The Soul of a New Machine

You are looking at a machine.

As fast, efficient, lean machine designed for news gathering and information processing.

It is the newsroom of the Newark Star Ledger.

A newspaper.

For more than 300 years, newspapers in this country have been in the business of going out into the community, gathering important news and information, processing that news and information and then returning it to the community, for a profit.

They are very very good at it.

Local TV stations, by way of contrast, have only been at this for the past 50 years or so, and they are pretty lousy at it. They are costly, fat, inefficient and largely unproductive.

It used to be that TV news and newspapers lived in two separate worlds.

They don’t any longer.

The web has gone to video, and with that, the barrier to access for bringing video information to people’s homes has vanished.

What you are looking at above is an almost priceless resource: the accumulated knowledge of a newsroom filled with people who have spent their lives in one community learning all they can about the politics, the personalities, the economics and the neighborhoods. They also have spent their lives honing their crafts as reporters and storytellers. No matter how hard you look on the web, you’re not going to find this on Google. Nor are you going to find this on Channel 5.

But video is king.

It has been for a long time.

What happens when you arm these people with video cameras and laptops, send them out into the community to keep doing what they have always done – reporting and finding stories; and then you take those video stories and put them in people’s homes?

Compare that to a local TV station that fields 6-8 ‘crews’ a day.

It’s a killer.

You might in fact call it a Killer Ap.

There always has been, and there always will be a strong appetite for local news.

But marry a newspaper newsroom to video to the web, and my guess is you have the newsgathering and distribution formula for the 21st Century.

And that’s what we started to do in Newark yesterday.

And we’re going to continue today… and tomorrow….


15 responses to “The Soul of a New Machine

  1. Where is the picture of the newspaper printing press they use and all those employees who run it, then deliver the paper to their customers?

    Did they just disappear or did you omit them from your photo essay above because they represent a truth you’d rather ignore about the big picture of the newspaper business?

    I’m sure you are going to continue today!


  2. Having been confronted with the realities of the web about a decade before TV (the web carried text long before it carried video), newspapers are indeed just now beginning to really grapple with how to deal with this new technology. TV stations, particularly local ones, will doubtless awaken to the realities about a decade from now, after most of them are out of business.

    In the meantime, please be so kind as to forward to me photos of your stations ‘transmission tower’ and those studio cameras the size (and cost) of volkswagens. I need them for my Museum of Broadcasting.


  3. Local TV stations, by way of contrast,…are costly, fat, inefficient and largely unproductive.

    Seen it first hand.

    …marry a newspaper newsroom to video to the web, and my guess is you have the newsgathering and distribution formula for the 21st Century.

    That is something the sycophantic nay-sayers just don’t/won’t accept. Doesn’t mean it isn’t already happening. I’ve worked for newspapers (yes $ – I had JOB’s at newspapers and magazines before I knew better). They’re a great resource for any community to find out what’s going on.

    What happens when you arm (all) these people with video cameras and laptops, send them out into the community to keep doing what they have always done – reporting and finding stories; and then you take those video stories and put them in people’s homes?

    Well, it’s so obvious I won’t mention it as the flamefest that will continue by a certain detractor who regularly posts here 😉

  4. Michael …er 21st century – as in 2008 – not 1968. You can’t put anything into anyones home anymore. Those monopolies are dead.

    You have to be invited in.

  5. Peter – good point.

    OTOH, that control of being invited in does give viewers freedom of choice instead of a limited option count of what is available which is what mainstream corporate media dictates.

    Utilizing social networking platforms to promote ones content is but one way I can think of to be invited in.

  6. where the heck is nino?

    bandwidth use here has decreased to the point where people are asking questions.

  7. Cliff,

    Did a TV news crew run over your dog? What about my business so boils your blood? Unlike many TV news photogs, I don’t have any real beef with Rosenblum. He’s got some good ideas, some really wacky ones and a product to sell. You, however seem to harbor a level of hatred for broadcasting heretofore unseen in the average hobbyist. Don’t get me wrong; whatever you have to say really doesn’t matter to those of us who are actually paid to produce video stories, but I’m curious anyway. Do tell…

    Oh – by the way, I can STILL out-shoot, out-edit, out-enterprise and out-write you – regardless of the platform. And yet I don’t stand outside YOUR gameroom and hurl invectives. I do hope your little screeds have won you some friends in the exciting new paradigm that you swear will put my ilk on the unemployment line – because you have certainly made an enemy out of ME.

    All that and still no paycheck…

  8. Yeah sure Stewart – whatever you say.

    Never once did I say I could out shoot, out edit, etc, etc, etc, you. Where did you come up with that egotistical train of thought?

    If there’s one thing I’ve discovered is the detractors are so full of themselves that they now have to come around and pi$$ on those who see things differently. And they want to be looked to as the so called professional standard bearers of video journalism.

    I think not.

    I prefer to look to those not tainted by corporate television news media and all the baggage associated with them.

    Do you think I or anyone else reading this thread is even remotely concerned that you have chosen to see me as an enemy? Do you honestly believe that I or anyone else thinks what you have to say is important about me? As far as I’m concerned, you are mistaken Stewart.

    Anyone who uses character assassination as a means to try and look better than someone else typically has issues of personal insecurity and those observing the derisive comments know what to believe.

    BTW, good BS job over at NewsVideographer – I’m sure that won’t last for long though.

  9. Google me, Cliff. Ask around. I am neither a shill for TV news nor the lightweight you think I am. In fact, I’m your worst nightmare: a TV news vet who can shoot think and write. You Sir, talk alot of smack. What else you do, I can’t tell. But you cannot continue to spread the kind of wholesale derision of my industry and expect me not to strike back. You say I’m tainted with corporate television. PFFT! I’m tainted with a paycheck and a reel I’m proud of. Why that fact fills you with such venom remains a mystery to me, but I am newly dedicated to exposing you for the wannabe you so clearly are. Remember – you started this.

    PS) Any thing you can do I can do better. Just sayin’.

  10. “But marry a newspaper newsroom to video to the web, and my guess is you have the newsgathering and distribution formula for the 21st Century.”

    I don’t mean to run down anything Mr. Rosenblum is doing. I have talked to people who have gone through his boot camp and many (most) have positive things to say about his training and methods.

    But as someone with decades of newspaper experience I can’t help but be a bit skeptical of his big picture claims. In this post he refers to “the accumulated knowledge of a newsroom filled with people who have spent their lives in one community learning all they can about the politics, the personalities, the economics and the neighborhoods.” But all I hear about in news about newspapers is layoffs, buy-outs and closings. Mind-share is an asset, but I have personal experience with how newspapers squander that irreplaceable asset every time there is an economic downturn. Frequently they force out those who have the most experience in exchange for those youthful souls who offer their enthusiasm for far less coin.

    As for video being king, I know lots of newspapers that do video. The Washington Post and New York Times have been doing it quite a bit (plus they have unparalleled newspaper brand names). Yet they have both announced more buyouts and layoffs this year. As for their use of the delivery system, internet advertising watchers have already noted slowing growth of audiences and advertising for newspaper online sites. The internet may be the best delivery system ever known to man, but there is scant evidence that newspapers know best how to tap that.

    I think newspaper people are great storytellers. Those I know who have turned to video (some of whom work at the very newspaper mentioned above) have created far more compelling video than I typically see on television (especially local) news. And the internet is a far better delivery mechanism than pouring ink onto paper that gets dumped in driveways (far more flexibility for content, far less soggy newsprint). But I’m not convinced that is the whole formula. Many newspapers probably wish that it were, because they desperately need the secret to 21st century success. That isn’t Mr. Rosenblum’s fault. He trains people to do video and does a fairly good job at that I’m told. But after watching newspapers decline for decades (precipitously in the last few years) I find his concept of video as salvation just a bit extravagant. The training may go on tomorrow, but the fate of this newspaper and others won’t be decided until after Mr. Rosenblum has departed. And it is likely to depend on far more than whether they wed the newsroom to video distributed on the web.

  11. Lenslinger said:

    Google me, Cliff. Ask around.

    No need to Stewart – just as you’ve already formed an opinion about me, I’ve done likewise.

    nuff said.

  12. Video is not king… Content is king.

    That must make Video Content the “Emporer”

    Video “Journalism” which is what you are talking about in a newsroom has four components that viewers get value from.

    Content, Craft, Creativity and Commitment.

    You have been focusing on content…which is fine. Content is king.

    “Journalistic content” is actually often independant from the person shooting it. In otherwords… the earth is going to quake whether any one is there to shoot it or not. The price of gas is going to affect the trucker whether we are there to document it or not.

    That is where Craft becomes important. Viewers watch stories. If a security camera picks up a shot of an earthquake…that is content. Not craft.

    But to shoot a documentary on the effects of that earthquake, viewers will not want to watch crappy quality. That is where the separation in value, product, brand comes into the equation.

    Those who know how to shoot, edit, write, light, and craft stories – concisely, fairly, accurately, and with quality… will get viewers to return to their station or website.

    Right now… TV News does shoot better video. And more importantly, TV news has defined “programming” expectations. Knowing how to shoot quickly and capture the great moments, and getting good sound… etc… are all areas TV news does better than small camera video operators.

    Certainly, people can “niche out” to find their own personal flavor of content. That dilutes the ratings… which is happening and will continue to happen. Networks and local TV news will need to adjust.

    But in order to ultimately set themselves apart from the consumer level average product…. any serious supplier of news and information…. will need to compete on these FOUR areas that viewers see: Content: Craft: Creativity and Commitment.

    Newspapers DO have more reporters. And they CAN get out on the street with more cameras. And video IS important to their websites. The dynamic is changing. That is happening…as you know. You are on top of it.

    But viewers want a final product that is viewer friendly. And TV news has perfected that formula. Although they have gone overboard.

    Somewhere in the middle is where we will all meet. Newspapers will eventually need to start “PROGRAMMING” and utilizing the best practices of Television… in the video storytelling department.

    Interactivity will be the main factor for both / all media outlets in the future.

    That is where it gets interesting.

    But viewers notice the Four C’s. They notice the content. They notice how well that content is presented (Craft). They notice Creativity and they notice the Committment.

  13. Eb,
    Very intelligent and perceptive analysis. I agree, and we are trying to craft content which is both journalistically valid as well as compelling video. It is a challenge, but its also a great opportunity. I like the 4Cs a lot. Congrats.

  14. “Interactivity will be the main factor for both / all media outlets in the future.”

    Don’t know about TV stations, but newspapers have traditionally had a problem with this. Even now lots of newspapers treat bloggers like uppity servants who don’t know their proper place. The newspaper with which I am most familiar relegates them to virtual gulags where they can’t really affect what the professionals are doing. Sure it is better than the letter to the editor ghetto, but not by much.

    I also like the 4 C’s and believe they have validity. But interactivity is a big part of the formula, one that requires newspapers to cede some control of content to the audience. At its best it allows the audience to do more than simply change channels (isn’t that what is putting the pinch on both TV and newspapers). The audience can then be more than faceless, nameless judges of content, craft, creativity and commitment. They can be creators and/or programmers with voices of their own. If they are really good, they can define the medium rather than being defined by it.

    Many such people already go to YouTube. But YouTube isn’t so great at presenting cohesive content, such as news about a particular community. That is what a newspaper could do if it could figure out how to a) get out of its own way (and the way of its uppity audience) and b) get sufficient economic traction to keep the whole thing going.

    Some papers are doing OK with a), but almost all are stumbling with b). Teaching newspaper journalists how to do video opens up new storytelling possibilities, but does not necessarily solve those two problems. If handled badly in the realm of best practices, it will do almost nothing about a) and further exacerbate b). Content may be king and video maybe the prince regent, but both are only figureheads if the masters of newsrooms continue to set themselves up as old-style information bosses. It will take more than new cameras to change the culture of most newsrooms. However, in all fairness, if they don’t radically change that won’t kill content or video. It will only kill the newsrooms.

  15. One answer is “programming”

    You mentioned “YouTube.” I rarely start sifting through YouTube. I have posted a few videos there of my own (Look up “Come Home To The Blues” — its a song I am playing drums on… and co-produced.) When I do sift through YouTube its often for mindless entertainment.

    But I can easily sit through a television program on CNN… that features the best of YouTube. The “program” is easier to watch. Americas Funniest Home Videos is a great program. Well, not great… but entertaining…and it gets lots of viewers. Yet the video is what us professionals would describe as “crap.” But its not the craft people watch for…its the content. Content is king. But once content is spread so thin… then Craft matters more.

    What newspapers need to learn next…. is how to program and package and keep viewers on their toes… watching. That is actually what local and network TV news has learned how to do… We know how to shoot and edit efficiently…then write and package stories to flow.. keeping viewers interested. (Yet, it’s the content that hurts TV news now.)

    Currently… it is true, TV news is moving down in the ratings. But that is probably due mostly to the opening up of other flows of information and video (cable, satellite, internet.) I think that will level off at some point. And it is also true that TV news has low respect. THAT is the problem of a herd mentality…where every single manager across the country thinks their news has got to be cut from the same cookie cutter as the others. There is little variety, origninality or creativity in TV news. Content is shallow, repetitive and predictable. AND they are wasting the video talent they have… by making video storytelling a low priority. If they would actually try hitting home runs once in a while…they might fill the stadiums. Instead of driving people away to other sources of information.

    But it is true… Americans are comfortable with the TV news format. And will not turn to a newspaper website for video on a daily basis… unless it involves them personally…. or if it becomes easier to digest.

    Michael talks about a new paradyme (spelling?)
    It isn’t here yet. I wonder what it will be? I predict 2016 will be the year. (like I know.)

    Interactivity is at the core of it. Computers will sort through information. News outlets will have access to viewer’s habits, wants, desires. Niche content will serve niche viewers.

    TV stations and newspapers should create a variety of niche programs. That way they can build viewers in each area. If they don’t, someone else will. I have in fact started a website focused on art, music, photography in Colorado…and hope to build up into more and more video…and programming. That will fill a niche. Anybody can do that. And they will.

    Ultimately, the internet and TV sets will be one and the same… so people will have choices of what video to watch. Newspapers WILL get better at producing video. They already beat TV in the content department… but they need to master the craft to compete. They will eventually get more and more creative… and the committment needs to be there… to accomplish quality.

    But I think they need to start thinking of programming. Putting on a synopis of the news…. perhaps re-invent the video newscast. Right now….TV is the master of “LIVE” news. Newspapers will eventually need to go in that direction to compete.

    And of course, TV stations need to re-invent the way we do things too. Creative minds need to be put in management positions in TV stations…because the OLD school way of thinking will only lead to continued decline. When I say CREATIVE minds…. I mean truly agressive, smart and creative people need to lead us into the future. “Following” doesn’t work. That is why Google is worth more than the average media giant. Those that fall asleep or are arrogant…will suffer…. in the LONG term. Not within the next 8 years. There’s enough glue to hold the networks together for that long…. But after that…watch out. By the year 2016… newspapers will be going full bore….with video production/ programming/ and niche content serving their communities. Community websites will also gain traction. TV sets will be hooked into the computer and digital information will be flowing like you’ve never seen. Interactive software will be used …. ten times the people will be shooting and editing video content… YouTube and other internet companies will have figured out a lot more… and THEN the competition begins. If news papers can work diligently until 2016…. and establish a presence…. create niche programming…. and also broad appeal newscasts….they will compete more directly with TV stations.

    Who knows? These are only fun guesses. By that time… the economic situation in this country might halt anyone’s ability to pay for any of these things. (Just a joke.)

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