A Tale of Two Newsrooms


NBC affiliate, San Diego


The Telegraph – London

Take a look at the two newsrooms above.

One is from the NBC affiliate in San Diego. The other is the newsroom for the Daily Telegraph in London.

Both highly respected newsgathering organizations.

Notice a difference?

In the lower picture, from The Telegraph, every single work station has a computer with word processing software on it. So every work station is a place at which the content of the paper for that day is manufactured.

In the upper picture, every single work station also has a computer with word processing software on it. Alas, television news does not deliver text. It delivers video. So effectively none of the workstations in the San Diego newsroom are creating content for that day’s broadcast. If you look far in the back on the left you will see a small edit room. That is where the content is being created.

In the days when editing was complicated and required massive rooms filled with equipment, decks, timebase correctors and i-squares, this made sense. It was, in fact, the only way to manufacture video content for air.

In an era in which simple software on almost any laptop can deliver broadcast quality editing that anyone can do, this is an insane way to work.

Yet we still do.

Almost every local TV news operation in the world (and most networks) start their day with a morning meeting where the day’s newspapers are spread over the conference table. The paper’s stories are parsed carefully for stories that the TV news folks can cover. What we don’t garner from the newspaper’s we fill in with press releases and planned events.

The daily newspapers are not some secret research document that only the TV station has access to. Everyone in town has also read it. So when the ‘evening news’ comes on at 5 or 6, it is filled with day old stories. We might as well call it the evening old.

TV steals from newspapers because newspapers are faster and more nimble.

No newspaper editor sits and watches the local news on TV and then assigns those stories to his reporters.

The two photos above tell the whole story rather eloquently.

In the TV newsroom, we are busy making ‘a show’.

In the newspaper newsroom, we are busy reporting the news.

TV newsrooms can run as efficiently as newspaper newsrooms- and do as well. But it means rethinking how the TV newsroom looks and operates.

As everyone in a newspaper is print literate – that is, capable of sitting down at a computer and banging out a story, so too must everyone in a tv newsroom.

As everyone in a newspaper newsroom has access to a machine to create content for the paper, so too must every desk in a TV newsroom have a computer with video editing software.. and a camera available for use. These are the tools for creating content and they are cheap and easy to use.

Go to your newsroom now and nail closed the edit rooms, and never open them again.


10 responses to “A Tale of Two Newsrooms

  1. All or nothing. Once again it’s all or nothing. I thought you understood the value of using crews, reporters, photogs, editors, for some news gathering that can better be done with crews? Yet now (after the Dallas meeting) you seem to be all or nothing once again.

    Do you gamble? Do you bet all or nothing every time? 😉

    Now, my Jesse Jackson impression:

    Integrate. Don’t disintegrate.
    Participate. Don’t obliverate.
    Communicate. Don’t pontificate.
    (what?) Isn’t there a song written like this?

    The Point: After all these years, you are back to square one. Why do you think it is wise for established television stations or networks to “completely” get rid of crews? Editors included.

    That is their current strength. Decades of practice and craft should not be completely ignored…by those TV stations. They should maximize their strengths…. and ADD to their weaknesses.

    A current analogy. If a baseball team has great hitters, but weak pitching, they should not get rid of their hitters. They should ADD to their pitching staff.

    Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater….if you are selling shower curtains. (what?)

    TV stations should ADD video journalists to compete with newspapers, websites, etc…

    It would be foolish for television stations to get rid of what they are known for. They should not demolish their strengths completely.

    They should maximize the potential of their strengths…while integrating into their mix… the new tools available.

    Do both. It’s not either or.

    Do not take one step forward, and two steps back.

  2. I don’t think that one necessarily precludes the other. We can make everyone in the TV newsroom literate in video and capable of gathering and manipulating it while still maintaining the best that crews and contribute.

  3. If I understood what you were saying Michael – it was to lock the exclusive edit bay and move editing to all workstations so that all could become literate. The crews would still be present, they would still do their stuff, but the mystery of what occurs in the edit bay would be removed and all could learn the basics and contribute. No removal of those who are already experienced, just make the process of shooting and editing readily accessible to all.

  4. rosenblum-

    you are mellowing with your recent success. i think you once advised “burning it to the ground”. now simply nailing it shut will suffice?

  5. I understand, and appreciate the explosion of solo video journalists. I am not against the expansion of gathering news stories…quality ones…using any means, tools, people, etc…

    I also understand how the debate has been going between two sides. It gets tiring reading one side “VJs Will Never Replace Crews” and the other side say “Burn to the Ground” the old model.

    To reiterate, I think both sides have a place at the table. I see no reason why current established TV stations should completely abandon methods they have spent decades refining. Viewers have become familiar with their product. Instead of blowing it up completely…they would be much wiser to gradually introduce new styles, approaches to viewers. That way, the learning curve in the newsroom will also be buffered.

  6. Blumer’s last ‘graph nails it…

    As the one person in my newsroom who shoots writes and edit his own stuff (most) everyday, I can always identify with your ideas, Michael. But it still smacks of Science Fiction, as most folk at your local broadcast factory have no interest in doing it all. That will change of course, but will local TV News will ever shed its vaudevillian roots and ascend to your utopian plateau? Not bloody likely. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a dog in a funny hat I have to go interview. Call me when the revolution’s over.

  7. Come Stewart……
    Join the dark side.
    I believe you are ready….

  8. Can anybody in a TV newsroom really manipulate video?

    When I was an editor, I was stunned by how many people at the publishing company couldn’t string together a coherent sentence.

  9. “As everyone in a newspaper is print literate – that is, capable of sitting down at a computer and banging out a story, so too must everyone in a tv newsroom.”

    Commming from a guy who is video blind that is funny.

  10. Coming from a guy who is business blind, this is not an unexpected comment.

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