From GC Session to GC Session, Adventist Review goes from its normal print schedule of weekly (years ago) to monthly (started in 2015) to daily. As you might imagine, producing a daily magazine at a convention is a mighty achievement all by itself. But this year, the AR team went even bigger by establishing a digital media team whose sole responsibility is to capture video stories to accompany print articles as well as native pieces to post on social media.
Daryl Gungadoo, lead of the AR Media Lab, is heading up the digital operation with AR director of digital media Gabriel Begle. “We’ve got some millennials on loan to us from 3ABN [along with Danae Songy, general manager and morning show host at 88.8 The Journey at Southwestern Adventist University; Phil White, a pastor from Southern California; and Yves Senty from France], and we have them running around gathering stories,” Gungadoo says.
The digital day starts like this: the entire Adventist Review Media team — digital, editorial, design, photography, and multi-language columnists — gathers for morning worship at 7:45 a.m. Then, Adventist Review executive editor and publisher Bill Knott huddles with leads from each respective part of the team to prioritize assignments. These team leaders then get with their writers, photographers, videographers, and editors to make assignments and send everyone out to get their tasks done.
The video pieces are quickly edited on-site by Brandon Armstrong from 3ABN, who is working with the AR team at the Session. “I’m a full-time editor putting out all the media content that you see. [The team] brings the interviews to me, I’ll edit them, and make them look spicy and nice for YouTube and Facebook. We’ll also take full interviews and cut them up for shorter pieces on Instagram.” There is also a step for quality control. Armstrong will ask Gungadoo or Begle to take a look at pieces that might have certain elements which call for a more careful approach. “They’ll either give me the thumbs-up or say, ‘Eh, maybe we’ll just take that one out.’ But usually, they trust me to just get it out,” Armstrong says.
Gabriel Begle is doing a lot of the producer work — the behind-the-scenes part of the process that involves making calls, coordinating people, and often walking the floor just looking for the people that might have an interesting story that needs to be told. “We try to coordinate and look for stories that are not only of human interest but related to GC Session,” he says.
When digital pieces are ready to go, they not only get uploaded to Adventist Review TV and our YouTube platforms but also are distributed to where the greatest engagement comes from: social media.
Jared Thurmon has served at GC Session as the sole captain of the social media ship. In addition to posting the articles we produce on-site, Thurmon creates infographics based on up-to-the-minute data, prepares photography posts, and gets the videos up. “We are posting every twenty to twenty-five minutes. I would say we are averaging more than twenty posts among all the platforms,” he says. In case you were not aware, we have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. We’re still toying with the TikTok idea.
While the process seems pretty straightforward, it involves a lot of work and coordination between many people — and that work must be done fast.
Volunteer Danae Songy, whose background is in radio, is a pro at in-the-moment interviewing. But because she is not familiar with the GC structure, it’s been helpful to have “insiders” to help. “Because I am new to the GC scene, I have a lot of gas in the tank, but I don’t know who to talk to,” she says. It’s been helpful to have Begle and Gungadoo point people out. “I’ve met a lot of great people. There have been a lot of delegates, but it’s been exciting to talk to the former GC president and the Ukrainian Union president and his wife.”
One of the unexpected byproducts of an otherwise intense workload at an event like this is getting a boost to one’s spiritual life and perspective on the church. “The experience here has been enlightening,” camera operator Nick Schwartz says. “There are so many knowledgeable people I’ve been surrounded by, which has been a real pleasure. And just be going around grabbing interviews with delegates, stage participants, security workers, people on the street, getting different perspectives on what is going on. It’s been so much fun.”
In the digital world, there will always be technical issues to contend with, glitches to overcome, and other ups and downs. So part of the work of the digital team involves making sure the entire team — editorial, photography, and video — has the connectivity needed to do the job. But in the end, the visual product that goes live — the one that our data is telling us people are enjoying most — makes it worth it.
Gungadoo, who says he feeds off the energy and enthusiasm of the younger members of the digital team, thus eschewing lunch, gets excited about the wealth of interesting content that viewers around the world can engage with. “I would say the most interesting interview we did was yesterday [June 8] at 11:00 p.m. at the printing press where our magazines are printed. Hopefully, by the end of the day [June 9], we’ll see a 60second mashup, from start to finish, of a team photographer making an image to it being printed on the front cover of the magazine.”
And now, thanks to the work of our digital team, you’ll get to see that and so much more.