In Depth

RTNDA Aims to Cross All Platforms

Conference Places Priority on Digital

When the Radio-Television News Directors Association kicks off its annual conference in Las Vegas this week, the themes will be similar to those at the National Association of Broadcasters convention next door.

Top of mind for both the journalists who attend RTNDA and the industry executives who frequent NAB is the digital transition.

The annual RTNDA conference is co-located with NAB in the Las Vegas convention center. The RTNDA conference is slated to run April 13-16 and is expected to draw about 1,300 attendees, on par with last year.

RTNDA usually attracts reporters, news directors, producers and students, said Barbara Cochran, president of the association. At this year’s event, the association will turn its focus to the digital revolution and what that means for journalists covering news across multiple platforms. The show also is celebrating the legacy of Edward R Murrow because 2008 is the 100th anniversary of his birth. The closing session, titled “What Would Murrow Do?,” will address journalistic ethics in a digital world.

The conference will combine these two themes by asking how to maintain journalistic standards and integrity in the fast-changing digital world. “We have the digital revolution going on, but if content isn’t great, the technology doesn’t matter. You have to have a marriage of the two,” Ms. Cochran said.

Sessions will dig into entertainment versus news value, objective reporting alongside opinion journalism and business models for the future. “[We will look at] what is going to succeed in business and how to protect good journalism values and where we are going with the business model,” she said.

Speakers will tackle topics such as breaking news, the presidential election and the impact of the Internet’s 24-hour, always-on news cycle on journalism. “If there is a big breaking story, a news director can be standing in the middle of the room saying, ‘Which platform do we focus on first?’” Ms. Cochran said. “That has increased the pressure and compressed the time you have available to make good decisions. The ease with which all these things can be transmitted through digital media raises new questions about the editing process. Who is standing there to make sure that what we are sending out is valid and true and fleshed out?”

In addition to philosophical questions, attendees should glean answers to practical questions about the digital transition, said Ed Esposito, VP of information media at Rubber City Radio Group and the chairman-elect of RTNDA, who helped plan the sessions. The conference should help attendees answer questions such as whether they are ready to go digital and how to handle the technical aspects of reformulating news for multiple venues. In addition, look for sessions on the budget and equipment a station needs for new media, as well as whether a station needs a new set, music, graphics and other equipment for hi-def news, said Rick Osmanski, VP of conventions with the RTNDA.

A number of sessions will address how and when to repurpose news for the Web, podcasts, mobile and other venues, and also how and when to create fresh content for those venues.
“What are the secrets to make sure we efficiently move our content over multiple platforms in a way that provides a quality program?” Mr. Esposito said. “What we want people to take away are the tools they can use to help their news department do a better job with the resources they have without losing sight of quality journalism.”

To get there, news organizations also need to invest in training for their staffers to make sure journalists know how to maintain their focus on core values in a digital newsroom. “We still need to get quotes right and respect truth and accuracy,” Mr. Esposito said.