Waiting for the pencil

Michael Rosenblum, a leader in transforming TV news, writes on his new blog about newspapers vs. TV stations adapting to online video:

The magazines and newspapers have far less problem adapting to video; at least in the VJ model – that is where the reporter carries their own small camera and laptop, and produces their own stories. The magazines and newspapers ‘get it’ right away because this is they way they have always worked. Newspaper journalists have never worked with a crew. They have never had to wait in a reporting situation for ‘the pencil to arrive’.

In most local newsrooms in this country, we field an average of 8 camera crews in any given day. That means 8 cameras to cover a city like Tampa or Houston or Nashville. Can you imagine what would happen if a newspaper were suddenly reduced to covering Tampa with 8 pencils?

A reporter might arrive on a location to do an interview. The subject would sit there, waiting anxiously. “Can we start?” the subject says.

“Not yet” says the reporter. There is a pause. “I have to wait for the pencil to arrive”.

Finally, after a seemingly interminable wait, a blue van pulls up. The name of the newspaper is emblazoned on the exterior of the van, and from inside emerge two men carrying a large metal case. Inside the case, is the pencil.

They come into the office and very professionally start to set up their gear. Tom has been a pencilman for the past 20 years. He’s very good at what he does. Joe is the paperman. He feeds Tom sheets of paper. Its a tough job, (and dangerous. Papercuts can kill if you don’t know what you are doing). There used to be a third person on the crew – the eraserlady, but a round of cutbacks have now only served to dimish the quality.

As soon as Tom and Joe get set up, they indicate to the reporter they are ready.

“We have lead” they say, and the reporting can begin. . . .

For conventional TV news, the shift is far more traumatic. They have to adapt to a whole new model of journalism; one that newspapers and magazines have been using for years.

Read the rest and see three earlier stories about newspapers actually having an advantage in the video future.