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Should newspapers use RCMP-supplied images and videos?

March 25, 2011 3 comments

I received the following email yesterday. I’ll post in full, then comment below. I’ve bolded certain portions.

There is a video currently live on the Burnaby Now’s website about the arrest by Burnaby RCMP of three suspects in a shooting earlier this week at Royal Oak SkyTrain station. It’s more than three minutes long, and lingers languidly on the blurred faces of the suspects, then follows right up until they’re brought into the cop shop for processing, access we would never get. The video is tagged with the usual driving.ca bumper ad at the beginning, but at no point during the video, or on the webpage presenting the video is it identified as being supplied by the Burnaby RCMP. In fact, the Now prominently links to the video on the front of their website, and tweeted incessantly about it Thursday morning, as if they were bequeathing their readers some sort of journalistic scoop.

An edited version of the same video also appears on the Province’s website, again with no attribution.
The other day, the Vancouver Sun’s website used still photo handouts from the RCMP of the same arrest going down. They were at least labelled as RCMP handouts, although that doesn’t absolve them.

It’s not the first time they’ve used photos identified as RCMP handout.

Of course, request RCMP-supplied photos or video of their officers shooting someone in South Surrey, and you’ll run into a stone wall.

Is this how bankrupt marginal staffing, reduced resources and diminished morale have made us, that we’re willing to accept handouts from the cops that amount to bumpf? Surely editors must see the peril of going down this road of abdicating our responsibility of being an impartial observer of police to ensure they remain accountable? We’re already struggling to cover them as it is, with more forces on digital radio systems that require expensive scanners or negotiations with the department to get access to a one-way radio that allows monitoring. The more we allow the police to control our access to observe and report their work, the more license they’ll take to further restrict our access; instead of keeping us one block from scenes, they’ll keep us back a kilometer and call our editors that they have photos and video they’ll gladly supply. And we wonder why journalists and the publications we work for are losing our audience.

We’re headed down a very dark path…

You can watch the video here, but be warned, it’s pretty boring.

There are a few issues at play here, and I’ll consider them separately.

1. First is the fact that the video isn’t identified as an RCMP video. It should be, for sure, but I have a hard time mustering that much outrage at the fact that it’s not. Indeed, I’m trying to remember if my own paper has identified RCMP-supplied footage as such. I can’t be sure. If we didn’t, we should have; it’s not hard to slide an attribution into the cutline so readers realize that the video was shot by, and for the purposes of, the RCMP.

2. The second issue is juicier.

Should media outlets stand up to the RCMP and declare that we’re not going to use their footage if we don’t get better access? Or should we simply not use footage, period?

That question revolves around whether The Province, Global and CTV get on board. They reach far more people than Burnaby Now or any other community paper. If The Province uses RCMP footage, then griping by a community newspaper journalist is going to fall on deaf ears.

I think the best argument is the one made at the end of the email ((FYI courtesy Kim Magi: email is now unhyphenated in the CP Stylebook); if we rely on RCMP footage, the cops have less reason to allow us near their scenes. Similarly, the better access we get, the less of a need for the RCMP video and images. So right now, they have very little motivation to not be so heavy-handed with photographers. Then there is the fact that, by outsourcing our coverage of breaking news, reporters and photographers become a little more expendable—which is not a good situation.

3. I’m not familiar with the difficulties the letter writer refers to as concerns the monitoring of emergency frequencies, so I’ll take his word for it.

4. There is one more issue: that of quality. The video is not extremely interesting. It certainly is less gripping than a single well-composed still photo would have been. A journalist would have done a better job. But a journalist, of course, would have been threatened with jail had he got that close.

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Categories: Comments, Ethics Tags: , , , ,

Putting the cold in viral video

February 3, 2011 Comments off

A screen shot from last year's classic.

With the Super Bowl just days away, I had one question: could the Vernon Morning Star sports crew top their NFL Picks video from last year?

The answer yes, if only because sports reporter Kevin Mitchell kept his shirt on.

First a backgrounder: each Friday the Morning Star sports crew and a few other locals make their picks in print for the upcoming NFL week. It’s not the most local of regular features, but whatever. Anyways, beginning in 2009 the Morning Star-ers began also posting a regular video of their picks. It’s a low-fi thing (they are print guys after all), but often hilarious.

The crowning glory came last February when the picksters donned flip flops and floral shirts and took their show to the shores of south beach (actually, Kevin forgot his shirt altogether, which…yeah…). By south beach, I mean the closest Vernon has to south beach: a frigid sandy outpost on the shores of a fogged-out, if not frozen, Lake Okanagan.

It’s well worth viewing.

For some reason, there had been no new videos since December and I was getting worried that there wouldn’t be a Super Bowl finale this year.

Then, yesterday, relief came in the form of Graeme Corbett sitting on a fake horse. With the Super Bowl in Dallas, a local western store owned by an ex-Morning Star employee stood in for Texas (which, strangely enough, has been colder than Vernon in recent days, owing to a huge storm). But let’s not spoil the party. Apparently it took seven days on horseback for Roger Knox, Kevin and Graeme to finally get to Texas.

Graeme Corbett, Roger Knox and Kevin Mitchell in the heart of, ummm... Texas

After straying from the whole football thing and being gently prodded back on course by omniscient narrator, and Morning Star editor, Glenn Mitchell, the trio finally got around to their picks. (They need an external mic next time. Maybe they should borrow Kamloops This Week’s). Graeme had the Steelers by six, Roger picked the Packers by four, and Kevin upped the ante by picking Green Bay by 10 points. Then he began musing about packing companies and Kennedy conspiracy theories. But you can watch for yourself, here.

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Exclusive Castanet video with cop-kicked man

January 15, 2011 Comments off

Last week Kelly Hayes of Castanet got the scoop of a career when he came across, and filmed, a police officer kicking a prone man after reports of shots being fired at a Kelowna golf course. Yesterday, Castanet posted an exclusive sit-down interview between Hayes and the now-released man, Buddy Tavares.

Below is the video, which has been posted on YouTube (by Castanet). But if you want to give Castanet a deserved page view, you can watch the 20-minute long interview here. Again, videos are great, but I don’t understand why those who take video don’t always then write a news story using the film as the primary source. Seems an easy way to score hits, attract more readers and offer something more than YouTube. Here’s a CBC story that cribs from it.

Castanet video prompts investigation (updated)

January 13, 2011 Comments off

Video is no longer the be all and end all for community newspaper chiefs, but a film shot by a local reporter in Kelowna shows that all you need is an iPhone to get a huge scoop.

As you may be aware of by now, Kelly Hayes of Castanet.net headed to a local golf course Friday morning after hearing reports of shots being fired. When he arrived, he found a police officer arresting Buddy Tavares. Hayes started recording on his iPhone as a Mountie, with gun drawn, booted Tavares in the face.

It’s a great scoop and one instance where video tells much more of a story, and makes much more news, than a simple photograph—which the police can explain away much easier.

Here’s the edited Castanet video. And here’s the raw footage (this should be  somewhere up front on the Castanet site, but isn’t).

And here’s a good follow-up from the Kelowna Capital News and reporter Cheryl Wierda (with video of the guy getting out of jail). (Kudos to the Cap News for mentioning that the video came from Castanet and Hayes).

The video has now sparked an investigation and the suspension of the officer in question.

While I’m in the area, I’ll point out Vernon Morning Star reporter Roger Knox‘s excellent story on a Vernon guy acquitted of murder after he killed his friend and chopped up his body. The guy was legitimately insane, it turns out.

According to his father, Nathan John Mayrhofer was always a “champion of the underdog.”

Which is why it wasn’t a surprise that Mayrhofer befriended Kenneth Scott Barter when the pair worked at a Vernon business.

Mayrhofer, said his father, John, encouraged Barter to seek treatment for his issues which included a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

more…

Pissing matches, insane divers and the search for Christ: roundup

January 12, 2011 Comments off

 

First the good news, then the bad in your Lower Mainland roundup.

Very nice story by Abbotsford News reporter Rochelle Baker on the 100th anniversary of the first Sikh temple in the area and on one of the first Sikh pioneers in the Fraser Valley. Who knew there was anything historic at all about Abbotsford?

The Abbotsford temple is the oldest, and longest standing building of its kind in North America, and the only gurdwara to have a national historic designation outside of India and Pakistan.

more…

James Weldon‘s lede in the North Shore News: “A North Vancouver parish is looking for the public’s help to find Jesus.” Bravo. Read on…

Who knew tap water could be such a controversial issue. It is in New Westminster, according to an article by Royal City Record reporter Niki Hope.

Maria Spitale-Leisk of the North Shore Outlook tells a marvelous (and quite long) tale about local insane free divers who swim underwater with no oxygen for as much as four minutes.

Approximately four minutes have sluggishly passed since Yoneda gulped in the biggest breath of air she could muster and disappeared under the water. She isn’t wearing an oxygen tank.

The explosion of colours that surround Yoneda – the beds of strawberry sea anemones and starfish dressed in brilliant hues of red, orange, yellow and pink – slowly blur together as her vision narrows.

Now her chest is tightening and the contractions in her diaphragm begin. Again, Yoneda tunes out what she calls the “bad monkey” on her shoulder. Relaxing during the contractions is the trick because you can still squeeze a bit more oxygen out at that point.

more…

Maybe that “bad monkey” has a point. Just sayin’. Nice mermaid statue-inspired photo by Rob Newell.

A crazy pissing match in White Rock that began with the mayor spouting off to the Peace Arch News has concluded with that mayor being forced to read a letter rebuking her at a council meeting, Tracy Holmes of the News reports. The issue had led to the resignation of the city’s communications officer.

The website of the Hope Standard has a great video on the Highway 1 rockslide featiromg an interview with a truck driver who narrowly escaped. I’d like to see the guy’s comments written up in a story, though, beyond the one-paragraph paraphrase. Very rarely do I click on video because I figure it’s not worth it the minimal effort it takes to find my headphones, and turn on my sound. (You could argue, I suppose, that by including exclusive stuff in the video, I”m more likely to actually watch the next video I come across. Which is true. But I’m a print guy. That’s why I read newspapers.) All that said, it’s very possible that the print story will make an appearance in the print edition because The Standard is a weekly and the video was put up shortly after the slide.

I don’t like this unbylined Delta Optimist story on an everyday Mark’s Work Wearhouse.

Point Zero, Powder Room, Ripzone and Dickies.

Those are just some of the clothing brands Ladner Mark’s Work Wearhouse owner Elliott Graham chooses to stock.

“The neat thing about this business is there’s not many franchises left, they’re mostly corporate locations. Being a franchise owner … I carry everything a corporate store would carry but on top of that I’m able to carry stuff that suits the needs of our customers in Ladner,” said Graham. “I can bring in some niche products that our Ladner customers are inclined to purchase. That’s what makes it a little bit special.”

more…

Sorry Mr. Graham, it doesn’t make your store special enough to warrant a story in a decent-sized paper like the Optimist. They ran another story that is just as unworthy. Give an inch, the salespeople will take a mile. Just say no. This sentence is for an ad, not a story: “No matter the size of the job, every customer receives the personal service many long-time clients have come to expect.” (The Optimist is a Postmedia newspaper).

Photo by Liz West via Flickr.

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Help keep this blog running for weeks to come by becoming a link farmer. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com. Also, take the poll on the right. It’s free. Lucky you.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll duly update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

Night of the Long Blades

December 23, 2010 Comments off

The plan was to not post anything more (aside from an open thread to come later) on this blog until I return from Christmas. Then I was directed to a video titled “Night of the Long Blades” on the Kamloops This Week website.

The video opens with:

The Kamloops Long Blades Festival, what was supposed to be a fun gathering for family and friends, turned into a heated competition between Kamloops This Week’s Marty The Reporter Hastings and speed-skater extraordinaire Chelsea Reith after Hastings challenged her to a race. What follows will go down in short-track history.

Then KTW reporter Tim Petruk tries to stifle a laugh while interviewing a suspender-bedecked Hastings. (Nice microphone, by the way.) (Marty The Reporter got his start taking a pounding in the wrestling ring from TWA champion Seth Knight.)

“I’m expecting to dominate this race. You can take one look at me and see that I’m in peak condition and have been for months,” Marty tells Tim. “I’ve been training for this. I’m ready to go,  I just hope she is.”

Marty stretching

Cut to a video of Marty doing jumping jacks and Reith talking smack about her opponent’s weight. Apparently Marty hadn’t trained enough because he couldn’t fit into a skin suit.

OK, that’s enough typing for me. I’m going to eat turkey.

Just watch the rest of the video.

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Help keep this blog running for weeks to come by becoming a link farmer. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter@gmail.com. Also, take the poll on the right. It’s free. Lucky you.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll duly update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

Do you mind?

December 10, 2010 Comments off

Some very insider news and talk from Merritt to Hinton and everywhere (fine, just one place but I need to have a life too so quit complaining) in between, rounded out by a series finale and a scary story.

The Merritt News’s John O’Connor asks in an editorial if the proliferance of on-line reading isn’t decreasing our ability to concentrate. It’s not a new idea, but one that’s always worth questioning, especially because it concerns how we do our jobs. [Foreign source alert: if you’re bored and interested in the topic, you can read this take on the subject from the Atlantic Magazine].

The Invermere Valley Echo welcomes a new reporter, Madison. No full name is given, on-line at least, but she seems enthusiastic from this introductory column. Welcome.

Even further east, the Hinton Parklander reports that one of their former reporters, Birgit Stutz, has published a book about her involvement in a dramatic horse rescue (yes, we are talking about Alberta here).

“I was approached by an agent from Harper-Collins after the horse rescue two years ago,” said Stutz.”An agent sent me an email out of the blue. I thought it was a scam, it seemed too good to be true.”

Though she intended to ignore the email originally, Stutz responded at the insistence of her husband and was soon set up with co-writer Lawrence Scanlan.

more…

Rochelle Baker of the Abbotsford Times writes about a South Asian man turned away from a Christmas party that wasn’t allowing “East Indians” in the door. The man, Ken Herar, writes a column for the Abbotsford/Mission Times, meaning he was probably exactly the type of person the organizers wanted to keep out. Or not.

And Cornelia Naylor of the Chilliwack Times wraps her multimedia series on local musicians and the instruments they play with a story on a timpanist (someone who plays a few really large drums). The video, like all the others in the series, is terrific. And here’s a photo gallery.

Leave a comment, dammit.

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Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll duly update the post.

Seen something else I should know about? Want to write a post? Have better photos than the Creative Commons Flickr pool ones I use? E-mail bclocalreporter(at)gmail.com.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

Photo courtesy of Jim Barter via Flickr.
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