Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Refocusing digital efforts, GCI wants all newspaper reporters producing web videos again; 'traditional journalists have to change' thinking, exec says

Gannett will push reporters to resume shooting video at all its more than 80 U.S. newspapers, an idea first tried four years ago that largely fizzled amid steep cutbacks in staffing.

The new push was outlined by Kate Walters, a senior director at Gannett Digital, in a recent interview with She said the plan is part of a broader campaign to generate or buy more local news video for the company's digital network, as Chief Digital Officer David Payne, hired last spring, steps up his reorganization of digital efforts.

Walters did not give a timetable in her interview, and she didn't disclose any advertising elements with the plan. However, video "pre-rolls" command higher ad rates, so it's likely more revenue-generation is one of the goals.

'A huge opportunity'
The drive for more video from reporters doesn't come without risks. It could further strain newsroom resources because of the labor-intensive nature of video production. Currently, only 5-10 newspapers are producing video, according to Walters. The company wants to extend that to all 80 or so.

"That's a huge opportunity,'' Walters told "That's our biggest opportunity to really increase the amount of content across our newspaper properties."

The company plans to equip and train reporters. The idea was tested at one paper -- the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota -- where video viewership rose 461% from a year ago after the test, Walters said.

"We need to give them the ability to shoot video, so we don't have to just rely on photographers and videographers, which are few and far between," Walters said. "So we really almost need a culture shift across all our reporters. Traditional journalists have to change their thinking about the way they're creating stories by adding video."

Wanted: breaking local news
The new video strategy mirrors one rolled out in 2007, when Corporate's News Department provided training and cameras to newsrooms, as the company made websites a centerpiece of news delivery. Since then, however, GCI has cut newsroom staffing in a wave of layoffs that reduced overall GCI employment by more than 20%.

Walters said GCI is focusing especially on breaking local news because that "performs well across all our sites,'' and can be shared using new video players on homepages. She did not explain, however, why readers in, say, Des Moines, would be interested in watching local news videos from Cherry Hill, N.J.

To process and share the growing video inventory, GCI is building a central production center in Atlanta, at WXIA-TV. That center was first made public in early August, when then-CEO Craig Dubow disclosed plans for a "relaunch" of GCI's core websites.

In addition to producing more video in-house, Gannett Digital will buy video to cover subjects -- such as business news -- or markets where GCI doesn't have a strong presence, Walters said. And the company will be looking for more reader-generated videos, too.

Related: Why newspapers should jettison most web video efforts.



  1. Yeah, who needs photojournalists? Good, high quality photojournalism? Ahh, ANYONE can do it!


  2. Video editing is REALLY time-consuming. So either you tie up a bunch of people editing video, or you just run raw video that won't be all that compelling.

  3. They will run raw

  4. Yes, it will be raw.

  5. Maybe they can get the Presswire photographers to shoot video for an extra $10.

  6. Publishing raw video is like publishing the unedited contents of a reporter's notebook from, say, a fatal car crash. Readers expect more from a newspaper.

  7. This is an outstanding idea! Let's take newspaper reporters, skiled and trained in the art of written communications, and ask them to create video of themselves and the stories they cover. Another brilliant idea from Gannett. How many new vice presidents were around the table when this piece of genius was hatched?

  8. This is old news Kate! Isn't this the reason why Gannett invested in Livestream???

    Good luck having jpurnalists shoot, EDIT and produce video!!,

  9. Oh, come on. Take a look at the video on your local tv newscast. How long did take for those folks to learn how to edit video? (Being sarcastic here.)

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. "She did not explain, however, why readers in, say, Des Moines, would be interested in watching local news videos from Cherry Hill, N.J."

    Did the interviewer have the smarts to ask why readers in Des Moines would want to watch local videos from Cherry Hill? One can not answer a question that is not asked.

  12. From the interview with Walters, she said that they're creating an editing studio in Atlanta where local papers would send the raw video to be turned into usable content. That sure sounds like a great plan.

    She also said that "breaking news" was important for newspaper video. And that they would be shared across the Gannett network. So I guess they think that readers in Des Moines DO want to watch fire and accident videos from Cherry Hill.

    Aside from the staff time to create this video content, readers will spend less time on site clicking on pages and more time watching videos (if everything works as planned, of course) ... so will page views go down?

  13. Interesting: also has this interview with New York Times video director:

    "While video has been published by the New York Times for several years, it is now becoming a primary reporting tool, not just an adjunct to print stories, says Ann Derry, Editorial Director of Video and Television for The New York Times in this interview with Beet.TV"

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. So this is the video strategy David Payne has been telling us about? Note to Mr. Payne: this ain't CNN and you're about to see why.

  16. If they researched their own products they'd see that the public taste for video has been minimal. Perhaps breaking news is different, but that's one of the few exceptions.

  17. Another ambitious strategy which will go by the wayside because of furloughs and staffing reductions.

  18. And....
    I have friend,who is a writer at a Gannett site who was asked(ordered)to now do more general photgraphy as the regular photographer was layed off.
    She had to buy her own freaken camera!
    So who is going to OK the purchase of hundreds of good quality cameras needed to produce good video?

  19. Maybe this means the video department at Florida Today will actually have something to do besides filming the awful TV show nobody watches.

  20. Let's do some math. Assume the EE wants one fresh video a day for his site. 80 papers. 80 videos to edit. Some with urgency to be turned around and posted. How many folks will it take in that editing bay in Atlanta to crank that stuff all out? Bet corporate hasn't done that math, either.

  21. Payne is a fairly clueless attorney who is wondering "what the F am I doing at Gannett". Fish out of water. This guy is a big talker and no substance.

  22. Noted from Kate Walters' LinkedIn profile that she's another MBA running a newspaper company. Oh, goody.

  23. "We need to give them the ability to shoot video, so we don't have to just rely on photographers and videographers, which are few and far between," Walters said. No there are plenty, they just want to get paid. Readership goes down, so produce less, which drives readership down, which causes the need to produce less, and so on, til the medium becomes extinct

  24. Yes, as is often the case with Gannett, there's a plan that sounds wonderful in the corporate boardroom, and is yet another plan that we will have neither the money, time or personnel to execute with any resemblance of quality. It will be hugely resisted by an under-motivated furloughed staff. Hey, let's roll this out in Q1, right? Good idea.

    But some VP looks good for six months or a year, gets a bonus, and it's a talking point for the analyst or corporate meetings. So, if it's another dud, who the heck cares?? A bunch of mobsters were accused yesterday of taking over a public company and running it for their own benefit. Uh, is the FBI reading this blog? What's the difference between the mob and this bunch?

  25. Will never happen. Gannett will never spend the money to buy the cameras etc ...

  26. The company doesn't even provide smartphones to the newsroom staff. You think they're going to provide video equipment?

  27. And maybe when the reporters are out shooting video they can swing by the local hardware store and pick up next weeks ad copy and then on the way back to the office they can stop at the convenience store and fill the single copy rack.

  28. Kate, you have a nice resume. Don't muck up your reputation with ignorant drivel.

    Don't you think you should at least talk to a few 'traditional' journalists to find out if they are all as crusty as you suggest?

    Here's one perspective: I'm probably what you think of as a traditional journalist. I have gray hair, too, so you might not take me too seriously.

    But I've shot video -- on my own equipment. I worked it on my own time. I have never been given equipment or trained in video editing. But I've done it and I think we probably all could.

    Your assessment of your new colleagues comes off as kind of insulting and doesn't exactly help you deliver your message. But in spite of that, I can tell you this: The journalists of Gannett, the vast majority of them anyway, are hard-working, innovative, scrappy, flexible souls. We have survived irrational leaders, fly-by initiatives and outrageous compensation schemes. We've taught ourselves and each other the new technology. No training at my site -- on ANYTHING. No technology budget either for reporters as far as I can tell.

    There's no reason to assume we can't learn video. But you really show your ignorance by saying we're not doing it because we need to change our thinking. You apparently don't have a clue what we're thinking or doing, so that was pretty sad.

    You'll help us much more if you get a clue how we do our jobs, what we need to do our jobs better, what kind of stuff has been shoved onto our plates because of all the layoffs/furloughs/insanity, and what we need to accomplish the things you're suggesting.

    That could take time and conversation and equipment and training and maybe some patience. But those are worthwhile investments if you're serious.

    If you're just throwing up ideas to say you're breaking bold new ground, you'll just look silly.

    Aim higher.

  29. This is truly THE STUPIDEST, half-baked idea I've ever read coming out of corporate! On so many levels. I don't even know where to start.

    Whoever wants to get rid of Walters now has the ammo they need because when this bombs, she'll be held accountable.

    Here's an idea: since corporate thinks being a visual journalist is something you can train to do for a couple days and voila!, it must be just as easy to train to be a publisher or executive editor. Therefore, why not train the video and still photojournalists that haven't yet been axed, to run the paper on their paltry salaries? That would save millions of dollars, because Gannett would not need those six-figure suits anymore.

    Or their crazy ideas, like this one.

  30. Newspapers advised to dump their video efforts:

    Lets see a show of hands on who watches those crappy videos kids at Gannett papers are forced to crank out every day!


  31. Let's do what so many other successful websites have done: Kicked-in-the-genitals videos! How about a loop of Craig Dubow getting struck in the genitals with a sack of sand hanging by a rope. He has some extra time now.

  32. Well said, 9:34.

  33. Kate: You have almost no hope of making this work. Don't take this the wrong way, but you simply have no idea what you're talking about, and everyone you order to charge the machine guns knows it. Your only hope is to go live in the mud with the troops for a couple months. Only then will you start to figure out what it would really take. We need this to work, so please get it right.

  34. 5:07PM, FYI, Florida Today is paid to create the that "awful TV show", as you say, by the local college.

  35. Very predictable. Idea put fireard, folks on thus blog dump on it. Anything different you "experts" proclaim it's failure. You never disappoint.

  36. So when she says that the demo paper had a rise in viewership of 461%, does that mean that they had 4.6 new viewers? What a complete waste of time.

  37. Having reporters do video means fewer stories covered, less research, less depth and poor videos that are mostly talking heads or burning wrecks. I smell another half-baked desperate corporate scheme here. How can Gannett afford to equip us when the revenues are falling and the cash is used for stock buybacks, higher dividends, executive bonuses and golden coffin bye-bye packages for our failed executives?

    Not a lot of hits for videos either, unless they're professionally done and well promoted. I don't have the time to view many. A good story is usually quicker.

  38. Ansel Adams is turning over in his grave11/02/2011 11:03 PM

    10:32, you don't have a clue. I was one of the reporters who was trained to shoot video in 2007. I enjoyed being able to shoot video and even produced a few I'm proud of (which got good feedback on from real photographers). But there is a huge learning curve and you learn it by doing it. And it helps to have a real photographer or videographer take you under their wing and explain the things you didn't get in the crash course, such as what makes a good image with lighting and framing and to recognize it.
    Then there are the logistics of going on assignment and being reporter and videographer. You have to be two steps ahead of yourself to make sure you get what you need for the article and for the video. There are times this happened for me only by dumb luck because there is a lot going on when you're shooting your b-roll and interviewing for print and video, setting sound levels making sure lighting is right, white balancing, and on and on.
    Now you go back to the office and edit this bad boy and that takes time. The greener you are, the more time it takes. And somewhere in the newsroom is an editor waiting for the article to be written. I spend an awful lot of uncompensated hours doing this.
    Some of my colleagues thought I was nuts for doing it, a few others who were a little more savvy thought it was good to get a new skill to make a print guy more relevant (marketable) in a digital world.
    When did I stop shooting video? It was proportional to the number of people who got laid off or reporting positions left open when people left and were never replaced. Then GCI replaced all the "tape" cameras with 35 mm digital still cameras that shoot video. And they're not going to turn one of those babys over to some scribbler with a notebook.
    Having us multitask comes at a price. I shoot my own photos when there isn't a real photographer around and when you're on assignment, you have to lay down the pen and pick up the camera, which is a lousy way to go about getting a good image. And when you stop taking notes, you missing things. I took to backing my self up with a digital record so I could get a halfway decent image for a story
    And the point and shoots they give us are junk. They are so slow you never get the image you see due to the lag time between when you press the shutter and the thing actually takes the picture. Like many of you, I've taken to using my own camera.
    The bottom line, you can do it right or do it the Gannett way - half assed. And I don't believe they're going to spend the money to get us the technology we need.
    And yes, like many of the other posters, I have even shot art with my smart phone, which has run.

  39. She's an ex-AOLer. 'Nuff said.

  40. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  41. Editing video isn't that time consuming once you learn how to do it ... and if you are allowed to do it consistently. It is, however, incredibly time consuming and inefficient if it's one of those things that you do every once in awhile, which is the way Gannett wanted it done back in 2007. I loved shooting video, but it quickly became clear -- at my site at least -- that it wasn't valued, so I was asked to spend my time doing other things.

    This is typical Gannett. Spend a lot of money training people to do things that you aren't really sure you want. Let those people lose the skills or move to other jobs, then decide you were wrong. This is why the company fails. They cut important news gathering operations and waste oodles of money on shit like this ... all thanks to ineffective and fickle management.

    Shooting video isn't a bad idea. Doing it in this backward manner is a recipe for failure.

  42. 11:03 and 2:30, you both "get it."
    My first-hand experience mirrors what you've both written. Every single person who was trained in 2007 to shoot video at my former newsletter is gone. The video "equipment" bought for this is obsolete, broken and/or missing. The solution: shoot video with iPhones, LOL!

    IOW, a complete mismanaged disaster.

    Like GCI.

  43. OK 10:31, yes the community college pays Florida Today to produce a newscast NOBODY watches. But what will happen when the new college president withdraws that funding or the taxpayers realize money is being funneled into the pockets of Gannett that they did not approve?

  44. 6:40AM, simple, the college will come and get their equipment and Florida Today will stop producing it.

  45. 11:03 p.m. is spot on with this assessment: The bottom line, you can do it right or do it the Gannett way. ...

  46. I question this wisdom, as being someone who was trained in 2006 at Gannett. The training was great, but the implementation didn't work so well - we were soon stretched too thin, and now the times are even leaner.

    I posted some of my thoughts on it as someone who was there the first time on my blog:

  47. "And the company will be looking for more reader-generated videos, too."

    WTF?! That should be about as inspiring as the community news drivel we publish.


  48. Story News & Tech published in 2008 about Gannett's plans for video:

  49. Several years ago, reporters at a Jersey paper were handed fairly expensive cameras but no manuals or training, just a stern warning that if the camera was lost or damaged, it would come out of our pay.

    At various times this paper has insisted on professional photography, told reporters to file images with copy, paid freelancers separately for photos or just included them in the (low) flat fee per story ...

    No consistency, just flavor of the month, and now videos.

  50. It's a great idea, simply do something that didn't work 4 years earlier except this time with fewer people!

  51. This is sad. I agree with 1:10.
    Jim: Can you provide some background on her? How long has she been with the company? What's her knowledge and experience with Gannett's experience with producing videos?
    I know there is some "group think" in the industry that videos will turn around revenues, but it's naive and reflects a lack of knowledge about producing news and content. She either is part of this group mindset or she didn't get the memo when Gannett initially tried this initiative. Either way, I think readers should know more about what she brings to the table.
    It's sad to see top leaders chasing their tails to save the industry. I've known for a long time most of them have no idea what it will take to begin a real turn and where they often direct their efforts are short term, short-sighted or too late to the game.
    Gannett nor any other media will be able to compete with YouTube or take a bit out of traffic. Traditional media videos barely get more traffic than regular posters.

  52. According to her LinkedIn profile, Walters has been with Gannett since March 2010. She's been in her current Gannett Digital job since August.

    Prior to Gannett, she was a product manager at AOL from September 2005 to January 2010. And before that, she was a consultant at Navigant Consulting, which focuses on energy, healthcare, construction and financial services.

    She has an MBA and a bachelor's degree in finance and art history. Her profile doesn't say anything about training in video production or in journalism.

  53. Just what the rank and file needs. Another initiative from some corporate flunky who doesn't have a damn clue what the workers are currently going through.

  54. Dear haters, how would you like to have your every waking moment scrutinized, taken out of context, and smeared? How about having a downtrodden lot of jaded ex-Gannett employees do a half-baked background check on LinkedIn and pass judgments without even knowing you? You're no better than the jackasses on Fox News and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Pick on someone like Gracia or David Payne but don't project your animosities on a Product Manager who is takes pride in her role and is trying to help the company succeed.

  55. "We need to give them the ability to shoot video, so we don't have to just rely on photographers and videographers, which are few and far between," Walters said.

    Guess what Walters so are senior directors!

  56. Ment to add FEW AND FAR BETWEEN thanks to the layoffs or er lack of hiring!

  57. Seems like a decision such as this, and its attendant announcement, should come from Kate Marymont, not Kate Walters. Does Marymont still work at Gannett?

  58. To: Anonymous at 11/03/2011 4:46 PM

    I have been trying to reach Walters to get her take on what makes this push different from 2006-2007. She hasn't responded.

    If anyone has a direct e-mail, that might help too.

  59. Hi Kate.

    I make videos, um, content. You want business videos, I’ve completed about 65 of them so far. Interviews and b-roll, lots of nat sound. Many years in the photojournalism business also, in Florida, where there are visual stories year round. I worked for 6 years shooting professional theatre. Low light, fast action too, or on the other hand, even f1.0 @ 1/2 second with Kodak EPJ 320t! It’s not easy, but of course today we don’t have to deal with E-6 processing. I’m wondering if you could pay me more than I make doing freelance IT work.

    Today I spent 5 hours in a toilet paper factory. I met a very large man named Tiny who makes toilet paper cores. You know, what is left after you run out of toilet paper. From now on I’ll think of Tiny when I run out of toilet paper. You know, the Daily News works in an emergency.

    I have a business degree, a mass communications degree, a computer network engineering degree, a photography degree, a Cisco degree and other training. Seriously, I like to make videos, and use my own equipment. Camera, lights, sound gear, good stuff to make good stuff.

    Certainly you understand and appreciate how much work it takes. Packages, vosots, sots, b-roll. Whatever you need!

    I also have some TV news shooting and editing experience, understand how a very, very busy *S** shooter in Florida lights interviews, and can do the wham bam thank you maam type of shooting and editing (hey Jim, just spray it!). Or I can and do spend the time to develop a well developed piece.

    I should tell you though, a typical network story, something I assume you want your reporter/videographers to aspire to, takes a van load of gear, a producer, a camera operator, a sound person, a reporter, experienced on air commentators with on the job professional experience at the top of their chosen game, some editors, a couple guys to carry in $100,000 worth of equipment and spend two hours or two days to set it up, etc. They have set designers, IT guys, assistant to assistants, etc.

    I also have 4 Kodak flip type cameras, so I can run 4 cameras at a time and take notes too. By the way, Canon just made a big announcement today in Hollywood. You might want to snap up a thousand of so of their new cameras, available in January. I'm sure your people are on top of it, but if not just google it.

    GATORFILMS(AT)GMALE.KOM if you know what I am saying.

    We should talk.


    Larry V.

  60. Cutbacks over the years have resulted in a lower quality of reporting, Gannett's moving to centralized everything which further reduces the value of local papers. 4 Years ago this failed in large part because the quality sucked! As 9:59 said, there's a professional element to photography and video. Congratulations Gannett, you're trying to market the opposite of professional... Again.

  61. Great ... when I think of all the waste from the last round of this, with video training for people who never used it, and with equipment and software that was expensive but not wanted, some that even sat unused ... wow, Gannett never learns.

    Hopefully they'll get some smarter people to outfit the company (again). And come up with a plan on how they're going to archive it this time.

  62. I went through the training to create pre-roll ads. For an average 7-10 second spot shot on the customer's location with just one revision, it cost us $600 in staff time to produce it.

    We were charging $500 to run it for a month. We weren't shooting evergreen ads, either. We had to make them timely and fresh - so no pickups.

  63. The last raw video I watched on our site was 14 silent seconds panning over a pothole preceded by a pre-roll for Cascade, which I think was longer.

  64. Ms. Walters, it's not an attitude problem that keeps reporters from shooting video. It's a lack of resources and the fact that still, after all this time, the only thing our bosses really care about is the printed paper. That's to be expected. It still makes the money that pays your salary, afterall.

    So when you say reporters need to shoot and edit a bunch of video, what obligations will we be released from to make that possible?

    What equipment and training will be made available?

  65. I was one of the reporters trained four years ago. One big reason the effort fizzled is that Gannett insisted on making us learn the super expensive, overly complicated, buggy program called Avid rather than the industry standard, Final Cut or iMovie. Two years later, they abandoned Avid but provided no training on Final Cut. So the few entreprenuering people who were willing to learn the new program on their own time and dime are still making video. But guess what, you take away the resources and try to do it half-assed like Gannett always does, and then you still have bosses that only care only about when that story is going to be filed because hey, that beast of a dead tree has to be fed, well it's not hard to see why reporters aren't shooting a lot of video.

    How ignorant and insulting for this woman to chalk it up to an attitude problem.

  66. Perhaps the folks running Gannett should listen to the great Steve Jobs.

    "People want “Hollywood movies and TV shows ... they don’t want amateur hour.”

  67. Speaking of Steve Jobs, there's no one currently in Gannett management who comes close in character, style, management, innovation, and wisdom to him.

  68. 1:40 That could be said of virtually all companies. Jobs was a once-every-100-years leader.

  69. Folks, multimedia reporters at newspapers around the country, including smaller ones, have been shooting video along with doing traditional reporting for several years. New journalism graduates already have video training and have learned to tell a story in multiple ways.

    If Gannett papers haven't been doing this they are seriously behind the times, and are unlikely to make a successful transition from print to digital revenue and audience models. It's about survival.

  70. Don't miss Mark Loundy's column at Common Cents
    Loundy believes that any staff photographers left at Gannett are not long for this world.

  71. Criticize, criticize, criticize ...

    Anybody here want to actually point out the power of video? How many more viewers does YouTube need to make a point? It's not about the editing, it's about the content.

    And it's undeniable that content is far more compelling in video than any other format. Check the views, readership, circulation or any other measure.


  72. 11:48 It's undeniable that SOME content is far more compelling. But not all.

    Here's an example of video that did work.

  73. 1:40, read the Steve Jobs biography that's in bookstores. Then you might know what you are talking about.

    Basically he was thrown out of Apple in the mid-1980s for a piss-poor management style. Even at his own company, he made multiple mistakes that led to cost overruns, missed deadlines, etc. (A missed product deadline is way more serious than missing a newspaper deadline.)

    Again, get facts and then post. Try to work in that order.

  74. Here's the thing about video: it IS important and Gannett is right to pursue it, even if it is a re-start of their effort from a few years ago.

    With a little bit of effort and training, anyone can produce a one-take effort that will enhance a story on the web.

    Others can, and should, produce regular features that included multiple cuts, B-roll footage, voice-overs and graphics. It isn't impossible to do and we know that these are valuable, literally, to Gannett and its readers.

    Be we need to be consistent here. If this is really Gannett's future, don't you think it would benefit all of us if those who show and interest/aptitude are encouraged and, yes, maybe rewarded if they embrace this new wrinkle of technology?


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.