Tim Russert, Washington Bureau Chief of NBC News, and the moderator of Meet The Press died on this past Friday. His passing has consumed a significant amount of my attention this weekend. Personally, I was saddened because, bizarre thought it may seem, I really felt as though I knew him. And I really liked him. More importantly, a big part of the reason I liked him, aside from who I felt he was as a person, is that he really changed the nature of political journalism. He educated me. He gave me insights that I couldn’t get anywhere else.
The weekend of Russert retrospectives has gotten me thinking about the role of video journalism in our culture.
Historically, print based journalism has been perceived as being more important and more prestigious than video journalism. But for me, Tim’s passing reminded me that that is certainly not a valid lens through which to look at modern reporting and analysis. And it has also gotten me thinking about the fact that video journalism is essentially missing from the web.
Yes, you can indeed see Meet The Press online, and CNN shows lots of clips on the web. But these are broadcast properties being delivered over the web. There is really no such thing as web native video journalism.
In point of fact, the web is full of blogs, bloggers, and text. And yes, there is emerging a platform for audio journalism through things like the Gilmor Gang and This Week In Tech. But where are the participatory video shows? There are lots of people looking into a webcam and talking. But there is nothing that reflects the compelling nature of what we see on CNN, or what we see in text form on the web. There is nothing that really leverages what should be possible using off the shelf Internet technology, webcams, and a bit of production polish.
It should be possible to produce web video based shows that have the rough look of something you might see on broadcast. I’d love to see web-based panel type shows with a moderator, where you could actually see the participants, each likely in a separate webcam-enabled location. Production in such a scenario could be tied together through a central broadcast system like Mogulus.
Seeing how someone responds, what they look like, and what their interaction looks like is hugely valuable to making assessments. Imagine, for example, if we only had raw text or stump speeches to judge our presidential nominees. Text is critical, but just like we want to actually meet people before we work with them, the multidimensional nature of observing people in real interaction can be hugely valuable, even critical, to really understanding someone and their thoughts or position.
So for me, the fact that the creator of modern political video journalism has passed is a terribly sad event. But I am hoping that the focus on his passing can at least help us to envision how we can use the web for the next phase of video journalism. There is no silver lining here, but perhaps, at least, a tad of inspiration.