The ethics of direction in video

Videographers flocked to catch a glimpse of a running story
Videographers flocked to catch a glimpse of a running story – picture from http://www.flickr.com/photos/kentish/67087395/

Tracy Boyer has an interesting post about the ethics of staging and directing contributors when shooting video. She sets out her stall in the intro

Allowing videographers to stage scenes, situations and/or actions is NOT journalism. We are here to document what we see, not recreate what we missed. If you missed the poignant kiss, that is your fault. How is it that journalism ethics can vary so greatly from print to broadcast?

I agree. It isn’t journalism. But I would go one step further. It has nothing to do with journalism. It has everything to do with the form, but nothing to do with journalism.

Or it could be about  that tired old argument trying to define the difference in the way ‘ethical’ videographers work compared to the “TV personality and videographer” who “bombard the scene and tell the subject what they want them to say”.  But we got past that TV is bad thing a while back didn’t we?

The journalism is in telling the story not the skill of being around long enough for the story to drift past your lens.

The ‘no retakes’ ethical position must also, logically,  require that you would never edit, that you never use lights and you never ask any questions. You may as well set up a hide and stalk your contributors like a wildlife documentary maker.

Every time a shot is framed or a cut made their is an editorial hand at play. In any time based media you cannot claim the purity of the scene when you play with the relationship of the scenes with each other over time.  When you cut out camera movements or slip wildtrack over an edit, in my view,  you have broken the same ethical code. Shoot a cut-away and edit that in… you get the idea.

What we have always focused on is the meaning and in that sense there is no difference here between print and online. We play with copy, editing quotes or using reported speech to tell the story. Asking someone to walk through a door again because we missed the shot is no different.

Of course we  use lights, we pick lenses, we edit to tell the story. We ask questions and guide. That’s what the form requires.

That we always present a fair, accurate and balanced view of the story is what journalism demands.

UPDATE: Angela Grant has responded to my view

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