Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Impending Schism

I’m no futurist. In fact I’m something of a caveman - one who swings a TV camera instead of a club. But even a knuckle-dragger like me can’t help but shudder at the rumblings underfoot and wonder if it’s the impending schism is upon us. For if the bison doodles on the wall are correct, a great media upheaval will soon erupt and plunge mouth-breathers like me into the craggy abyss of yesteryear. From my ashes, a new species of journalisapien will arise from the primordial news: Citizi-lensicus, the jacked-in, hyper-skilled platform-crossing telecommunicator - borne of laptop and shorn of corporate yoke. No wonder the Cro-Photog set is getting their loincloths in such a wad. Intelligent design can be uncomfortable!

But evolution is unquestionably at work.. Consider the following, randomly collected yet highly connected media developments:

About ten days ago, network TV experienced its lowest rated week ever. At the same time, web visitors watched 100 million videos a day on YouTube - the top spot to catch moving images on-line. Broadcast executives who fail to comprehend this seismic shift in viewer habits do so at their company’s peril. Be it the plasma fatty hanging on the family room wall, or the tiny screen on some cubicle-farm workstation, consumers want their moving images updated cue-up and commented on 24/7. Can you blame them?

Despite a less than stellar reception, VJ’s are here to stay. Working alone, these multi-tasking journalists shoot, write and edit daily news stories. Sure, aesthetics suffer - as does any pretense of in-depth reporting, but that won’t stop budget-minded media outlets from outfitting eager young wannabes with the latest in stripped-down gear and call the pioneers. As Rosenblum has so definitively proven, a newsroom relying solely on these ‘backpack journalists’ will soar to new heights of mediocrity - but a media outlet that peppers their two person crews with experienced one-man-bands will reap untold rewards. Let’s just hope the stations kick in a little for all that extra effort.

TV stations are finally getting it: the internet is more than an afterthought. Instead it is an incredible opportunity for fostering loyalty among viewers old and new. What better way to expand your audience than by making your product available anytime anywhere? Modern news consumers demand nothing less. Thus, broadcast outlets are streaming newscasts, throwing open their archives and inviting discussion and even debate from the people they used to consider inert eyeballs. We’ve come a long way from smarmy spots showcasing glitzy newsreaders hurtling lofty facts from on high. Okay, maybe we haven’t - but at least we’re headed in the right direction.

Lastly, more and more newspapers are beefing up their own burgeoning websites with edited video reports - some of which are actually coherent! Sure, it’s easy for a licensed cameramanthropologist like myself to pick these early efforts apart, but doing so helps no one.. I don’t claim to know how my print brethren hope to use these newly available gifts of sight and sound, but once they achieve a balance of artistry, execution and economy, look out! Eventually, some Herald or Tribune or Daily Trout-Wrap is gonna get it right and new languid form of visual storytelling will bubble to the surface. These will be fertile waters for the journeyman photog - if he or she is brave enough to take the plunge. (I for one am searching furiously for my swim-fins.)

For now though, I remain a humble hunter-gatherer, one who’s secretly delighted this continental shift of media platforms is finally shaking things up. You see I’ve been eyeing that horizon for quite some time, sharpening my skills, exceeding expectations and confusing my superiors - who could never wrap their foreheads around my radical views on newsroom evolution. A new world of possibilities is shimmering in the not so distance, at first the change may be a little scary, but from the depths of my photog DNA, I believe this looming quake is exactly what my diminished industry needs to avoid a well-earned extinction. You don’t need a bone through your nose to smell the decay all around us.

I’ll be in my cave if you need me.


Rad said...

Amen brother... I'll drink to that.

Anonymous said...

I really liked that post, dude.

spcoon said...

great post, man.

carolyn said...


Jeffrey Sykes said...


Great perspective on the industry. I suspect with your combination of talents, you may lead some of us to the promised land before it is over.

I'm a writer who tinkers with stills and video and flash. All I need is a digital video camera and some great subject matter.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely going to write a blog post based on your ideas here. Thanks for a great article!