The station says its four-month investigation, called Transparency, reveals that Houston's $8 million police body-camera programming is falling short of its promises.
Reporter Jeremy Rogalski, photojournalist Keith Tomshe, digital investigative reporter Matt Keyser with researchers Stephanie Kuzydym and Ty Scholes have delivered a documentary and expansive web coverage (BodycamTransparency.com) on the subject that looks like nothing I've ever seen produced in Houston.
It proves quality content is still king no matter where it is aired or these days...posted.
Rogalski told mikemcguff.com about the making of this Houston docu-series.
Mike McGuff: When television news consultants are generally telling stations to air shorter stories, what's it like getting to produce an entire documentary and breathe more life into a story narrative?
Jeremy Rogalski: Any journalist’s dream is to hear “go for it, run with it, take the time you need and don’t come back until it’s ready.” That is what happened with the research and production of Transparency. Our Executive News Director, Sally Ramirez took our team “off the grid” for four months to pursue this project without the distractions of the daily news grind. That is refreshing and doesn’t happen very often, and I am grateful for the opportunity.
MM: I noticed no voice overs and higher production values than your average TV news content. Did you feel like you needed to escape the trappings of traditional TV news stories?
JR: Interestingly, the marching orders from our parent company, TEGNA, were “don’t make it look like traditional TV news.” While invigorating on one hand, it also was more than a tad scary for a guy who has done traditional news all his life. That being said, what we really tried to tap into was the journey of it all—the “making of the sausage” and the messiness that comes with it. We outfitted our tiny office with multiple GoPro cameras that were rolling on most every phone call and every back-and-forth session with producers and researchers. The aim was to capture the behind-the-scenes ups and downs of the process, and share them with our audience.
MM: I know TEGNA has what I call an "experimental initiative" with stations. Is it cool knowing you have the opportunity to re-write the rules with TRANSPARENCY?
JR: I wouldn’t call it “experimental journalism,” but rather reinventing local journalism in a digital age. That is cool. But it’s no gimmick either. To be clear, old-fashioned shoe-leather investigative reporting is at this project’s core.
MM: TV stations use to produce documentaries decades ago. Do you see this form of storytelling returning to local television?
JR: Perhaps the best answer is with another question—how do we define local television anymore? TEGNA’s initiative with Transparency and similar projects in other markets is a digital-first launch. You heard right—go spend four months on a project but then don’t immediately put it on television! Why? Again, what do you have in your pocket or purse right now? Not a TV of course, but your smart phone. The fact is, we can harness the extraordinary power of social media to not only reach a larger audience, but engage that audience. We hope to create a social buzz in our community that compels folks to demand more transparency in Houston’s police body camera program.
To see Transparency in its entirety, log onto BodycamTransparency.com. If you want to make your voice heard on the issue, click on the "Call to Action" section of the site.
To experience Transparency on TV, a condensed version will air during the 10pm newscast Friday, November 18th. An uninterrupted version of the entire documentary is set to air 7pm Saturday, December 17th.
Gif from Transparency web report