A Note From the Publisher:

April 2009

In this month's issue of The Digital Journalist, the monthly online magazine for visual journalism, we are making a radical departure from the norm. As longtime readers know, TDJ has been on the front lines of reinventing photojournalism since its first issue 11 years ago. This month, we are turning over the entire magazine to our friend and colleague Ken Kobré, professor of photojournalism at San Francisco State University and author of "Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach," and his deputy, Jerry Lazar. Ken, who runs his own site, The KobreGuide.com, aggregates the best of newspaper video. For this issue, he has reached out to some of the top people in this emerging world to show and discuss how they are changing the face of photojournalism.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher

A Letter From the Guest Editor of This Special Video Issue

April 2009

Spokesman-Review (Wash.) visual journalist Colin Mulvany is a highly decorated Platypus alum whose portfolio and commentary serves as our cover story this month. Colin was among the first and best to make that bold leap from still photography to video. He also personally trained and groomed his paper's photography staff to produce great videojournalism along with him. He recently received yet another award -- second place in NPPA's Best of Photojournalism contest for Web news video for "Warming the Homeless." Read about his long, steady trek to the top.

Kathy Kieliszewski generously shares her perspective as leader of the Emmy Award-winning video staff of the Detroit Free Press. Their staff keeps wowing us with their labor-intensive projects, each one reflecting a strong level of collective commitment. How can such a small unit spend a year chronicling life inside an orphanage? How did they ever find the time to put together their ambitious multi-faceted Emmy-winning 40th anniversary salute to Aretha Franklin's "Respect"? And how many staffs would dare to undertake a 50th anniversary celebration of Motown Records by preparing FIFTY short video stories? Kathy takes us behind the scenes at freep.com to show us how they keep churning out the hits.

New York Times videojournalist Erik Olsen treats us to an inside look at how he personally made the transition from ABC-TV news shooter to creating video stories for a newspaper – and why he's so much happier for it. As a "one-man-band"-style VJ, he finds that having the opportunity to edit his own stories (instead of handing over footage to an editor, as usually happens in TV) helps him better visualize the final result as he's shooting – making for a better story overall. As part of a crack team of 15 videojournalists, Erik lends fresh insight into how one of the nation's top news organizations is wholeheartedly committing itself to pioneering first-rate videojournalism.

With newspapers shrinking and dying, videojournalists worry that there will be no outlet for their work. One solution, for the entrepreneurially-minded, is to strike out on your own and take a shot at freelancing. But who will buy your pieces? How much will they pay? (A budget-slashing paper surely can't be a potential customer.) What are the protocols and procedures? Do you pitch ideas, or only peddle finished stories? So many questions, so few people in a position to answer them. Luckily we found one – Brent Foster, a former Los Angeles Times videojournalist who packed it in this year and headed for New Delhi, where he's setting up shop as a full-time freelance VJ. We asked for details; he graciously provided them, in his "E-mail From New Delhi."

Probably the best potential market for freelancers is not cash-starved newspapers, but organizations and associations whose Web sites are designed to communicate to their membership. A few have already experimented with videojournalism. Among those who've produced the most successful results is the gargantuan 40-million member American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The good news for videojournalists who've been laid off is that AARP.org represents a viable freelance market. AARP Multimedia producer Nicole Shea, whose background includes stints at National Geographic and Getty Images, gives us the inside scoop on what AARP is looking for – which should open your eyes to other possibilities for institutional videojournalism markets.

For this special issue, the KobreGuide mavens distilled a list of "Ten Tips to Improve Your Videojournalism." One of those tips is to tell a story from an alternative perspective. When Reuters' award-winning photog Lucy Nicholson attended an intensive MediaStorm workshop (her first foray into videojournalism), she impressed us with her fresh look at an old icon, by profiling the underwear-clad Times Square musician who calls himself "The Naked Cowboy" -- from his girlfriend's point of view. Our Q&A with Lucy illuminates her creative process.

Another tip is to find a singular character on which you can hang your story. It's such important (and oft-neglected) advice, that we asked KobreGuide contributor Kathy Strauss, an accomplished visual journalist in her own right, to share her favorite character-oriented videos from KobreGuide, and demonstrate why each story was immeasurably improved by having a single human stand in for an abstract issue or theme.

We present a wide range of dispatches in April. Louie Palu writes one of the best descriptions of being under fire in Afghanistan. His written dispatch is accompanied by video. Luiz Maximiano went into Burma (called Myanmar by the military junta), which is always dangerous, and reports on a group of courageous individuals attempting to help their Burmese neighbors – no matter how far away. On March 15 there was an upset in the presidential election in El Salvador and Brian Harkin was there to see the former rebel group FMLN win its first election in 16 years. In India, Danish photographers Klavs Bo Christensen and Carsten Snejbjerg covered the Holi Festival – and came away encrusted with the brightly colored powder thrown to celebrate spring.

To illustrate what differentiates videojournalism from other media, we created a hypothetical story – "Building a Sandcastle" – that also serves to show how a videojournalist can show us something we couldn't find anywhere else. In "The Future of Videojournalism," we offer a peek at some new and emerging trends that we feel will soon be used to improve the medium's viability and versatility.

We're confident that you'll find plenty in this issue to help you improve the quality of your own videojournalism. If you've found or created something worthy of KobreGuide.com, please let us know by clicking the "Recommend a Story" tab on our homepage – we're grateful for all the extra eyeballs that help us locate those proverbial needles in the haystack. Join our KobreGuide Facebook Group and we'll e-mail you a weekly roundup of greatest hits. And if your newspaper wants to join the KobreGuide Consortium, enabling it to feature the Web's best videojournalism on its own site at no cost, don't hesitate to get in touch.

We're grateful to Dirck Halstead and his professional team at DigitalJournalist.org for this golden opportunity to guest-edit this special issue and share our videojournalism adventures and insights with you.


Ken Kobré
Publisher, Editor-in-Chief

P.S. – There are still a few spots open in our upcoming Platypus Workshop in Portland, Ore., May 1-10, a comprehensive boot camp for staff and freelance photographers, picture editors and media producers making the transition to high-definition digital video storytelling. Participants will learn about the newest HD digital cameras, field sound recording, cinematic storytelling, the use of lenses, tripods, and Apple's latest Final Cut Pro editing software. Register here.