At Immersion video workshop, 'peers teach peers'
Story by Jacob Gedetsis
Photographs by Madeline Grosh & Boris Shirman
It starts with a black fedora and 37 crumpled pieces of paper. A long line forms, and each participant pulls a baby of a story idea out of a hat. There’s nervous laughter and jokes. Everyone leans over their small piece of paper, and their plunge into the world of multimedia storytelling begins.
During the five-day intensive workshop, students spend their time shooting, planning, editing and producing their multimedia stories with the guidance of expert coaches. This is Immersion, NPPA’s multimedia workshop in its 10th year in Syracuse, New York.
In the early morning of the workshop’s first day, the participants are asked to introduce themselves and explain who they are and what they want to get out of the workshop. The reasons vary: A local Syracuse reporter wants to incorporate video in stories, a recent college graduate hopes to sharpen her editing skills, and a 53-year-old woman is working on her “umpteenth career.”
Standing near the front of the auditorium, Boyzell Hosey takes the microphone. He speaks confidently. A newspaperman with 30-plus years of photojournalism experience, including more than 15 years of visual leadership, he is used to commanding a room’s attention.
“I’ve always been an advocate for video in my newsroom,” said Hosey, the assistant managing editor of photo and multimedia at the Tampa Bay Times. “But if I am going to be a more effective leader, I can’t just talk the talk, I need to walk the walk.”
During his long career, Hosey said he has seen what happens when newspapers and journalists don’t continue to learn and adapt. He wanted to come to the workshop to better understand the current video trends in journalism and to “learn the language” to better lead his newsroom into the future.
He said that he had been “blessed” with great video editors in the past and that he was largely able to delegate video leadership to others on his staff. But with shifting tides in the industry and shrinking staff, he felt like he needed to “get his hands in it.”
Each workshop participant is placed in a team of four with two coaches overseeing the group. The low student-to-coach ratio allows coaches and students to talk through problems with attention to individual needs.
Throughout the week, Immersion weaves technical lessons on topics such as how to properly set up lighting, manipulate editing software and capture crisp audio with “inspiration sessions” where coaches and guest speakers talk about their work and about storytelling at large.
The participants take these skills out into the field, where they put them to the test with guidance from their coaches.
On the third day, the sun is shining for the first time since the workshop began. Hosey tees off the interview with lessons he learned in that day’s morning sessions. He asks his subject to speak in full sentences, to look at him and not the camera. And to try to have fun.
Hosey adjusts his headphones, checks his viewfinder and hits record. He starts asking questions to the story’s main protagonist: a young drag queen named Trevor Miller, stage name Lizanga.
Hosey checks his lists of questions, looks at the camera and moves his eyes back to Miller. Miller finishes his answer, and there’s a brief pause.
“I asked a question, but I didn’t hear his answer. I am thinking of all the technical layers you need to create quality, stellar video journalism: the sound, the image. I am thinking, ‘I hope I don’t mess this video up,’” Hosey said. “I didn’t hear a thing he was saying.”