Now before I put everyone offside from the outset. I should mention this caveat: I don’t think video journalists always tell better stories. But there is a certain kind of story that video journalists are better at telling: people-centred character stories. Why? Because a big crew is a barrier to real human emotion. It takes the interview subject out of themselves and their experience and makes them acutely aware of being watched and recorded.
As a video-journalist, before I arrive at someone’s house to shoot, I will have spoken to them on the phone a number of times, sometimes for an hour or more. We’ll have built a rapport. They trust me. So even when I arrive with camera and lighting equipment, their discomfort is minimal. But if I waltz into their home with one, two or even three strangers bearing camera, lighting and sound equipment … it’s very difficult to be comfortable in that environment.
Because VJs must consider the visual elements of a story from day one, their stories make for more cohesive and innovative television. That is the advantage to having one person with oversight over all elements of the storytelling process.
VJs can tell different stories than a standard TV news reporting crew. Part of this is access: a video-journalist gets access to places that a news crew wouldn’t. The other factor is cost: if you’re paying for a crew to cover a story, then the threshold for what is considered newsworthy is high. But more than this, the pressure for quick turnarounds and even quicker redeployments is higher. For the same cost, a good VJ can spend a day or two on a story that a news crew would be expected to spend just an hour on. This opens up a whole range of stories that otherwise wouldn’t get told.
Because VJs are less obtrusive and intrusive, they get access to areas that a news crew would be denied. Further, as the economics allow for a video-journalist to spend longer on a particular story, VJs tell people-centred stories better. Rather than the typical news crew that blows in like a whirlwind, finds one case study and gets just a handful of grabs, a good VJ is more like a documentary filmmaker: able to get closer to the emotional heart of a story.