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The progression of the television/newspaper convergence

When the Detroit Free Press was purchased by Gannett in 2005, video was not yet an integral part of the newspaper’s online makeup. But Gannett was heading heavily toward digital and by 2006, video was being churned out pretty regularly according to Kathy Kieliszewski, deputy photography and video director at The Press.

Today, video is a significant element in the storytelling process at The Press, so much that many staff members carry iPhones to catch raw footage while in the field. But breaking news isn’t the only kind of video featured on Freep.com, which also contains short, medium and longform documentaries. “We want to be seen as not just a newspaper; we want to be seen as a media company, that we produce content for print, mobile, tablet, desktop, we want to be known as being able to provide content that best tells the story,” she said.

Evidence that the use of video is becoming increasingly common at other newspaper websites isn’t hard to find. The Boston Globe for example, recently launched Boston Sports Live, a live noon sports show that airs three days a week on Boston.com. The Wall Street Journal recently decided to incorporate longer, in-depth videos on its site as well. According to a memo from Alan Murray, deputy managing editor of the Journal and executive editor of WSJ.com, the site had 19.7 million video streams in May, three times the number from the beginning of the year.

According to a TVNewsCheck article, newspapers are beginning to produce video that is as good as or better than some television stations. StarTribune.com, for example, has won regional Emmys, which are the same awards television stations try to win. The Detroit Free Press won two Emmy Awards just last month.

As newspapers vie for the same awards as television, and television expands into the digital arena, it would seem like a print and broadcast convergence is becoming even more imminent. But Bob Papper, professor and chair at Hofstra University’s journalism, media studies and public relations department and a former radio and television producer, says not so fast.

Compared to the time people spend watching television per day or per week, the time spent viewing videos is just a fraction of that, noted Papper. “The No.1 newspaper website is the New York Times and the average viewer spent between one and two minutes a day. We got a ways to go,” he said. In fact, his first study relating to the convergence of newspapers and television was done around 1995. Television still primarily makes its dollars on air, while newspaper predominantly makes its income from print. “So news change always happens faster when you’re looking back at it than when you’re living in real time,” said Papper.

But there is no question that video is a big deal for newspapers. Some newspapers train their still photographers on video, which is probably the most common model, noted Papper. But there are some newspapers that take it more seriously and have hired former TV journalists and photographers. “Anyone can pick up a camera but telling stories on video is a skill set,” he said. “The Las Vegas Sun, when they first started in a meaningful digital way, hired pretty much all TV news photographers. This is a website that constantly wins awards in video. If you take a look at the stuff they’re doing, it’s really good. I think this is critical; it’s not simply about video. It’s about good video. Its one of the issues TV stations are grappling with, I say grappling because there’s kind of an assumption that stations have moved wholesale to backpack journalists. There is no question that we have seen a growth in that area, but it not’s taking over the industry.”

Kieliszewski is also aware of the merging of mediums, but pointed out that newspaper journalists aren’t under the same constraints as broadcast journalists, who have very specific times they need to newscast. Instead, The Press uses its strengths by utilizing their best investigative reporters, videographers and still photography and combining it all together to create “something uniquely newspaper,” she said.

–Katrina M. Mendolera



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