Gordon Adair is a Regional Reporter for BBCNI.
My role is that of regional reporter, covering the southern part of Northern Ireland and, on occasion, some of the northerly counties of the republic.
I live in the area and normally work from home, scripting, shooting and editing all my own material before sending it to the newsroom via the internet. I have found that living in the area I cover helps to ensure that people have a real sense of connection with the BBC where they live. I’ve been particularly pleased during my time in the post to see the number of story leads coming to me directly from the public grow year on year.
I shoot using a small digital camera and edit on an Applemac laptop. This offers me great flexibility, both physically, in terms of where and when I can edit, and creatively in terms of the range of approaches I can take to any given story.
While working on ‘on the day’ stories, any location can be – and often is – turned into an edit suite: the back seat of my car perhaps, an interviewee’s home or office or even just the great outdoors (undoubtedly the best location for laying down voice tracks, free as it is from any echo problem). This can, at times, create an extremely pressurised working environment as I take on the roles of journalist, camera operator and picture editor. It does, however, mean that I am, in effect, a self-contained news-gathering operation, able to respond instantly to any breaking story.
The main area, however, where I have found the video journalist approach really comes into its own is that of features. Perhaps the big advantage to being a VJ is that, to some extent, you are constrained only by your own imagination and willingness to experiment, both in terms of story-telling and shooting and editing. Of course, there is an accepted grammar to television news which has grown up over the years for very good reasons, and it cannot be simply brushed aside, but I have begun to find that it can be tweaked a little. This is, however, an area to be approached with caution. It is only very recently that I have felt my skills in the more traditional television crafts are solid enough to act as a foundation for a slightly more experimental approach and this, as I say, is when the real advantages of video journalism come into sharp focus.
The unobtrusive nature of the small camera allows me to think about different approaches to how I use it, how I gain access to my subject and how I give the audience a new perspective on the story. I’m also able to dedicate more time, if necessary, to the story and perhaps spend a prolonged period with the people involved. This helps me to build a relationship with them and to make them comfortable with the approach I’m taking to the story. This in turn will hopefully lend pieces a more intimate feel and give the viewer a real sense of both the people featured and of their story.
By the same token, I’m able to explore possibilities for off-diary stories, that in the end may not actually make anything, without tying up valuable newsroom resources that could have been better employed elsewhere. As I say, perhaps these leads will come to nothing, but equally perhaps one of them could turn into a striking, unique piece. Again, this is part of the joy of flexibility created by the VJ approach which I believe is going to be very much at the heart of television production for the foreseeable future.