate.  While other news media were reporting that Giffords had passed away, KOLD 13 simply reported the facts.  A rarity in any media these days.  “It’s always against our protocol to report speculation”, Kelley mentioned.

As part of “Fit to Print”, we have  been working to show the interactions between newspapers and the local television news stations.  Traditionally, newspaper reporters will provide tips and information for stories they are working on to television news producers.  It’s even common that newspaper reporters will appear on-air to broadcast their latest discoveries on stories.  “It’s really sad to see what has happened to newspapers”, Kelley mentioned.  She even admitted, “You can go deeper and learn more with newspaper coverage.” That’s not to say that television journalists don’t do great work.  Kelley and her team have definitely proven that.

Will the interaction between print and broadcast reporters change as new media becomes more common in news organizations?

“We have reporters who go out in the field with their computers and will use Skype to broadcast a live shot now”, she mentioned. ”  With newspaper reporters now having the ability to write an article and broadcast themselves via their personal laptops, will we be seeing more of a merging between print and broadcast news outlets?  Particularly those that happen to be owned by the same company such as Gannett Corporation?

Let’s stayed tuned (whatever that means these days) and find out…


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Stock Footage Battle

The cat falling off the toilet bowl…


The movie trailer for the latest drama starring Kate Winslet  re-edited to big fun music to make it seem ridiculous…
YouTube offers a lot of great stuff… and a lot of shit… obviously.  But what does YouTube mean for stock footage purposes?  Can indie projects like “Fit to Print” just pluck any clips off YouTube to include in the documentary?
Probably not.  At least not without having to settle a huge lawsuit.
We’ve compiled a long-running list of stock footage to be used for “Fit to Print” by working with footage houses where you pay a service fee for an archivist who finds what you’re looking for.  We’ve built up a well-stocked library of footage dating back to early newsreel stuff, to more current footage capturing the newspaper industry’s gigantic transition. Some of the clips we are featuring are coming from YouTube.
Part of the frustration in doing a project like this… right now, in the digital age we live in — is the fact that so much of everything is on YouTube. This is great in so many ways, but for anyone who makes films or researches stock footage video clips as part of their work, it can be a little confusing.  For the most part, amateur stock footage clips are donated to us through the guarantee of crediting the original producer.  Usually, if there is a video that has been shot by a non-professional and it’s up on YouTube, and it seems to be a vital part of “Fit to Print”, we can just contact the original host.  YouTube can be perfect for tracking down the  of video content because of the link appearing by the original host just below the screen.
Most of the time when you’re trying to find the name of the original producer of a 1982 clip of Al Neuharth from USA Today, or a newspaper riot from the mid 90’s, it can be a bit trickier.
We’ve had to recruit practically everyone, including our extend friends and family, to help track down owners of certain clips appearing on YouTube.  In most cases, what appears on YouTube will also be pro-rated by stock footage houses according to length appearing on the site and how old the particular clip is. The latest clips from most major media outlets like Bloomberg will cost filmmakers like us nothing to use (if they also appear on YouTube that is). In hunting down a specific broadcast clip on newspaper stocks, I contacted a representative at Bloomberg who mentioned, “if our stuff is on YouTube, it’s free to use as long as you credit us”.
That seems fair enough.
I can’t say that about other major networks though, who still want to charge filmmakers an enormous amount to use stock footage.  An associate at Fox News mentioned that, “YouTube doesn’t matter, we still charge per clip”.
If anything YouTube has proven the absurdity of what some stock footage houses and major networks charge independent producers for their clips. I don’t have a problem at all with paying for content.  I rely on it in fact.  But the truth of the matter is, some clips should be free.  A television news broadcast from Peter Jennings or your favorite long-mustached local anchorman should be available for anyone to use. After all, it appeared on public television to people who weren’t even paying for it to begin with.  You can argue whether CNN or HBO should fit in this category seeing as how you need an original subscription to see their stuff to begin with.  But charging $900 for a 30 second clip of a whether man in Cleveland (as I found out was a running joke at ImageSource – one of our go-to archives) – come on! This kind of stuff continues to be a struggle for indie filmmakers. It’s time for that to change.
The best has been hunting down footage on the Tribune Company and newspaper enemy Sam Zell.  In a now infamous 2007 YouTube clip of Zell telling a journalist to “F**k off” at an Orlando Sentinel newspaper conference – the owner of the video told us to simply use it.  Another videographer of a 20 second clip of a “Zell Hell” flag being flown over a Tribune building mentioned over the phone, “Sam Zell?!  F**k that guy!  Use the clip.”

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