The Wall Street Journal earlier this week launched WorldStream, a micro-video blog of clips shot by reporters on their smartphones.
Nieman Journalism Lab describes viewing WorldStream as: "A bit like what it would be like to follow a bunch of WSJ reporters on Twitter — except if instead of posting 140 characters of text, they were each filing in 30-second-video chunks. It’s a reverse-chronological stream filled entirely by what reporters in the field are capturing with their smartphones."
In addition to videos being shot on phones, WorldStream is also a "mobile video platform, which means it's very easy for our reporters to use and it's very easy for our viewers to consume on their mobile phones," Liz Heron, director of social media and engagement at the Wall Street Journal, told Journalism.co.uk.
Around 400 reporters have so far been trained in smartphone video, with plans to give 2,000 reporters the skills.
Reporters use a customised version of the iPhone and Android app Tout, which allows users to post 15 second videos. The app has been modified for the WSJ to allow reporters to post films of up to 45 seconds and to give a private sharing option to allow editors to preview footage and change captions before publishing.
In addition to the app, WSJ has had microphones custom-built (by Sound Professionals) to enhance sound quality, and Mark Scheffler, editor of WorldStream and real-time deputy editor of video, encourages reporters to use smartphone tripods. Scheffler has also trained reporters in how to shoot video without using accessories, plus has shared advice on stability techniques and taught reporters how to trim clips using their smartphones.
Reporters are encouraged to try creating clips in a variety of formats, including using the caption field, providing a voiceover, and doing pieces to camera.
Videos shared on WorldStream so far include behind the scenes footage from reporters covering Hurricane Isaac, clips from Syria and from the Republican National Convention.
One video shot at the Convention is a particularly good illustration of what reporter footage can add. A reporter shot a clip of two golf buggies driving down one of the roads and "that became a little riff on how difficult it is to get around here because everything is sprawled out", Scheffler said, who was speaking to Journalism.co.uk by phone from the Convention.
Asked why the WSJ had devoted resource and launched WorldStream, Heron, who also spoke to us from the Convention, explained that short clips give "impressionistic colour that allows our viewers and readers to come along with our reporters as we go about out jobs".Journalists have access to places that not everybody does and this is a way to really show and not only to tell what we are seeingLiz Heron
"Journalists have access to places that not everybody does and this is a way to really show and not only to tell what we are seeing."
Heron said the short video clip length is key to the platform's popularity, with expectations that the "bite-size nature of it will do very well on social media".
Of course Syria, Hurricane Isaac and the Republican Convention provide lots of opportunity for video, but are there some stories that lend themselves less well to the format?
Scheffler said the phrase he uses when training reporters is that "everything is content".
"If there's a huge media scrum at a press conference, or if the press conference is completely empty, we like to think of all that as content too.
"We take two approaches to it: one is an anthropological approach where if you can help us understand the culture of the thing that you are looking at, we want you to actually film it; if you have something smart to say but it even if it seems mundane, we want you to film it."
"We like to think of this stream as 'any content is interesting if you as a Journal reporter have something smart to say about it'."
And how have readers and reporters reacted? Feedback has been good and internal reaction has been strong as, according to Scheffler, WorldStream "liberates reporters to be video journalists and takes advantage of reporting the things that they are seeing and doing".
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