See something newsworthy? Get the footage!

OK, so you’ve seen a big problem, and since you carry a very capable camera in your phone everywhere you go, you’ve decided you want to get footage of it so the world can find out about it.

Great! This really helps activists, and can get problems fixed.

When you’re filming or snapping photos, here are some tips to consider, some based on a chat with a Channel 7 journo following a previous foray into this. Obviously these thoughts are in the context of my particular campaigning interests, but hopefully they’re useful more broadly.

Mind you, many of these pointers are also relevant to simply getting photos and video of any newsworthy event, not necessarily just one that highlights a problem to be fixed.

Show the problem. Show the scale of the issue; some context. A crowded train doorway on its own isn’t a problem. The entire carriage being packed, and people giving up and waiting on the platform is a problem.

Make notes about what it is you’re showing, and post those (even if brief) with the material. Are we looking at a tram that’s packed because the three before it were cancelled (so the problem is service reliability) or it’s packed despite everything running smoothly (so the problem is service frequency and the number of trams)? Why is this significant? Is it part of a wider problem?

Don’t mislead. If you’re aiming to get a problem fixed, your photos and video are only part of the evidence — it may be what sparks further investigation, but fundamentally you’ll be wasting your time (and quite possibly set your cause back) if it turns out you implied something which didn’t really happen.

Don’t be creepy or irritate people — when I’m trying to film packed PT, I’m not trying to film individuals, I’m filming crowds. Occasionally I’ll get stares, and I’d be happy to explain what I was doing if ever asked, but do I think there’s a way to film in a crowd while not lingering on specific people, and not giving the impression of creepiness.

If possible, be prepared. Sometimes things happen spontaneously, and it might be a struggle to whip out your phone camera in time and snap a pic or shoot some video. Other things are regular events. For the summer timetable crowding, I knew it was happening every day, so took along a proper camera and positioned myself at the end of the carriage to be able to get good shots.

Be safe and considerate. Don’t do anything silly to get a good shot, and don’t get in the way.

For videos

Hold that shot. You’re aiming for footage in a news report, not a music video, so don’t wave the camera around too much. Hold it still and steady, and get shots of at least 5 seconds each, preferably a bit longer.

Vary the angles. For television footage, they’ll need to chop up your video so it works well for viewers. Be sure to provide a few different angles. For January’s crowded train footage I included a shot through the end-of-carriage door into the next carriage. It was a bit arty, but worked well — they used it — and helped show context as well — it wasn’t just my carriage that was sardine-like.

Video is, of course, better for TV, but photos also sometimes get a run on TV, and online and in newspapers. A mix may be good, if you can manage it!

Don’t talk over it. If you’re trying to be a reporter, rather than a witness (if you know what I mean) then don’t talk over the vision. The noise from the event itself may be more important than a commentary, which can be added later. That said, spontaneous commentary can work okay.

Finally… but critically…

Shoot video in landscape. It seems to be way too easy to forget that whether it’s on the TV news or Youtube, most video is better viewed landscape, not portrait. Turn your phone 90 degrees before you start shooting – it makes much better use of the camera’s resolution.

The very worst crime in this category I ever saw was someone had filmed something off a widescreen television in portrait mode. For heaven’s sake, isn’t it blindingly obvious you’d turn your phone to match the TV screen?

Turns out there’s an iPhone application to force filming in landscape, but of course the people who most need this type of app will never install it.

More on this topic in this amusing video:

Where to take the footage?

Okay, this is easy for me because I’ve built up contacts in the PT world.

But all media outlets these days look for contributions, because good photos and video are invaluable. Contact the newsroom at your preferred outlet, explain what you filmed and why you think it’s important.

For a story to get a good run, it may be better to initially give it to only one outlet unless it’s utterly explosive (perhaps literally).

And be prepared to be interviewed/quoted, though depending what it is, they may be prepared to take it anonymously, or at least not identify who had the camera.

Does this work? Do things get fixed?

A picture tells a thousand words, but it’s also a thousand times more convincing to sceptical authorities who are likely to deny there’s a problem.

I suspect it’s rare to see a direct correlation from this kind of publicity to a real fix (as in New Year’s Eve), but often strong media coverage can be the thing that gets the ball rolling.

The 2006 weekend train overcrowding footage highlighted that 3-car trains were no longer adequate on weekends. Apparently this was news to Connex. Perhaps it would have happened anyway, but a subsequent upgrade led to almost all weekend trains running as full 6-car sets.

Why is the government on the back foot over White Night public transport? Partly because the media picked up a PTUA press release based on photos posted on Twitter on Saturday night, some of which were posted in response to a request for people to snap them.

Happy hunting!

Anybody got extra tips? Leave a comment!

The importance of context (even on Twitter)

I’m not having a go at anybody in particular here, but making a point.

I tweeted what I thought was an amusing comment from someone I don’t always find myself in thorough agreement with, Roads Minister Tim Pallas:

Tim Pallas’s pledge: “I will never, ever, wear lycra in public.” http://j.mp/9Z9zlB #vicvotesdanielbowen

A couple of people re-tweeted it, with this one adding a comment.

RT… @danielbowen Tim Pallas: “I will never, ever, wear lycra in public” http://j.mp/9Z9zlB #vicvotes WTF is wrong with Lycra?! FO Tim

You know, I think before you blast someone’s comment (apart from the fact that it was clearly meant to be taken in jest), you might want to read the context by following the link provided. Here’s the full paragraph:

While some people look good in lycra, It is perhaps appropriate here that I reiterate my pledge to the Victorian people that I will never, ever, wear lycra in public.

So in fact Pallas didn’t say anything was wrong with lycra. He just made a funny, self-deprecating comment that he shouldn’t wear it.

Foolishly I decided to point this out to the Tweeter:

Maybe you should read the full quote?

…and got this response back:

I did and the issue isn’t even worth answering. It just gives credence to the doped on the other side.

Does that actually make any sense? I’m seeing words there, but I can’t comprehend the meaning.

I didn’t bother taking it any further.

But my point is that while I love using Twitter, the brevity of messages shouldn’t be an excuse for wilfully ignoring context, nor blasting away with both barrels when you make an assumption as a result of that lack of context, particularly when the link to all the information is merely a click away.

Healthy debate needs truth

My view, as I’ve expressed before, is that healthy debate is important, but it relies on the participants sticking to the facts, and not just making things up.

Otherwise you get stuff like this, which concerns a Bacchus Marsh resident who apparently misinterpreted what he read and contacted Leader (newspapers) with concerns about seniors ticket pricing doubling from $3.30 one way to $7.

I suspect Myki spokesdroid Jean Ker Walsh was probably correct when she said some seniors may be confusing a one-off cost with ongoing senior fare prices.

That is, to buy a re-usable Myki card will, once all the free offers are gone, cost $7 for a concession.

Many people also seem to be assuming (incorrectly) that tourists and others will be forced to shell out for a card. They won’t — short term (non-reusable) tickets will be available: Short term tickets (for occasional users such as tourists) will replace the single-use 2-hour and Daily tickets available now.

I know it’s easy for people to assume the worst, but these sorts of false “the whole thing is totally crap” arguments don’t really help the debate, and help obscure the truth: that Myki is incredibly expensive, late, and badly implemented.

So it goes too for climate change.

Lord Christopher Monckton has been doing a speaking tour of Australia in the past few weeks, and doing a fair bit of media along the way. He’s an extremely eloquent, apparently very knowledgeable and intelligent climate change sceptic.

But, as MediaWatch found, he makes stuff up. He comes out with unsubstantiated claims which (as MediaWatch showed) many in the media let him get away with unchallenged.

I think the United Nations Climate Panel is now a busted flush. For instance, Rajendra Pachauri, its chairman, Sir John Houghton, its former chairman, and a number of other people associated with it, are now under formal criminal investigation in the United Kingdom for filing false accounts of a charity known as TERI Europe of which they are all trustees.

MediaWatch asked Sir John Houghton, who said “I am not and have never been a Trustee of Teri Europe.

They also spoke to the UK Charity Commission which said it’s evaluating Monckton’s claims, but is not running a criminal investigation. And they asked TERI Europe, who said that “Neither TERI Europe nor its trustees have received any complaint from the Charity Commission about its activities, let alone any allegation of criminal conduct.

Another of Monckton’s claims: The Barrier Reef Authority has established that sea temperatures in the region of the reef have not changed at all over the last 30 years.

MediaWatch checked this too. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority says it doesn’t measure sea temperatures itself, and doesn’t know where his figures come from.

It really does appear that he’s just making stuff up — and not for the first time, either.

I suspect to anybody with an open mind, it all just casts doubt on the rest of his arguments, and it doesn’t help us have a serious, healthy debate at all.