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Going Solo

Doing Videojournalism in the 21st Century

G. Stuart Smith

Publication Year: 2011


The traditional model of video news reporting has always had two separate roles: reporting and videography. For years, however, small-market news outlets have relied on “one-man bands”—individual reporters who shoot and edit their own video—for stories and footage. Lately, as the journalism landscape has evolved, this controversial practice has grown more and more popular. With the use of video constantly expanding, many large-market TV stations, networks, and newspaper Web sites are relying on one person to carry out a job formerly executed by two. News outlets now call these contributors VJs, digital journalists, backpack journalists, or mobile journalists. But no matter what they are called, there’s no denying the growing significance of solo videojournalists to the media landscape.
            Going Solo: Doing Videojournalism in the 21st Century details the controversy, history, and rise of this news genre, but its main objective is to show aspiring videojournalists how to learn the craft. While other textbooks depict the conventional reporter-and-videographer model, Going Solo innovates by teaching readers how to successfully juggle the skills traditionally required of two different people.
            Award-winning journalist G. Stuart Smith begins by describing how and why the media’s use of solo videojournalists is growing, then delves into the controversy over whether one person can cover a story as well as two. He illuminates how, together, the downsizing of the media, downturn in the economy, and growth of video on the Web have led to the rise of the solo videojournalist model. Going Solo profiles TV stations and newspaper Web operations across the country that are using the model and offers helpful advice from VJs in the field. The book presents useful guidelines on how to multitask as a reporter-videographer: conducting interviews, shooting cover video, and writing and editing a good video story. Readers will also learn how to produce non-narrated stories and market themselves in a competitive field.
            Smith, who started his career as a “one-man band,” insightfully covers an area of journalism that, despite its growing market demand, has received little academic attention. Going Solo: Doing Videojournalism in the 21st Century is useful for students learning the basics and those already in the field who need to upgrade their skills. By presenting industry know-how and valuable tips, this unique guidebook can help any enterprising videojournalist create a niche for him- or herself in the increasingly fragmented news media market.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xvi

Some of the best stuff I’ve ever written for TV, I composed while looking through the viewfinder of a camera. Some of the best stuff I’ve ever written for TV, I composed after logging video shot by an excellent photographer. Some of the best—and most gratifying—TV stories I ever told, I never wrote a word. I just let the pictures, sound, and people tell their stories....

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Chapter 1: A Rose by Any Other Name

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pp. 1-17

When Barack Obama delivered his inaugural speech on January 20, 2009, millions of people watched on traditional TV and cable news channels. Mil-lions more tuned in from work on their computers. But they didn’t choose news text services. They went online to see the speech streamed online, setting a record for people tuning into Internet Web sites to watch video.1...

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Chapter 2: VJ Is Like a Cussword

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pp. 18-31

As shown in chapter 1, using VJs may be a cost-effective way of covering more news than using two-person crews. Yet news media operations converting their reporters and/or photographers to VJs have found themselves mired in controversy. Employees hired for one position sometimes are reluctant to take on the duties of two. ...

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Chapter 3: Preparing to Shoot the VJ Story

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pp. 32-41

As critics already have pointed out in this book, solo videojournalism requires multiple skills that not everyone can master. Yet hundreds of VJs have performed the multiple tasks of reporting, interviewing, shooting, editing and, yes, time management that it takes to do the job well....

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Chapter 4: Shoot with Your Eyes and Ears

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pp. 42-52

After the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the Associated Press distributed a photo of a fireman carrying a baby injured in the attack. The infant’s bloodied head is nestled against the fireman’s right shoulder, her battered legs hang over his other arm. The fireman looks down despairingly at the limp, battered body as he rushes her to triage. Baby Baylee later ...

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Chapter 5: Get Closer to Your Subject

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pp. 53-70

Never forget that the best stories are about people, not just facts about an issue. You want to build stories around people your audience can relate to. That task begins by choosing good characters for the story and then working to get the best video and sound with them while shooting the story....

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Chapter 6: Be One with Your Equipment

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pp. 71-82

When shooting cover video for your story, all the rules that apply to a crew videographer still stand for the solo videojournalist as well.
If the video is shaky, out of focus, or dark, if the sound is over modulated, low or otherwise unintelligible, viewers aren’t going to cut the VJ any slack: they don’t know whether it was shot by a photographer working in a twoperson ...

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Chapter 7: Always Write to Get to the Next Piece of Sound

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pp. 83-106

There’s an adage that has circulated for years in TV newsrooms: the story is what you have on tape (or on whatever medium you recorded your video). If you don’t have a bite of the mayor, you can’t use it in the story. If you didn’t get a shot of the landfill that is being closed, you can’t write about it in the package. If you don’t have pictures of it, you may have to create a graphic to use ...

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Chapter 8: The Vision Comes Alive

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pp. 107-120

Whether the video story will be on air or online, the VJ still must edit it. This can be both a challenging and exhilarating part of the storytelling experience. This is the place where the VJ’s vision becomes apparent for all to see.
Just as the shooting required the VJ to master a number of technical details, editing requires the VJ to be proficient in a specialized area as well. Whether ...

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Chapter 9: Not Your Father's Video Story

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pp. 121-133

It’s a golden idol. The winged female statuette reaches skyward raising a symbolic globe over her head. This is an Emmy statue, one which the best TV news operations around the country have been honored to receive.
But this Emmy award rests not in a case at some TV station or broadcast network, but on a counter at a snack bar at the ...

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Chapter 10: They've Got MoJo, Baby - How VJs Put It All Together

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pp. 134-152

There is no single way to approach shooting, writing, and editing a story as a solo videojournalist, yet there are similarities in the way VJs operate as well. This chapter profiles VJs from TV, a newspaper, and an independent news website to show how various VJs go solo....

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Chapter 11: Think Ahead to Beat the Competition and Be Ready for the Future

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pp. 153-170

The retrenchment of the mainstream media may mean we will never again see the likes of Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, or Peter Jennings, who became household names as they delivered the day’s news in our living rooms.1 Yet the efficiency of working alone, the increasing use of VJs and the unprecedented explosion of new media video opportunities give solo videojournalists an op-...


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pp. 171-178


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pp. 179-192


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pp. 193-198

About the Author, Back Cover

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pp. 199-200

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272522
E-ISBN-10: 0826272525
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826219237
Print-ISBN-10: 0826219233

Page Count: 215
Illustrations: 39 illus, 2 diagrams, glossary
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1