Newspaper Webcasts are not exactly cutting edge these days, and it’s inarguably true that dozens of papers do video a heck of a lot better than Jon Busdeker and Chris Welch, two arts and entertainment writers with The Huntsville (Ala.) Times weekly tab “Go: Your Good Times Magazine.” Among the other examples, the hilarious political parodies created by The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle’s opinion writers are more likely to flourish on YouTube, for example, and The Miami Herald’s “What The Five” bantering couple are far more camera-ready.
Yet there’s something so disarmingly charming about the clips the Alabama pair posts every Wednesday in advance of the Thursday section that they had us at the first drawled “hello.” (It’s something of a shock to learn the 25-year-old Busdeker grew up in the Detroit suburbs.)
Busdeker and Welch perform parodies of Blue Man Group performances, wield mops as swords to preview movies, and exchange white-trash talking with actors from “The American Trailer Park Musical.” They’re occasionally aided and abetted by “Go Gals” Lacy Pruitt, Nickie Allison, and Christie Vail, three employees of the paper’s ad department whose authentic accents put an interesting Alabama twist on their preview of the Manhattan-centric movie Sex and the City.
But the goofy videos also reflect a certain marketing acumen in the writers. They refer back constantly to the print tabloid and its benefits such as free movie passes and concert tickets. “It’s geared for people more my age,” says Busdeker. “And it’s another way to boost the paper side.”
The Times videos also reflect the spirit of experimentation the Internet demands. “The Newhouse people are pushing us toward the Internet … and incorporating video. So me and Chris just said, ‘OK, let’s start doing stuff on camera.'” They moved from shooting at a studio, which resulted in segments that Busdeker describes as “kind of like ‘Wayne’s World,'” to taking their act out into the community.
Not that the quality got dramatically better, he admits: “I know the videos won’t be up for any Oscars, but we’re OK with that. We keep the production values low and the comedy high.”