Using Video to tell Human Interest Stories: Part I

nbc-fires-donald-trump-after-he-calls-mexicans-rapists-and-drug-runnersDonald Trump’s assault on the US media has been at best unedifying; at worst a dictator-esque attempt to still and silence the free press and freedom of speech.

His bullying tactics towards individual journalists have been shameful; and his trumpeting as ‘fake news’ pretty much every legacy media organisation in the US and beyond has been difficult to bear.

This Twitter Moments sums up some of the comments and reports around the fake news saga:


But while President Trump’s crude methods grate, his proclamation that he wants to go direct to “we, the people” instead of via traditional media outlets is not new. Organisations and businesses increasingly recognise that spending large proportions of their resources trying to earn press coverage is less attractive or cost effective than it was.

In his research paper “Local Journalism: The decline of newspapers and the rise of digital media, 2015”, Rasmus Kleis Neilsen notes:

…print, the mainstay of the newspaper business, is in decline, broadcasting has been transformed by the growth of multi-channel television, and digital media provide new ways for accessing and sharing media content that challenge the inherited business models and journalistic routines of established news media.”

Emboldened by the rising popularity of owned online media – websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al – combined with declining sales of newspapers, organisations are focusing on reaching their customers, residents or users directly.

Key to this is developing a journalistic approach to story telling, combined with learning the skills necessary. Doing so opens up the prospect of creating new audiences.

One of the most effective ways to tell stories online is through the medium of video. This past six months I’ve been on a journey to become a half-decent mobile journalist, or #mojo, which describes the skill of telling stories using smartphone video.

As an experienced senior regional journalist of 15 years experience, I’m confident I can tell a story in words. Learning to take this skill set and embrace new media opportunities is my personal quest.

You might be on the same journey, or wonder whether you have the ability, equipment or time to master the medium. Over the course of the next few weeks I will share my learning, best tips and, most importantly, advice from expert practitioners.

Why use video?

It’s the present and the future of social media. Everybody’s doing it. Video is outscoring every other media type in popularity, engagement and ‘wow’ factor across the biggest and most popular online channels.

Buzzsumo’s research into 25 million Facebook posts from 10,000 publishers shows video posts doubled in the year up to mid 2016; posts with videos had the highest average shares (rather than posts with links or images). Socialbakers research showed posts with video had the highest average reach (not paid for):

There’s no sign of the appetite for moving images stopping any time soon.


Despite what you might have imagined, it’s not as simple as putting your iPhone or iPad into video mode and pressing record. There’s quite a lot more to it than that…but it’s really a great place to start.

TIP 1:

Before you buy any kit, just grab your smartphone and have a go yourself. That’s the best advice I’ve received yet.
It will help you see the possibilities, the challenges and the limitations of the medium and your skills. If you have a microphone you can plug into your iPhone, do so – but don’t worry if not.

  • Interview a relative about their day in handheld ‘street video’ style.
  • Shoot some footage on a day out, capturing the mood and colour.
  • Set your smartphone up on a tripod or on a selfie stick in selfie mode and just chat away to the camera about your hobby.

Then review your footage. Notice what went well and what didn’t.

You might find you or your subject fidgets a lot. That your background was distracting. That the voices are too quiet, or the traffic noise too loud. That you were looking anywhere but into the camera. That it was boring, or too long, or out of focus.

Now you’ve made some mistakes, check out guides and advice sites about what you ‘ought’ to have done, or what improvements you could make yourself.

Have another go.

Share your videos with friends if you feel brave enough. Get some feedback.

Then watch this…tips from mojo trainer and practitioner Stephen Quinn, interviewed by Prof Paul Bradshaw, of Birmingham City University: Top tips for mojo

Stephen Quinn Mobile Journalism Tips from Paul Bradshaw on Vimeo.

Mojos require what Stephen Quinn calls a multimedia mindset or way of thinking which combines video, audio, text, graphics and stills. You think you have that mindset? Great – so now you’re ready to move onto part 2!

Part 2: Advice about what to buy 

Part 3: Telling stories using mobile video – my fledgling attempts

More to follow!


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