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Friday 18 October 2013

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FT Video Production Desk by Nicholas Barrett

Thursday 17 October 2013

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’.

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.”

The value of any newspaper office could easily be measured by circulations and prime location, where the FT has impressive bragging rights. Pearson however, is also in possession of another profound and valuable resource. There is not a room in One Southwark Bridge where intelligent, insightful and well-informed conversation cannot be found; and the ground floor edit room is no exception.

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 “web-revise” 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 Manila.

On the return of the corrected title, the corrected blurb and the correct thumbnail, the metadata must be meticulously entered into both “what page” and “topic plans”, each subsections of an online publishing tool called Méthode. As this being done the video must be returned to the 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.

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 informs 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 its servants. 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.”