On My Way To Nashville

My friend Mike runs a television station in Nashville. Another friend, Steve, is the news director. They are in the midst of an interesting experiment. Depending on who you ask, you will be told it’s the future or the demise of local TV news.

On Friday, I’m going there to make up my own mind.

WKRN has decided to eliminate the line between reporters, editors and photographers. At that Nashville station, everyone’s a reporter who shoots and edits. They are called VJs, even though, to me, that name brings up memories of Mark Goodman, Allan Hunter, Nina Blackwood and Martha Quinn.

When I told this to some people at my station, they wondered how you could concentrate on getting the meat of a story while you were also worried about running the equipment? I don’t know. I want to see.

I think the vast majority of the photographers I work with could easily be reporters. They have to think like reporters to shoot well (and most of our guys are phenomenal shooters).

I don’t know about the reporters going the other way. Shooting a video camera is as much an art as anything else I can think of. It doesn’t seem to be something easily learned in a short time.

Reporters like to be seen in their stories. Stations like their reporters to be seen. How do you do that when you’re shooting and reporting? I want to find out.

What this rejiggering of resources does buy is a much larger head count on the street. You can cover many more stories, or assign people a longer time to cover a story, or you can use this technique to spend less money.

It would seem that last one is a very tempting outcome for a station’s owner. I am assured by my friends that’s not what they’re doing.

Moving to this new method of electronic journalism also brings new editing and storage techniques which should make the melding of TV news department and Internet news website easier. It’s all a brave new world, but will it be successful?

Is this how TV news will be done in the future? There are lots of vested interests who say no. In the right to work state of Tennessee it’s easier to give it a try.

I do know the hot breath of the Internet is being felt on the back of TV’s neck. At Yahoo, an ambitious plan is underway to add all sorts of video programming. It will all be on demand and without many of the content or time restrictions of over-the-air television. I’m still trying to decide if it will be a more or less expensive method of distribution?

Anyway, I’m excited about seeing my friends and spending time with them. I’m also excited, and in some ways petrified, that I might be taking a peek at the future of television.

2 thoughts on “On My Way To Nashville”

  1. I’m particularly interested in how the “hot breath of the Internet is being felt on the back of TV’s neck.” I wrote a little bit about what is going on with digital video on my blog and a friend has written a little about some of the underlying technology issues at Greater Democracy.

    I think your comments about “Shooting a video camera is as much an art as anything else I can think of” are very important to keep in mind. These days everyone seems to have cellphones with cameras built in and effectively, can be citizen photojournalists. At some point, citizen video journalism will be possible. How, giving someone a camera doesn’t make them a camera.

    There has been lots of talk about the Digital Divide in the past. Perhaps we will talk about the Video Divide in the future.

  2. Note: The line, “How, giving someone a camera doesn’t make them a camera.”

    should read, “However, giving someone a camera doesn’t make them a photographer.”

    I guess giving someone a keyboard doesn’t make them an editor either.

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