In November 2012, I was lucky enough to find myself seated almost directly behind the chief economics writer for the Financial Times, Martin Wolf, on the night he was awarded the James Cameron award for journalism (normally reserved for embattled war correspondents – as the name suggests) at City University London. My company at the time included a star struck ex-business correspondent from Milan. For years my Italian colleague had regarded Mr Wolf’s disillusion with government austerity and the omnipotence of the free-market as what separated the FT from that old Daily Telegraph trope of existing merely to ‘comfort the comfortable’. A characteristic that blinds many business journalists to the world beyond the boundaries of centralised financial districts, inflating the dangerous bubbles of corporate hubris.
Before accepting the award, Mr Wolf was approached by George Brock, head of the City journalism department. After a brief chat Mr Brock looked up, scrutinised a ragged row of students before looking directly at me. Pointing back to Mr Wolf he informed me that “this man wants to talk to you’’.
The columnist turned in his chair.
“Are you a journalism student?”
"You’re not expecting to make any money are you?”
“Good, this is trade becoming a rich man’s hobby.”
Not expecting to make any money is a lesson that young journalists are indoctrinated with at an early age. On top of two decent degrees and the financial ability to live in a capital city, the young journalist will also have to intern, more often then not the work will pay nothing and more often then not it the work will not journalistic. The goal of the unemployed young reporter is now to collect as many recognisable logos as possible and to dot them about the CV like adverts on the jacket of a Formula 1 driver. I got a very good logo indeed, the FT and my job as ‘video intern’ producing and shooting videos for FT.com.
On a typical day various videos will arrive from either the studio or the outside world. The footage, along with an appropriate template must be extracted from the clutches of Final Cut Server. Once edited, a blurb and title must be written. This metadata is then sent to the presenter for “checking”. After approval is given, this copy is sent to WebRevise who check the title and blurb for grammatical errors before returning to sender. As this is being done, relevant thumbnails have to be requested from an office half way across the planet in Manila.
On the return of the corrected title, the corrected blurb and the correct thumbnail, the metadata must be meticulously entered into both WhatPage and TopicPlans, each subsections of an online publishing tool called Méthode. As this is being done, the video must be returned to the old enemy, Final Cut Server, where all the metadata must be entered once again. This is followed by a visit to Brightcove.com where the thumbnails are added. (This can take any time between 40 seconds and 40 minutes) Once thumbnails are up, the video can be released into the wild. As can the intern. But don’t bother dropping a trail of this digital labyrinth because the content management system (CMS) is always likely to be altered at any time and the user must be ready to learn though frustration
There is now a growing realisation in the newsroom that video is going to play a big part in the future of online journalism. News, our editor informed us “is no longer the newspaper”. In this evolving world the video editor is the sub-editor, the camera operator is the reporter and they are often the same person. The printing press is now a towering server and we are the servants of the tower. If you’re expecting to make any money, don’t. If you’re expecting to make any news, to quote a David Byrne song: “Behold and love this giant.”