Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Life after newspapers?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on June 8, 2009

Here’s another inspiring article doing the rounds: detailing how multimedia journalists in America are re-inventing themselves and forging new business working for NGOs and non-profit groups.

…in Norfolk, Virginia, former Virginian-Pilot staff photographer Chris Tyree has launched a multimedia production company called Weyo with Stephen Katz, who is still a staff photographer at the paper and won POYi Newspaper Photographer of the Year honors in 2008. “We’re trying to brand ourselves as storytellers to the non-profit world,” Tyree says. Clients so far include Physicians for Peace, and the Samaritan’s Purse Canada, among others.

Tyree quit his job last August, right before a wave of layoffs hit The Virginian-Pilot. “It became obvious that stories I was interested in—about social justice and social responsibility—weren’t getting [published] as much” because of budget pressures and cutbacks, Tyree explains.

And they reckon their background in frontline news gives them the edge over more established competition.

One challenge for would-be freelance multimedia producers is competition from established video production companies that are chasing corporate and non-profit PR work. Migielicz argues that producers with newspaper backgrounds are better storytellers by training, and can work faster and leaner.

Leeson says, “One thing you learn as a still photojournalist is how to get in and out and produce something with high quality. We know how to tell a story. We don’t have to story board it, and go through all these pre-production meetings. All I need is a grasp of what the client is hoping for. In newspapers, you get an assignment with a basic outline of the story, and beyond that you’re expected to find it.”

As a couple of other inspiring pieces (like this one and this one) are showing, maybe now is the time to to take the plunge and advertise your talents to more people. But the risks and challenges of starting your own business are still pretty intimidating.

The money though isn’t bad, according to the article:

Weyo just finished one job that paid $10,000 for a 7-minute video and a Web site with “20-some” linked pages. Another recent job for a women’s shelter paid $15,000 for similar work, “with some branding as well,” Tyree says. Another shelter in Maryland paid Weyo $4,000 for a video and some still photography. “I was definitely paid better at the newspaper, but that’s because we’re just starting out,” he says.


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