OHS documentary exemplifies changing news media

Sep 23 2011 - 11:53pm

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"The Million Dollar School," the Standard-Examiner documentary about Ogden High School, had a "mini" debut screening this week.

Among the select few in the audience was reporter Nancy Van Valkenburg, the director of the documentary.

Since she joined the news reporting staff in February, transferring from features, the documentary has been a big part of her job.

She estimates that she spent more than 300 hours working on the documentary.

She conducted full interviews with 17 people and talked to many more for background and information. Then came the production and editing time.

Videographer Kera Williams did the final editing on the documentary, so Nancy was as interested as everyone else to see the finished product when it was previewed this week for the Ogden School Foundation.

Nancy had done other, shorter videos to accompany print stories for both features and news, but "The Million Dollar School" was her first full-blown documentary.

It wasn't very long ago that reporters were reporters, photographers were photographers and video was something print journalists left to the TV folks.

Not any more.

Now everyone with a cell phone is a photographer, and video is an important, and growing, part of the way we provide news and information on our website.

Reporters have to be as conscious of, and comfortable with, visual opportunities as the visuals staff.

Nancy exemplifies that new breed of reporter.

She does admit to one area that gives her pause: "I'm not naturally a technical person," she says. "I worked for 12 years in TV and got out of it because I'm not a tech person."

The video experience she had gained in features made it easier to work on the long-form documentary.

"I could see how the story could go together. It's just another way to tell a story, using words and pictures."

She came away from the project with what she calls a deep affection for Ogden High School.

"I didn't have that relationship with the school before."

A preview of "The Million Dollar School" will be playing today at the Ogden High School open house to show off the school's renovations. Copies of the documentary will be available for sale today at the school and later at the Standard-Examiner. Some of the proceeds from the DVD sales will go to support the renovation of the school's auditorium. The open house is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the school, 2828 Harrison Blvd.

Back to this week's mini preview -- Nancy's reaction to the finished product?

"I'm ready to do more."

Dave Greiling is managing editor of the Standard-Examiner. He may be reached at 801-625-4224 or via email at dgreiling@standard.net.

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