Monday, February 11, 2008

Irrelevance at 11

If you heard a giant whiffing sound emanating from the offices of our nation’s newspapers today, don’t bother dialing 911. It was merely the sound of thousands of print employees attempting to high five each other, over a recent piece in Broadcasting and Cable. Seems the article in question heralds the demise of TV stations that crank out cookie cutter news, citing the rise of on-line alternatives and the drop in loyal users. It’s an epitaph the ink-stained wretches know all too well, as lately traditional print has had the allure of a cadaver dog now that all the world’s skinny is but a Google away. But while newspapers have been the earliest victims of this splintering, they damn sure ain’t the last. So while they’ve been busy innovating, they’ve kept a close eye on their broadcast brethren, in hopes they’d be watching when the whims of a newly empowered audience finally kicked us square in our unnaturally white teeth. Who can blame them?

I can’t. In fact, the longer I work in television news, the more eager I am for it to change. And change it will, that much is indisputable. New species of data-gatherers are already roaming the globe: VJ’s, Embeds, Mojo’s, all highly-wired individuals capable of producing a less polished but more immediate product that’s readily digestible on a variety of platforms. The B&C article that’s gotten so much press delves into this schism, exposing how many TV stations have made only the clumsiestof lurches at scaling this newly uneven terrain. I implore you to read the whole thing, then check out the many conversations it has sparked on-line. Go ahead ... I’ll wait.

As for your above-average lenslinger, I am at once wildly excited and desperately pessimistic about the future of local TV news. With new tools at our disposal and more ways to share our work than ever before, this could be the eve of a badly-needed renaissance. Freed from the conventional wisdom of stagnating broadcasts and single-purpose production, those of us behind the lens could re-write the paradigm and forge a new kind of news story that had little to do with allotted time-slots and frothy correspondents. I got lots of friends on both sides of the glass, but if local TV news is going to survive, its got to keep up with the new generation of news consumers - none of whom give a damn what time your next newscasts start. Trouble is, we’re a stubborn lot. Despite those iPods on everyone’s desk, too many of us are quick to recall the good ole days, when three channels ruled the day and Chet McDimpleChin ushered in every breathless tidbit with a twinkle and a wink. Come to think of it, maybe change ain’t so bad...


Rosenblum said...

Very well said, Stewart.

cyndygreen said...

Ya ain't dead yet - and rather than lamenting the future of broadcast, whoop and hollar for the future of video!!!