Video journalist zooms in on substance

Tetsuo Jimbo interviews, videotapes and edits — all by himself.With a camcorder, tripod, light and other equipment all small enough to fit into a bag Jimbo, 35, has made television reports about the Great Hanshin Earthquake, Aum Shinrikyo and many other events since 1994. Recalling his debut in spring 1994, Jimbo says, “I started out just as an antithesis to television (news broadcasting).”Jimbo, considered Japan’s first recognized news video journalist, says he thinks conventional TV crews tend to pursue “beautiful images” at the expense of the substance of the issues being reported. “But I gradually realized what I’m doing is a natural thing to do” for a journalist, he says. “The point is, you can be in full control of the reporting.” He says using a camcorder is no more special than a newspaper reporter using a pen.Jimbo, who graduated from Columbia University’s School of Journalism, in New York, says the impact of his work still seems marginal in the nation’s TV reporting and not many potential video journalists are in the field. But he sees a ray of hope for substance-oriented TV news reporting with the advent of the multimedia age.He formerly worked for the Associated Press as a Tokyo correspondent, but CNN reports on the 1991 Gulf War were a turning point in his journalistic outlook and career. CNN’s live broadcasts of fighting overwhelmed the print media both in quickness and influence on viewers. But at the same time, it reminded Jimbo of a drawback of TV: virtually anything goes as long as it is visually hard-hitting.Jimbo quit AP that year and became a freelance TV director. But he says he was disappointed by the TV news-gathering method. First, it is costly, he says. At least 150,000 yen a day is necessary to assign a crew from a subcontractor. So the reporter’s priority is placed on what kind of images the crew can shoot without fail, rather than what the issue is or whether the contents are fair, he says.Another drawback is the low mobility of a TV crew, which consists of a reporter, a camera person and a video engineer, who carry a load of heavy equipment. Most importantly, a TV reporter cannot make journalistic decisions independently, Jimbo says. During his freelance days, New York 1, a local cable station established in 1992, opened his eyes to video journalism. All the reporters carried their own camcorders.