Greetings from Iowa


“if you were born 500 years ago…..”

Today we are out in Iowa at the Public Broadcasting Conference.

After the talks in Boston and New York, we are hoping that we will be able to coax PBS into becoming a beacon for the digital revolution.

Youtube, with its more than 100 million video uploads to date clearly demonstrates that the appetite for creating video among the general public is there and powerful. But what Youtube also so clearly demonstrates is that most of the video is a mess.

It is no wonder.

People have spent many years in school learning how to read and write so that they could participate in a print-driven culture.

As we become a video driven culture, where is the ‘video literacy education’ to come from? Who is going to set the standards for excellence in ‘video making’? Who is going to serve as the editor and publisher of the explosion of video work this is coming?

Youtube is great as a platform for dissemination. But it does not do much more than that. What is needed here is a publisher and editor and teacher.

What better role than that for Public Broadcasting in the 21st Century?


12 responses to “Greetings from Iowa

  1. Too broad.
    What specifically do you think PBS could do with VJ work…that would be worth removing the current programming.
    Do you envision one program a week, a night, or complete wall to wall VJ programming.

  2. “Youtube is great as a platform for dissemination. But it does not do much more than that. What is needed here is a publisher and editor and teacher.”

    Careful Mr. Rosenblum. It kind of sounds like you are promoting “gatekeepers”.

    I thought that was exactly what you were trying to avoid in this “democraticization”

  3. I don’t think that editorial and publishing functions are inherently incompatible with the ‘democratization’ of television and video. We’ve got a pretty free press in print, but we still have places that sift, organize, edit and publish for us.

  4. Speaking from the public media angle myself, I can tell you that most PBS stations in local markets NEED a new mission, a new reason for being, a new purpose in life. Most local stations are sad little retransmitters for PBS content from the mothership.

    As networks learn to do direct distribution — whether in the commercial or noncommercial world — the local stations are discovering there’s decreasing need for them. Making local connections with local communities will be the only purpose left for small market and mid-market stations. And since no local station will have a limitless budget, engaging the public — a broader set of producers, if you will — is essential.

    The local station can act exactly as Rosenblum proposes — teacher, editor, promoter, publisher. They would definitely be a gatekeeper when it comes to accessing the transmitter (governed by FCC regulations and the desires of the viewing public), but so what? That’s exactly what Random House does — they don’t let the public come in and print whatever the hell they want. If you want to do that, you go to your local copy shop or buy your own printer.

    This is not an EITHER/OR world anymore. It’s all about the AND/AND — it’s an additive world, not a zero-sum-game world. Connections, community, convergence — that’s where the local PBS station world needs to go.

  5. Eric said:

    What specifically do you think PBS could do with VJ work…that would be worth removing the current programming.
    Do you envision one program a week, a night, or complete wall to wall VJ programming.

    I think you raise an interesting point Eric.

    Having had some time to seriously think about the Solo VJ paradigm, and given its current infancy, I don’t honestly think broadcast programming could be replaced so easily.

    I’m even critical of my own work, and although I’m working daily towards becoming better at it, I wouldn’t presume it’s broadcast ready – and much of what I’m seeing currently being done by others isn’t either – but we all have to start someplace.

    I do think that as those who work hard becoming Solo VJ’s refine their working methodologies (myself included), and thus are freed up to be more creative, the craft will speak for itself – but I don’t think it’s there yet.

  6. I work at a PBS station.. We were first in our market to go HD. We put well researched, well thought out content on our air. We put QUALITY first as opposed to quantity. If something bad hits our air, our viewers notice , complain, and our donations drop. Your bad…no, HORRIBLE idea will not work here….please move along.

  7. Those stations and outlets, PBS or otherwise, who are not familiar with new methods or styles certainly can see what is being done and have options. Certainly, small cameras, laptops and one man bands work within tight budgets more than HD cameras and crews. Knowing how to shoot and edit is always worth teaching. If PBS stations are worried about their budgets, then they ought to think about options.

    I have always thought that both ways of producing content will survive. Both should be utilized…especially by established news outlets….who already have the equipment and money to do it. Quality should be pursued. So should great content. Creativity stands out and should be fostered. There are times and places where each approach (VJ, or Crew) works better.

    I agree. It was never an “either/or” debate for me. I have used both, and both should be used when necessary. There are different levels and providers for almost every type of service and product in every aspect of life. Those in this business need to stay on top of new developments, and use the best tool for the job, within the budget, and with their audience or market in mind.

  8. Ziggy and other PBS folk… Rejecting the Rosenblum proposal just because it doesn’t suggest million-dollar HD content wall-to-wall is old media thinking. No one — not even Bill Gates himself — could afford to produce enough WGBH-style HD content to fill all the world’s “channels” in this new media landscape. Even Discovery understands that there’s no way they can fill all the possible outlets with their most expensive production techniques. They also realize that the audience knows good content comes in multiple resolutions, not just HD with perfect lighting.

    Don’t get me wrong — good HD programming has its place, to be sure. There will always be desire and need for top-quality video content, complete with billion-dollar production values that please audiences. That will never go away, nor should it.

    But I would propose if all you do is retransmit someone else’s HD stuff — no matter how good it is — you’re not doing a public service that will survive the media shifts already underway in the 21st century. Why? Because the relevancy of owning local transmitters is in serious decline — I can get an increasing percentage of PBS content from sources other than my local transmitter. Public radio is further down this path already, if you want to see the PBS future. What matters locally is local content — the stuff that the national producers will never provide for your town.

    The future for surviving local TV stations, commercial or public, is in producing, fostering, hosting, and curating content that’s of LOCAL value. The big boys with their huge crews and ginormous budgets will never do local news in your market. But you can, especially with help, and especially if you’re fast and light.

    Today, nearly all the 300+ PBS stations nationwide are largely ignoring their local communities, partly for budgetary reasons, partly for lack of vision in a world where the rug (virtually owning 1/4 of the viewing population 24×7) has been pulled out from under them. There’s simply little that’s local about most PBS stations today, and that’s a shame — and an opportunity.

    Rosenblum’s proposal is a low-cost, high-touch and intensely local concept suited for the media market that is emerging now. It’s public service direct to the audience in terms of training and in terms of producing and sharing content. Some of that sharing will be via the transmitter. Some via the Internet or whatever comes next. The point is to get into the game and use low-cost methodologies to help spark participation in your community. Someone’s going to do it in your town. Wouldn’t you rather it be your PBS station instead of a for-profit station or a web startup?

    I think the future for each PBS station will fall onto the spectrum of two extreme choices:
    1. Give your station over to PBS nationally — literally and/or figuratively. Just give it up and let PBS own it all, the good and the bad.
    2. Recreate your local mission with a new set of priorities, taking into account the media market shifts already in play, and taking into account the original PBS purpose: PUBLIC SERVICE.

    Most of us are already doing #1 with nary a second thought. The survivors will discover a way to do #2, while still pulling in great national content where appropriate. It’s time to decide where you want your PBS station to go. Consumers are on the move — will we follow them “home” as trusted friends of the family, or will we curse their stupidity for leaving us behind? Who are we here to serve, exactly — ourselves or the public?

  9. Mr. Rosenblum!

    I find it hard to believe you missed THIS!

    ABC News opening one-man foreign bureaus

    I thought you deserved a little softball to brighten your day!


  10. Thanks!
    Certainly brightened up my day…and vastly enhanced my presentation to a broadcast group here in Dallas this morning!!!

  11. You’re welcome.

    Of course it will be interesting to see how and what gets actually used on the air and if these are full time jobs or piece meal freelance work for existing residence of those countries.

    This, however, does not take anything away from the fact it’s being done and is something which falls in your favor.

    See! I can be fair and balanced!

  12. Ziggy said:

    Your bad…no, HORRIBLE idea will not work here….please move along.

    Why not?

    $ said:

    ABC News opening one-man foreign bureaus

    I like the fact they will eventually be adding these to small U.S. markets – Looks to me as if the shake down for working as a Solo VJ is beginning to take shape.

    Thanks for the link $ 🙂

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