Archive for April, 2012

They see, they feel, they shoot, they share.  

Michael Strangelove writes in “Watching You Tube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People” (University of Toronto Press, 2010) that, “what was once a simple situation of common patterns, local realities, closed audiences and naive epistemologies is now a complex field of globalized cultural production.”

He was contrasting that which went on during the era of the home movie with that which goes on today in the You Tube era.

Without knowing it, Strangelove was referring to the nieces of a good friend of mine. She talks about them all the time. They are three girls, aged 11, 8 and 6 and they produce home-made videos almost weekly. If they’re inspired by a a movie trailer for “Hunger Games” for example, they’ll shoot a video about it (assuming characters in the film) on an i-phone, edit separate pieces together and share it with family. Call it an “instant home movie”.

You can see this kind of stuff on Facebook and You Tube every day.

Thirty years ago, if you had a home movie camera and you were struck with an idea and shot it on a Super 8mm film, it was a long process. By today’s standards it moved at a glacial pace. If you don’t remember that era you may remember Steven Spielberg’s recent nostalgic thriller “Super 8”. In that movie, the main character shoots his movie on a 8mm film and has to wait almost a week for the film to be “rush” developed.

That slow process (the old homogeneous patterns of traditional home movie making) effected the nature of the content. It took more time to tell the story. Back then, you had to wait. The process could often take weeks from initial idea to screening. And then you needed a projector and a screen.

With the advent of the home VHS (or Beta), after you shot something you could watch the “home movie” if you sat down around the TV. It was linear. It wasn’t edited. It was family. It was archival. It was personal.

Today’s home movie makers can share their work with a bigger “family” (You Tube viewers). The content doesn’t have to be linear. It can be edited. It may or may not be family. It most certainly will be archival. But I wonder, given the ubiquity and reach of You Tube – just how personal it is.

Maybe I’m old school but the emerging norms herald a different mindset. I’m not sure for example, if I’d want to share i-phone video of a child’s birth with the “whole world” seconds after it happens. Too personal. I need more time to contemplate. And I’m not sure anyone would care how I choose to relate to “The Hunger Games”…

But don’t tell that to my friend’s nieces. They see. They feel. They shoot. They share. Now. And for them it is personal and a whole lot of fun. Rumor has it they’re shooting another one …


You can celebrate the advent of citizen journalism in social media all you want but at the end of the day – someone still needs to decide where the story lives and more importantly – what a story is. Otherwise it’s just fragments of a story, remnants, slices.

In discussing Michael Strangelove’s “Watching You Tube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People”, I’m struck with the fact that the line is blurred between producers of video and consumers of video. And to prove the point I have to look no further than my own career.

Once upon a time (when I worked in news) a tour was a big deal. Visitors would love to see the high-priced professional cameras we used. It used to be standard for video gear to run $60,000. Last week, I just bought a Canon XF100 for $3,000.

The bar for entering the video club is a lot lower than it used to be.  My hope is that the quality of content isn’t cheapened. My hope is that I’ll always set my own bar and that it’ll always be higher.

Stay tuned.

Sometimes less is more. In fact, when you sit down to write – it’s always more. Wise words from the front thanks to KGO’s Wayne Freedman in San Francisco.

Do You – You Tube?

Posted: April 1, 2012 in journalism

As this re-purposed journalist navigates his way up the steep, short hike of life, he’s wondering if you share his fascination and distaste for You Tube. Am I alone?

Do you You Tube? More than two billion of us watch You Tube every day.

YouTube streams 4 billion online videos each day, more than one for every other person on Earth and a 25% jump over eight months ago.

In “Watching You Tube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People”, author Michael Strangelove examines the You Tube phenomenon. New media guru and MCDM instructor Drew Keller has assigned it as this week’s reading in his COM 583 Storytelling class on the University of Washington campus.

Keller’s questions:

What do you think happens to the social order if tastes are no longer closely controlled by institutionalized influences? or How would you describe the complex relations between producers and consumers?

The answer to the first question is simple – You Tube, the natural by-product of a relaxation of the institutional influences of broadcasting. As newsrooms across the nation continue to cut back in hours of programming, You Tube claims that twenty hours of video are uploaded to its servers every minute.

Twenty hours – one minute.

That’s roughly as long as it’s taken you to read from the top of this post to this point.  Twenty hours of video. What’s popular? Charlie Bit My Finger (with more than 438 million views).

This may sound old school but in the age of You Tube, high quality storytelling (visual journalism) in this country seems to be eroding. I use this blog to celebrate those who keep its purpose alive. You can also find their work on This is where you can see broadcast television storytellers like John Larson, Boyd Huppert, Wayne Freidman and John Sharify (to name jut a few) share their excellent craftsmanship with peers. This Facebook page is where journalists seek the recognition and approval of peers they respect. These are the best of the best.

It’s a page where you’ll never see “Charlie Bit My Finger.”

But Strangelove says, “We are moving into a post television era”, adding that You Tube “demands our attention, fragments audiences, worries advertisers, troubles TV execs and erodes monopolization by media corporations.” His insights into the You Tube phenomenon move the ball down the field.

You Tube levels that playing field.

It breaks down the barriers between producers and consumers. It gives anyone with a mobile phone a chance to post a video or picture. But capturing a lucky moment with two boys in a chair is one thing – crafting a story with purpose and style and direction under deadline is something else.

God bless England’s Howard Davies-Carr, the father of the boys, for being there to capture a special, honest moment with two boys on a chair sharing a moment but he’s not a journalist. He’s not a storyteller.  For that you need to spend years honing your craft and refining your talent, seeking feedback from those you respect.

For that you need a purpose. It’s the crafting of a story.

So for me, we’ll always need places where the barriers between producers and consumers exist. Strangelove quotes French sociologist and author Henri Lefebvre,  “The everyday is what’s left over after all distinct, superior, structured activities have been singled out.” You can find Lefebvre on You Tube.  The video is 9:27 long. It’s in black and white and all in French. It still has more than 15,ooo views.

Bottom line – it is the role of the storyteller to distill the “everyday” and make it memorable. Life still needs some translation. We can all see a sunset. But not everyone can find the words or the pictures to capture it and bring it back home.

Incidentally, I took that photo with my i-phone. I’m thinking of posting it to You Tube 😉