By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The multimedia journalist

It wasn’t long ago that a local reporter could head out on an assignment with nothing more than a notebook and a pen. Maybe a camera, but only if there were no photographers available. But those days are rapidly drawing to a close.

Take, for instance, Cathryn Keefe O’Hare, a longtime print and radio reporter who’s been editor of the Danvers Herald since 2000. The Herald is part of the GateHouse Media chain, which is pushing its journalists to supplement their stories with videos for its Wicked Local sites. O’Hare shot video for the first time last Memorial Day. Now she does it regularly.

For a Flickr slideshow of O’Hare shooting and editing her story, click on the photo above.

Last Monday I met her at the Danversport Yacht Club for the eighth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner. It was a routine assignment — take some notes, write it up. It was also a good opportunity for her to put together a video package. And for me to tag along and watch how she does it.

O’Hare wielded a Casio Exilim ex5600, a tiny, relatively inexpensive piece of technology that shoots still photos, video and audio. She had a simple goal: to ask some of the 450 people who were on hand why they had chosen to attend and what King’s message meant to them. She shot in ambient light, which, as you’ll see, was good enough, if not perfect. Audio is recorded through a microphone in the front of the camera.

O’Hare still finds being a multimedia journalist a challenge. She stands on her tip-toes when interviewing people taller than she. A couple of interviews proved to be unusable. “It’s more stressful than just taking notes,” she says. But she got sufficient material to put together a nice video supplement to her print story.

Three days later I met her in the local GateHouse newsroom in Beverly, where she was editing her clips into a news video. She used Microsoft’s Windows Movie Maker, a free program that lets you cut extraneous material out of the clips, piece them together in any order you like, and add transitions, titles and an extra soundtrack. (The Macintosh equivalent is iMovie.) O’Hare spliced in music from the Follow Hymn Interfaith Choir, which had performed on Monday, to supplement the interviews.

To read O’Hare’s story and watch her video, click on the YouTube graphic above.

Finished videos are uploaded to YouTube and then embedded on the Danvers Herald site. O’Hare still hasn’t figured out how to do that, so she leaves it to one of the regional managing editors, Peter Chianca.

“The thing that remains true, whether it’s in print journalism or the Internet or video, you have to tell a story,” says O’Hare. “And you have to tell it as true as you can make it. And you have to try to speak for those people who can’t tell their story.”

To listen to an audio interview with O’Hare, click here.

To watch other videos from the Danvers Herald, click here.

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  1. Anonymous

    Fantastic write-up Dan — have you considered cross-posting this to Wired Journalists?

  2. Anonymous

    Does anybody really want to watch video of an event that’s three days old? I applaud O’Hare for what she’s doing. I’ve done it and it’s hard but fun, but I always get frustrated that there’s just not enough time to get the thing edited and posted simultaneously with the news story. Thoughts?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 9:13: My guess is that only a few people will watch it, but that it’s the right few people. The people who were interviewed, their families and friends. And now they’re all attuned to the fact that their hometown weekly is posting videos, so they’ll be more likely to check in the future. This is about the slow work of community-building, not reaching masses of people. I think it was Doc Searls who said, “In the future, we’ll all be famous to 15 people.”

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 9:28 PM: Thank you, and I took your advice.

  5. Real name: Amanda

    Great perspective on the challenge we’re all facing as multi-media journalists. Cathryn, a colleague of mine, does a great job and often it is for scant praise from the outside world. It’s nice to see this issue discussed and to have a forum in which the greater readership can comment.

  6. Michael

    Gotta love audio data that reinforces my visual learning.

  7. Anonymous

    Is she getting paid more to produce content for both a newspaper AND a website? I doubt it. And that’s unfortunate.

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