Wednesday, December 03, 2008

His Cubicle a Kingdom

So here I sit, clicking around for something to blog about and the internet burps up John Brummett. No, I've never heard of him either, but apparently he's a very big deal in Arkansas. Why else would he weigh in on the efforts of a medium he considers so beneath him? Could it be he's a higher life form than the rest of us? Or just some deskbound gasbag who's not dealing very well with the death of his discipline? You decide, I'll report:

Our story begins in Little Rock, where local affiliate KATV 7 is trying out a new newsgathering tactic on their website. 'Choose Your News', they call it; an interactive feature that allows viewers to pick a two-minute news story from a pre-determined list. The story that scores the most votes will be covered on-air, via Twitter and anywhere else KATV sees fit to stick it. Is it revolutionary? Not really. Is it a little cheesy? Certainly - and for my liking, w-a-y too candy colored. But I'm guessing none of that bothers terminally cute Kristin Fisher who wrangles and fronts Choose Your News both on-line and on that magic box in your living room.

John Brummett, on the other hand, is stricken with indignation. Seems he's a Columnist/Reporter for some-thing called the Arkansas News Bureau and he doesn't cotton too well to the unwashed masses being in charge of their news line-up. I also have it on good authority that he's vehemently against ball-point pens as well, for they can't possibly compare to the old school etchings of a trusty No. 2 pencil. Okay, I made that last part up, but judging from Brummett's turgid dismissal of Choose Your News, I wouldn't be too shocked if he were anti-eraser as well. But enough of my derision; let the man speak for himself...
“I am so old that I remember when news professionals - trained news hounds who got called editors - beheld the contemporary landscape each day and decided with supposed professional and experience-seasoned expertise what to assign reporters to cover. We didn’t take a poll. We didn’t ask anonymous yahoos with laptops and BlackBerrys and other telephonic gadgetry to click on some icon and dictate our activities.”
Uh, John? Those 'yahoos with laptops' are/were your readers. They've got Twitter accounts and magic Crackberries, blue tooth gizmos wedged in their ears and cell phones that can launch space shuttles. They've got home computers that can replicate the output of some TV stations I've worked for and Tivo's that know which episodes of 'What Not To Wear' they've already seen. What they probably don't have is a newspaper subscription. Even if they do, I doubt they have a dying need for some troglodyte in a clip-on tie to tell them what the world (or even Arkansas) looks like. That three-masted vessel has sailed, my friend and it took my job security and your overly-developed sense of entitlement with it. Surely they printed something about in your paper. Go grab it out of the drive-way... I'll wait

Oh - and just so you don't think I'm some Millenial in a spangly t-shirt, a little disclosure: At almost 42, I'm closer to your age than that of Ms. Fisher. While I do work for one of those crass television stations, I consider myself something of an ex-patriate. I've many friends in the newspaper industry and while I consider them some of the smartest people I know, humility ain't their strong suit. Even those few, who - as you apparently do - consider all this new media just a passing fad, are smart enough to keep their beliefs off the opinion page. Why, your printed assertion is about as silly as us TV folk getting all worked up over this. It's a new world, John. Everyone in corporate media is feeling the rub, from the bloated columnist who considers his cubicle a kingdom to the overly verbose cameraman who sits up all night surfing around for inspiration.

Just try not to make us look so bad, would ya?


turdpolisher said...

funny stuff stew. and right on the money as usual.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I logged in to get your take on flatbed-1 and you give me JOHN BRUMMETT?
First of all: I'm one of Lenslingers brothers of the sore shoulder, and I was also AT flatbed one. I was also the pool guy who got to get WITHIN 10 FEET of POTUS. That was the easy part---the hard part was making sure everyone had a copy of my EXCITING video. I'm glad I brought the DA (don't ask) and got everyone taken care of. But enough about that.
3 jobs before coming to the triad, from 1989-92, I worked in Little Rock, AR. The station was KARK (NBC), and it was located downtown and catty-cornered from the Arkansas Gazette, a local newspaper. A newspaper with quite a history: The oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi, and the winner of 2 Pulitzer prizes for their integrationist stance during the Central high crisis of the mid-1950's (That's the one where the 82nd Airborne was sent in to escort black children to school because the governor and most of the population were against integration). John Brummett was the star political columnist of the Gazette in its final days (more on that later). My station cut a deal with him to engage in political discussion with our anchor--Steve Barnes--who was also one of the most politically astute journalists in the state (yeah, a local TV anhor who's a helluva political journalist--hard to believe. Barnes is still a stringer for the NYTimes).
I got to know Brummet to a degree since on many occasions I was sent over to make the Brummet live shot happen. This meant taking over 1 colortran light, my tripod, camera and 1 wired lav across the street and up a flight of stairs to his desk, connecting the cables, and calling master control to make sure all systems were a go. I got to have brief discussions with Brummett about the political scene (which included a governor named Clinton) that were very informative, and very "smoke-clearing" for me. After a few times, I usually asked for the gig because I found the discourse enjoyable and illuminating.
It was not to last. The Gazette was involved in an old-fashinoned newspaper war with the Arkansas Democrat, and eventually the Democrat triumphed in a so-called "merger". Today the sole daily newspaper in Little Rock is the Arkansas "Democrat-Gazette." The Gazette was closed down, and most of it's staff was unemployed.
You might have seen the old Gazette building on film: it became the headquarters for the Clinton '92 campaign and was seen several times in the documentary film "The War Room."
You might think that Brummet is an obnoxious, behind-the-times blowhard. Perhaps you're right, but try to see the world through his eyes. He had opportunites to go national, and chose to stay in the state he loved. In his lifetime, he has seen many instances where, had popular opinion been allowed to rule the day, he/we would have been living in a poorer world for it. Some of the biggest reasons why these things didn't happen were the efforts of highly trained, professional journalists, editors, and news directors. On the statewide level, these positions were at the bigger local newspapers (about 6 of 'em)and local TV stations (3 affiliates in Little Rock). He sees a professional occupation that is a force for clarity and good turned over the a form of mob rule. You can understand why he sees is as distressing: current economics are forcing changes that would be unfathomable to him. What's next? Celebrity surgery? Bring your child to work day--and letting them do the job--in an air traffic control tower?
One of the promises of the internet was the democritization and addition of voices to the discussion--this blog is ample proof of it. Some can do it, and some can't, and those whose opinions are regarded as asinine will be ignored (Not the case with this blog)and and forgotten. Brummet seems to think that the the tail might be wagging the dog, and hacks him off.
My fingers are tired.

Lenslinger said...

'He sees a professional occupation that is a force for clarity and good turned over the a form of mob rule.'

Excellent analysis, Sooner. Thanks for the input. See ya at the next donkey hump.

Anonymous said...

I've done this three ways now...first in radio, then shooting tv (just a local cable station, but we took it serious and had decent gear) and now for a newspaper just north of Atlanta.

Some of my most eye opening moments have come from having feedback from the great unwashed. We used to joke about the county commission meetings we had to set up a three camera truck shoot for, wondering if anyone ever watched them.

Then one day digital boxes came along, and they were able to tell us that far more people than we'd ever imagined were watching.

Jump forward a few years to our newspaper, which just put together a new website (Yay, I get to shoot video again) and it's time for another eye opening moment.

Want to know what the great unwashed masses are interested in? Go look at the hits on the website.

Two county commissioners face ethics violations hearings...the story gets a few hundred hits. Another story, about a rowdy commission meeting, gets more, but still not a barn burner.

But, I put up a very short (200 words or so) story about firefighters rescuing a camel that got stuck in a livestock trailer (they had to use the jaws to force the slats apart) and it picks up hundreds of hits in no time at all.

I really do not have a problem with their using this as a way to involve viewers, and would point out that, by giving them the list in the first place, they station is still in control of what it airs.