Learning to see quality through different lenses.
Since leaving the professional world of daily journalism and joining academia, I’ve struggled with lowering my quality standards to fit the experience and needs of this “market.”
I’ve fought furiously with the Missourian’s editor, Tom Warhover, and KMOV.com Web editor Bryce Moore over the use of the Flip video camera. I’ve argued with MU professor Clyde Bentley over the use of cell phone cameras.
My latest exchange has been with VeriCorder about the need for a telephoto lens for their mobile journalism system. The more of these conversations I have the more I realize that I have to make some changes in my thinking, both for the student journalists I’m working with and because I’m no longer working in my professional world.
I wanted to find another industry to which I could compare the different quality levels within that industry. You know what I came up with? Cooking.
I’ve watched a lot of Top Chef, always knowing that I would never cook at that level or be able to taste the difference of most foods at that level. And ultimately, that’s just fine with me. Whereas Tom Colicchio is going to use fresh cut parsley, I’ve got a 3 year old jar of the stuff in the cabinet that will work just fine for me. When Stephanie Izard uses a nice Artisanal cheese, I’ve got a nice Velveeta loaf in the ‘frig.
This comparison has really opened my eyes: Not everyone needs or wants the most high quality ingredients in order to make their dish, and some meals are going to be done on the cheap and quick. Your choices are going to depend on factors such as time to prepare, who’s eating the meal and how much time and money you have to spend on that meal. Squab with plum sauce for the queen or a 15-minute meal for the kids before the soccer game?
The same holds true in journalism. Bloggers and citizen journalists have different goals and not as much money to spend as the Tulsa World or New York Times. I saw this point very clearly today during a presentation by a group of students who hope to start a new Web site with multimedia content. Their plan included outfitting 15 employees outfitted with the same gear the students are using in class — high-end and prosumer grade equipment, including a Marantz digital audio recorder, Nikon DSLR and Sony HD mini DV video camera. Total cost for these kits? More than $150,000.
Suddenly the quality of a $300 recorder is looking very acceptable compared to the $600 recorder. Fresh tomatoes for your spaghetti sauce vs. Prego in the jar.
Now, just for fun, here are some of my journalistic/culinary comparisons:
• HD Digital video camera = Filet Mignon
• Prosumer Camcorder = 85% lean ground round
• Flip camera = 50% lean ground beef
• iPhone camera = Tator Tots