The Awards Season
The Awards Season
CNN’s John King has only had his own show on the network, the four-hour Sunday morning “State of the Union,” since early this year. But sometime next January, the veteran political reporter is being handed one of the news network’s plum assignments: The anchor spot weekdays at 7 p.m., where he will head up a new primetime political program.
Neil Cavuto has been at Fox News Channel since its beginning in 1996, as anchor and
managing editor of business news, and now with the additional title of senior VP of both Fox News and spinoff Fox Business Network. He also hosts programs on both channels. He recently discussed his career in business journalism with NewsPro correspondent Elizabeth Jensen.
Stations following the credo of doing more with less are now moving toward talent-run teleprompters as a cost-cutting measure, either reassigning prompter operators to other news production tasks or cutting them completely. As with any change or cutback in the news business, the move has been met in some quarters with resistance and controversy — especially in major markets, where news anchors have historically had large teams of production professionals taking care of the technical aspects of the newscasts.
After 13 years and a plethora of published work by graduates, Columbia University is suspending its dual master’s degree program in Earth and environmental science journalism. The program will not be accepting applications for 2010 — yet another victim of the economic times.
In the mid-1970s, the movie “All the President’s Men” sent high school students scurrying to journalism school, motivated by the glamorous prospect of bringing down a president. Today, those now middle-aged journalists who are still working in the field are tracking the daily depressing doses of newspaper and television layoff news, yet college students are clamoring to go to J-school. What in the world are the students thinking? It’s not the siren call of a big-screen movie. But it may be that the younger generation sees something that others don’t.
Journalists working in traditional media have had to adapt to the changing times, yet few have done so as successfully as former Washington Post reporters John Harris and Jim VandeHai. The two veteran political reporters left the storied newspaper in 2006 to start something brand new — a Web site that covered Congress, the White House, and the judiciary and federal agencies, with fellow experienced journalists — a news source that would compete with the traditional big guys who had long owned the turf. Now, Politico is a must-read for Capitol Hill insiders and for millions of others who want to keep up with the latest power plays on the Potomac.
It’s estimated that roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of TV stations nationwide have not yet converted their local news to HD — and may not in the foreseeable future. The price tag for purchasing new studio and field cameras, buying new sets and graphics packages and rejiggering studio lighting can reach $700,000. Notwithstanding ad revenue being down and budgets being sliced, it’s a major investment. That’s why as DMA rankings get higher, the number of stations that have not yet made the HD switch also increases.
The upheaval that has roiled the news business in the past couple years has caused the awards programs that honor the work to also rethink their approaches. Many awards administrators have already been adapting for more than a year to a drop in the number of entries, as companies cut back on paying entry fees. A thornier issue for some has been how to deal with the emergence of hybrid forms of digital journalism, where Web articles complement TV reports, newspapers supplement the journalism on their pages with online video, and radio reports have companion Web slide shows.
With news organizations tightening their belts, many awards programs have found themselves with fewer entries to pick from. The Radio-Television News Directors Association’s Murrow Awards received about 20 percent fewer entries this past year, said Stacey Woelfel, the group’s chairman who is also the news director at KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo.; he notes his local Emmy chapter was also off about 15 percent. Many other groups experienced drop-offs of a similar magnitude, attributing the decline to both the financial straits of stations and the lack of staff to organize the paperwork.
With the media industry in transition, some journalism award programs and fellowships are seeing fewer applicants, while others are getting an increase in submissions, particularly from freelance journalists. As industry layoffs have cut resources devoted to specialty beats — eliminating science and heath, the environment, education and other types of niche reporting — related awards programs have felt the pinch in participation.
A number of journalism award programs and fellowships have been affected by the recession, forcing some to cut back in order to continue and others to cancel their programs entirely.
Particularly hard hit have been awards given by nonprofit groups that use the awards to spotlight reporting on issues of importance to them.
Winning an Emmy, a Peabody, a Murrow or a duPont is the ultimate accomplishment for many news organizations and professionals, but in these ever-challenging economic times, what is the value and marketability of these distinguished accolades — and is it possible for a savvy broadcaster to monetize a win? Snagging a major award can carry clout in the short term, but if a station or news outlet isn’t delivering on a consistent basis, the award designation won’t matter much.
With a plethora of categories in awards contests that honor the best in broadcast and digital journalism, every so often the organizations that hand out the honors face some thorny dilemmas.
They must decide the course of action if the caliber of the entries is not up to snuff or what happens if there are not enough entries in a category. Each organization handles those sorts of scenarios differently.
For experienced news professionals who are looking to expand their skills, fellowships may seem not only too time-consuming, but very difficult to get in the first place. However, that’s not always the case. In fact, some journalists who end up with fellowships had never considered pursuing one until they filled out the first application.
NewsPro columnist Tom Petner probes what it takes to make a good leader in today's constantly changing, ever-more-demanding newsroom.