The black man with a gold earring and the man with the camera make a US road movie. Gary Younge and Dan Chung have shown us that newspaper video works and on a different level from broadcast TV. The new dimension is intimacy.
This is cheap TV but not cheap journalism. The two Guardian men are both superb journalists and they showed us plenty about the American midterm elections than could not be done with conventional words and pictures in print.
Their 12 day journey from Chicago to San Francisco via Yorkville, Wheaton, Clinton, Maysville, Cedar Rapids, Denver, Loveland, Salina and Las Vegas takes us into the heart of American life and politics.
Gary, relaxed to the point of scruffiness, talks to people on the street and in their homes, politicians and punters, in a conversational tone. The model of the TV interview with its list of questions is forgotten. This is a print journalist at work, gently prompting and listening.
Camerawork is direct, occasionally a bit shaky, and real. This is two blokes on a journey of discovery. It is intimate. That’s what sums it up: it is intimate.
Dan took stills too. Some of them are on a strip below the video and others in a slideshow. They show the bustle of the cities and the immensity of the landscape between.
The Guardian also had an interactive backgrounder, a midterm blog and, of course, full conventional newspaper coverage. This package is a landmark in the development of new ways of telling stories. The narrative drive brought people back day after day to watch the latest episode.
The Guardian used the web to add real value to its coverage of the hustings. While the video was low-cost compared with broadcast it required 24 man days on the road.
There is multi-skilling here. Dan, a stills man, has been experimenting with video for some time: at the British Conservative party conference he filmed the media scrum around Boris Johnson. Gary has applied his research and interviewing skills to video.
There will be people who manage to combine picture and word skills, but I suspect they will be as rare as traditional print journalists who can take good pictures, and write well.
That said, it is the time to experiment. There is already much good multimedia storytelling out there. For something very different to the Guardian’s election coverage take a look at Toxic Legacy, the story that won The Record in Hackensack, New Jersey, the Grantham prize for environmental reporting.