VJ Kiran Khalid wins Journalism Award

Congratulations Kiran! VJ Movement contributor and CNN producer Kiran Khalid receives the American Immigration Lawyers Association Media Leadership Award today. The award is in recognition of her work documenting the plight of immigrant communities in the United States.

According to the press release:

Ms. Khalid is nationally recognized for her skillful coverage of compelling immigrant stories, most notably her work last fall to highlight a young woman who would benefit from the DREAM Act. In addition to producing a video that aired on CNN and CNN.com, Ms. Khalid closely followed the legislative path of the DREAM Act during the Lame Duck session of the 111th Congress in order to provide CNN on-air reporters with regular updates and information.

Besides her focus on migrants living in the US, Kiran has also done a lot of international reporting, especially from Pakistan where she has roots.  For VJ Movement she produced this compelling story about the education crisis in Pakistan.

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Top 5 Tips for Video Journalism Grants

You can have the best ideas and be the best in your field, but you still won’t get the job done if you’re missing one of the basic fundamentals of every journalistic endeavor – cash.

Cash is King

Cash is King

The cost that goes into making a decent video report or mini-doc can be pretty significant, (although it pales in comparison when compared to the hundreds of thousands spent on a 30-second TV commercial). You need money to travel, money for equipment, money to stay places and money to get home. Not to mention money to eat, drink and stay sane. So getting funding is often one of the most challenging and most underestimated parts of any video journalism project.

Thankfully, there are more than a few generous institutes, charitable individuals, and many generous institutes financed by dead charitable individuals out there willing to help video journalists that need some financial support.

To help you, I’ve compiled a short list of some of the best starting points when looking for funding.

1. Documentary.org

A good place to start when you’re looking for a grant is the exhaustive list of grant givers compiled by Documentary.org:

Although the funds mentioned are all US based, a number of them do sponsor submissions by non-US citizens.

2. European Documentary Network

For video journalists based in Europe or EU citizens there’s the European Documentary Network which tracks funds and funding opportunities in the region. For 140 euros (approx 200 US$), you can become a member and get full access, which might well be worth it if you’re looking for funding for a bigger project.

3. Jan Vrijman Fund

For video journalists in the developing world, especially for those working on more documentary style stories, there is the Jan Vrijman Fund. This fund is part of the Amsterdam IDFA documentary festival. Next application deadline is Jan 15 so there’s plenty of time to put together a good project proposal.

4.  The Aftermath Project

Another interesting grant giver for video journalists covering conflicts is the Aftermath Project. This non-profit organization focuses on telling what they call “the other half of the story of conflict – the story of what it takes for individuals to learn to live again.” That’s just begging for some great video journalism.

5. Morrie Warshawki

For a tip from the pros, the guy to watch is fundraising guru Morrie Warshawki. Here he is giving some advice on getting cash for independent film making.

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Russia shuts down newspaper for ‘supporting’ opposition

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That’s more or less the predicament of the publishers of Krestyanin, one of Russia’s leading quality regional newspapers located in Rostov-on-Don.

The newspaper’s printing press has been indefinitely closed down by local authorities, supposedly due to fire safety infringements, reports the Mail and Guardian. The real reason however seems to have a lot more to do with the fact that the press was also used to print campaign material for an opposition candidate.

Renting out the use of a printing press is standard procedure for most newspapers across the world. Printing flyers, leaflets and brochures means extra income to pay for the upkeep of such an expensive piece of equipment.

Earlier this month printing house Krestyanin was hired to print leaflets for a politician running for mayor, who happened to be opposing the United Russia Party candidate, the party of prime minister Vladimir Putin. A political operative associated with the United Russia Party candidate phoned the deputy director of printing house Krestyanin and basically made it clear to him he shouldn’t be doing that…

Now you might think, why on earth would a newspaper get mixed up in the business of printing campaign material for politicians in the first place? Isn’t that just asking for trouble in a country like Russia? But here’s the snag. In Russia there’s a law that says that printing presses must print campaign material for any candidate when asked to do so. So Krestyanin was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The director of the Krestyanin printing press made it clear to the United Russia Party operative that he had no say in the matter. Printing the other candidate’s material was the law. End of story.

But not in Putin’s Russia: According to FollowTheMedia, no sooner were the leaflets  printed than the police arrived to investigate a complaint that the material contained “anti-Semitic propaganda.”

A few days later power was cut at printing house Krestyanin, authorities explaining that a fire had been reported. There was no fire and Krestyanin, a quite modern facility, had its own generator. After that, the fire inspector arrived carrying an order that the printing house must be shut down for inspections, which he and his team carried out visually.

But rather than informing the printing press Krestyanin management of infractions in the fire code, the fire inspector took his findings directly to the district court, which ordered the premises sealed. Two days later (May 20) the facility was re-inspected and certified A-OK by the fire inspector. The newspaper Krestyanin website, off for two days, returned to the web.

That’s where the story should end, but instead on May 24 the court in Rostov decided that printing house Krestyanin will remain closed and new hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 31. No newspapers will be printed and, certainly, no campaign leaflets.

To be continued…

Disclaimer: Just so you know, for those at VJ Movement, the journalists of Krestyianin have a special place in our hearts. Last year some of us spent some time there training these dedicated professionals in using video to enhance their work – part of a project sponsored by the VJ Movement Foundation.

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Top 5 Upcoming Journalism Awards

The media industry may be in crisis and journalism jobs hard to come by, but thankfully there are still a large number of generous do-gooders who have set aside some of their cash for the best video journalism talent and ideas out there.

The question is how to find them. To help you out I’ve listed five below who all have an entry deadline coming up in the next month or so. So submit your project as soon as you can and you may find yourself winning a prize.

1.  Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship

Description: aims to perpetuate the memory of the Boston Globe correspondent killed in Iraq in 2003 and advance her life mission of promoting international understanding of human rights and social justice while creating an opportunity for women journalists to build their skills.

Who for: Women journalists whose focus is human rights and social justice. Applicants must be dedicated to a career in journalism in print, broadcast or online media and show a strong commitment to sharing knowledge and skills with colleagues upon the completion of the fellowship

Deadline: May 27th 2011 – (2 days!!)

URL: http://www.iwmf.org/pioneering-change/elizabeth-neuffer-fellowship.aspx

2. Rory Peck Awards

Description: The Rory Peck Awards is the only competition in the world dedicated to the work of freelance cameramen and women in international news and current affairs.

Who for? Freelance cameramen and women in international news and current affairs. That includes all you video journalists who shoot your own work!

Deadline: June 6th 2011

URL: http://www.rorypecktrust.org/page/3219/Awards+2011+-+Open+for+Entries+

3. Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism

Description: One of the top journalism awards, the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism reward news and information ideas that significantly enhance opportunities for digital engagement. The awards honor novel efforts that actively involve people in public issues, supply entry points that invite their participation, sit their imagination, and meet their information needs in creative ways.

Who for? Entries need not be specific stories, but rather demonstrative of innovation and could consist of networked journalism projects, new social networking ideas, innovative citizen media initiatives, news games, creative use of mobile devices, data mining ideas, new online applications, augmented reality experiences, or other advances in interactive and participatory journalism or out-of-the-box thinking. Entries may also employ simple efforts that notably connect in new ways with a community.

Deadline: June 6th 2011

Important: the K-B Awards charge a 50 $US fee to enter, so be prepared to part with some cash before you receive any.

URL: http://www.j-lab.org/projects/knight-batten-awards-for-innovations-in-journalism

4.  Dupont/Columbia University Awards

Description: These awards – for televesion, documentary and online video journalism -  are regarded today as the most prestigious prizes in broadcast news, the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prizes, which are also administered at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Who for? Programs must have appeared on air, online or in theaters for the first time between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. Entries in languages other than English are eligible, as long as they are accompanied by English subtitles on screen or a complete transcript in English. Onscreen subtitles are preferred.

Deadline: Long-form entries running longer than 2 hours must be received by June 15. All other entries must be received by July 1st 2011.

URL: http://www.dupontawards.org/EntryPage/Default.aspx

Although many awards are US-based there are also some worthwhile prizes from other regions, like this one.

5. Anna Lindh Mediterranean Journalist Award

Description: Rewarding exceptional journalistic productions, contributing to a better understanding of the diversity of cultures in the Euro-Mediterranean region as well as promoting the positive role played by journalists in providing balanced and informed coverage on cultural issues in the region.

Submitted works should tackle intercultural issues between and within Euro-Mediterranean societies, ranging from minorities, migration, integration and identity to religion and cultural traditions.

Important for those covering the uprisings in the Arab World: In addition, and taking into consideration the tremendous changes taking place in Southern Mediterranean countries, a special award will be dedicated to works on the theme “Social change, Citizenship and Participation”.

Who for? Works published in printed / online media, or broadcast on radio or television between the 1st of July 2010 and 15th of July 2011

Deadline: July 15th 2011

URL: http://www.euromedalex.org/fields/media-activities/journalist-award/about-the-award

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Kids & Cartoonists Event

We all know that good cartoons make excellent material for schoolteachers, especially those that teach History and Languages. Our colleagues over at Cartoon Movement decided to take that notion one step further by bringing schoolkids and cartoonists together to discuss issues and draw cartoons.

For the past few months over 200 Dutch schoolchildren have been exchanging ideas with our network of cartoonists. The resulting 100 cartoons have been brought together in a book that will presented to the kids and their teachers tomorrow night in Amsterdam.

So if you’re in the neighborhood, and have time for a drink and a book, please join us.

The presentation will be held at:

The Rode Hoed
Keizersgracht 102
1015 CV Amsterdam

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New Project: What happened to Iraq’s Refugees?

“When’s the last time you talked about the Iraq War?” journalist Sarah Stuteville asks in her report on Iraq’s refugees, entitled The Quiet American.

The question is a poignant one. For although many of us outside the Middle East have as good as forgotten the war, for the millions of Iraqi refugees the war never ended.

In the years after the second Iraq War over 2 million Iraqis were forced to leave their homes as a consequence of the violence. Many of these people fled to neighboring Jordan and Syria. There they were often forbidden to find work and forced to live off UN handouts and any money they had saved. For children and young people especially these years have been very difficult. Access to schools is difficult and access to higher education, normal among Iraq’s middle classes, has become almost impossible.

Although some 90,000 refugees have recently returned to Iraq, almost 200,000 still remain in Jordan and Syria. Last month, to make matters worse, refugees in Jordan heard they would not be resettled for the time being.

And of the ones that have returned a large majority are regretting their decision. A UN poll held last year found that 60 percent of those who returned were sorry they did so. And at least a third were considering returning to Syria or Jordan.

In fact the situation is still so bad that for a long time the UNHCR did not promote returns to Iraq, due to insecurity, and its guidelines to all governments strongly recommended that Iraqis should not be sent home to five central provinces, including Baghdad, seen as too dangerous. That only changed after the formation of a new government at the beginning of this year.

To highlight the plight of Iraq’s refugees and displaced persons at VJ Movement we’ve decided to bundle our reporting from Iraq in recent years into a project.

We’ve also commissioned VJ Alex Stonehill of the Common Language Project to report on the story of two young Iraqi refugees who struggle to cope their live stuck in limbo. You can find that story here.

Meanwhile, over on our sister-site Cartoon Movement, we just published an engaging piece of comic journalism, also on the plight of Iraqi refugees. The comic is by journalist and artist Sarah Glidden, part of the CLP as well. The 20-page story gives us a glimpse in the lives of Iraqi refugees living in Syria and is definitely worth taking the time to read from beginning to end.

Excerpt from "The Waiting Room" by Sarah Glidden

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How Not to Report the News

One of the things I like about video journalism is the fact that at its best, it’s a clean break from television news. Al Jazeera’s Frames is the kind of project that tells visual stories in a way you just didn’t get on TV. Just look at Jason Taylor’s story of The Golden Temple, one of the world’s largest soup kitchens for the poor. In this temple in Amritsar, India, up to 100,000 people a day are fed for free.

What, you might ask, was wrong with TV news? Nothing really, just the horrifically inane sameness of it all.
If you’re still wondering what I mean, check out this classic Charlie Brooker video:

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News Games Brainstormers meet in Minneapolis

By Simon Broersma*

VJ Movement is always looking for new ways of practicing journalism. We started off with Video Journalism. Then the Cartoonists entered the network. Since then we have also branched into comics and even a hilarious animation.

Screenshot taken from the interactive documentary News Game "Inside Disaster"

For the past couple of months, we have been exploring the idea of adding another product to our little news outlet, one called the News Game. This turns out to be a great opportunity for VJ Movement. During the upcoming months we will regularly post updates about our own News game on our blog, but let me start with a small introduction.

First let me try to give a definition of a news game.  When searching for “News game” on Wikipedia, you get this:

“News games are a genre of video game defined by their rapid creation in response to current events. They can be thought of as the video game equivalent of political cartoons.”

Interesting, but we think it’s much more than that. Georgia Tech Professor Ian Bogost states in his book Newsgames – Journalism at Play, that there are 6 sorts of News games: Current Event games (the Wikipedia definition), Interactive Infographics, Documentary Games, Puzzles, Journalism Literacy games and Community Games.

Last weekend, together with Nora Paul, professor at the University of Minnesota school of Journalism and Mass Communication, VJ Movement organized a brainstorm conference on news gaming. Journalists, Game Developers and Academics from the USA, Canada, France, Denmark and The Netherlands came to Minneapolis to have lengthy discussions about news gaming and what to do with it. A lot of that information and what it led to is published here.

Maybe you know all about news gaming, but for the ones that don’t, we put together a short list of examples that you can have a look at. Here they are:

-      Inside Disaster (an interactive documentary on the Haiti earthquake)

-      Salubrious Nation (an interactive infographic type)

-      Budget Hero (explains how the US national budget is managed)

-      Play the News (Predict what is going to happen in the news)

And if you would like to read more about News games, here are some interesting blog posts/articles:

-      Video games vs. Newspaper, by Jen Gerson

-      Georgia Tech Newsgames Blog, by Ian Bogost and his team

-      Cologne gamelab Newsgame blog, by Marcus Bösch

*Simon is a journalist, YouTube expert and project manager for the VJ Movement News Game.

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The Elusive Nature of News

By Jorine Nelissen*

Last Monday was just another day at the office, until our editor-in-chief Thomas Loudon received an email. One of his contacts in Libya asked if he could upload footage that he had received from a citizen in Tripoli. At that moment there were few images of the situation in the country, let alone the capital.

Half an hour later, 24 minutes of raw footage was uploaded on to our server. There were images of protests, of road blockades, of marches, of the scene where a mother was shot in front of her 4 children and of riots and shooting. It was overwhelming. Even though it was only a few minutes and it was shot with a mobile phone, you could see how grim the situation was.

Now we had to act fast. News channels all over the world were starving for material from Tripoli. That’s were it was happening. In the two hours that followed we went on overdrive. We contacted the major news channels, edited the material and sent out a press release. Only to learn that we were too late and that the material was already old news.

I have been going over this again and again the past week. I don’t understand how news can work like this. It reminds me of a riddle: Everyone wants to know it, but as soon as you know what it is, it no longer exists. The answer is ‘a secret’. Although news and secrets feel like opposites, the parallel is striking to me. We seem to always be looking for the latest news, but when we find it, it stops being relevant almost instantly. The news is known so it is no longer new and thus no longer news.

Even if I could accept this, I can’t stop wondering what about the man who sent us this material, the man who shot the film, what about the people in the video? What about the risks they took by sending us this footage, making the film and just standing up and walking the streets in protest? Who am I, who is anyone say that they are old news? It leads me to wonder what news is? What makes something newsworthy? And who gets to judge that?

*Jorine works as a moderator at VJ Movement and is an American Studies student at the University of Amsterdam.

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Six Video Interview Tips

by Jennifer Crandall*

This blog post is about an element of video journalism that carries visual weight in subtle but powerful ways. The interview.

Oftentimes we video journalists concentrate on how to make our pieces as visually engaging and appealing as possible. We ask ourselves: “How can I shoot this story in a different way, how should I compose this shot, have I captured the right moments to tell this story?”

A well composed interview is like a well composed shot. It will provide you with rich answers that have been conveyed authentically.

To do all that we focus a lot on what action is or isn’t happening, the moment, and how to convey a sense of that through images. Video journalism is after all, a medium that is largely visual, one that is meant to be taken in by the eyes (and ears) in a way that text and non-moving images don’t as immediately require of us. A wonderfully shot piece is a wonderfully shot piece.

A good interview will give you rich material to work with to layer into a piece. It’s often where you get help in painting an emotional landscape for the piece. Good interview material should be just as exciting to work with in the moment and during the edit as the rest of your beautifully captured footage. A well composed interview is like a well composed shot. It will provide you with rich answers that have been conveyed authentically. Rich answers are filled with details that help you draw pictures in your head, feel emotions emotions, and understand insights. Not the usual sound bites. Nothing canned.

So here are a few tips on interviewing and how to get those rich answers:

1. To start: make your subject as comfortable with you, the environment and the situation as possible. If you have to explain your process, do so. Chat for a bit before jumping right into things.

2. Understand and overcome your gear so that it’s not in the way of making the conversation free of technical worry. The more comfortable you are with your gear, the less it will be in the way and the more relaxed a conversation will be.

3. This one I can’t stress enough: Be interested. It shows the person you are interviewing that you are invested, and it keeps you on your toes, makes you explore, keeps you from being satisfied with canned answers or answers that don’t really go deep.

4. To follow on from point 3…If you ask someone, “How was it to surf the biggest wave known to humankind?” Don’t walk away thinking “It was awesome!!” was a good enough answer. “Awesome” is not descriptive. Follow up with, “Tell me what you mean by awesome…” Get them to describe awesome. Descriptions (“awesome!”) seem descriptive, but oftentimes need more describing. If you catch my drift.

5. Always be in control of the flow of the interview. Sometimes being in control is knowing when to be out of control for just a little bit…letting the interviewee veer off the course you set in case it could yield something better than expected, something surprising. This also means that you need to get back on course if this ends up not being the case.

6. The KEY is to remember that all of the above is an attempt to create a situation so that what is captured on camera is nothing rote, but rather, real. It’s not just about the information shared, it’s about how it is shared. How you conduct the interview, what you can elicit from your subject, is what the camera will capture, and what your viewers will see and feel.

Those are just a few tips to help with your interviewing. You’d be surprised by how much paying attention to making improvements like these can elevate a piece. A good interview will yield a level of authenticity to your piece that is hard to quantify but the viewer will feel it whether they realize why or not.

*Before joining VJ Movement, Jenn was a multimedia editor and videojournalist for washingtonpost.com. One of her most noted projects there was onBeing, a series of videos profiling people and their musings, passions, histories and quirks. onBeing is a project based on the simple notion that we should get to know one another a little bit better.

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