Maybe you won’t ever take my advice and try Twitter, and that’s cool. I can keep making great connections and digging up unique stories there without you. I won’t force you to cross that social media bridge if you’re not ready. But I will insist that you watch the short film, “Final Edition,” a moving account of the final days of the proud and storied Rocky Mountain News.
The film is the work of Matthew Roberts and a gifted team of video storytellers who were, until Friday, working at the very cutting edge of local news. The irony that this short film now serves as an epitaph for a once-mighty newspaper is sad to the point of nausea. But it captures perfectly where we are right now: some historically print-based local newsrooms are moving fast and furious into imaginative, different video storytelling, and threaten to beat local tv newsers at their own game. Watch the film and decide for yourself if you’ve seen anything like that on your nearest “Action News” lately. It’s a lot closer to documentary than to 1:15 local news packages. And it’s a lot more powerful.
Sure, it wasn’t banged out in an afternoon. But then again, local tv newsers don’t produce that kind of stuff when given the time either. It’s usually something more along the lines of dirty motel room sheet investigations. “Final Edition” has no flashy graphics (just some damn creative ones, like softly floating photographs of the many Rocky headquarters buildings over the years, and the memorable history captured on the tab’s front pages), and no short bites. It combines on the street interviews that breathe… with true documentary camera work that makes every second of the film visually arresting as its content rips your heart out.
There are currently newspapers shooting video in cities all over the country. Some are trying to copy the local tv model, others are taking the Rocky’s route, including the Washington Post, which calls its stories “documentary videos.” And they’re good, too. Scary good, in this tv newser’s opinion. I watched a Post story on iTunes and tried to track down the filmmaker without luck. Today, after watching “Final Edition,” I looked up Matthew on Twitter, sent him a note and heard right back. He’s a talented guy, and somebody’s going to snatch him up. (Oh, sorry, did I mention Twitter again?)
Here’s my point: I feel like I could learn a lot about visual storytelling from this “newspaper” guy. And that gives me a hint as to where we could take the concept of local news past the old models into something new, different, creative, and sucessful. As you watch the film, you feel Denver. You feel the paper. You feel the people. It takes you there. And just as someone says in the film, it takes a local journalist to do that kind of work. Local news is essential and people will always crave it. It’s up to us to take a page out of the book of a print guy who just lost his job to find our way.
Maybe Matthew Roberts will show us, because let me tell you, wherever he ends up, whether it’s a print newsroom, a television newsroom, or something else entirely, that’s where I want to be, too, doing something fresh, creative, and important.