Commentary: Video Team Keeps at a Social Distance

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – On Jan. 31, 2020, The Business Journal video department created a video that proved prophetic of the new year.

January is always a busy month as the staff edits and curates the hundreds of submissions we receive for our biggest issue of the year, the Growth Report. The video was meant to show how taxing the process is on our staff.

As inspiration, we made a parody of a 2019 film, “The Lighthouse,” about two lighthouse keepers who become marooned alone on a desolate rock. Trapped, with no hope of rescue in sight, tempers flair and the two men slowly go mad.

Today it seems ironic that what was meant to be a celebration of the conclusion of one of the busiest times of the year turned into an exaggerated preview of the year to come.

In early 2020, the video department was busy wrapping up our student panels for our Brain Gain program. A couple times each week, we would go to a middle school or high school and convene a roundtable with anywhere from six to 20 students.

To capture all of the audio and video, we invested in new equipment, including cameras, microphones and a mixing board. By March, however, most of what we purchased would be mothballed.

On Friday, March 13th, the city of Youngstown and local health officials held a press conference inside the Covelli Centre.

Their message: “Don’t take a risk.”

Looking back on the video footage of that day, what strikes me is seeing a room full of people, not wearing masks, standing close together.

By the following week, the video department was working from home. One of our employees was denied entry to a press event because of a high temperature. Thankfully, he tested negative for COVID-19.

Still, we quickly realized we had to address a new set of challenges. How do we interview people when we can’t get near them? And how do we create daily content when all of the events are canceled and everyone is limiting the people they allow inside their businesses?

Our staff got creative.

Maggie Young, who hosts our arts and entertainment After Hours Report, suddenly found herself without content. She began curating all the virtual events and demonstrating ways to beat boredom, such as cooking dishes published in the Recipes of Youngstown Cookbook.

On the Daily Buzz, we pivoted from doing long-form, feature-type stories to more of a news-based format.

We also started sitting in on Gov. Mike DeWine’s daily updates and then going live on Facebook to notify the public of the highlights.

Again, we had to purchase new equipment.

Gone were the days when a videographer could stand next to the camera and pass the microphone back and forth. Now we set the microphone on a stand, connect it to the camera with a long cable and conduct the interview from six to 12 feet back.

By late June, we were back in the office and the department, like the public, was getting accustomed to the new reality. More and more events were being held virtually, which meant the number of events we could cover began to pick up, though now we were covering them from our office.

Being an election year, our staff is always prepared for an acceleration of activity as November nears.

To ensure everyone had an equal opportunity to get in on the fun, we randomly drew names to create a list, then placed a red Star Trek T-shirt next to the first name.

If you had the shirt next to your name you were on deck for whatever unexpected election event needed to be covered. Once you fulfill your duty, the shirt moves to the next name.

This year the shirt was used only once, when Ivanka Trump visited the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center on a Saturday.

By the time the election was in full swing, the Daily Buzz had fully transitioned to a newscast format. We were able to create compelling (we hope), informative daily content by leveraging the stories produced by our reporters.

As we head into 2021, the video crew is eager for the opportunity to get back in the field and cover the growth of businesses in our region.

They, like us, have stories to tell about how they navigated 2020 and what they have planned for the future.

Here’s to 2021!

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.