Author: Kenneth Kobre

Publisher: Focal Press

ISBN: 9780240814650

Once upon a time, not too long ago, in a land, well, pretty much everywhere you went, there were wonderful things called “newspapers.” They were portable, required no power source, were very inexpensive, disposable and -- here’s the kicker -- highly informative. Yes, one could learn all about politics, sports, international affairs, entertainment, get the tv listings, even your horoscope, and still have something to write on as great thoughts – or grocery lists – popped into your head during the day. And if you lost a newspaper on the bus, or spilled the contents of your meatball marinara sub sandwich on it, what the hell – it only cost a quarter and there’d be a brand new one tomorrow anyway.

But if you’re a fan of the traditional newspaper, you’d better get one soon. In fact, I’d buy a bunch, because if what the officials in the news industry are predicting is true, they’ll soon be hot items in the “antiquities” section on e-bay. “ITEM: A real rarity. The New York Times…ON PAPER. Seller guarantees the issue is so fresh you’ll have ink stains on your fingers as you leaf through its charmingly non-clickable pages.”

Ah, progress. File the traditional newspaper away with the fedora, half-chomped cigar, laminated press pass, and the correction fluid sponge-tip applicator. And once your desk is clear of all that journalistic jetsam, slip in a brand new 23-inch color monitor, hook it up to your computer or smart phone, and relax in the brave new world of infotainment, as the next generation uses the time they would have spent learning to read making really cool YouTube videos about lip-synching kittens.

O brave new world that has such creatures in it!” – Shakespeare, The Tempest.

The cynical attitude just expressed has been brought to you by a generation of ink-stained wretches who have watched the world of literacy encroached upon by a tsunami of video images. Like it or not, more and more people seem inclined to get their news from video sources, either free standing or appended to traditional news organizations like the BBC, The New York Times, and the Associated Press. And while the written word appears under attack, at least one savvy practitioner of video journalism is doing what he can to make sure that the concept of STORY doesn’t get lost in the transition from readable to watchable news.

Kenneth Kobre’s large and largely wonderful book, Videojournalism: Multimedia Storytelling serves a lot of purposes, not the least of which might be convincing some of those ink-stained wretches to come in off the ledge and at least give this new style of storytelling a shot. Kobre’s impressive technical knowledge of the video and digital landscape never eclipses his commitment to storytelling, which he rightly sees as the beating heart of journalism. No amount of colorful imagery or compelling video vignettes can mask a lack of story, and though journalistic vehicles are changing, journalism really isn’t.

The power is not hidden somewhere in the equipment. The power still lies in what you do with it,” Kobre reminds his readers.

The book is truly comprehensive, featuring chapters on finding a story, producing that story, camera basics, conducting interviews, writing a script, editing, ethics, media law, and lots of other aspects that will be of great use to today’s journalists. Kobre has enlisted a cadre of highly qualified collaborators, and the language of the chapters is always informed and only minimally jargon-laced.

As director of the video and photojournalism program at San Francisco State University, and a celebrated photojournalist over the past couple of decades, Kobre knows the terrain, clearly. What I liked most about his approach to the material is his refreshing lack of sanctimony about the need to embrace these new tools. He never talks down to readers who might be coming to this material for the first time, and if you’ve no more experience with video than a flip-cam or a smartphone, you’ll feel comfortable and confident as Kobre guides you through the steps necessary to shoot your own journalistic videos.

It is indeed a brave new world but that needn’t cause bevies of bibliophiles bilious hours waxing wrathful at their pixilating peers. There’s room enough for lots of story telling types in our nascent digital diorama. Even a hardened veteran of a traditional newsroom might find it liberating to be able to do himself what he’s been scribbling on newbies’ copy for twenty years: “Show, don’t tell!”

Once upon a time, there was a child hiding under the blankets, bedtime long departed, scrolling through the illuminated pages of a tablet or smart phone, watching the wonder of his world unfold, its sights and sounds a siren song to his storytelling soul, the birth of another artist whose vision might just deliver us the next brave new world.

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