Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thought Flickers on the News Biz

Before bed my brain fires random thoughts in my mind just to keep me from falling asleep. I call these random thoughts, "thought flickers."  Sometimes they're very insightful, but mostly they're mundane. Recently, they've been about the stumbling news business. It seems all media is struggling, but newspapers are getting the biggest headlines (as ironic as that may seem) because that industry is falling so much faster than the others.  But why are things so dire?  More of the world has access to news through the internet than ever before.  So, if more eyeballs are reading the New York Times, why is there talk that the newspaper industry deserves an auto-industry-sized, government bailout?  Why is it that newspapers charged readers for their printed paper while failing to monetize the exact same stories online?  I truly believe that the industry leaders did not foresee the internet's growth and its potential.
This news biz will change in the next few years.  And today might be the day that set the change in motion wrote reporter James Warren. Warren, Former Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief and Managing Editor, wrote a story on Huffington Post with the headline, "Shhhh. Newspaper Publishers Are Quietly Holding a Very, Very Important Conclave Today.  Will You Soon be Paying for Online Content."  
Warren says this "conclave" may be the start of an industry revamping its money-making model.
Warren doesn't think that charging subscriptions for online papers is the only answer.  Warren writes, "ultimately, many in attendance will start charging for some online content because they don't know what else to do."  
News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch says subscriptions are the answer.  Interviewed on his own cable network, FOX Business, Murdoch said, "The Web as it is today will be vastly improved, they'll be much in them and you'll pay for them."  
"Them" referencing the papers he owns.
As a younger journalist, I'm not fearful of where the industry is headed.  I envision an online, hybrid news model, where readers pay a subscription for special services, but are also allowed free access to some general news.  I also imagine advertisers eventually paying the money for online ads that they once paid for print.  Some editors say that newspapers shot themselves in the foot when they failed to monetize news online.  These same industry leaders say that now, still less than a decade from when online news readership skyrocketed, it is simply too late to charge for online news - the public will never pay for what was once free.  
I just can't believe that to be true.  The public needs news to live their lives, know what's safe to eat, what roads are closed and whose running for city council. People will always need news, so let's slap a fee on it - and a little bit of advertising too!
I forgot to mention in my lead that those "thought flickers" I have about the media are positive.  Once the internet generation takes the reigns, we'll bring the creativity and innovation back to the media industry.   In the next twenty years, a news model will emerge -one that the nineteenth-century print boys couldn't even imagine in their wildest "thought flickers."

Planning the Spontaneous Story

After years of sitting in classrooms studying Julius Caesar, Monet's art, and the heart ventricles, I can barely remember the details of what I learned. How disappointing.  My parents should have used that tuition money for a couple more trips to Vegas.  KIDDING!  In my old age - twenty-one years and eight months - I might not remember who designed St. Paul's in London (Wren), but I have learned the importance of planning ahead.  I believe that the golden secret to doing well in school is one word - planning.  In High School I would constantly tweak my calendar, fine-tuning how many days I needed to prepare for an exam.  I was proud of this skill - usually the first item I mentioned on "What's your best quality?" icebreakers.  However, since I've become a journalist, I've learned that planning can only get you so far.  
Yes, I still plan before interviews, scribbling what questions I want answered, narrowing my story's focus and visualizing my sequences.  But the more reports I file, the more I've embraced the spontaneous moment, the moment a reporter can not plan.  This past Monday was Memorial Day and I was covering a ceremony honoring veterans.  When I first got to the event, I shot video and interviewed the volunteers prepping for the event.  The sky looked moments away from raining, so I shot fast.  As I was shooting and listening to the volunteers I overheard the event organizer talking about the live-band cancelling because of the rain.  What's a salute to veterans ceremony without any music to do the saluting?  Just like that, while doing my typical eavesdropping on strangers, my story's focus changed. As a journalist I had to adapt to this change, this spontaneous moment, even though this twist changed my original focus and my pre-planned video sequences.  As hard as it was, I had to abandon the planned video in order to shoot in the moment.  I reacted to the spontaneous situation unfolding around me.  But, in the back of my mind, in split-seconds, I was still planning the next shot, the next question, the new angle.  All this while still being in the moment - just another day at work.

Let's Chat

Well, I never thought I'd be here but I've arrived.  I've finally tossed aside my hesitation and decided to join the Blogosphere.  In setting up this blog - picking a title, deciding on a URL - it's as if I've landed on another planet.  While I'm thinking about it, let's make a fun name for this new blogging world I've tapped into.  How about planet Blogosphere?  Dorky name - yes.  But the name does capture my feelings about blogging - it's foreign to me. But not anymore!
Television is the news outlet I'm most comfortable working in.  Television news is what I study every day and it's in television where I plan to build my career.  However, I'm watching where journalism is heading and I've bought in to the predictions that the internet can't be ignored.  The news stories on television, with their simple but evocative words, emotional close-ups and memory-triggering sounds, tell beautiful stories.  But television can only go so far; television doesn't allow me, the journalist, to know how you, the news audience, feel about stories.  That's what this blog intends to do.  I hope this webpage I've created, my little home on the internet, opens my news reports to a wider audience willing to engage in substantive conversations.  So Blogosphere, let the conversation begin - I hear you're a chatty group.