(not) Just Another New Years Rant

It’s time to say good-bye. To a rotten bastard of a year called 2012 which gave us an appalling meltdown of US politics (continuing as I write this), Putin back in power, Pussy Riot in jail for opposing him and the equally appalling threat of Berlusconi returning to power once more. Elsewhere Israel continued the expansion of the settlements in the West Bank in between another bloody skirmish in Gaza.¬†And ’round the corner, the Syrian tragedy just seems never-ending. Another Global Climate summit failure and hurricane Sandy hammering New York and New Jersey just to make a point.

There were more; India, China, Brazil but I’ll leave those there and just say a big ‘Thank You’ to the all the nutters that kept of us laughing on December 21st…

But this is about web documentary and there’s plenty more goodbyes to be said here as well. Because it’s time to move on.

Since 2008 when Canon brought us the 5D mrk II, we (the web documentarians out there) have proven a valid point: Quality journalism comes in all sizes and not just from Big Media. On the contrary the big guys on a broad front have continued to disappoint us. Despite the obvious trends for online marketing versus it’s print equal, Big Media’s continued failure to deliver quality online content is an ever increasing source of surprises.

For those of us who actually did have ambitions for the online platform, 2012 did not provide the breakthrough for the format we had hoped for. You could ask ‘Why’ and the money guys will give you the ‘clicks are king’ speech which in the end leaves an equation like this:

Sex + Celebrity = Great Journalism

– and if that’s the case, I’m outta here!

The obvious question is of course if the format is wrong since it hasn’t succeeded. To that I can only say, I haven’t seen anything else that rivals it. Yet. But 2008 is ages ago and by now the tech side is up to speed. We got the equipment, we’ve learned the tools. Quality is no longer issue. But now it’s time to move on. And do better.

During the ten workshops we at BFC taught in 2012 we have seen a lot of ‘Single Character’ portrait stories. It’s a format that lends itself to a condensed setting like a workshop and it gives ample opportunity to train all the technical aspects of producing a web documentary. But it’s a quick fix because the one thing that we didn’t see (with very few exemptions) was the ‘Current Affair’ story. And the thing that really drives the news business is – well – news. The real test for this format will therefore be the next big disaster, a Haiti scale earthquake and a 24 hour news cycle to produce within. I’m quite confident that it can be done, I’m just not so sure about whether Big Media are willing to do what it takes. It’s a completely new way of thinking and producing the news that is necessary. Because the old model doesn’t really fit anymore.

Happy New Year everybody!

Henrik, Poul & Uwe



Henrik Kastenskov

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