One of the things that is hard—peculiar, I mean—about writing about something new is that new things aren’t always really that wonderful. They might have the potential. They might have moments of brilliance. But they aren’t quite fully baked.
Such is how it is with WorldStream, a video news site operated by the The Wall Street Journal on which its correspondents file very short video pieces from wherever they are in the world. I’m talking short. Just 15 seconds or less.
According to a story on the Nieman Journalism Lab Website “hundreds of WSJ staffers” have filed 2,815 videos since the paper started doing it 229 days ago. Many of them say they like it because, I think, it doesn’t dominate their day. At some other publications transitioning to video (and can we stop using the word “transitioning,” please?), the instruction to shoot video swallows up the time reporters could have otherwise used to actually report. The short video length for WorldStream, and the presence of a staff of editors, makes the idea work.
You can see a lot of times when traditional print-oriented publications shooting video have a difficult time of it. .
Sara Ganim, the excellent reporter for the Harrisburg (Pa) Patriot-News, won a Pulitzer Prize for her news-breaking stories on the Jerry Sandusky locker room sex scandal at Penn State. To her paper’s credit, I guess, she and others filed online video stories. They were often ragged, and you had to wonder how she did those stories, wrote for the paper and also appeared regularly on national TV. (She now works for CNN). Because lots of time, those video stories are just worthlesss.
Nationwide, reporters are doing video that could be done as a component part much more simply, as WorldStream stories seem to be. They’re not stories done as an afterthought or an editor’s insistence, but as a quick value-added part of the package. In some ways, they seem like sidebars.
What makes it quick, it seems to me, is that back at home base, there are skilled editors who can pass quick judgment, make edits and manipulate the video. This seems to be a relatively uncommon idea at a lot of news organizations whose primary orientation is print. But it’s what makes the Wall Street Journal thing work as well as it does.
Which, to get back to the lead, isn’t awesome. WorldStream, in the times I’ve seen it, hasn’t changed my life. It’s useful. It’s good. It’s not mind-blowing except that you can see where someday, it could be.
WorldStream is partnered with Michael Downing’s Tout video sharing Website, which has other news partners, which works well with some analytics tools, some managers, some editors. The result, in my mind, is not the showiest video journalism on the planet, but might be one of the ones with the most promise.