Friday, February 27, 2009

The Blow-Back

Austin TV Stations to Share Video - The Reaction

Austin television stations’ plans to share video from routine news conferences and photo ops generated the most interest of any News McNabb posts, not to mention national exposure in TV Spy. There were only two posted to the blog site, but I got a ton of email and even comments and a link on Facebook.

Generally, among my readers the consensus is negative, although there were some that “get it” from a management point of view. These are difficult times for media.

The audience for this blog is rather diverse. Most have some media background. Others are media savvy. And, there are some who represent “the audience”, the users/consumers/viewers of traditional television news.

I think that is important to make the distinction of “traditional” television news. It may be a generational thing—Baby-boomers who were the first TV generation. The next generation could the “Cable/Satellite” viewers. Now comes the post-modern viewers who are sampling all media, traditional, digital, and otherwise. Some get their “news” from “The Daily Show” and YouTube. My concern with this rising generation is that they may be leaving local news behind.

Newspapers are failing or, in the case of the Austin American-Statesman and others nationwide, selling. Will they be selling out? Who cares? This rising generation isn’t getting the daily local newspaper in the driveway. They may not be getting it online from newspapers, TV, or other local media. If they are not, how in the world can they make informed decisions at the polls this spring when Austin votes for new city council members? Yes, this generation was mesmerized in the recent Presidential Election, but will local candidates also inherit the online magic? If so, will be news by news release on email, or will it be through a thorough vetting of the candidates through local media?

Back to the blow-back. What follows are reactions to the news that local TV stations plan to cover “routine” news events with one camera, a “pool” camera, and share the video. Where people posted in public on “News McNabb”, I will identify them by name. Otherwise, I will say who they are by description, even those who posted on Facebook, since it is a password-access site. By and large, the reaction was negative:

> “Actually, aside from the financial savings, it makes editorial sense. I don't think viewers will notice the similarities between the various newscasts’ airing of the same dog-and-pony news conference. As you noted in your column, stations will pull different bites and write different voice-overs. -- John“However, more problematic is the likelihood TV stations will eliminate crews rather than pursue more enterprise stories. Then it is really homogenized news.” -- John

> One thing I keep telling myself is that, well... things change. They just do. There may be a re-definition or new definition of what constitutes news and how it's done. It will be some synthesis of the twittering going on with the Morrow school. It's always sad to see what truly was "good" end... but if we're going to have an influence on the future, we have to be a part of the change. –Viewer

> The NBC and CBS stations up here in Portland [Maine] are doing the sharing thing too. The same idea, for ribbon cuttings and things like that. Signe Wilkinson nailed it with her cartoon yesterday with newspaper stands full of press releases instead of newspapers. “Who cares about facts just use the press release for all your information." --Kevin Duckworth, former KXAN TV photojournalist

> “Something good that may come of this is that it will allow reporters and photographers more time to pursue the other angles of the story, rather than be tied up in a news conference that we really only need for background information.” -- Laura Skirde, former KXAN TV Meteorologist and Reporter.

> I think this is a crazy idea and all it's going to do is eliminate jobs. Do football teams share players???? Hell no!!!! – Kenny Kaplan, Former KVUE Chief Photographer now working in New York City.

> Intra-station collusion and pooling is at best creepy. I never once picked up the phone and called a competing Assignment Editor in the market. How is the market/public served if the pool op pops a fuse, has 2 mic cords go in a row, loses a light, has back focus problems, or is summarily re-directed to "more important" spot news? Does the responsible Desk say "My bad" to 4 other stations? –Former Austin Assignments Editor and Photojournalist.

> Another step toward the demise of "TV News" as we know it. I assume this is brought forward as a cost cutting measure, but it forces me to other sources. – Former Austin TV and Radio News Director.

> Hmmmm. I could argue this both ways. It makes sense if newsrooms don't abuse it and use it as an excuse not to do their own legwork. – Former Austin Executive Producer, Producer, and Reporter.

> When you hint at this having thorny issues, I have a bucket load. – Currently in Austin news media.

> Wow!! -- Former Austin Chief Photographer

> Yuk!! -- Former Austin Reporter

So, is this the state of the art now? I have said several times to people today, desperate times call for desperate actions. Am I an anachronism? Am I too much of an idealist for this age? If I am either of these, I take comfort in company.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

No comments: