NewsPro: Online News Association Convention
To the viewers at home, and the pundits at their PCs, the TV reports looked like a civil war brewing: At town hall meetings across the country, angry groups of citizens seemed to confront their elected officials with enraged shouting and disruptive behavior. But was that really the true picture the TV news crews were seeing? According to reporters and camera operators interviewed by NewsPro, the actual town hall meetings were not nearly as overwhelmingly confrontational as the videos on YouTube seemed to indicate.
Television news directors in Los Angeles came under attack last month for their initial lack of coverage of the arson-caused Station fire, which killed two firefighters, destroyed about 80 homes and became the largest wildfire in Los Angeles County history. Media watchers have been warning recently that layoffs and cuts are having an enormous impact on the quality of television news.
As ad dollars continue to decline, TV stations are looking at new options with news: In some cases, cutting back, but in others, actually expanding the amount of local news they offer. By stretching their existing news resources into longer or additional news programming they open up more revenue opportunity without adding too much to costs.
The news came out of the blue, just before Labor Day weekend, as though ABC News had something to hide: Charlie Gibson, 66, plans to step down at the end of the year as anchor of “World News,” and Diane Sawyer, 63, will take his place. The unexpected switch leaves the network with a hole in the more profitable morning, where Sawyer has kept the network a competitive No. 2 for 10 years.
When Robert D. Novak died Aug. 18 at the age of 78 from a malignant brain tumor, his rueful prediction came true: The journalistic uproar he unleashed late in his career by disclosing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson dominated his obituaries. The 2003 controversy — which brought down I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff — overshadowed other aspects of Novak’s career, including his pioneering role in cable television.
Wolf Blitzer anchors CNN’s afternoon “The Situation Room” and is CNN’s lead political anchor. During last year’s political campaign he also moderated numerous debates and anchored the Sunday newsmaker show (John King has since taken over). Blitzer’s regular presence on the channel earned him a nomination in FishbowlDC’s poll of Hardest Working Washington Journo of 2009. He recently discussed his career with NewsPro correspondent Elizabeth Jensen.
It’s been close to three decades since Walter Cronkite had a regular presence in the homes of the nation, long enough that an entire generation never knew him except in history class clips. So at a time when straightforward journalism is under siege financially and technologically, his memorial service in New York on Sept. 9 served alternately as a platform for a wistful reminiscence of a golden era and exhortation to return to the values he once embodied.
Washington Post TV critic and NewsPro columnist Tom Shales recalls, "Don Hewitt wasn’t all that comfortable behind the scenes, and he was such an entertaining character that it would have been a pity if he’d stayed there all the time. He came charging out many years ago when promoting his autobiography and I dutifully interviewed him in Washington.The experience was akin to chasing a hummingbird around an igloo, or so I’d guess."
There are few professions more challenged than journalism is right now. And as journalists struggle to survive, evolve and, hopefully, someday, even prosper, they are becoming more dependent on technology than ever before. The Online News Association will help today’s growing brigade of Web reporters navigate the intersection of journalism and technology at its annual conference, to be held in San Francisco Oct. 1 to 3.
Call it hyperlocal, microlocal or locals-only, it’s becoming the new brass ring in journalism. Hyperlocal, an idea that consumers crave nuanced details about their local communities, fueled by the belief that small businesses are eager to spend ad money on such sites, is promising the beleaguered field a potential new revenue stream, offering journalists, local bloggers and community experts new opportunities to make some money.
There’s a digital divide among journalists today — on one side, those with digital skills, and on the other, those without. Guess which ones will get the precious few jobs that come along in the near future. In order to help level the playing field, the Poynter Institute is offering a four-day seminar in Minneapolis Oct. 12-15 to instruct journalists in the necessary skills for the digital age.
With political advertising an every-other-year proposition, auto marketing evaporating and traditional television audiences shrinking, local broadcasters can’t help but be on the hunt for new revenue streams. While some are shifting their programming mix to win new advertisers on the Web, others are turning to next-generation uses of the digital spectrum or premium mobile applications, and still others are crafting ad packages to lure smaller businesses to TV for the first time.
In late July, NBC Universal-owned WVIT-TV in Hartford, Conn., flipped the switch on its new state-of-the-art, high-definition broadcast facility, which is not only “green” and tapeless, but also largely employee-designed. WVIT, one of eight NBCU-owned stations to have been upgraded to HD so far, represents a case study for other broadcasters looking to transition to a hi-def, environmentally friendly broadcast news operation.
NewsPro columnist Tom Petner takes a look at digital broadcast channels and observes, "Like the current real estate crisis of our 'great recession,' there’s a lot of digital real estate available, and few buyers. No one group – or local broadcaster – has figured out how to program these channels and generate revenue, draw viewers and, yes, make money."