Video camera
Credit: Image by jsawkins on Flickr. Some rights reserved
It has been a busy couple of months for freelance video journalism platform Storyhunter, which not only reached 100 videos last month, but recently confirmed a new licensing deal with AOL and has just launched a new website design.

Storyhunter.tv, which went live in May last year, was prompted by co-founder and chief executive Jaron Gilinsky, based on his own experience as a video journalist.

Having spent time working as a "one-man-band video journalist" himself, Gilinsky noticed the difficulties video journalists can face in finding outlets for their work.

Gilinsky launched Storyhunter as a response, creating a platform where freelance video journalists can pitch their ideas and receive editorial support and feedback, as well as a $1,000 fee for a four to six minute package, before the work is delivered to media outlets.

The licences agreed with media outlets may offer a time period of exclusivity, but Storyhunter will still "maintain the back-end rights and be able to re-sell it if possible".

"We did this for the video journalists," Gilinsky said. "We did this for the people on the ground who are basically stuck and have nowhere to sell their work.

"We want to be that agent for them, and help them get paid to do stories, get recognised, get wide distribution and advance their careers and become full-time professional video journalists."

While Storyhunter already has a global reach through its existing licensing deals, the new arrangement with AOL "will help us expand globally and produce more and more content from all over the world," Gilinsky said.

The 'best of both worlds' model

While he cited the positive impacts of citizen journalism on the news industry, Gilinsky is passionate that this alone is not the answer.

"Citizen journalism definitely is great, and has its advantages, and obviously it's a lot faster than anything a professional can produce, but it just doesn't do the job in terms of credibility and context."

Instead, Storyhunter aims to act as "a bridge between citizen journalism and professional journalism, taking the best aspects of each but leaving out what's not desirable".

Expanding on this, he said the positive attributes it hopes to emulate includes "the network effect" of citizen journalism, its "quick response time" and the "low cost", combined with the treasured features of professional journalism: "credibility, trust, quality, reliability".

"Another thing that I think is a positive aspect of citizen journalism, which I hope we do embody in our work, is authenticity," he added.

"That is definitely a positive attribute of citizen journalism, it's coming from people who are deeply familiar with places, and not the parachute journalism which is still favoured by a lot of big media companies.

"So we want to give these people who are on the ground the ability to tell these stories and I think they do it from a more authentic perspective."

As well as the new deal with AOL, Storyhunter is already working with Yahoo Brazil, Yahoo Mexico and other Yahoo outlets in Latin America, and lists the Economist and Miami Herald as previous publishing partners.

Editorial process

A key feature of Storyhunter is the editorial oversight it offers to video producers, including guidelines which aim to assist them in the pitching process.

"So they read these guidelines and then pitch us according to what they think they're most suited to and what they think is most suitable to the story that they want to do," Gilinsky said.

"We have a great team of editors here in-house that look at the story, from the conception to perhaps four or five rough cuts later, and every single cut we give back guidelines and comments and questions, to make sure that it goes through a very rigorous editorial process to create the best story possible."

In some cases projects will be given to an editor local to the story, as they may understand it "more intimately," Gilinsky said, and possibly "have more time to research and work with the journalist".

But the entire process takes place "in one place" on Storyhunter, he added. "There's no external servers or external systems. We don't require email, so it's really an incredible system that we've built and it works pretty well."

The 'bread and butter' of the business

Although Storyhunter is open to pitches for all types of freelance video, as long as it is "just really awesome", Gilinsky identified one type of video which he believes the platform will stay committed to for the duration, and that is "behind-the-news stories".

"This is like our bread and butter," he said. "There's a lot of stories that are missed by the mainstream media due to their need to get things out quickly. By waiting a couple of days for things to develop and following characters, not just when the news event happens, but even afterwards, often reveals so much more information and really great insight into what's actually happening."

He added that these aim to "humanise" events or offer "an experiential ride with our video journalist".

"A good example is one we produced on Hurricane Sandy last year following a guy from a shelter where he was hiding for a few days after surviving a harrowing night on his rooftop with the water coming up. We basically went back to the scene with him and he told us the story of that night. This was not like anything you'd see on a news website, because it was a six or seven minute story just about one person."

In another example he gave, this time in Brazil, the video journalists "just left the camera rolling" during a protest in Rio.

"That's the beauty of a lot of these stories is just to limit the amount of editing you do and focus on one subject, or one event, and just see what's happening with minimal narration, minimal intervention from the journalist," he said. "And just see how things unfolded for one character."

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