Sunday, March 1, 2009

Once More With Feeling ...

The Video Sharing Controversy

Usually, I post to News McNabb and move on to another subject. The issue of most if not all of Austin’s Television news departments sending one station’s photographer to cover “routine” events and then sharing the video with the other stations has legs. The story will continue into the coming week.

This Wednesday, representatives of all of the participating news departments, including Time-Warner’s News 8, will meet and supposedly finalize the protocol for this dubious endeavor. (OK. So, I “outed” myself by using the adjective “dubious”, but it come as no surprise to folks who know me.)

Journalists, former journalists, and citizens are of one mind when they write to me. There are five comments on the News McNabb blog. They are largely unread, unless people take the time to click on the “comments” tab.

I was curious to see whether there were comments left on the Austin American-Statesman’s site after TV writer Diane Holloway’s story in the Saturday Business section. I was very surprised to see that there are none. So, unless you are into journalism, maybe this is not a big thing.

It IS a big thing. It is happening all around the country in various forms. Robust, free, media is foundational to our way of life, our democracy. Yes, we are constitutionally free to express ourselves through our various media. However, more and more, the media are economically limited. Bureaus are being closed. Reporters are being laid-off or bought out. Pool video, I believe, will inevitably lead to photographer layoffs. There will, therefore be less emphasis on photographic excellence. I posted Associated Press awards this weekend. They still give awards for photographic excellence. I have never seen an award for the “Most Frugal Station”.

Yes, pool video is necessary for certain events. I was part of a panel that laid down the rules for cameras-in-the-courtrooms in Travis County. Pools for large special events, such as funerals for dignitaries, are the least intrusive and most efficient ways of coverage. I have set up several of these. The best way to distribute the video is for other media to take a direct feed from the truck. Another good way is to feed the video via satellite on a “bird” all can see at a certain time.

Something always seems go wrong, however. What follows is the most recent online post to the original blog. This anonymous writer raises several of these same questions. These questions should be points of concern for those who meet this week to discuss the nuts and bolts of this, yes, dubious arrangement.

Anonymous said...

News McNabb!!

As a former Austin shooter, with 10 years in a top 25 market I'd have to question the real world logistics to this kind of agreement. In my last market, all court-room proceedings were handled by pool feeds with 3 different formats being used by the 4 local stations. There were a few basic rules: The first to call the clerk was the pool camera, and in order for the other stations to get a dub of the video you had to be present. In other words, there was no relying on another station to do your work. It kept folks honest and accountable, not to mention if a crew was "re-directed" for breaking news... another crew was there to take over. This arrangement seems to ignore all those issues. What if... a crew assigned to a "story" is late? Dubs are not done in time? Where will the dubs be done and in what format? Which station gets the first copy? What if the pool camera station gets an "exclusive" of some sort? On the surface, this agreement sounds good if you are the GM and you must squeeze blood from your turnips, but for the crews in the field it will be like working in a snake pit smack in the middle of quicksand. Good luck folks, the dumbing down of local news is about to get a lot dumber.

I am afraid that Anonymous is right.

© Jim McNabb, 2009

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