Meanwhile, in Egypt

01/12/2011 § 2 Comments

I came back from Libya with some video footage. I was curious to see what I could do with it. In the end I didn’t use it. Most eReaders can’t handle video yet. That will change, and some reasonably well-known experiments with direct-publishing multimedia journalism already exist.

It was with this in mind that earlier this year, I made the short movie below with reporter Jenn Baljko. Jenn and I happened to run into a man named Wael Metwally, a telecom executive from a Cairo suburb, who the week before had been throwing rocks in Tahrir Square. He was a really personable guy. He also turned out to have recorded hours and hours of the Egyptian revolution on his iphone. He shared those videos with us.

We aren’t film makers (we’ve since met someone who is, and jumped her into our gang). Months later, it’s interesting to me to look at this little movie, because already it’s clear the role of tablets, of selling this directly, was not yet in mind. We figured we would sell it to a traditional magazine’s website. That was less than a year ago; the idea of selling a stand-alone video as journalism, for the web, as a business, now seems like a non-starter.

If I wanted to dive back into the FinalCutPro file, I think I’d change the name of this 7-minute video from “Wael’s Phone” to “Wael’s Head Wound.” We used “Wael’s Phone” because much of the imagery in the mini-doc is from Wael’s phone. Thinking more about it, the story the video tells is of how an upper-class telecom executive came to get hit on the head with a brick while participating in a revolution.

My suspicion is that the one-man-band approach I’ve taken in writing a Kindle Single — one reporter, doing everything — will evolve into small teams of independent journalists working collaboratively, and sharing income. I very quickly started working with Jenn, and Jenn and I are now starting to work with a videographer. Our bet is that the direct publishing model for journalism will allow, and perhaps demand the inclusion of short video documentaries soon. That is too much work and too many specialties and skills for one person. Or two.

Three could work. A team can produce stories that don’t just exist, but are very, very good. I was able to write a Kindle Single, but I could not have produced a Kindle Video Single, which we have to imagine will someday soon exist.

The encouraging part of the video experience so far is that we are moving strongly back toward a model for producing journalism, rather than just content. Good video with good reporting and long-form text takes us in the direction of the old Life Magazine or more recent National Geographic-type journalism. We are not there yet but it is interesting that we could get even this far with very little practice, only as long ago as spring, which now seems like another century:

Wael’s Phone from ObjectivaMedia on Vimeo.

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