How The Bakersfield Californian’s morning show demonstrates ‘newspapers can do good video’

The Bakersfield Californian lost its conference room, but it gained Carly Rae Jepsen. The “Call Me Maybe” singer is scheduled to perform Tuesday night in the newspaper’s studio, a room that until recently was a place for less high-profile meetings.

Louis Amestoy, the Californian’s digital convergence manager, convinced the paper to give up its conference room based on one brave belief: “I’m a huge believer that newspapers can do good video,” he said in a phone call with Poynter.

Amestoy put the studio together cheaply, using consumer-grade cameras, inexpensive software and a high-definition camera switcher he bought for about $2,500. But most important to his vision, local AM radio station KERN signed on to partner with the paper on a morning show.

First Look With Scott Cox” started broadcasting from the newspaper’s studio on March 18, and while the paper carries the video of the show live on its site for three hours every morning, Amestoy said he’s not trying compete with morning television.

“First Look,” he said, is simply “news talk.” Cox and news announcer Jeff Lemucchi “don’t read off teleprompters, they read off pieces of paper,” he said. Guests gather around a conference table with TVs behind them and talk about stories in the paper and elsewhere.

The production crew is similarly econo. Besides Amestoy, Web Editor Christine Peterson, Community Engagement Coordinator Jamie Butow and video production intern Chris McCullah represent the Californian each morning; KERN sends producer J.R. Flores in addition to Cox and Lemucchi. Peterson will turn some segments into stories for the paper’s website, he said.

Local politicians have come in, and U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who represents part of Bakersfield, has phoned the show. Members of the paper’s staff have appeared — editorial page editor Robert Price interviewed the head of the Kern County Democratic Party Monday.

Most mornings a few thousand people tune in to the “First Look” Web stream, and “we’ve got two significant advertisers already for this thing,” Amestoy said.

“My message to everybody is, You can do this,” Amestoy said. “Papers should always be looking for opportunities to do this. I firmly believe the monetization is gonna come.”

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  • JTFloore

    to be more succinct, how much money is generated for the orlando sentinel by 250,000 internet views?

  • JTFloore

    it is good to see someone young and enthusiastic about his work. however, part of the point is that you are doing the work that used to take at least three people. one does not even have to ask if you are being paid accordingly. one also does not have to ask if your bosses are doing triple-plus their old workload.

  • Robert Knilands

    You didn’t answer any of the questions. Also, define “great video.” In the past, the Sentinel has defined many things as great. Most of them were not great.

  • Jon Busdeker

    I’m a one-man band,. I write for the paper as well as shoot and edit video. That video above from the mud race ran with a story that appeared on B-1 the next day. Within eight hours, I wrote and did the video.

    As for the numbers, they vary depending on the topic. I’ve had videos that generate 200 views and I’ve had one that has more than 250,000 and counting.

    Ads do play before each video, so the Orlando Sentinel does receive some money from that. Whether or not it is worth it, that’s up to my bosses, but I love putting together another element for my stories. It gives the reader a clearer picture of an event, especially ones that are very visual.

  • JTFloore

    “for years” should give a pretty good indication of the economic viability of newspapers as tv. so what are the numbers? cost to produce? # of staff? revenues generated? profit? worth the expense/effort?

  • Jon Busdeker

    We’ve been doing great video at the Orlando Sentinel for years. Here’s one from this past weekend: