Tag Archives: video journalism

Why being a freelance (entrepreneurial) journalist in my early years helped my career


I’m not that old, but I’m not that young either. I have a career that has spanned 14 years now, and sometimes, I feel the urge to share my experiences with people.

And that’s why I like giving advice to young people. That’s one of the reasons why I love teaching (I’ve been teaching undergrads for 10 years now and conducted numerous workshops).

One of the most common advice I dish out to young journalists (whether they like it or not!) is that they need to put themselves out in the world. Go out and be a freelance journalist.

Too many young journalists like to begin their career as full time staff at news organisations. I’m not saying that this is wrong. In fact, I started out as a full time rookie journalist too.


But I soon left the comfort of full time employment and became a freelance journalist. I actually prefer the term entrepreneurial journalist. I was self-employed for 10 years and the benefits I have gained is just invaluable.

1. I learned that you have to always stay on your toes and keep your journalistic and storytelling skills sharp. If you don’t have your nose on the ground or don’t tell your story effectively, you won’t have any clients wanting your stories. That also goes for staying in tune with the latest methods.

2. I learned to be effective and efficient in what I do. I discovered that being a solo-journalist meant that I could do my work faster and achieve the best results based on my own set standards. I also learned to be multi-skilled (I can write, present, shoot video, photos and edit). And that has helped to keep my costs low too!

3. I learned that you always have to respect people and never burn bridges. The industry isn’t big and you need to always treat people how you want to be treated. Anyway, the bigger your clientele, the better your business.

5. I discovered that I have my own unique voice and to believe in myself.

6. I learned that most often times, satisfaction and happiness always come up tops compared to money.

7. I learned to be entrepreneurial. I learned to market and promote myself and my work. I learned never to give up and be persistent. I learned that I should never rest on my laurels because there are many people much better than you out there.

8. I learned to be resourceful and managed to only do the stories and projects that I wanted to.

So, it irks me to see so many young journalists who immediately got a full time job and then start getting complacent. They shirk at any additional duties or tasks they are given. They resist anything new that they have to do. They don’t try to expand themselves and grow. They don’t push themselves.

I’m not saying that all of them are like that. Some have thrived, progressed and grown even if they have never gone entrepreneurial. But in my observations, these people are far and few between.

But hey, one can only base things on one’s experience. And I doubt that I would have grown as much as I have if I didn’t have that 10 years of entrepreneurial experience.

I’m just saying!

And if you’ve read right down to the bottom of this post… then be rewarded by clicking on this hyperlink to an article I wrote a couple of years ago about being an entrepreneurial journalist!

New Media needs to transition to in-depth stories rather than breaking news


It seems that recent research shows that people these days, especially those between the ages of 18 to 34 are getting news fatigue, a condition where they are so overloaded by fast facts and data that they are turning off of it.

This somehow is in direct conflict with how we (or I!) have always thought about New Media being the preferred form of how people wanted to get quick news. Well, it used to be that way.  But not anymore.

Now, people are yearning for more in-depth coverage of news rather than just breaking, breaking and breaking news. And it seems that New Media is still the preferred choice.

The Vice Media Group (one of my preferred go to media!) has just launched Vice News, where although it is current news they are covering, it doesn’t seem like they’re too obsessed of breaking stories before anyone else. What they specialised in doing is getting a different perspective of the story… and it’s been a hit with young people so far.

Check out one of their stories below (The Battle for Aleppo):

Another method for in-depth stories is going multimedia. Ahhh!! Here’s something I’m really familiar with! By telling a story from many perspectives and through many methods (text, still photos, video and audio), it becomes more compelling and multi-dimensional since people get more context and background to a story. It really is just more engaging.

Humans of New York is one such project that I think embodies multimedia storytelling very well.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 1.28.33 AM

Another one is Time magazine’s The Pity of War.

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 1.35.25 AM

I did something like this when I went to Afghanistan three years ago. Check out Guide to Afghanistan: The Adventures of a KL-ite. And below is one of the many videos in the series:

Video journalism basics – storytelling with no words or just with a single shot

The police and fire department are all over the site.

Video journalism is all about visual storytelling. It is annoying to see video reports that is obviously just a voice-over with a bunch of visuals dumped over it that makes no sense. The best way really is to not have an voice-over, because if you do have it, it just means your visuals can’t do the storytelling for you.

Newsshooter.com’s Matt Allard, who used to live in Kuala Lumpur as a cameraman with Al-Jazeera, makes this point in a video documentary he shot recently about a knife making expert in Taiwan called Maestro Wu. No voice-over… not even an interview soundbite.

There is also a technique known as the ‘one-shot’, where a news story is done in just a single shot on the camera with no editing cuts. This one is even more of a challenge, but when done right, it can give quite an impact. Best suited for a solo-journalist, if I do say so.

Sometimes people forget the basics when it comes to video storytelling. If you keep things simple, a lot can be said. Below is a story I did about the Empire Shopping centre blast in Subang a while back. No voice-over but I had an interview though to explain a little bit of facts.

And another one I did… on the demolition of the historical Pudu Jail in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.


Astro AWANI solo-journalist nominated for a National Press Club Award


I started the solo-journalism (SoJo) training in the Astro AWANI newsroom more than a year ago and the management even purchased about a dozen smartphones and tablets for this purpose. This year, one of our SoJos, Hilal Azmi, has been nominated as ‘Broadcast Journalist of the Year’ at the Malaysian National Press Club Awards 2014. Hilal has not been shy shooting with his iPhone on his daily assignments (and he carries a wireless smartphone lens – the Sony QX10). He even reported from Syria early this year with only his iPhone. I see this nomination as a big step for solo-journalism in Malaysia. Woohoo!!

Other Astro AWANI journalists who have been nominated include Teoh El Sen (‘Broadcast Journalist of the Year’ and ‘Journalist of the Year’) and Siti Noor Arfa Mohd Yunus (Young Journalist of the Year).

Watch some of Hilal’s SoJo reporting below:

iPhone workflow for the solo-journalist

I have done immense advocating for solo-journalism, a style of multimedia journalism which sees only one person doing everything, basically a one-man-crew. He or she will handle the camera (both stills and video), do the visual editing, write the scripts, appear in front of the camera, write the article… EVERYTHING!

I’ve conducted workshops and lectures on it, written about it and practice it myself.

I’m not a technical person. I don’t care about the latest cameras, video editing softwares, lenses, apps, and all that bull! But I do keep up with technology that helps me be a better solo-journalist.

The left hand is holding the JVC HM100 and slung over the right shoulder is the prehistoric Canon 350D. In the backpack is the MacBook Pro with FCP.

The gear that I normally carry with me is a small JVC HM100 HD broadcast camera, a small Canon 350D DSLR (I know! It’s ancient! But it gets the job done! I’ve even sold a photo-essay to Esquire and The Malaysian Insider using that camera!), and my MacBook Pro with FCP installed. Last week, I finally bought myself a brand new spanking DSLR so I can now shoot stills and video by only carrying one camera!! BOOM!!! Hahaha!! Late into the game…. but only equipment wise!!

So I got excited when I saw this video by Glen Mulcahy, who demonstrates his entire iPhone workflow for producing news packages. Inspiring is the least I can say about it!

I have used my iPhone too on many occasions. Below is a 30min TV documentary I shot in Myanmar with my iPhone. However, I edited it on FCP with my MacBook Pro. But I’m definitely going to experiment with how Mulcahy does it by using an iPad.