Posts about tv

Amateurs get paid

When people ask me for the most forward-thinking news organization in the U.S. that has actually accomplished things in this new world, I point to WKRN TV in Nashville, run by Mike Sechrist, and Terry Heaton’s work with them. They’ve listened to their community via bloggers (in meetups) and shared knowledge with them (teaching them how to shoot video) and promoted them (in the station’s blog) and supported them (with an ad network).

This week, they announced an important next step: valuing the work of these amateurs. Terry reports:

…WKRN-TV announced tonight that it would begin paying local bloggers for approved video stories they submit and running those stories on its Website and in its newscasts. WKRN president and general manager Mike Sechrist told a “meet-up” of local bloggers that he could envision the day when a daily program would be made up entirely of material submitted by the community. . . .

Sechrist told the group of bloggers that they had already had a significant influence on the news programs the station produces, simply by doing what they do. The station has pursued stories first raised in the blogging community and has used local bloggers as a sounding board at various times. . . .

I’m sure that we’ll hear plenty of bitching about this from the trenches of the TV news business, but the truth is this was inevitable. Stations have always employed “stringers” or “freelancers,” but most of their work was raw video that station reporters used to tell stories. This takes the concept a step further and taps into the knowledge, passion, brainpower and, yes, skill of people in the community. This a fruit of the personal media revolution, and it will be interesting to watch. . . .


And they say we snark

Great reading in The Guardian as the former head of the BBC’s Today show (the one that led to a huge crisis in the network), who is now heading the corporation’s internal journalism school (which I visited last week), lashes out against the hosts of Today… and they lash back. What’s even more fun is that it played out in the BBC’s own house organ.


Right now on Channel 4 in London, I’m watching the British version of Wife Swap. This afternoon, I saw no end of British versions of American home show. Of course, there’s Pop Idol and the nanny shows and even Deal or No Deal (why would the world create two of those?) as well as other examples. I think we’re losing our leadership in creating tacky reality shows. And I’m not sure what I should think of that.

In Auntie’s attic

Tom Loosemore, a BBC strategist, gets excited about the latest from Auntie: a searchable data base of information about almost a million BBC programs over 75 years. He writes about it here.


VH1′s Best Week Every has a new blog: very punchy; each post should be accompanied by the snare drum, e.g., “Angelina and Brad will name their baby “Africa” because Angelina loves Africa. Thankfully, the child wasn’t born seven years ago when Angelina would have probably named it ‘Lesbians.’ “

‘Splain Katie to me, Lucy

Comment is Free at the Guardian asked me explain this Katie Couric fussmuss to folks on that side of the world.

Can’t see the ocean for the anchor

On Reliable Sources this morning, I had a moment with Erik Sorenson, former executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and a former MSNBC exec. Howard Kurtz asked about new Today show cohost Meredith Viera having opinions:

KURTZ: Erik Sorenson, Meredith Vieira marched in the anti-war demonstration a couple years ago, and she said on “The View” that the war was built on lies. Does that create a credibility problem for her when she’s interviewing guest on “The Today Show” about Iraq?

SORENSON: I think it’s going to be a challenge. She she talked about it herself. She used, you know, a funnier analogy [this followed a clip of Viera saying she'd spent recent years on The View talking orgasms], but she has been out there with her opinions. And that’s not going to be considered appropriate on “The Today Show”. And she will have to modify that and modulate that voice.

KURTZ: Vieira told me she was not ashamed of what she had said, but that the job of a journalist is to put your biases aside, when you’re in a news role, which she will be….

KURTZ: Jeff Jarvis, you were shaking your head a moment ago.

JARVIS: I disagree with Erik about her having opinions. I think that’s exactly the wrong thing to do, to say, “OK, tamp down those opinions and don’t have them any more, Meredith.”

The truth is we all have opinions. The problem in big news is, we kind of lie by omission. Our agendas are all hidden. Dan Rather would have been better off if he said, “You know what? I don’t like George Bush, but now judge me on what I report.”

Meredith Vieira should go ahead and say, “Yes, I was against the war, but now judge the substance and the fairness and the interviews and the work I do.”

It is time for to us get over this idea that we’re objective and don’t have opinions.

SORENSON: Jeff, you’d have a field day if she did that, wouldn’t you? …

JARVIS: No, I would have a field day of complimenting her on finally having an honest voice on TV and not acting like we’re plastic people with no opinions. You know I would have a field day praising her for finally having the courage to break the old, dull ways of TV news.

More on the transcript.

Star news

I can’t help shaking my head at the hiring of Katie Couric to anchor the CBS Evening News. All the talk about getting rid of the oracular voice of news is meaningless. They simply replaced the goofy if stern-faced oracle with the perky and still-cute oracle. And the truth is, it’s not about the voice at all. It’s about the name. It’s about celebrity. This is halfway to hiring George Clooney to read the news (‘I may not be a journalist, but I played one in a theater near you’). They can’t even argue that this is the first woman to anchor the news solo because, thanks to tragedy, that’s what you have on ABC right now.

Mind you, I have no great beef with Couric. I think she and Today got flufflier and fluffier (so much so that my wife switched us, unilaterally, to ABC for news). I think that CBS is merely challenged in the personnel department. They lose Howard Stern and then hire David Lee Roth — which any sane person could have told them wouldn’t work — and now they have him reading the news every day (hey, why not save about $50 million and just have him read the telepromoter every night?). They get rid of Dan Rather and then don’t whom to hire and then hire the biggest name they could grab. If I were Les Moonves, I wouldn’t quit my day job and go into human resources.

What’s saddest about this is that it reveals no vision for the news. The ballsy news exec would have said it was time to break away from the pack and invent the news show for the news age: to perform the equivalent task to what Alan Rusbridger et al are trying to do at The Guardian, moving past paper. TV News needs to move past TV. Toward the end of his tenure, I got to know former CBS News President Andrew Heyward and I saw in him a glimmer of the courage needed to reject the old and create the new. I have no idea what he would have done with the CBS Evening News but I’d have been curious to see how he tried to eliminate the oracle and find a new, human voice for news.

Ah, you’ll say, but isn’t that what they did by hiring Couric? They hired a human voice. Well, yes, she’s more human than Rather. But she’s still a voice manufactured by the TV machine. We don’t really know her any more than we know any other product of that machine. She’s there simply because she’s a celebrity, a news star. And what that tells me is that they still think the news is defined by the person who reads it. They think that’s what matters more to us than the news itself. They think they can keep this old form of lite news — give us 22 minutes and we won’t give you much — and make it liter and it will survive. What they should have done, instead, was blow up the old assumptions. But they didn’t. They just spent a lot of money on them.

: Just phoned into NPR’s On Topic about this very topic with Howard Rosenberg, ex-LA Times and now j-school prof; Jane Clayson, ex CBS morning host; Michael Wolfe of Vanity Fair; and David Blum of the NY Sun. The podcast will be up later.

: LATER: Judging from the comments, I clearly left out an important factor: People like Katie Couric. They really like her.

And I do mean that’s an important factor. Earlier anchors were not likeable and were not meant to be. They were supposed to be trusted, right?

Likeability is a new attribute of journalism.

: LATER YET: Give the new CBS News credit: Its blog quotes even criticism of the Katie crowning.