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Vineeta Sawkar

Joel Koyama, DML - Star Tribune

Star Tribune ups its game on news video

  • Article by: NANCY BARNES
  • Star Tribune Editor
  • July 21, 2013 - 12:08 PM

Across the country, traditional newspapers have been expanding their reach in video news. The San Diego Union Tribune is spending millions of dollars to build a broadcasting station from its newsroom. The Washington Post recently launched an evening news program it calls “The Fold,” with more programming to come.

Here at the Star Tribune, we’ve been invested in news video for more than a decade, launching our first programs more than five years ago. But we, too, have aspirations to do more in the coming months. There are several good business reasons for this: While the vast majority of our consumers are readers, research shows that a large swath of the population prefers to watch its news. And in every major market, the traditional newspaper still has more newsgathering resources than all of the television stations combined. Ask local television anchors, and they will tell you that without the newspaper as a starting source for news, they’d be lost. In addition, smartphones put video at every consumer’s fingertips. Just as important, advertisers want to be able to place ads on video.

Up until now, however, we have primarily cross-trained our reporters, editors and photographers to shoot and report for video news for good reason. We don’t want to do “TV” news; we want our news to be more in the trenches, perhaps a little grittier. We want you to feel like you are there with our reporters or in the newsroom with us. Our news video team has had some tremendous success. We were the first newspaper in the country to win a coveted Edward R. Murrow award for overall excellence in video news. This year, we won two national Murrow awards, one for overall excellence and one for a documentary. Our staff will travel to New York to collect these awards alongside the biggest brands in TV news.

Still, there is only so much we can teach ourselves. This month, for the first time, we reached out and hired someone deeply steeped in reporting for camera to join our team and help take our work up a notch. Vineeta Sawkar, formerly an anchor with KSTP-TV, Ch. 5, joins us to host our midday newsbreak and to help us make forays into early evening programming. When we first started talking with Sawkar this spring, she came into the newsroom and produced some sample reports for us.

One of the things I noticed immediately was how nimble she was at gathering a lot of information and getting it on video quickly. We have struggled with speed since we first began. She was immediately at ease with our reporting staff, as they were with her. Obviously, she knows a great deal about lighting and how to use the cameras. And, perhaps most important, she had deep appreciation for the depth of our reporting. I decided after talking to her that we could learn a lot from her.

Obviously, working in a “print-based” newsroom brings new challenges for Sawkar as well. “I’m learning newspaper, which is very different than TV or radio,” she said in an interview introducing her to our website audience. But she also noted that digital is where the future is. As much as she appreciates getting her newspaper on her porch every morning, she’s excited by the opportunity to do updates all day long on the website and “take it to the next level.” As to what impressed her about the Star Tribune, she said; “I’m blown away by the amount of reporters we have here. You know if there is a big story, we are going to have every angle covered.”

That’s exactly right. Readers can count on that commitment being delivered in print, as it has been for more than a century. But in this digital world, we have expanded our commitment to 24-hour news, delivered in multiple ways on any platform the reader or consumer wants. Increasingly, that means video, reported by a staff and brand you know you can trust.

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