By site editor Dan Chung
Last week I sent out a series of emails to friends and acquaintances from the world of photojournalism and multimedia asking them for their reactions to this year’s World Press Photo multimedia awards (originally reported here). I know them all but I didn’t pick them because they adhere to any particular viewpoint: What all the respondents share is a passion for photography and storytelling. I wanted a larger geographical spread and tried to enlist others from underrepresented regions – without too much success.
I have my own fairly strong views on the competition and the direction in which newspaper and news website multimedia is heading – I have not sought to promote those here. This is more a listening exercise to try and gauge what practitioners in the field are thinking – with the aim of shaping future contests and dialogue.
There were some obvious disagreements. American photojournalist Matthew Niederhauser loved the way stills were incorporated in Afrikaner Blood, which took first place: “Wrenching portraits of the recruits during training…blend seamlessly into the narrative and allow for moments of genuine contemplation,” he argued.
The Miami Herald’s Chuck Fadely took the diametrically opposing view: “The actual storytelling has glaring problems with the way still photos are dropped into the video seemingly at random, breaking the flow and bringing it to a halt.” Not only that but it had “perhaps the worst beginning of any prize-winning piece I’ve seen”
– which would surprise Spain’s Biel Calderón Rincón who enthused: “From the first minute, Afrikaner Blood hooks us” or Oxfam’s Kate Pattison, who was “gripped throughout”. VII’s Gary Knight thought it “nice to look at but not a very sophisticated narrative” while the Guardian’s Felix Clay judged it “restrained and thoughtfully crafted”.
Similarly, Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now was “maddeningly slow and way too long” according to US documentary photographer Rian Dundon, while British multimedia producer Adam Westbrook enthused that “her ability to get really intimate with her subjects always pays off”.
And while some were unimpressed with third-placed America’s Dead Sea, both Fairfax media’s Nick Evershed and Magnum’s Olivia Arthur picked it as their favourite; “it uses humour and…has a simple, clear concept that has been well executed” said Olivia, while Nick thought it “well-educated and concise”.
Overall, the winners were “great examples of how the new storytelling should be done” said Polish multimediashooter Janek Zdzarski. Dslrnewsshooter regular and NYT contributor Jonah Kessel praised them as “a good reminder that what matters most is the story — not the camera we used to shoot it, the rig that held the camera or any piece of kit or technology that helped create it…They are all fantastic pieces of journalism.”
But many people questioned the criteria for entry, in particular chafing at the requirement that stills be included.
“Ignoring the stories and photojournalists using moving pictures without still images is …archaic,” complained Jonah.
“What’s with all the talking-heads and title cards in these projects? Photographers should be thinking outside the mold of generic documentary devices, not conforming to them,” added Rian.
Multimedia shooter and lecturer DJ Clark saw another problem with the framing of the prize, arguing few media organisations would finance the real costs of a production such as Afrikaner Blood. “For the competition to match its photography equivalent, it needs to add a category for the everyday photojournalist now being asked to shoot video with no insistence on still images and produced by a single shooter working to a tight deadline,” he argued.
Similarly, “There is a difference between judging a piece that is, in essence, a solo effort and that created alongside a small team of producers,” observed Felix Clay.
It was left to Malaysian multimedia lecturer Jeremiah Foo to remind us that the point of these exercises is to raise the profile of good work. “I believe the WPP has successfully brought everyone together to share, discuss and agree to disagree about what’s good, and what’s not good enough.”
He does however question the competitive nature of the World Press Photo multimedia award – “Perhaps we should take the competitiveness out of the competition and let every entry “compete” in doing its best to produce a highly polished work that serves to tell a great story”, he said.
Below are the responses in full from practitioners. Please feel free to send more responses to me or post comments at the end of this post.
Gary Knight (UK)
VII Photo Agency
Judging is subjective and I cannot question the judges. I have no idea what they saw beyond these four films and it’s not easy to judge so many different things against each other – what triumphs: narrative or technique? How many great entries were there? Who knows: maybe they chose the best work they saw. It’s impossible to know if you weren’t there.
I thought the winning entry was technically well done. However it might have benefited from being a film pure and simple. The stills were fine but redundant; I am not sure why they added them. I thought that the issue addressed was interesting enough but it’s easy to make idiots look like idiots and I think this film
wasn’t thoughtful enough in dealing with the issue of racism in South Africa, which is still very, very important there. It could have been dealt with without looking at the extreme, which seems too easy. These (repellant) Afrikaner groups are insignificant outsiders and no one in South Africa seems to take them seriously. So – nice to look at, but not a very sophisticated narrative I thought.
As for Chernobyl: I thought the interviews were strong, and nicely produced and the characters were strong, but the critic in me thinks it took an issue much written about and didn’t reveal anything we haven’t read or heard before. Chernobyl is a well told story so if you revisit it it would be better to take it somewhere fresh in some way, either narratively or creatively. Choppy edit.
America’s Dead Sea was a nice story – well put together, good audio, good stills, good video but a little too retro in its construction to win an award like this I felt.
Nick Evershed (Austrailia)
Multimedia Producer at Fairfax Regional Digital Media
The second year of the World Press Photo Multimedia contest was of an expected high standard, with a Afrikaner Blood taking out the top gong – a frank look at a racist militia group in South Africa. The winning feature was brilliantly shot, in both video and stills. A particular highlight for me stylistically was around 7:00; a movement through different planes of focus to isolate the faces of four Kommandokorps members one-by-one. Similarly at around 5 minutes, with two of the boys.
From an editorial point of view, I was a bit conflicted – the story it presents is compelling, and provides a fascinating insight into the mindset of these people. The comparison of interviews prior and post ‘brainwashing’ was amazing. However I found myself wanting a bit more context – how is the group seen by others in the area? The local authorities? Are they ‘underground’ or do they operate openly? Perhaps this was there with a text feature on the Mail and Guardian’s website at some point, but I could only find the video on its own when I looked. It’s clearly a divisive piece, from a brief reading other people’s reactions to it – some reporters might be inclined to not give these sort of hate groups a platform. Others will prefer to have the light of day shone on such. And indeed, that great arbiter of taste, YouTube, has almost as many likes as dislikes for the piece.
The second-place story, Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now, was likewise well-shot, and Maisie Crow got some powerful interviews to accompany the vision from Slavutych. Again, a highlight – I loved the long movement at 8:10 showing the transition from the industrial to the leafy surrounds. I did think overall it could be a bit shorter. The third place story, America’s Dead Sea, was actually my favourite overall. The use of archival footage and period music from the Salton Sea’s heyday juxtaposed with the current images of the decaying leisure facilities was brilliant. Though the music and voiceover gives it a playful air, the dilapidated facilities and dying fish give the whole piece a darker undertone. It’s also very well edited and concise.
And lastly, a bit of a note on the contest itself. This year’s contest now seems to focus exclusively on multimedia with a linear narrative. The inaugural year had two categories, one for conventional, linear-narrative pieces, and the other for non-linear, more experimental work. While the judges gave a special mention to the NYT’s non-linear story about a hockey enforcer, I’m wondering if we’ll see more experimental work like last year’s Prison Valley or Powering a Nation continue to be entered in this contest without a specific category for it.
Adam Westbrook (UK)
Multimedia producer, filmmaker and lecturer based in London
All of the top three entries succeed in taking you into another world, and I was really taken by the ambition of the first and second place entries.
I guess America’s Dead Sea didn’t take the top spots because it’s not directly a human story and also isn’t as big in scope. But I think it uses sound better than the other entries, both to set up the scene in the first 20 seconds and to create a powerful contrast between now and then. You want more, though, and when it doesn’t go beyond that it feels a bit like a one trick pony.
Half-Lives could easily have taken the top prize in terms of production, even if its story isn’t as jaw dropping as Afrikaner Blood. I’ve watched lots of Maisie Crow’s pieces over the last few years, and her ability to get really intimate with her subjects always pays off. She has a canny ability to get into her subjects’ bedrooms, a place some might not feel comfortable being in, which she does several times here and is a sign of trust. The result is a quiet, slow burner. My only criticism would be that it would be more digestible broken into smaller chapters, and I think it relies a little too much on music for pace. You can tell what matters to the WPP judges more than anything – and that is (rightly) the story. Afrikaner Blood, the winning entry, has a few technical flaws: for example, the audio is a bit rough around the edges, unlike the others’. But it’s an ‘upside-down rhino’ of a story. And it succeeds in treading an extremely difficult line with an issue that could so easily have turned into a one-sided affair. It takes skill to tell a story about racism that doesn’t leave you feeling the subjects were either being supported or ridiculed by the film makers. Instead you feel like the Kommandokorps have had their say, and you’re able to make your own mind up.
The competition is a really good showcase for high quality multimedia storytelling. It’s interesting, though, that so many of these multimedia competitions are for photojournalists discovering video. It feels like other multimedia producers (for example VJs) don’t have a similar platform, especially now that the Concentra Awards have been closed. There’s a lot multimedia producers can learn from photographers, though, as these winners show: namely access, intimacy and an investment in time and story.
Kate Pattison (UK)
Head of Stories, Film and Photography at Oxfam
It’s interesting that no British online news sites covered the competition or announced the winners – I was completely unaware that the competition had even taken place. I am always looking for new talent to commission for Oxfam and would have loved to have been able to see all the entries in an online gallery. Even better to be able to see the gallery ordered by most viewed and read reactions – like you can with the Virgin Media Shorts, the top ten of which are also -brilliantly – shown at independent cinemas throughout the UK.
I think it’s really important that the World Press promotes new talent in multimedia as widely as possible – as it does with photography. Huge congratulations to Elles van Gelder and Ilvy Njiokiktjien for creating a beautifully crafted piece of multimedia storytelling that had me gripped throughout. I will definitely be contacting them.
Janek Zdzarski (Poland)
Polsat News TV correspondent and freelance visual journalist based in Beijing
If a picture is worth ten thousand words, then these productions are worth so much more. They are great examples of how the new storytelling should be done: a well-shot, not overdone mixture of video and high quality photography that helps you to understand the story better.
Productions this year are stronger visually than these from the previous competition, which shows how this new branch is developing. And it’s not that videos will kill photography, as some people said in the past. The media can be complementary, used as parallel tools of storytelling, as there’s growing demand beyond the photographs.
I’m pretty sure that in a few years these productions will be as promoted as WPP photographs in our news(e-)papers of the future. The WPP Multimedia Contest as a platform should help to promote good visual storytelling and develop multimedia journalism.
Hopefully, in the future, there will be more news-related multimedia stories in this contest. Danfung Dennis proved you can make great use of DSLRs even in a warzone.
Matthew Niedhauser (USA)
China based artist, photojournalist and cinematographer
The World Press Multimedia Contest was bound to happen. The future of journalism is swerving in the direction of interdisciplinary projects utilizing video, photography, sound, and other archival material. The winners of the contest, especially Afrikaner Blood and Half-Lives, demonstrate why this is what lies ahead. Such multimedia projects are incorporating the best facets of these media and weaving them together in a manner that draws the audience deeper into a story. I love being swept up in the movement of a video only to be arrested by a photograph that punctures the heart of a subject. The wrenching portraits of the recruits during training in Afrikaner Blood blend seamlessly into the narrative and allow for moments of genuine contemplation. Video was always missing the ability to press pause when a decisive moment arose. Now the audience can revel in them. These moments of stillness also bring increased attention to the sonic palette as the audible details seep into photograph. Barriers between these media are breaking down and the results are stunning.
The best part of this new wave of multimedia projects, however, is that they are coming from photographers who had already spent years contemplating the still frame and were then unexpectedly equipped with DSLR cameras capable of capturing cinema-ready video. They are suddenly playing with extra dimensions and loving it. I think this especially comes through in Half-Lives, where the cinematography exhibits an especially beautiful and almost photographic stillness throughout. The camera almost never moves, but everything is exquisitely framed. I think photographers will continue to slip into video without much trouble, and I am sure we will continue to see amazing and more plentiful multimedia projects in years to come.
Biel Calderón Rincón (Spain)
Photographer and multimedia Journalist
The World Press Photo Multimedia competition has awarded first prize to Afrikaner Blood by Elles van Gelder and Ilvy Njiokiktjien. It is a surprise? Not really. I will try to summarize some of the main reasons why I think it deserves first place.
Rhythm. From the first minute, Afrikaner Blood hooks us. During the following 8 minutes we remain so. Elles and Ilvy have a precise control of the tempo, using the breaks and transitions to keep the rhythm and drama. The use of both video and stills also works in a very suitable way. The switch between both techniques looks very natural. A friend told me he realized stills were used in the video only after watching it for three minutes.
Narrative. Afrikaner Blood uses a classic way to tell a story: through a conflict. As the video progresses, the information we receive starts to change our first impressions. The editing process, therefore, is essential for driving a narrative that keeps a certain tension throughout the piece. It is also important to ensure that narrative is what leads the video, not the technique. As jury chair Vincent Laforet said: “Careful attention to detail served to push the narrative forward, as opposed to distracting from it.”
Sound. Afrikaner Blood is a really good example of how important sound is in a multimedia piece. Following the formula that ‘everything we see, has to be heard’, the producers manage to create an atmosphere that makes you feel part of the story. Sound makes the difference and they knew it. Perhaps it helped that an experienced radio journalist like Elles was in the team.
Story. We need a good story if we want to create an excellent (and award-winning) video. A great topic or character could (sometimes) save our project if we lack elements of the previous steps.
So why wouldn’t Afrikaner Blood deserve the first prize?
Felix Clay (UK)
Photojournalist and video maker for the Guardian
The winning multimedia production by Elles van Gelder (videographer) and Ilvy Njiokiktjien (photographer), of the Netherlands is a very well produced piece of story telling, restrained and thoughtfully crafted on the powerful theme of systematic racism that still lies, not quite as dormant as you might think, within the vestiges of apartheid South Africa. The winning piece benefits from a strong and controversial topic, which will certainly have helped propel it towards the top of the pile of the best entrants, but this is nothing new for World Press, and of course, makes for no less a valid piece of work or winner.
This year’s multimedia award has been opened up further to enable producers to work alongside photographers and videographers, and this has clearly upped the ante in terms of the production values seen in the winning entry. It’s a strong piece of work and a worthy winner on many levels, as indeed are the pieces taking second and third prize.
I’m not sure the World Press organisers quite know yet what the permanent criterion should be for this award. This is such a new area for the competition and the photography industry as a whole. To my mind – and without taking anything away from the skill of the storytellers who have won the awards – once you start building in teams of production people, you create a very different competition from that which is simply judging a single photographer or a photographer and videographer working together, but essentially alone.
And perhaps this is right. I think all multimedia pieces of this type benefit from more pairs of eyes and hands than simply those of the creators alone; in fact it’s pretty essential when trying to tell a story that is weaved together through multimedia. But there is a difference between judging a piece that is, in essence, a solo effort and that created alongside a small team of producers.
I recently watched a piece entitled The Monster Under The Water by Melanie Burford, which is one of the best pieces of multimedia I have seen for some time. It’s a powerful piece of storytelling and the weight of video versus stills produces a well balanced, seriously compelling piece of modern journalism, which I feel went deeper than the winners of this year’s award. The Monster Under The Water is the piece I would love to have seen, at the very least, up amongst the winners of yesterday’s awards.
Jonah Kessel (USA)
Multimedia journalist and NYT regular contributor
After watching the winning selection from the 2012 World Press Photo Multimedia contest, what stuck out in my mind was not compelling photography or technically sound video, but the stories themselves. This is not to say the photography and video quality wasn’t excellent, but I believe these productions are a good reminder that what matters most is the story — not the camera we used to shoot it, the rig that held the camera or any piece of kit or technology that helped create it. These productions show dedication to telling important stories in creative ways. Congratulations to the 2012 winners — these are all fantastic pieces of journalism.
Taking a step back and looking at the contest itself, I would urge World Press Photo to fully embrace multimedia productions by reexamining how they define photojournalism. If the goal of World Press Photo is to “inspire understanding of the world through quality photojournalism” then restraints on how we tell stories should be lifted to help recognize visual journalists pushing the limits of their minds and cameras.
Currently the contest requires each multimedia entry to include “still photography in combination with (but not limited to) audio and visual elements such as video, animation, graphics, illustrations, sound and text”.
Creating rules around how we tell multimedia stories (in this case requiring still photography) suffocates creativity and closes the door to recognizing multimedia journalists who “inspire understanding of the world through quality photojournalism” without necessarily using still pictures in their productions.
Audio slideshows that use video are a great way of telling stories: but ignoring the stories and photojournalists using moving pictures without still images is an archaic way to look at today’s multimedia and photojournalism environment. Like the winners of this year’s contest exemplify — it is the stories that are important, not what media we use to tell them. Embrace modern photojournalism by lifting restraints for 2013.
Chuck Fadely (USA)
Although they’re working hard to change the perception, World Press awards have always been about the story – the biggest stories worldwide. Not necessarily about the storytelling. And when they started the multimedia category last year, they didn’t stray far from their still photo comfort zone. They took the “multimedia” term literally, requiring in the rules that still photography be combined with other media. “Each multimedia entry must include professional still photography in combination with (but not limited to) audio and visual elements such as video, animation, graphics, illustrations, sound and text.” So: no video-only entries. Hey, it’s their sandbox, they make the rules. If one were to include video only, where would one draw the lines? There are lots of other TV and film contests out there. But that requirement for still photos can make for some awkward moments in stories. Like this year’s winner, which is a mishmash of stills and video, but is nonetheless a compelling story. Afrikaner Blood by Elles van Gelderen and Ilvy Njiokiktjien from the Netherlands was chosen as the best multimedia piece worldwide after days of judging by some of the best in the business.
I want to talk about why such a technically flawed piece can still win a contest like this. Of course, it’s the story. But it’s more than that. It goes beyond the wow factor in finding a good story. It’s about looking at a story with fresh eyes. All three of these are different looks at things we’ve seen before. These pieces all have an innocence to the way the stories were done – none of them are slick nor particularly well-produced. But in all three of these stories you can see the glint of obsession in the author’s eyes. Innocent obsession, focusing on the story with the eyes of a newborn, is an amazing and powerful thing to come across in a story.
The winning entry, about racist whites in South Africa, makes your skin crawl with disgust at the subjects, so it succeeds on the first and most important level: engagement. But the actual storytelling has glaring problems with the way still photos are dropped into the video seemingly at random, breaking the flow and bringing it to a halt. And it has perhaps the worst beginning of any prize-winning piece I’ve seen, though it gets better after 1:15. It finally gets compelling three minutes into it. Vincent Laforet, the jury chair, praises the piece in a British Journal of Photography story, noting the “squirm factor,” and calling it not only powerful but nuanced. I don’t think I’d have given it top prize, but that “squirm factor”, seeing through the eyes of an innocent for the first time, is an amazingly powerful way to tell a story.
The second-placed piece by Maisie Crow, Half-Lives: The Chernobyl Workers Now, is much better at basic storytelling and successfully combines killer still images (that are prize-winning quality by themselves) with video. It’s a great piece. It’s technically well done and it’s obvious the photographer dived deep into the story and worked it hard. But the plodding string notes used to set the mood are a little like the overall impact of the piece: monotone and drab. In almost any story, you need peaks and troughs, comic relief along with tragedy. While there are some great moments in here, such as when the wife is shocked at her husband’s revelations, the story doesn’t build and it doesn’t crescendo – which, I suppose, is entirely appropriate for a story about the lingering effects of radiation. This story leaves us, like the subjects, with an uncertain future. I like it very much (though perhaps it’s too quiet and introspective). It has that innocence again. With the innocence of a child struggling to understand why bad things happen, it leaves one feeling like a first-time visitor to these radiation-soaked towns might feel, meeting people who know they will die but who are unwilling to flee.
The third-placed piece by Jim Lo Scalzo, America’s Dead Sea, is a Kodachrome-colored look at a drying lake in California, complete with dead fish, dead trees, and dead trailers. The pretty pictures make you forget to wrinkle your nose at the fish. It’s a well-done piece, sort of in the style of California Is A Place, but without the nuanced storytelling and story arc that Zackary Canepari & Drea Cooper bring to the California Is A Place stories. But again, it’s a prize-winner because it looks at the subject with fresh eyes.
The lesson to take away from this contest is: don’t get bored with your story. Don’t lose your innocence. Always look at your story with the wonder and delight of a child seeing something for the first time.
Rian Dundon (USA)
I guess my thing with a lot of photo/video/audio multimedia is that it often feels like the photos don’t belong. I mean, if you’re making a film, why not just make a film? Why do we need still images in these things at all? I regularly see documentary shorts that are far more effective.
And what’s with all the talking-heads and title cards in these projects? Photographers should be thinking outside the mold of generic documentary devices, not conforming to them. Then maybe multimedia will grow legs as a genre apart from print or documentary film. But that seems a long way off if this is the best of the best.
Afrikaner Blood is a unique story, but the still images make it feel awkward and forced. They are weaker than the (very strong) video shots and weigh the film down in an unnecessary attempt at visual cohesion. Why not have photos that look different from the video?
Half-Lives is definitely the stronger piece – it does a better job at integrating stills and video – but it’s maddeningly slow and way too long.
America’s Dead Sea looks like a calendar shoot. Is this a joke? What about all the people who still live on the Salton Sea? The whole piece is trite and offensive. The producer made light of an issue they obviously knew very little about. It’s not enough to make a cool looking video. The pictures have to be strong too. And that takes time – not a day trip out from LA.
DJ Clarke (UK)
Contract multimedia reporter for China Daily, Director of Multimedia Journalism at the Asia Center for Journalism and Course leader on the MA International Multimedia Journalism at Beijing Foreign Studies University
“Hi Elles, this is amazing. One of the best pieces I have seen this year without a doubt. The photography, video and audio are all fantastic. How long did it take you to produce?”
That was my initial response when Elles van Gelder sent me a link to a pre published version of Afrikaner Blood last November. I still stand by that email and feel the piece was a worthy winner given the Multimedia definition laid out by World Press Photo.
However, a few thoughts have come to mind while watching the winning videos and discussing the judging in an online roundtable. The first stems from my question to Elles – “How long did it take you to produce?” – and the unsurprising answer of several months. I believe for the competition to match its photography equivalent, it needs to add a category for the everyday photojournalist now being asked to shoot video with no insistence on still images and produced by a single shooter working to a tight deadline. It exists as the single image category for still photographers and has inspired many a working professional to enter the competition in the hope their one image might resonate with the judges.
I am not opposed to the ‘linear with stills’ category WPP has created. It exists as a popular format for documentary photographers and when done well makes for compelling viewing. But as far as I can tell there are virtually no media organisations who will finance the real costs of a multimedia production like Afrikaner Blood and it would be good to give the majority of newspaper journalists shooting daily stories the inspiration to enter.
Living and working in China, I would also question the makeup of the jury. According to The Economist, India now has the largest newspaper market, with China not far behind; Japan has the four largest newspapers in the world. So far, at least, there is no decline of the newspaper in most places in Asia and in China many are developing innovative ways of creating and monetising multimedia. My wife, who is a multimedia journalist for the Beijing Times, has a way of thinking about narrative and editing that is almost the polar opposite of the WPP winning pieces, and I wonder how a jury with just one Asian judge dealt with such cultural complexities. It seems a little strange to me that a jury representing a global media economy that is increasingly shifting its axis east should be so Western in its makeup (8 to 1, by my count).
My final observation relates to the interactive add-on which WPP did by nomination this year. In the roundtable the judges spoke of how they thought this piece was more simplistic than others but had a clear reason for adding additional media elements to the videos which drove the storyline. I am increasingly uncomfortable with ‘multimedia’ being used to describe what is essentially video and this piece demonstrated to me what multimedia storytelling was really about. However it is not the domain of photojournalists and I am wondering if WPP should drop multimedia altogether and introduce two categories, one for long form video like the ones that feature in the awards and one for short form video for single operators, much like the picture stories and single picture categories that exist in the photography section.
Olivia Arthur (UK)
Documentary photographer and associate member at Magnum Photos
I have to say that I like the third placed piece way above the other two. I found it the best use of multimedia, and concise. The first two were more like standard documentaries. The winner is obviously a very strong subject, but I found the way it had been put together a bit harsh and not broad enough.
I like that one because it uses humour and because it has a simple, clear concept that has been well executed. I think multimedia pieces have to grab you very quickly and get to the point quickly because of the way they are viewed. People get bored and flick away so quickly online that you have to be less indulgent, more snappy. No doubt when they judge the competition they sit in a dark room with a big screen and watch things all the way through, which would give the pieces an extra impact that they wouldn’t have on a computer. I actually never got to the end of the second one as my internet connection kept dropping and I ran out of patience reloading the page and having to see the beginning again!
Jeremiah Foo (Malaysia)
Convergent Media Program Director, Journalism School at Shantou University, China
The perception of “good multimedia” work differs. The main issue I have with international competitions such as the WPP is the multi-cultured nature of the participants, and by culture, I mean the media culture in each country, especially in Asian countries where “freedom” doesn’t always mean freedom. For example, in Malaysia, the mainstream media is basically held hostage by the authorities and journalists are often times not given a free hand to perform their duty as a reporter. Worse are younger reporters who grew up under the influence of authoritarian propaganda, not encouraged to be critical but to report as they were told. These forms of censorship, self-inflicted or otherwise, can affect the outcome of a journalistic piece.
I am honored to be on the panel of judges for an *Asia-based competition (http://www.sopasia.com/) and I couldn’t help but notice the diverse style of multimedia entries from different parts of Asia, where the production skill sets, level of creativity, and means of expression can differ vastly. So it is very hard to put every entry on level ground and come up with a “clear winner” as I don’t think there will ever be one, true, clear winner.
Perhaps we should take the competitiveness out of the competition and let every entry “compete” in doing its best to produce a highly polished work that serves to tell a great story, whatever the subject matter. And I believe the WPP has successfully brought everyone together to share, discuss and agree to disagree about what’s good, and what’s not good enough.