Detroit on the Hudson

What happened?

Detroit once made the most amazing cars in the world.

Truly works of art, as well as powerhouse machines.

As a kid I can remember waiting for the new models to come out each year.

Then, something happened.

The whole thing turned rotten.

Today, GM and Ford are on the verge of bankruptcy. Daimler just dumped Chrysler for a fraction of what they paid for it.

The markets are telling the car manufacturers what anyone who drives a car in this country already knows: the cars suck. They just suck.

The guys in Detroit who run these giant failing corporations must live in an air-tight bubble all their own. Don’t they know what we all know already? Just look at the junk that they produce year after year. What is it with an insular industry that refuses to see the truth?

Drive a Mercedes or a BMW or a Porsche… or even a Saab. Then get behind the wheel of a GM car. Do you see a difference? Detroit has not changed in 40 years, because they felt they didn’t have to. Once great brands like Buick and Caddilac got fat and tired and old. They lost their edge. They lost what made them great which was the courage to take risks – to be bold and daring.

Now, turn on your TV set. Turn to the news. What do you see?

60 Minutes? Nightline? The CBS Evening News? Even local news.

These tired formats have also not changed in 30 years.. maybe more. Once they too were edgy, great, bold, daring. But that was a long time ago. In some cases the characters have not changed in 30 years. Its like Detroit. They drag out the same old tired formula year after year…. They have also grown fat and lazy. And like Detroit, their numbers are in slow but predictable decline. No one really wants it. No one really gets excited about it. They just whither away slowly.

A few months ago, I was in San Francisco and walked past a series of automobile showrooms downtown. Mercedes, then Masaratti, then GM. The Mercedes and Masaratti were a pleasure to look at, and crowded. The GM was empty and an embarassment. I felt sorry for the guys who worked there. It does not have to be this way, because they have designers and factories and tomorrow could build anything they wanted to build. Anything.

And yet they keep cranking out this crap and wondering why their sales continue to decline.

Television is a plastic medium. You can do anything with it. Anything.

Tomorrow, at CBS News they could rip up the set, the desk, the box over the shoulder, the uptight predictable delivery, the stories they do. They could do anything…. but they won’t. Like Detroit, you can smell the scent of death on the news programs. You already know they will not change. They will not take risks. They are institutionally incapable of making the changes they have to make to survive.

That does not mean that news and journalism are not important.

On the contrary.

But it does mean that the answer to the next generation of how new, information and public discourse are conveyed and conducted electronically are is probably not going to come from ABC, CBS or CNN.

Where will it come from? Who will have the courage to radically reinvent and redesign broadcast/webcast news?

In the 1950s, Detroit never for a minute would have imagined that they would be eaten up by Japan on one side and the Germans on the other. But there we are.

Who will eat up the audiences that used to belong to the Evening News?

No doubt, in Black Rock and 30 Rock, its going to come from the place they least expect.

Lemme ask you a question: If you could do anything, anything at all with the news… (and I mean anything)… broadcast/webcast. What would you do?

10 responses to “Detroit on the Hudson

  1. Mr. Rosenblum, We agree on a very base point. The television news product needs to improve. Where we differ is in our viewpoints of methodology.

    You compare this need to the automobile industry. While the US car industry is not dominating as in years past, it is far from dead. Their profits are on life support but they have not shut their doors.

    People still buy their product. People still get paid for working there. You are quick to count them out but the obvious fact is their battle continues. They are far from dead.

    How did the Japanese and others do so well? Yes, they used newer and better technology but the real base for their increase is they built a better product. Not a cheaper product. A better one.

    For you to equate this business conflict to VJs is misleading. Your simplification of the issue ignores the need consumers demand. A quality product. The Japanese product is not significantly cheaper. People still pay good money for it. VJs do not produce the same quality product from a technical stand point.

    You focus on the technology but continue to leave out of the equation what is most important. The creative, experienced mind behind the project.

    Japan started out as you thinking all they needed to do was build something less expensive to win. They found out the hard way that doesn’t work. They suffered the reputation VJs suffer today. Lots of jokes about a cheap, flimsy product. It was only when they addressed the issue of quality, not price, that they gained their status enjoyed today.

    It will have to be the same for VJs as well. Now all you need are some people to do more than take your class. They need to produce a quality product. And not do it for just a few years. How long did it take the Japanese to “win”? I don’t think your VJs have any idea, nor the hear or ability, to actually pick up the equipment and make a difference. Not alone. As is seen here on your blog, it is easier for them to make empty claims which they can’t back up with real results that make a difference nor lead to the lofty results you’ve predicted.

    Not yet anyway.

    There was a caveman once who dreamed of flying. He never built an airplance, nor had the intelligence or ability to make one but he saw the future. That future eventually arrived but he was long gone and never experienced his dream. Why? Because his methods were too simplistic and uneducated to make his dream a reality. Others did it, but not in the simplistic ways that caveman thought it would, or should, take place.

    VJs are the same.

  2. I agree with !
    Quality and consistancy must be demonstrated.

    Does that mean that networks and/or local news need not make any changes? No.

    Quality can be produced by anybody. If they get distribution, they will be seen. Will they make money at it? If they are consistant they will. So there is opportunity…over the internet…by video journalists….to make a product that makes money…and competes with CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, FOX, NYTIMES, TIME, Newsweek, etc…. But it will need to demonstrate journalistic traits, such as reliability, trust, fairness, etc…

    Right now, what should networks do? And major market local news do? They should have a Director of Video Journalism. They should take seriously the power of video images and video storytelling. They should not only cover the crap…non visual stories…but make a stronger effort to provide real visual storytelling…which they do not do now. They can certainly build up a product…or a central hub. They could pay freelancers, or pay for content. They should have a staff. They should hire the best to compete.

    If they do not compete…then they will lose viewers to anyplace that does provide visual storytelling…as a high quality, consistant, trustworthy, fair, product.

  3. You once again miss the point Mini-Me.

    Not ALL Solo VJ’s have the level of talent you seem to espouse to have yourself. But there are those who do, or there are those asking questions, looking at others work – working at attaining that same level of expertise – and they aren’t selling out.

    The Solo VJ’s I’m in contact with bring to the table a level of quality that is akin to having a finely crafted piece of technology – but you instead ramble on and on about how this or that isn’t going to happen in your line of work because you GOB’s know all the secrets and have all the talent – from what I have seen – far from it.

    Ever looked at the work over at Soul Of Athens? People who are creating this kind of work already discount your discourse with regard to the Solo VJ paradigm. They ARE the new wave – they are the future of shooting video for news – and they do so with the kind of gear that you say diminishes the quality of the craft. But they have talent – something that is sorely missing in the TV news arena these days. NO amount of continued argument on yours or any other b-roll shills part is going to change the fact that times are changing.

    The old ways of doing this craft are dying a slow, ugly death – just like what is occurring with U.S. car companies.

    Change or Don’t Change – it’s your choice.

  4. Cliff, I’m still waiting for you to do something besides ramble and make unfounded claims of success about other peoples work. More people see my work every day.

    That’s because I produce every day and get paid to produce every day. So does just about every working television news photographer in the United States.

    You? Still nothing but empty words and an even emptier resume.

    It’s nice to hear from you in the peanut gallery. Maybe someday you’ll actually put yourself into the game. Why you have not done so yet says so much about you. You don’t seem to know how to do either the new or old ways of this craft. Thus your point of view lacks a very essential element. Experience. Just like others who read and think they know but never do.

    Television news is taking over the web while you sit and wait. We are making the change. Adding the web viewers to the broadcast viewers. When news happens people know where to go and find out real information. It isn’t to a lonely VJ running a lone site which no one sees. But then, you of all people with our own lonely sans video web site know that already.

  5. John Proffitt

    Okay, guys… How about addressing Michael’s question and the content of THIS post (how would you change TV news?) as opposed to most of his posts (newly democratized media tools will transform the video biz, so deal with it)? There will be plenty more opportunities to spew unsubstantiated claims about the VJ model. Let’s look at video news itself for now.

    To me, Michael’s question actually isn’t even a VJ/non-VJ issue. I don’t even see it as a video issue necessarily — I think the same criticism of news can be leveled at all types of media these days (print, audio, video). But sticking to video…

    Today we’re saddled with a tired old video news model of pundits and knowledge-holders lording their anchor desks over the rest of us as if they’re speaking Latin and we have to use them as our personal intermediaries in talking to God. Bah. They’re no smarter than us (and are certainly dumber than some of us). The democratization of media is exposing the mass media for what they really are — flawed people just like us. Only they have transmitters and satellites.

    As an example of how bad the media has become, think back a week to the much-ballyhooed FBI “bust” of the so-called Caribbean terrorists. FBI says “we saved the world.” Media says “Oh, thank you, kind people. You can tap my phone anytime,” and proceeds to parrot the party line of “disaster averted by the men in blue.” Bull. That plot had no chance (if it was even a “plot”) and even if parts of it succeeded, the worst would have been several weeks of inconvenience to a small portion of the flying public and a few deaths. Bad thing? Sure. Massive death and destruction avoided? No.

    In the face of such events, I would want someone in a video news realm to produce a program that…

    [1] reports quickly what has been said / what actually happened / who / where / why; some speed is still important

    [2] includes relevant video clips, audio clips, text, photos and background documents and web links — all as original sources; let me see what you see — no packaging or editing, please (or at least give me access to everything so I can draw my own conclusions after I’ve heard yours)

    [3] explains it to me as though a (smart) friend were relating an event they witnessed directly; no voice of God, please — I know you’re smart, but you’re not that smart

    [4] skeptically examines how much of all this can be believed and clearly states when something is utter speculation or fact-checked and proven truth

    [5] acts like a guide, not an oracle — backcountry guides take you on a journey and allow you to experience it, they don’t tell you how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking, and they leave open the possibility that maybe you won’t like this thing they’re offering; they also assume YOU will do some of the work to get your experience

    [6] dumps nearly all the conventional news props, sets, formats and more; if it looks like the old lame duck format, it might as well be the lame duck format (even if that duck can still fly)

    If you can’t tell, I could go on. Video news is busted. But it’s not the VJ or the old pros that will fix it. This is an editorial and philosophical and ethical problem. Deep thinking and wide experimentation will be required. Scrapping old systems and building new ones. It’s nothing less than a revolution. I just hope we’re not all too tired to pull it off.

  6. blah blah blah – and you have shown what to support your position mini-me???

    To quote this NYMAG article:
    “At their best, the newspapers’ online videos are, minute for minute, SUPERIOR (emphasis mine) to TV news. As I write, CNN is airing a live press conference by Anna Nicole Smith’s lawyer and a loop of Smith vamping, while a significant breaking news story—the U.S. claim that Muqtada al-Sadr has left Iraq for Iran—is running in tiny type across the bottom of the screen. Given the dumb-and-dumber choices, I can easily imagine newspapers’ Web-video portals becoming the TV-journalism destinations of choice for smart people—that is, in the 21st century, the dominant nineteenth-century journalistic institution, newspapers, might beat the dominant twentieth-century institution, TV, at the premium part of its own game.

    The medium is too new and unsettled to have anything like a best-practices rule book. Everyone is making it up as they go along. And a few of the on-the-fly inventions are awesome. The most attention-getting MSM Web video so far was the very meta one posted last month by the Times about a Washington Post columnist—the slickly produced, thirteen-minute-long “Hi—I’m Art Buchwald and I just died” obituary.”

    Seems as though you’re part of a dying institution there Mini-Me.

    If it makes you feel better to continue to blather on about my empty resume’ (with a misinformed assumption about no video on my website – try looking a little harder), please continue to do so – it only shows your adolescent mentality and total lack of professionalism – and again – you have to hide behind some fake name and fake website – you have no credibility here.

    Do you honestly believe your continued adolescent derision of those who choose to come here for adult conversation gives you ANY credibility? Oh Please.

    Change or Don’t Change – either way, the Solo VJ revolution is happening.

  7. Seems to me Cliff you, as usual, don’t know what you are talking about.

    First line of your quote. “At their best…” Selective moments at best. And even then, it’s product being generated by an existing business news source. Not lone VJs.

    Where I work, we produce the stories and they air on our broadcasts. The same stories are also available on the web. Not only that, web visitors have the option of seeing the unedited interviews. Not days later, like most VJ attempts. Day of. It’s called news and real news doesn’t wait for lonely folk working by themselves to get around to delivering it. That’s why people like yourself are not paid anything for little or nothing you do already. No ability means no value to your product. No one willing to part with their own hard earned dollars in exchange for what you create.

    But you wouldn’t know much about being paid for your work Cliff. You deliver nothing. You don’t produce anything. You make claims about something you have no experience even doing. And what little you do come up with, generates zero.

    Knowing that puts your posts in their proper perspective.

    How about you take your own advice someday? Change or don’t change. Do something or don’t do something, besides taking another class of course. So much education yet none of it being used. You’re a professional student who has yet to be hired to do anything concerned with journalism on the internet.

    Those that do, do. Those that can’t, don’t. You’re way doesn’t put bread on the table or advance the craft. It does give you plenty of time to look for other lonely folk like yourself. They too can’t “do”. They put stuff on the web and then, somehow some way, work other jobs to do what counts in life. Feed themselves and pay bills. How do you make a living Cliff? It sure isn’t being a VJ.

  8. I forgot to add! Great article Cliff. It does prove my point!

    “Whereas the YouTube paradigm is amateurs doing interesting things with cameras, the newspapers’ Web videos are professional journalists operating like amateurs in the best old-fashioned sense.”

    And even then, Cliff, they are light years ahead of you because they have real jobs doing what they do!

  9. Cliff, I’m adding this note to simply say I’ve been hard on you. You have your opinions. I’ll let you and others decide if you are truly informed. I feel like I’ve gone a little overboard and have ended up being too mean to you.

    That is not right.

    Keep posting Cliff. We don’t agree. You have a lot to learn. We all do, all the time. Those of us doing television news are making the transition and we are well ahead of others who think they are doing something new, which isn’t really new at all, by working alone. In the end all product will be better. I’ll still be employed no matter what the delivery form to the customer.

    I’ve been doing this for almost thirty years now Cliff. I was born to adapt and succeed. It’s how I have continued to make a real living to this day.

    Mr. Rosenblum is right. There is always a need for quality content. Lots of thinkers but very few who can create that quality like those of us already in the game.

    You may think you can do better Cliff. I welcome you to the competition. Don’t kid yourself though. Part of making it, is “making it”. Money that is. It’s a reality so many young people think they can ignore until real life catches up with them. Good luck Cliff. I hope you aren’t disappointed in the future. I’ll be there for sure, as I am now. Maybe you will too. You need to do better. Show better examples on your site than currently exist. Just some honest advice for you to hear if you truly want to make this a job or continue as a simple hobby.

  10. John Proffitt

    Okay, guys… How about addressing Michael’s question and the content of THIS post (how would you change TV news?) as opposed to most of his posts (newly democratized media tools will transform the video biz, so deal with it)? There will be plenty more opportunities to spew unsubstantiated claims about the VJ model. Let’s look at video news itself for now.

    To me, Michael’s question actually isn’t even a VJ/non-VJ issue. I don’t even see it as a video issue necessarily — I think the same criticism of news can be leveled at all types of media these days (print, audio, video). But sticking to video…

    Today we’re saddled with a tired old video news model of pundits and knowledge-holders lording their anchor desks over the rest of us as if they’re speaking Latin and we have to use them as our personal intermediaries in talking to God. Bah. They’re no smarter than us (and are certainly dumber than some of us). The democratization of media is exposing the mass media for what they really are — flawed people just like us. Only they have transmitters and satellites and are paid to look into things and report back. Too often, though, they report back without having looked into anything, or worse, just repeating “conventional wisdom” to us.

    As an example of how bad the media has become, think back a week to the much-ballyhooed FBI “bust” of the so-called Caribbean terrorists. FBI says “we saved the world.” Media says “Oh, thank you, thank you. You can tap my phone anytime,” and proceeds to parrot the party line of “disaster averted by the men in blue.” Bull. That plot had no chance (if it was even a “plot”) and even if parts of it succeeded, the worst would have been several weeks of inconvenience to a small portion of the flying public and a few localized deaths. Bad thing? Sure. Massive death and destruction on a scale dwarfing 9/11 avoided? Puh-leeze.

    In the face of such “news” events, I would want someone in a video news realm to produce a program that…

    [1] reports quickly what has been said / what actually happened / who / where / when / why; some speed is still important

    [2] includes relevant video clips, audio clips, text, photos and background documents and web links — all as original sources; let me see what you see — no packaging or editing, please (or at least give me access to everything so I can draw my own conclusions after I’ve heard your version)

    [3] explains it to me as though a (smart) friend were relating an event they witnessed directly; no voice of God, please — you’re not that smart; have a little humility for cryin’ out loud

    [4] skeptically examines how much of all this can be believed and clearly states when something is utter speculation or fact-checked and proven truth

    [5] acts like a guide, not an oracle — backcountry guides take you on a journey and allow you to experience it, they don’t tell you how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking, and they leave open the possibility that maybe you won’t like this thing they’re offering; they also assume YOU will do some of the work to get your experience; give me the food, but don’t spoon-feed me

    [6] dumps nearly all the conventional news props, sets, formats, layouts and more; if it looks like the old lame duck format, it might as well be the lame duck format (even if that duck can still fly)

    If you can’t tell, I could go on. Video news is busted. But it’s not the VJ or the old pros that will fix it. This is an editorial and philosophical and ethical problem. Deep thinking and wide experimentation will be required. Scrapping old systems and building new ones. It’s nothing less than a revolution. I just hope we’re not all too tired to pull it off.

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