Smart strategies for using VJs

TV newsrooms that are replacing reporter-photographer teams with solo video journalists might benefit from the experience of stations that have always had them.  News8 Austin, the cable news channel in  Texas, has used VJs ever since it launched 10 years ago. News director Kevin Benz told Poynter’s Jill Geisler that managers need different strategies to make “one man band” news coverage successful:

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  1. Good points are made for VJ’s in this interview but they are unrealistic. Watching the VJ’s at KRON 4 News (SF) cover the multiple locations & press conferences (Sandra Cantu in Tracy, CA) with 1-man-bands is a sad display of broadcast journalism. Perspective was lost using a ‘fire-hose’ approach and it seemed as though there was no real coordination in the field. All the while the staple 2-man crews were getting the job done properly for the rest of the stations in the SF/Sacto region. Where is the balance regarding resources for this VJ approach? I fear for the future of this business model with fledgling reporter/photogs who endeavor to do it all… and I believe that this approach, combined with the dangers of covering breaking news in an adverse environment will result in injuries or a casualty in the field.

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  3. Singular VJs/BPJs/AMJs and two-man crews both need proper direction from news management when multiple crews/teams are sent to cover The Big Story. In Dean’s example, it may have been the fact that reporter-photojournalist teams tend to communicate and work things out better. If one is shooting, the other may be gathering details or coordinating with the assignment desk as details unfold. Ideally, both the reporter and photojournalist would be gathering information, talking to one another and deciding where to go next.

    Exchanging information is invaluable for all crews involved covering a major event.

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