Posts about News

Behind the cameras

Here’s a story behind the story of Friday’s CBS Evening News report on the state of the media (to see the video, go here and scroll down).

When the producer called, it’s clear they had an angle in mind: citizens’ journalism vs. professional journalism. They asked for stories in which I’d gone up against big media. I told him that’s not the story now. I said the real story is how, with citizens’ help, journalism can and must expand with new ways to gather and share news. I said I’d seen a change in the last year, with professional and amateur journalists coming closer together to this realization.

They came to do the interview and we talked about a lot of the stuff you read here, like this, and this. But they didn’t use that, apart from one line about news not being finished when we print it, which is actually a line about Dan Rather.

Then we changed the setting to shoot the b-roll, the stuff that makes the pros pros in old-style news. Diggnation doesn’t have no stinking b-roll.

We stood in a colleague’s office and, with my laptop in hand, they asked me what I wrote about. I listed a bunch of posts, including this one, where I take Ted Koppel and Aaron Brown to task and I said that.

That ended up in the finished piece: me v. the big guys, it seemed. That fit the story they wanted to do, the one they started with: citizens v. professionals.

And the correspondent asked whether I got mad at the big-media folks with whom I so recently worked. I mocked the question and gave him a look you can’t see as I said, no, I merely get disappointed sometimes.

That, too ended up in the finished piece. That, too, fit the story they wanted to do rather than the one they got from me.

Now, of course, this happens all the time. This is what sours sources on the news. It’s no surprise to me. It’s no big deal, either. I’ve seen the sausage made. But I’ll say what I said to that correspondent: It disappoints me. I don’t care if they used more or different quotes from me. But I care about getting a story that’s not as shallow as videotape.

But evening news is the shallowest of news: Give us 22 minutes and we can’t possibly give you the world. And so this made me wonder what the proper role of the evening news should be in a new media world. Now I know that some will argue that the evening news still has a huge audience, compared with other individual outlets, and so why rock that boat. But that audience is getting ever-smaller and ever-older and the news universe around it is only exploding.

So what to do? There was a time when I said that CBS News should be sold. The Murrowites would burn me at the stake, but I could also argue that we just don’t need three shallow evening newscasts and it’s OK to kill one. And I could argue that the evening news should be a summary of other news: The Week magazine as a daily TV show telling me what the rest of the world is saying.

But now that CBS and my long-lost colleague Larry Kramer have embarked on their “cable bypass” strategy to make the web the news channel they never had, I think the CBS Evening News should become value-added to the web: It summarizes and promotes and follows the bigger stories that are online. The evening news stories don’t need to be simplistic, obvious, confrontational, condescending; they can be smarter. But they do need to be shallow, for there’s only so much you can say in 2:30. Yet that becomes more forgivable when their reason to exist shifts to being a gateway to the news.

So take a story like the state of the media. They can still go do their interviews, but they can put those interviews online and let us see — and remix — them. They can pose their question about a story and give us the tools to help report that story. They can follow the story as it grows and improves online. And from a business perspective, they can drive people to the future: to online. If newspapers must do that, then so must TV. Yes, the revenue isn’t there yet, but the audience is and the revenue will catch up when advertisers do.

Or they can keep making simplistic stories like the one about the state of the media that inspired this post. The real story about the state of the media isn’t what CBS aired, but what it didn’t air: The story of how broadcast TV without the web and without the public’s help there will continue to be shallow and shrinking and outmoded. The irony is that CBS News’ story about the state of the media is the best illustration of the state of old media.

: LATER: Andrew Tyndall, who watches TV news for a living, takes me a bit to task in the comments and I reply.

Woodruff injured

ABC anchor Bob Woodruff and a cameraman were seriously injured in a bomb attack while they were taping in a military vehicle in Iraq.

Here is TVNewser’s coverage; keep scrolling.

: We’ll never know but one wonders whether they were attacked because they were reporters taping at that moment.

Bananas

Harry Belafonte calls Bush “the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world.” He also said that millions of Americans support Venezuelan Hugo Chavez. This from UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador. With goodwill like this….

98.5% of blog comments now illegal

News.com reports that it is now illegal to anonymous annoy people online:

Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.

It’s no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it’s OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

The way we’re headed — from the PC left and the religious right — it surely will soon be a crime to offend, too.

: See much discussing and updating and debating in the comments about the true import of this. I still find the use of the word “annoy” troubling and, well, annoying. But mainly, I found writing that headline amusing.

Suckage

Umair Haque reviews the state of TV news in America:

Now that I’m in the States, when I make the mistake of trying to watch some news, I get, instead, a dose of catastrophically stupid anchorbots yelling at each other (or better yet, at me). You know the score – O’Reilly, Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn, etc…

This is a mini case study in why Media 1.0 is dying such an agonizing, painful, awful death. I mean, here in SF I get about 10 news channels – and I still can’t get any news. All I can get is screaming, shouting, honeymoon murders, infotainment, blah, blah. Not to mention about 30 mins/hr of ads.

Forget strategy for a second. We don’t need any economics to tell us why media’s dying anymore: (how can I put this nicely) it sucks. Beyond sucks. It absolutely blows. There are no words to express the suckage anymore.

Well, that’s perhaps too much of a blanket condemnation. But I have had the experience of having cable news on just to have something on and then looking back after two hours to realize I didn’t learn a damned thing new.

Tragic error

One terrible lesson of the West Virginia mine tragedy is that you can’t trust the news. You never could; it has always taken time to see whether stories pan out, to get all the facts, to find out the truth. But now, in our age of instant news and ubiquitous communication, the public sees this process as it occurs. It’s not the news that’s live; it’s the process of figuring out what to believe that’s live. Now, indeed, everyone is a reporter and an editor and the public is learning, as reporters learned, that they need to find their ways through the fog of news. The next time I hear someone being haughty about professional news vs. citizen’s news, I’ll remind them of the West Virginia tragedy, where news traveled ahead of the facts, where everyone was horribly wrong.

: Thanks to a reader, here is a clip of Anderson Cooper learning this morning that the 12 miners had not survived but had died.

: LATER: Here’s a BBC story that quotes this post.

Paranoia

This is getting ridiculous: The AP is treating the NSA’s use of web cookies as if it is Big Brother spying. They’re just cookies.

: And the Guardian piles on. What a nonissue. Every advertiser sets cookies that last into the next universe. The unchecked assumptions about (1) privacy and (2) government spying come together in an absurb meme.

Un transit

New York transit is on strike. I won’t be able to go to work today, like millions of others, who also won’t be able to shop or go to restaurants. The city will lose hundreds of millions and untold millions will lose millions in turn. And what for?

Every indsutry in the U.S. economy has had to go through radical restructuring to find new efficiencies. But not government and civil service. And that is what this strike is about.

The transit union was demanding that its workers be able to retire at 55 on pension, and the city, which wanted to raise the age for new workers to 62, buckled last night. I don’t have a pension, do you? I have a 401K, one for every employer in the last 20 years; I’m sure most of you are in similar boats. Retire at 55? Ha!

At the same time, the union has been insistent about maintaining artificial, wasteful, expensive manning levels. In most other cities, subways are run by one person. In New York, they are run by two. In many other cities, when electronic ticketing machines are introduced, staffing in booths is drastically reduced. Here, it was a big deal that the booth workers got out of the booth to actually answer questions… if you can find them.

The Times gives us a touchy-feely sympathetic piece about the poor transit workers this morning, quoting a tender-hearted sociologist:

“The working conditions are more physically onerous, the treatment by managers more disrespectful, and the abuse from the public more hurtful, than any other group of public workers in the city experiences,” Dr. Swerdlow said.

What a load of crap. We’re an abusive, hurtful public — otherwise known as their customers. How about the abusive, sadistic conductors sand dispatchers who shut doors and move out just as transferring passengers arrive in a station? They have more of an ability to irritate more people in one day than anyone I know and I’ve seen too many of them do it too often.

The union broke the law this morning, costing New Yorkers their own pay and businesses their business and the city its tax resources so that its members could keep pensions that most Americans don’t have and retire sooner than most Americans could dream of doing and keep inefficient jobs for which there is no need.

Thank you for not riding the New York City subway. Have a rotten day.

: Lots of bloggers are stranded by the transit strike. This will be like babies in a blackout: lots of blog posts will be born.

: There is always another use for CraigsList: NYC ride sharing. [via Gothamist]