Aspects of news.

Friday, February 28th, 2020

After hearing about a short film promoted by Apple (because of course it was shot on their flagship product), I winced after I rolled it on YouTube. It was in a vertical format, not the landscape aspect ratio that the world has experienced in movie theaters and on television screens pretty much since there were movie houses and TVs.

I joke about it a lot, but vertical videos for telling stories is just not a great idea. I should pause here for thousands of people who say “but the modern stories are Instagram stories, and they are verticals!! Books are verticals! People are now watching this sort of content on their phones and only on their phones, and that’s on a vertical screen!”

Even on my phone, watching the Apple video, I craved seeing what was to the left or to the right of my screen. And no, I never have similar cravings for “what’s above or below the frame” on landscape (wide) presentations. Maybe it has something to do with our eyes being mounted in our heads in landscape orientation.

And then I watched a clip or two online from EuroNews of their coverage of the coronavirus crisis. They’ve decided to visually split the difference, doing their videos in square format…and these short clips are not carefully crafted packages where a reporter speaks the who what when and where of the story…a bullet-point-like subset of that information appears on a bunch of large-type overlaid titles, almost always accompanied by what some editor thinks is appropriate music (that they have a license to use.) Oh, sad music for a pandemic…cartoony Benny Hill-style music for someone doing something embarrassing for the cameras….faux-majestic for coverage of the Royals.

These blip-news-verts are disposable, vapid, can be cranked out by minimum wage toilers in edit rooms, and are instantly forgettable. And if that’s what visual journalism is today, is there anyone who really wants to label that good journalism?

So what is good journalism in this time of fast and vertical? I do have one link for you: here’s some good reporting on urban issues from a guy in Vancouver, good enough that his work has been picked up and showcased by the CBC, Canada’s national public network. If you like that one, he has some others on the YouTube.