Posts about tvnews

RTNDA: Who wants to be a journalist?

Zadi Diaz of JetSet doesn’t want to be a journalist. She doesn’t want to be called a journalist. Neither does Amanda Congdon, who says she never called herself a journalist but a video blogger and actress and producer. They each said that last night at the opening panel for the Radio Television News Directors Association. We journalists keep thinking that everybody wants to be a journalist and that it is our precious title to mete out. But these talented, creative, popular women want none of it. Terry Heaton said he considered them journalists anyway and so do I. But note again that they don’t want our label. Which says something about the label and what we’ve done to it, eh? We’ve made it exclusive. We’ve weighed it down with pretense and presumptions and rules. We’ve made these women assume that being a journalists stops you from doing what they do. Beware.

The panel was filled with some of my very favorite people in this world: Terry Heaton, a leader in getting TV into the next generation; Michael Rosenblum, who among many things has started the VJ movement; Elizabeth Osder, a friend with whom I worked lo 12 years ago and who became a leader in this world (she just left Yahoo to get her hands dirty again); the amazing Zadi; and Amanda Congdon, who needs no intro. They were here to blow the minds of the TV establishment and I think they did; I saw shaking heads and tsk-tsks next to me. These guys are behind newspapers in getting to the climax of the scary movie that is their industry. I was going to live-blog, but the damned Vegas Hilton has no wi-fi or electric plugs. So I shot some snippets (badly) which I’ll upload (but the network in the room is slow as hell . . . so more later). Here’s one with Michael Rosenblum answering the question: what should TV stations do?

(If you don’t see the video, wait a few minutes. It’s going through the YouTube machine. Meant to use Blip.)

Miles O’Brien of CNN, the moderator, had video chats with his charming 13- and 14-year-old daughter and son back at home, asking them how they get the news. They agreed that TV nows just covers murders and stuff and that it’s scary. At the end, Rosenblum said: “You just did a live remote and what did it cost you?… That’s the future, babe.” A few other notes:

Terry showed WKRN’s site and how they have 23 blogs that each have their own brands. That is viral architecture. He later scolded the crowd for teasing their audiences; nobody wants to be teased. Later, he really scolded a journalism student who came up to the microphone with the usual MSM cant. He said he’s sick of people coming into the business worrying about where there next job is going to be. Stations are going to see, as they get more local, that they need to work with local people who are rooted in the community, not dying to move on.

Elizabeth then lectured the students and told them to make sure their schools teach them entrepreneurship. Amen. (I’m teaching a course in entrepreneurial journalism at CUNY in the fall. More on that later.)

Zadi said, “I live online. There’s never an offline.” She said that people on TV “seem to be so animated and fake.” We just want to connect with real people, she argued.


Breaking news: News matters

File this under absurdly obvious:

“I think in some ways we owed it to the industry to try new things,” CBS News President Sean McManus told Eric Deggans. “But we found at 6:30 with only 22 minutes of programming time, people basically want you to tell them what happened in the world that day . . . That’s probably the biggest lesson we learned.”

(via Adrian Monck… Eric Deggans didn the reporting… and credit Public Eye for covering it’s own tripping)

The shame of American TV journalism

Think Progress puts together a brilliant compilation of the humiliating hype of cable news over the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Larry King: “The Number 1 story around the world tonight.”
Scarborough: “For better or worse, would you call Anna Nicole Smith an American icon of the early 21st century?”
Anderson Cooper asks about her Playboy mansion days: “What was she like then?”
MSNBC: Why was she so intriguing to so many people?”
Larry King: “This story will have a lot of legs.” [Cue drums]
Scarborough: “Why the obsession with Anna Nicole Smith?”
Jack Caferty (bless him) to Wolf Blitzer: “Is Anna Nicole Smith still dead?”

Says Think Progress:

NBC’s Nightly News devoted 14 seconds to Iraq compared to 3 minutes and 13 seconds to Anna Nicole. CNN referenced Anna Nicole 522% more frequently than it did Iraq. MSNBC was even worse — 708% more references to Anna Nicole than Iraq.

And big, old MSM says they know how to do journalism and nobody else could do it as well, certainly not us, the unwashed.

Watching the coverage certainly makes me want to wash it off me.

Tear down that pedestal

Well, for once, I agree with Times TV writer Alessandra Stanley. I wish her column on undue worship of Walter Cronkite and the breed he represented were better focused and better written. Still, her lead in a piece pegged to tonight’s PBS lionizing of Cronkite could not be clearer:

Never again will there be an anchor like Walter Cronkite.

And thank heaven for that.

The ego of the anchors

After a network anchor was nearly killed in the Middle East, we still have the networks sending their talking heads there, in hopes they won’t be blown off. Why? All they do is stand and read the Teleprompter, the same as they do back in the studio. What do they add?

ABC’s Charlie Gibson was humble enough to say:

“Just because the guy who anchors flies in doesn’t mean he knows it better than the people who are on the ground,” said Gibson.

“If I come in, or Katie comes in or Brian comes in, does that necessarily increase how good the coverage is?” asked Gibson. “Does it necessarily mean it’s going to be better because you have an anchor there?”

I agree. So why does he go?

“I think probably it calls more attention to the story. But I’m very mindful of the fact that the people who regularly cover the beat know it best, and I don’t want to do anything in terms of anchor travel to preempt the prerogatives of those who really know the stories best.”

I think Gibson’s attitude about what the stars add or don’t add to coverage is exactly right. But I also think that the idea that sending an anchor alone brings more attention to a story is sadly egotistical and not just of Gibson but of the networks and the profession.

This is ego as journalism. It’s no different, at its heart, than my favorite hobby horse about journalistic oversupply: Sending 15,000 journalists to the political conventions just so you can have a byline. It says the story is important. It says we’re important. It’s ego.

After the attack on Bob Woodruf, there is, of course, another angle to this story: Networks putting anchors, their crews and their families at risk. I salute Katie Couric for saying straight out that she will not go to a war zone because she should not make her children orphans. Eat the Press disagrees, at first, saying this will affect her gravitas (they then have second thoughts).

Gravitas, my ass. They read Teleprompters. And they look silly doing it in safari gear.

: UPDATE: Well, so much for my praise of Couric. Page 6 at the NY Post says that Access Hollywood has corrected its Couric quotes.

: LATER: E-the-P’s Rachel Sklar emails to say that she wasn’t playing the gravitas card herself but was predicting what the gravitasmongers would do this with… if, in fact, Couric had really said it. Rachel and I agree about Couric’s family obligations and the need for good sense.