I got a phone call recently from a person confused about the way we covered the international Hebrew Order of David conference in Sandy Springs — the first time the biennial gathering was held outside South Africa.
The caller had no problem with how we wrote about HOD or the inauguration of its new grand president, Atlantan Alan Rubenstein. She didn’t have any complaints about the photos we used (or didn’t use).
But she didn’t understand why, out of Rubenstein’s 10-minute speech about HOD and its future growth, we posted a video of nothing except a slightly off-color joke Rubenstein delivered. Of all things, why that and only that?
I had an answer, but it wasn’t a good one.
Rubenstein made it clear not only that he enjoys telling extended jokes, but that his HOD brothers know him for those stories. So I thought it made sense to post a video on our YouTube channel and our website that highlighted a significant part of his character.
But the reason I didn’t post more of the speech, either as part of the same video or as an additional clip, has nothing to do with newsworthiness and everything to do with the current limitations of the AJT.
We’ve talked about shooting and posting more videos on the AJT website for at least a decade, but our staff has traditionally consisted of people who are far more experienced with words than with videos. So videos too often are an afterthought, and when we do them, they take far more time and wind up far rougher than they should be from a professional news organization.
We’re working on it. Staff writer Sarah Moosazadeh and I are making a point to shoot video when we cover events, and we’re trying to develop a workflow and gain the practice with the editing software so that we can turn that raw footage into videos worth watching.
But getting from where we are to where we want and need to be won’t be easy. The effort will involve some experiments that won’t work. It will include a lot of videos that simple clips rather than edited stories. And it will mean that sometimes you’ll be left scratching your head about what we were thinking.
The truth is that we won’t always be thinking when it comes to video, at least for the next several months. We’ll try different things and look for a happy medium between what we have the time and ability to produce and what you want to see.
The increased use of video is just one change we’re making now that we’re well into the fourth year of Michael Morris’ ownership of the Atlanta Jewish Times, with more than 160 issues behind us.
For example, we’re putting more effort into making the newspaper’s cover appealing with larger, stronger photographs while cutting back on the stories we run on the front. It’s something we should have done a long time ago: Not surprisingly, the more visually appealing the cover, the more copies get taken.
Some weeks we’ll have one short story on the front; some weeks we won’t have any. But the real reading will take place inside, where we’re planning some subtler design and style changes while implementing features we hope will better serve the community, such as the new Writing on Writing series from local Jewish authors.
Whether in print, online or both, I hope you’ll continue to be part of the effort to match the AJT to our community’s needs.