‘and thou shalt have one person with a camera…’
In 2000, following a speech I gave at Newsworld in Barcelona, The BBC invited me to come to the UK to talk about my ‘VJ in the Newsroom’ concept. Following our meeting, they offered me a pilot project. I could train 50 of their people and have them for 6 months to see what happened.
At the end of the test period, the BBC was so delighted with the results we entered into negotiations to convert the rest of the national network and all the newsrooms. It was a project that would take 5 years.
Before they would unleash me on their news department, however, the BBC’s Board of Governors, the people who ran The BBC, wanted to meet with me. They did, in Broadcasting House in London, and at the end of my talk (Gutenberg, JK Rowling and the inevitable impact of new technologies on the architecture of news), I asked if there were any questions.
There were. One Governor raised his hand, and in a perfect British accent asked,
“when do you believe this change will happen?”
I paused for a moment.
“When all of you are dead”, I said, “because you are the only ones holding it back”.
Much to their credit, they didn’t want to wait that long. They awarded me the contract.
Monday night is the first night of Passover, the Jewish Holiday that celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. It is also the foundation of the Easter Holiday, the Last Supper being Jesus’ last passover as well. Thus it is timely to think about the Jews and their 40 years of wandering in the Sinai.
They did not wander in the desert for 40 years because they were lost. Not even Jews, with their terrible sense of direction could get that lost. On the contrary, they wandered for forty years so that anyone who had been alive in Egypt, who had a memory of slavery, would die off.
Moses (who also was not allowed to enter the Promised Land) wanted to start with a clean slate.
The media businesses today are run by people who came to power long before the Internet. Many of them still don’t even do their own emails. Online is a mystery to them. They understand that they have to do something here… it just does not come naturally to them.
In 40 years, media companies will all be run by people who grew up online. Embracing online, living online, thinking online will be second nature to them, if not first. Of course, by then there will be yet another technology that they find mystifying.
For people caught in the midst of a fast technological change, they have two options: They can fight it, hold fast to the old ways of doing things and hope to last until their retirement or they die. Or, they can change, embrace a wholly new way of working, thinking, producing and making a living.
Change is hard.
It is easier to sit and tough it out.
But then… you never get to the Promised Land.