Dai Sugano: Adopt a Multmedia Journalism

1. Capitalism Meets Communism (www.mercurynews.com/china)

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This visual essay created by Sugano for the San Jose Mercury News tells the story of China’s economy through a variety of media. He combines b-roll footage of elements of China, like people, places, and things, along with photos, music, natural sound, and text. Sugano blends all of these elements in a way that tells a very captivating, compelling story. He coordinates the photos and videos so they match up with the beats of the music or natural sound elements. He also uses series of photos, such as a couple of close up shots followed by a wider shot or a series of action shots, to create movement using still photographs. Sometimes he also uses split-screen video and photos. In place of voice-overs or interviews, he tells the story mainly visually, but uses minimal text to supplement the information.

2. Proposition 8: Gay Marriage Supporters March to the San Francisco City Hall (http://www.mercurynewsphoto.com/blog/2012/03/26/proposition-8-gay-marriage-supporters-march-to-the-san-francisco-city-hall-on-feb-2012/)

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This piece is not as complex as the last one. It is basically video cut into different shots. The video features a group of gay marriage supporters marching to city hall to celebrate Proposition 8 being declared unconstitutional. The vi deo combines different footage of the marching in general, cheering and chanting, different supporters speaking in favor of gay marriage, and close-ups of different same sex couples. There is definitely a certain tone to this video, and all Saguno really did was capture it in a way that set the tone. It is not flashy like the capitalism in China video. It simply lets the supporters and the footage do the talking.

3.The Chance to Survive (http://www.mercurynewsphoto.com/blog/2011/06/12/the-chance-to-survive/)

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This video tells the story of Orphan Impact, an organization that provides children in Vietnamese orphanages with computer training to provide them with more opportunities in the future. Similar to the first piece, this video uses text over b-roll to provide the audience with additional information to what they are seeing visually. It utilizes many natural sounds as well as footage from the orphanages. Unlike the previous two videos, however, this one does include voice overs on top of the b-roll, as well as an interview with Tad Kincaid from Orphan Impact. He explains what his organization provides for these children to further tell the story. Some of his quotes are also written in text on top of the b-roll. Again, the overall project has a certain tone to it and really captures the atmosphere that these children are living in.

4. Spring Glow (http://daisugano.net/Spring_Glow.html)

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This piece is not so much a news piece as it is an artistic piece focused on fashion. There is no talking or voice over, only sound effects and music. There are many different lighting elements in the video and still photographs. These elements are coordinated to the sounds very well. This piece showcases different women who appear to be models. They are moving around in different poses, and the camera catches them at different angles and in different lighting. It has a very elegant, and dramatic tone to it, but the storyline is lacking. I’m sure this is how Saguno intended, but personally I wish I knew what the purpose behind this video was. I want to know who the women are, what their purpose is, and why they were portrayed the way they were.

5. Wishbook: Amanda’s Story (http://www.mercurynewsphoto.com/blog/2010/11/26/wishbook-amandas-story/)

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This video tells the story of Amanda, a 22-year-old who is putting herself through college after many years of traveling from one foster home to another with her sister. This project is a collaboration between Dai Sugano, who took the photographs and video, and Joe Rodriguez, who provides the reporting and narration. This video combines many different elements. There is b-roll of Amanda at school and in one of her foster homes, accompanied by an interview with her and narration from Rodriguez. There is also an interview with one of Amanda’s former foster parents. There’s also many still photographs of Amanda in classes, in her dorm, and with her former foster mother that are presented in a series. This piece clearly tells Amanda’s story and presents in a way that has a clear tone.

6. The Big Squeeze (http://www.mercurynewsphoto.com/blog/2011/01/10/the-big-squeeze/)

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This is a short video about how decreasing budgets are causing class sizes to increase in the San Jose area. Dai Sugano shot the video and photos for this project, and Sharon Noguchi provides the narration. It features b-roll of classrooms as well as voice overs about how the decreased budget will increase class size. There are photos of different classrooms and teachers. The video then focuses on telling personal stories of how this is affecting people, such as at Pioneer High School in San Jose, where students are crammed together in the classroom. Natural sounds from the school and of the teacher’s teaching are included as well. This video tells the story personally and adequately.

7. On Assignment (http://daisugano.net/On_Assignment.html)

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This project follows Sugano as he goes on assignment to cover the 2007 Democratic State Convention in California. His point of view is documented throughout the whole piece, whether it be him packing up his camera and getting on a plane to a series of photos of the progression of him eating a pretzel. Overall, it documents the convention from a journalist’s perspective, with photos of press rooms, press conferences and press passes. There are also photos of the candidates for president, like John Edwards, Hilary Clinton, and President Obama. There are a few brief video clips that serve as b-roll but really this is just an audio slideshow with a series of photos set to music with some natural sounds from the convention thrown in, like press people talking and the candidates giving their speeches. It’s an interesting take on journalism to get the actual journalist’s perspective.

8. The Chance to Break Free (http://www.mercurynewsphoto.com/blog/2008/12/07/the-chance-to-break-free/)

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This video, photographed and shot by Sugano tells the story of the Foundation for Excellence, an organization in the Silicon Valley that provides scholarships to send students in India to school and provide them with better living conditions. It begins with b-roll of the living conditions in India, and includes some very close up shots of the subject’s faces. This project also incorporates still photos. Many of the videos and photos taken in India as opposed to the Silicon Valley are done in black in white which sets the tone for the video. The background noise for this video includes music, natural sounds, interviews and narration. John Bodreau does the narration and reporting for this story. The video focuses on telling the stories of students who have received scholarships and benefitted from the Foundation for Excellence. There is a little bit of overlaid text at the end to provide more information.

9. Into the 25th Hour (http://daisugano.net/Into_the_25th_Hour.html)

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This video tells the story of the journey toward universal health care in California when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor. It begins with b-roll video overlaid with natural sound and music. There is a lot of black and white in this project, whether it be photos or video. Really the only text is labels such as “press conference” with the date. This video is narrated by Mike Zapler, who provides additional information about what is going on. There are also still photos in this video, which will zoom in or out or come in and out of focus. I think this video does a very good job of illustrating what happened during this period of time.

10. Left Behind (http://daisugano.net/Left_behind_lg.html)

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This last video was a very powerful one. It showed the poor living conditions in India. There were no interviews, no narration. The video and the photos did the talking. Any additional information that could have been provided in a voice-over was put on the screen in written form, such as statistics on poverty in India. I think the silence was very moving in this video. Narration would have taken away from the impact the visual aspects had. Included are wide shots of the streets of Mumbai, which shows mountains of trash that people who have no money go through to try and find something to make a living off of. This video really shows the poor living conditions and tells these peoples’ story without saying a word.

Dai Sugano is a multimedia journalist and photographer for the San Jose Mercury News in California. He has won Emmy’s for his photojournalism and is the senior multimedia journalist at the Mercury News. Overall, I thought his work was very impressive. I could tell from looking through his work that he is very experienced and knows what he is doing. Sugano did an excellent job of telling a story. One thing I appreciated about his work the most is that he knew when to let the visual elements of the story do the talking, and to back away from narration and interviews. Obviously, some of these stories, such as the video about the girl Amanda who had traveled from foster home to foster home, needed some support from sources. Especially when a story focuses on one person or a small group of people, interviews are good. For some of the more impactful stories, such as the ones set in India or the project about orphanages in Taiwan, are better when they let the powerful images tell the story. Simple text overlay is the best way to provide additional information. These videos all had similar elements to them, which shows Sugano has his own unique style when it comes to multimedia journalism, but they were all just a little bit different as well, which shows his adapts his projects to the subject they focus on. Some had a lot of video, some had barely any, some had a lot of narration, some had very little. Each of these choices seemed to fit the topic well and enhance the storytelling.

I also really appreciated Sugano’s artistic flair in his projects. Many multimedia pieces contain bland b-roll, boring interviews, and lifeless photographs. He took the story he was trying to tell and told it in a new way. Sometimes the videos and photographs were out of focus, but it was clear this was being done on purpose to create a visual effect. Sometimes things were shot in black and white or had other color effects added to them. You could argue that this isn’t ethical, because you should not alter reality, but I think Sugano does it in a way so the audience understands he has changed things and comes to appreciate that. He also used a technique where he would take a series of photographs and line them up in a way so they appeared to be moving, which I thought was an interesting way to incorporate more movement into the project without adding video. There really wasn’t much I didn’t like about Sugano’s work. It was very captivating to watch what he had produced, and most of the videos were short to keep the audience’s attention since in society today we don’t have a very long attention span. They told stories about people and things that we probably won’t experience for ourselves, such as stories of people in foreign countries who are tackling hardships. He provides a window into something unique and intimate and brings his audience into that experience as well.


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