The F**k-ups In The Corner

oh yeah…. here’s our online dept… let’s move on….

Yesterday, I had a long phone conversation with a major Canadian broadcaster, much like the BBC.

They wanted to talk to me about “Citizen Journalists”.

“How do you get people to upload material?” they wanted to know. “How do you control the quality?”

I told them that I thought that the Travel Channel Academy was a pretty good model. You take those who are really interested in doing this (the high tuition weeds out the not-so-serious, and you teach them to deliver exactly what you want, music rights, releases, the whole package.

I waxed eloquently about the ‘democratization of the most powerful medium in the world’. (Canadians generally go for this kind of thing). Millions of people across Canada have video cameras and computers; millions of people (or at least thousands) have something they want to say. Become a publishing platform. Make the leap – empower the people!

The listened and said they understood the phenomenon, but at the moment they were pretty much limiting this to people getting shots of their trailer if it was hit by a tornado or something like that.



Many years ago, when I started touring major broadcast operations, the heads of the companies would always show me massive TV newsrooms, chock-a-block with equipment and cables. Hundreds of people at cubicles. Then we would move on to the radio operations. Same story. Sound room after glassed-in sound room. Then, on our way to lunch, we would pass an obscure corner with 3 or 4 long haired geeks gathered around a few computer terminals.

“And this….”, the CEO would say as we blew past,  “is our Internet department…… Great website, guys”.

Then it was off to lunch.

It would have been difficult to predict at that time that a handful of geeks in the corner would one day come to dominate the entire industry. But they would… and they did.

When we come to the topic of “Citizen Journalism”, it very much reminds me of the way that major media companies once approached the Internet. They knew it was something they had to deal with, but they didn’t really want to. At best, they paid lip service to it and stuck them in the corner. Like the hope for the occasional video of the trailer hit by a tornado. Leave the rest of ‘us profesionals’.

One cameraman posting about Citizen Journalists on medialine wrote:

“Unfortunately untrained citizen journalists can not be prevented from writing whatever they want to write”


Yes, well that is sort of the basis of the First Amendment; but you can see the fear that this democratization instills.

And now, major media companies are just starting to come to grips with the revolution that these new technologies (cameras+edits+internet) have precipitated. And how are the responding? Pretty much the way they always respond to dynamic new technologies:

First, they close their eyes and hope they will go away.

Then, they grudgingly accept a few and stick them in the corner.

Last month, The New York Times reported that 10 hours of video are uploaded to Youtube every minute! (For those not in the TV business, 10 hours of video is an enormous amount of video, An average production company might produce 30 hours of video a year).

Technorati reports that there are now 70 million bloggers, worldwide. 70 million!

This is not an appendage to an existing way of working. This is an entirely new world being born, and one that we must pay attention to. It is not a matter of optional, it is a matter of survival.

It may indeed seem unfortunate to those ‘in the business’ that millions of people cannot be prevented from writing whatever they want, or indeed, shooting whatever video they want and uploading it. But there it is.

In the end, it is the market that will decide what is ‘quality’ and what is not, not some Executive Producers.

And that (as a figure from another era might have said) is the way it is.


3 responses to “The F**k-ups In The Corner

  1. I think the media institutions are going to have to be aware and accepting of the online movement. I personally feel that the news is often heavily bias which is why I find most of my news online from a blog that’s written by a normal person that’s just being verbal about their observations.

    Sorry, it’s hard being the first to comment.

  2. Love the pic of ‘the online dept’. I think the same people featured in the line drawings and diagrams found in the sex education books I was issued with at school. So clearly a multi-skilled bunch.

  3. in case you don’t recognize the guy in the lower left hand corner, that’s a very young Bill Gates.
    Paul Allen, the long haired guy in the lower rh corner.

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