Hallo, dear readers!
AUBG students of journalism learn the craft from professors who have gathered extensive experience in the industry. In addition, they receive advice from media professionals from both Bulgaria and abroad who visit the university on a regular basis.
Maria Savkova is one of these media professionals and she discussed the good and bad sides of video journalism on April 22 as part of the “Conversations in JMC” series organized by AUBG’s Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Chapter.
Though she is relatively new to the profession, Savkova has already gained solid experience in video journalism as a reporter with BTV, one of the two biggest private TV channels in Bulgaria. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English philology at Sofia University and started working as an interpreter. Later, however, after she lost her job and had nothing to do, she decided to apply for a three-month internship with BTV. Having fallen in love with the world of television to the point of seeing it as her “dream job,” Savkova stayed with BTV, where she has been for the past six years. Meanwhile, she completed a master’s degree in journalism at Sofia University. Although she initially reported on a variety of topics, she has over time specialized in topics related to healthcare, education, charity and other social issues.
Savkova first showed a short documentary of hers about the major social and educational problems the Endorois and Ogiek communities in Kenya have been struggling with, especially poverty and gender discrimination. Thanks to the financial support of Minority Rights Group International, an NGO, Savkova spent two weeks in Kenya, exploring the state of minority rights there.
Savkova then used this film as the basis for her presentation. She highlighted three particular features of video reporting that make it more powerful than other forms of journalism. Video journalism reaches the senses and builds “vigorous images,” she said. Together, these elements make a story more realistic and emotional. For instance, instead of reading what a person has said, viewers can see and hear the person speaking.
“The first and the last shots should always be the strongest and most influential so that you make people think,” Savkova said.
What makes video journalism important is its capacity to reach large audiences, including illiterate citizens. Reading a story requires effort and language competence; watching a story, in contrast, transfers a message on an emotional level and thus does not depend on the receiver’s education.
By reaching more people as well as by being more visible, “video journalism easily makes changes,” Savkova said.
Like any other job, video journalism has its disadvantages. Savkova pointed out two of these. Video journalism is time-consuming, she said, because the journalist needs to not only take notes and listen carefully but also find the right settings and interview partners to record enough and appropriate video material. “No video, no story,” she said.
While any form of journalism demands a lot of skills and flexibility, video journalism does even more so. In a world suffering the consequences of a harsh economic and financial crisis, “Video journalism [is becoming] a one-man show, [and] you have to be able to do each step of the process,” Savkova said. In other words, journalists in the 21st century should be able to not only come up with innovative ideas, write and shoot well, but also edit their own footage as quickly and efficiently as possible.
At the end of her presentation, Savkova touched on a topic she said most journalists avoid discussing, namely the loneliness many journalists feel as a result of their busy schedules and unconventional working time. While she said she can’t really say how many hours a day she works simply because she loves her job and hardly checks the time during the day, she stressed how self-sacrificing journalism can be. After all, people tend to see only the final product but they don’t realize how much effort and time it takes to produce even a two-minute news package of good quality.
Despite the challenges, Savkova sees journalism as her calling, as a way for her to “make a change” in her home country. AUBG students of journalism had better take note of her enthusiasm for what she does and her simple recipe for success: “Believe in your dreams. There is nothing impossible.”