24 July 2014

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Time to end news video targets, union tells Johnston Press

A journalists’ union is calling for an end to targets for the number of online news videos produced at Johnston Press titles.

The National Union of Journalists says weekly titles are being set targets of between six and eight videos a week, which was putting overstretched journalists under pressure.

The issue was raised at a group chapel meeting in Manchester at the weekend, where most NUJ chapels across England and Scotland were represented.

Now the union has written to the regional publisher calling on it to relax the targets and also provide “proper recognition” for the work in journalists’ pay packets.

Deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick said: “The digital work that is being expected is not just video recording. It is the fact that afterwards, you have to edit and format it.

“At the moment, they are setting targets for the amount of videos a week. I have heard as many as six or eight. To make a video, you have got to have something worth filming in the first place.

“I have asked them to only use targets as a guideline and we want to talk to them about proper recognition for the work.”

He added that staff undertaking video work should have extra recognition in the pay deal which is being discussed, which is set to see increases of around £500 for journalists.

Barry said there was a need for further training in video work, including in health and safety because he claimed that journalists were sometimes sent into potentially dangerous situations to film.

He said the meeting had also discussed the pay deal which the union is negotiating with the company about and raised concerns about the company’s voluntary redundancy programme introduced last month in a bid to reduce costs.

Barry is meeting Johnston Press for further talks later this month and this will be followed by another group chapel meeting.

A Johnston Press spokeswoman said: “We await the NUJ’s comments and will engage with them as part of our ongoing dialogue.”

31 Comments

  1. ken

    Most newspaper groups are now moving away from staff produced video as they don’t get good results. The ones that do are the ‘on the scene’ things from punters, and CCTV stuff.

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  2. Jimbledon

    As resident video producer for a local newspaper, I can attest that it’s an entirely separate skill set from reporting and one that’s not necessarily fair to foist on already overworked journalists.

    The union bloke hits the nail on the head with his comments that “it is the fact that afterwards, you have to edit and format it” and “to make a video, you have got to have something worth filming in the first place”.

    If you want a video to look even half-decent, no matter how trivial the subject matter or how short the running time, you have to spend absolutely hours on it.

    Once you’ve filmed enough action shots and cutaways to supplement the main interviews, edited it in a way that catches the eye, exported in the correct format and done all the fiddly gubbins associated with uploading it, you could easily be looking at a day’s work. Not always, but that can be the case.

    If a news organisation can’t do video properly, they’re better off focusing their resources on their core product. A website with no video but plenty of well-written and compelling stories will fare far better than an overstretched one with rubbish stories and rubbish videos.

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  3. Desker

    JP reporter just doing my first video of the day. We do have targets, one per week, per every person with a company phone.

    We are expected to get above 100% of our target. So produce above our expected amount. Due to having to edit a couple of videos today I will be working late to catch up on my actual writing work for the paper…..

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  4. Ribtickler

    Do what most of us do here in JP La-La Land, just don’t bother.
    We don’t get any more money, or even thanks. And usually the results are amateurish to say the least as there was no basic training. We were thrown a crappy ‘smart’ phone and expected to get on with it (typical JP slap-dash approach).
    What are they going to do, sack you? They’d be taken to the cleaners at any tribunal.

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  5. Scribbler

    Unfortunately JP is hell-bent on paying off as many editorial staff as possible. God help those left behind who, as Desker says, will have to work overtime, having met their video “target”, in order to put the paper to bed.
    Chaos.

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  6. Voice of Reason

    What a sad world! I have, over the years, been asked to produce videos for newspapers I’ve worked for. The equipment they gave me was virtually obsolete, the means of production back in the dark ages. The point is until these idiots wise-up (and cough-up) the staff will be unable to compete.

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  7. Sub up North

    Sounds like typical Johnston Press – loads of clever ideas but a complete unwillingness to spend a penny on making those ideas work. They’ll only learn when they go bust, by which time the top brass will have shipped off to their tax havens.

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  8. Jonathan L Davey, Windsor

    Yesterday I was asked to review a website of someone in the NLP space… I suggested adding a video to their about us page so potential clients can see who they are.

    They came back and said, great idea, I’ll get my web guy on it… is that the same guy that writes the code, designs the page, writes the articles and illustrates the graphics…

    In the good old days, didn’t 1 person just spend their day thinking up headlines?

    Everyone has their own unique skills set and things they love doing & hate doing… for best results get folk doing what they love doing and your newspaper will resonate with the energy of your team and public will rush to buy it…

    Instead, they need to buy shades to read the online versions with all the flashing banners!

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  9. ISeeEverything

    If they want more video, take on more staff. It’s as simple as that.

    Report this comment

  10. The common good

    By setting targets all JP gets is a load of rushed, amateurish videos that add no value for the reader. I heard of one reporter taking a video of some fog just to add to the paper’s monthly video tally.

    Yes, video can work for certain stories, but trust the reporters to know when it is worth it and stop setting us arbitrary targets.

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  11. Samestory

    The only positive thing I can see from this thread is that JP colleagues all appear to be in the same boat and share the same philosophy regarding the slap-dash manner of this video demand.
    As least as a body of reporting staff we can make a stand against this.
    I don’t think people are against uploading video, we just want proper equipment, pay and the time to be able to record and edit it properly.

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  12. JP-videomaker

    Oh come on, a simple video takes five minutes to record (If you don’t have a flip cam use the mojo mobile, which is an alright quality) while on the job (it doesn’t need to be great for newspaper websites, something simple and easy, perhaps a quote from an interview, a couple of scenes etc) and 10-20 mins to put together something simple on Windows Movie Maker with a caption that says ‘recorded on cameraphone’ if needed. Perhaps some slate images either side with your paper name on.

    It’s not as hard as people make out. It doesn’t need to look professional, TV companies are there for that, but a 20-40 second video (or even a photogallery of pics not included in the paper) can add something to a story.

    Ask for more money, or more staff if need be but it’s not as hard as people make out

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  13. Ribtickler

    Ah JP-videomaker, spoken like a slap-dasher company yes man.

    It’s not about how to do it, it’s about the principle. If you want more effort from an already over-stretched staff, then PAY US BETTER!

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  14. Oh for an ideal world

    @ JP Videomaker. I too produce videos for the company. It’s also not as easy as you make out. The video itself is easy enough, it’s the uploading of it to the system that makes things much harder than they need to be. The web connection means it can take an age. Even then you can wind up with the software timing out on you as many times as not. Hardly ideal when you’ve 101 other things to be doing.

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  15. Jimbobble

    Also JP Videomaker, I’d question whether the kind of quick-fix video hit you mention adds value for readers.

    Every once in a while, something happens which is so spectacular (e.g. a fight, a fire, a crash) that any old video of it will do. But for your bread-and-butter stuff like community stories or diary events, you’ve got to make it look good or no-one will want to watch it.

    It may “only” take, say, 30 min to do it the corner-cutting way, but that’s still 30 minutes wasted if no-one outside the office gives a monkey’s about the end result.

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  16. JP-videomaker

    @ribtickler – Haha, I wish I could agree with being a yes man, I have my fair share of gripes. I didn’t say I disagreed with the principle, more money, less targets, more staff, better servers would all be a good thing. What I disapprove of is the hyperbole that I think goes into some of the arguments.

    @oh for – we’ve all been there, nothing more annoying than a video hitting 98 per cent then timing out (particularly five minutes before hometime). The fact is though, the bigger the video the longer it takes, if you have a long video then cut it down and run it as a series, if you think it’s going to take a while minimise the window or change to a different tab and check it every ten minutes just to make sure it’s still working and move onto another of the 101 things to do while you wait.

    @Jimbobble (love the name by the way) – yes, there are some dubious videos but there are also a fair share of dubious pictures and stories. You’re always going to get something which others might consider a waste of time, but I’m often surprised which ones are hits and which are misses. I wouldn’t call it corner cutting either, yes it’s easier but I think more often than not the results are just the same.

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  17. Scribbler

    From what I can gather, the video target is aiming to get advertising on line. It’s not really about the quality or otherwise of the video – it’s a means to an end.
    Get your video, have it prefixed via Brightcove with an advert for Carlsberg or whatever (and then hope your video clip isn’t about Alcoholics Anonymous or a raid on an off-licence!)
    I have yet to hear from any reader that they enjoyed a video on the website. They are more concerned to get their news in the paper. Remember that, JP? The newspaper??

    Report this comment

  18. Ex-Insider

    I am sure there are some very good JP videos out there. It is my misfortune that I have yet to see one. Current journalists I have spoken to tell me videos are very time-consuming to create, time that could be profitably spent elsewhere. One reporter told me he enjoyed making the odd video if only because it got him out of the office for half a day. In my view, videos add little or nothing to a newspaper web experience. Best avoided.

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  19. working the system

    Everyone here seems to be obsessed with the concept of hard-pressed editorial staff having to shoot video on top of their existing workload, without thinking it through.
    The target is, as has rightly been stated, one piece of video content per set of issued kit per week, and some JP centres are wildly exceeding that while others are falling well short.
    Those who are busting the target aren’t slavish company drones, they’ve just integrated a bit of support video into their normal work, which in many cases means they actually have to leave the office and talk to people face to face. Shock horror.
    But that’s not the only way they are tackling the problem – because you don’t have to shoot and edit a video to tick the box.
    JP has a deal with PA which allows access to news video packages – if you’re doing a local follow-up to a national story, there’s material going begging.
    Picture slideshows take about five minutes to put together, are popular with visitors, allow you to display loads of pictures you can’t put in the paper – whether contributed or not – and count as a video, too.
    And while nobody thinks twice these days about asking someone to send in a picture, how many are priming punters to send in video, too – we’ve featured contributed video from am dram groups, charities and schools in recent weeks. The quality is at least as good as anything we can do, and often better. You just have to ask nicely, because most people have the technology these days.
    A more interesting question would be why JP insists that video is the way forward while other groups seem content to only use it once in a blue moon. Who is right?
    And while we’re on the subject, visitors to JP sites rightly complain that the interminable introductory ads are usually as long as the video they are lumped onto, and there’s no way to skip them, which hardly seems the way to encourage video views.

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  20. old hack

    Bit off the subject of videos of news websites (which certainly in the case of Trinity Mirror seem to have turned into a seven-day wonder after huge cost in training, equipment, stress, smartphones etc…) but when exactly did “1 person just spend their day thinking up headlines”?
    Subs may be getting written out of history, but would like to think there was always a BIT more to it than that……

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  21. UnhappySnapper

    We’ve got thousands of pounds worth of video equipment in the photo cupboard at our paper but it’s not been used for years. I refuse to touch it because I’m a photographer not a film-maker. Besides, no-one’s interested in some wobbly footage of a cake sale in the local church or some distant shot of a Royal family member on a visit because that’s as close as the reporter could get. Leave the video content to the major news channels…

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  22. Callmecynical

    It would help if the video producers used a tripod to hold the camera steady. An example was the recent business awards video posted on The News, Portsmouth, and other sites. It was absolute rubbish – it should have been cut to about 30secs – and the video guy obviously wasn’t using a tripod because it was so wobbly I felt seasick. You don’t need an expensive tripod for a lightweight camera – it would cost no more than £50-£60 per centre to provide one. Not exactly a fortune is it?

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  23. Bashu Banzu

    Would it really kill these organisations to have a video production professional on the staff to train reporters, take care of the editing and the uploading of clips? A digital sub if you like.
    Setting targets is a typically unimaginative approach to video. I went for an interview for the job of Head of Video at JP and the guy interviewing me appeared to know nothing about video production or even about the job beyond “we have to make money from video” which he kept repeating like a mantra. But way to make money from video is not to make more rubbishy video.
    Dropping video altogether is risky as as the web is becoming more visual and audience expectations will change in line with that. But there does need to be some serious quality control along with a bit of strategic thinking about what is actually a massive commercial opportunity for the locals and regionals.
    The answer to the problem does not lie at the door of the reporters. It is a business issue and the way out of the current mess should be led by sales. If sales teams were smart about this they would be able to sell video ads and sponsored content which would more than cover the cost of hiring a small team to produce higher quality video.

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  24. Big g, Up north

    Jp are just obsessed with selling ads on the back of these videos,it’s not rocket science to understand jurnalist should be writing stories for newspapers.

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  25. moshprd

    @JP-videomaker

    Spoken truly like somebody who doesn’t actually have to go out and do these videos on a daily basis yourself.

    As somebody who does, I can tell you it is not that easy.

    Videos are a great addition to a news website – when they are appropriate. But I have been asked to do videos of council meetings (men in suits talking in business speak which I would not watch if you paid me), a video of a roundabout (yes, really), and a video of an art exhibition (which meant there was no room on the website for the photographs).

    And people have to sit through a 30 second advert before they actually get to watch this drivel. Meanwhile, the amount of time I have to spend doing actual journalism is being cut, and cut, and cut.

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  26. Oh for an ideal world

    @ JP Videomaker. I wasn’t talking about long videos. These problems rear their head repeatedly on videos shorter than a minute too.

    Report this comment

  27. Out of the box

    User-generated content? Think out of the box and use social media to get the readers to contribute?

    Sick and tired of complaints about ”the annoying adverts”. Is that really a major revelation that media businesses (journos’ wages, for that matter) are actually funded by advertising? No advertising = no cash!!

    Report this comment

  28. Jimbo

    Why do newspapers bother producing their own video packages? It is pointless. A total waste of time and money. Why not put the resources into actually putting a decent newspaper together?
    I’ve no issue with using video from time-to-time, such as CCTV action sent from the police, a video submitted from a reader or even something shot on-the-spot by a quick-thinking reporter. But why oh why newspapers feel the need to compete with local TV news stations is beyond me. Who actually watches this rubbish and takes it seriously?
    When I worked at the Hull Daily Mail the paper started producing video packages for its website. When asked about the poor quality in comparison to TV, the editor said: ‘Some have said it’ll be home video…but I like home video.’
    Totally clueless.
    Having worked in TV and for newspapers, my advice to the print trade is simple: give up video.

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  29. Jimbledon

    Jimbo (nice to meet a fellow Jim!) – I produce video for an independently-owned local newspaper and it has led to a sizeable increase in our web viewing stats over an 18-month period.

    Now admittedly, some question the assumption that driving traffic to the web is the way forward for the industry. However, the point is that – in theory – it can increase your online hits if that’s your goal. The problem is not with video per se, but that few titles do it properly.

    They pick subjects that just don’t lend themselves to the medium and/or they expect untrained, overworked reporters to produce it on substandard kit. Most seem to be producing it on smartphones – which are fine for a quick snatch of a major breaking incident, but totally inadequate for just about anything else.

    I can only hark back to my earlier comment on this thread. Video’s all well and good, and there’s no doubt it’s something that more and more websites are doing (not just in local newspapers). However, if you can’t do it well then don’t bother – there are other ways of bringing in the readers in print and online. Allowing reporters to be reporters isn’t a bad start.

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  30. "Video killed the radio star"

    ‘Official’ JP target of one a week not the case in a lot of offices. Try one a day, and you’re probably a bit closer.
    It’s not a major problem doing the videos. They only want 20/30 seconds, but having such a high target and heavy workloads means the quality can’t ever be top-notch, and often looks silly.
    Quality not quantity would be my vote, but suppose it’s all about trying to monetise the web.

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  31. overworked1

    Having done many videos for the publication I work for – there aren’t many thanks and there are quite a few problems.
    Firstly, the editors have forgotten what a video actually involves to make it look half decent, perhaps a good hour or two of editing and also a wide range of clips is the key, as well as a voice over and adding captions etc.
    Then there’s the exporting which takes ages.
    Then there’s the fact that as I’m seen as the young gun in the newsroom, many older journalists aren’t willing or choose not to teach themselves how to edit videos, meaning I take on their videos too.

    The problem here-on lies with these few factors, newspapers should hire a digital journalist to help edit videos and pass on expertise – to reduce the workload of reporters.
    Secondly if a reporter is going to do video and a story with a notepad, juggling both things at live events is very tricky as is setting up tripods, editors need to send an extra pair of hands if they want a video to look good.
    Videos add something to news stories, it’s a means of telling a story in a different way and if done properly their a real asset to any website, but video shouldn’t be done for video’s sake – it has to mean something or add something.
    Ideally what needs to happen is an editor or newseditor should try it for themselves. To go to an event record footage and take down notes on a notepad and turn it into a decent video. I would just love to see the results – maybe then they’d think of better ways of implementing video for the 21st century.

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