Video Journalism and Interactive Documentaries

Several weeks ago, a BBC News video had appeared embedded within a Guardian Media news story on the Guardian website (Microsoft launches UK online TV player).


[Screenshot made with the aid of the OUseful split screen utility]

I had a vague memory from last year that the BBC had been experimenting with embedding video on the Daily Telegraph website (BBC pilots iPlayer content sharing with Telegraph Media Group), and it seems that a wider agreement with other news groups is now in place: BBC to share limited video news content with newspapers.

Not everyone was happy about it though, nor did everyone join the party: Murdoch’s News International, for example, didn’t sign up to the initiative, although there may be good reasons for that – like getting people to pay to enter parts of News International web properties that embed video content from various Sky channels? If, as Andrew Lewin suggests, people will only pay for what they know about, then football highlights and ‘exclusive’ celebrity interviews would seem to fit the bill in an effective way. And this, it seems, may be exactly is what is going happen: England qualifier could be shown pay-per-view on newspaper websites.

Possibly another sign of the times with respect to the increasing use of video content on newspaper websites is the recent Guardian job ad (h/t to @digidickinson for spotting it) for a Video Content Producer:

With responsibility for training and assisting non-video specialists, such as reporters and foreign correspondents, in filming video to accompany news articles and features. You will be the main point of contact for putting into practice ideas of other non-video specialist staff, as well as originating ideas yourself. You should have experience in news video production with an aptitude for scripting, editing and voicing video material.

That said, video clips are not really a ‘new’ news medium… But interactive documentaries may be? A recent post on the Official Google Blog (Google climate change tools for COP15) included a link to:

a series of Google Earth layers and tours to allow you to explore the potential impacts of climate change on our planet and the solutions for managing it. Working with data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we show on Google Earth the range of expected temperature and precipitation changes under different global emissions scenarios that could occur throughout the century. Today we are unveiling our first climate tour on Google Earth: “Confronting Climate Change”, with narration by Al Gore.

Because maybe these do represent a new form of mass market news presentation?

See a recording of the “Confronting Climate Change” Google Earth tour below:

And what does this all mean for education? In the OU, we have been using bespoke video materials and interactive software applications to support our distance education courses for years: you can see several examples on OpenLearn, such as this interactive on The theory of plate tectonics: Destructive plate boundaries, continued: ocean-ocean (island-arc) subduction. (If you manage to find any others, please post a link in the comments below…;-) There also used to be a showcase of LTS interactives on the OU intranet, but I can’t find that any more? Com on, folks, let’s start promoting this stuff…:-)

That said, the animations and video materials used to support OU course materials tend to be produced to high production values (and long time scales…!) using in-house and contracted (often ex-OU…) specialist media producers. But is a time coming when academics might be expected to produce their own video material and interactive animations using tools like Google Earth?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...