CNN Bureaus Go VJ

From The New York Times:

NYT-August 12, 2008, 2:37 pm
CNN’s Strategy: Bureaus Out, Flexible Journalists In
By Brian Stelter

CNN announced Tuesday that it would “double its domestic news-gathering presence” by assigning journalists to 10 additional cities across the United States.

But the journalists will not work from news bureaus; instead, they will be stationed at local television affiliates and other office locations. Using inexpensive laptops and cameras, they will file stories for the Internet and report live on television. One “all-platform journalist” will be assigned to each city.

The strategy reflects the increasingly portable and flexible nature of television production. Expensive bureaus with camera crews and satellite uplinks are increasingly being downsized by TV news divisions, in favor of so-called “one man bands” that interview, write, record, edit and report live.

The additional cities are Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Houston; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Seattle.

CNN currently has 10 bureaus across the country, and will transfer employees from 4 bureaus — Atlanta, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco — to staff the new operations.

“We are harnessing technology that enables us to be anywhere and be live from anywhere,” Nancy Lane, the senior vice president for newsgathering for CNN/U.S., said. “It completely changes how we can report.”

Michael Rosenblum, the president of Rosenblum Associates, a consulting firm that helps convert TV networks to the one-man-band model, called it a “much more cost-effective way” of reporting.

“One person with one small camera puts networks on a cost footing that is competitive with newspapers,” he said.

18 responses to “CNN Bureaus Go VJ

  1. I’m curious as to what they’re using for acquisition and editing – do you have specifics?

  2. How can this be? This must be a fluke! VJ’s in main stream media… say it aint so!

    Sounds to me like the phrase “welcome to the future” would be apropos.

  3. Look at the cities these VJs are supposedly being used.

    Not much news of national interest happens in them very often.

    This is a perfect situation for VJs!

    Some coverage for CNN if the rare news event occurs.

    The rest of the year(s) when nothing is going on they can be useful covering unimportant feature stories to run when empty filler is required.

    Like holidays and vacation relief in the summer months.

    Of course for so little work the VJs will make the appropriate low salary to go along with their low level of responsibility and even lower level of product output!

  4. I have to say your territory continues to shrink faster than the republic of georgia. First vj stuff is worthless…then its ok for features but not news. Now its ok for ‘less than important news’ and features. Does not leave much for conventional crews anymore, does it? And of course you can see where it is all leading…the handwriting is on the wall here (but I knew this already). Its all the irresistable combination of technology and economics. Hard to beat.

  5. I’m so excited about this. I hope I can be one of those VJ’s someday.

  6. How will it really work?
    Here’s your big clue

    “But the journalists will not work from news bureaus; instead, they will be stationed at local television affiliates and other office locations. Using inexpensive laptops and cameras, they will file stories for the Internet and report live on television. One “all-platform journalist” will be assigned to each city.”

    So what we will have is PJ’s or Parasite Journalists.
    Based in the local stations they will pick up the pictures shot by the local crews, take the 2:10 lunchtime story cut it down to 1:00 and drop in a stand up… usually by begging one of the local shooters to do it for them… and there you go 1:40 of low cost regional coverage. You don’t even need a camera.

    Ad to that a lot of court room reports… as long a no one expects you to be the pool camera… free pictures and a live stand up off the back of the local feed… it’s not gripping TV but it fills holes and gives you a presents… who needs bureaus?

    Actually it really does make a lot of sense… as long as the local station keeps up their standards and you are good at begging you are OK.

  7. I am so happy I got on board two years ago when I became a VJ in San Diego. There were some people who hated me, downright hated me. Now, our station is continuing with the program and other stations in the market are starting with a few VJs as well. $, I believe there will always be a need for traditional reporting. But you can’t hold back a tidal wave of change that has already hit the shore and racing inland quick. Hey Mikey, how you doin’ baby!

  8. Hi Joe
    Good to hear from you. Lisa and I just got married! Glad to hear you are doing so well. Its never easy to be on the cutting edge of change, but you’re at least a decade ahead of the rest of the industry! Congrats.

  9. I have always said VJs have their place.

    I’ve never said they should never be used anywhere.

    Now you, Rosenblum, want to put words in my mouth which do not signify my position?

    No surprise.

    This is nothing more than a budget move for CNN.

    Understandable, but again, the cities where these people will be assigned, and they are working out of existing broadcast facilities for the most part, shows they are not going to be doing all of their own work as pointed out by PG.

    They will beg off of others so CNN can claim coverage.

    The few who think this kind of VJ job signifies some kind of future for them is a joke.

    It’s as much of a future as getting a grill job at McDonald’s and thinking that makes you a gourmet chef with a future in fine foods.

    This is small market news management decision making.

    It is understandable in today’s economic climate when one wants coverage in smaller out of the way cities that rarely have anything of national interest going on.

    It’s an inexpensive way to get something on the air if and when.

    But the reality is those taking this job will rarely see their work anywhere on CNN and, at best, on the Internet with an Internet level of pay in return.

    Low.

    If one could make money really doing this Rosenblum would be doing it himself instead of running classes for students who, for the vast majority, remain unemployed as VJs.

  10. I’m a VJ. 95% of my work is A-Block. Several of my stories have been picked up by the Network, CNN and GMA.

    At last check, I make more than an internet blogger or “journalist”. I’ve made enough to let my wife work part-time and purchase a new house. And that’s in San Diego baby! $200K gets you a nice studio flat with a view of the homeless. We’re actually gonna have a yard (unheard of in SoCal).

    I’ve made myself more marketable because I have the ability to do it all. Yes, it is a nice cost-cutting measure. I’m not stupid. Why pay two when you can pay one.

    And yes, there are some people who cannot, and should not be doing it. There needs to be more training for people before they’re thrust into the mainstream. The biggest mistake has been hiring people in bigger markets and at the national level with no VJ experience. You wouldn’t do that with a traditional photog or reporter! I think VJs should be groomed and trained the same way traditional photogs and reporters received training in college, internships, and small markets. And only the best get to the top.

    That being said, the change is moving faster than people can be trained. Stations (while still making a profit) aren’t making what they used to. This is a way to save some bread and still roll a product on every night. There is still some rough spots. But in five, ten years – VJs will be the norm, not the exception.

    Mike, congrats on tying the knot. Remember, with any marriage…calma….calma.

  11. Surely hope they will take it over the ocean soon😉 Would love to work for CNN. More and more TV Stations and production companies go for the VJ here in Germany nowadays. ..and they start to discover FinalCut over here as well. Ok for me, I’m ready to go😉

  12. “At last check, I make more than an internet blogger or “journalist”.”

    Cool. Where do we find your blog? Love to see what you are doing on it to be so well paid.

  13. I work for 10News, the ABC affiliate in San Diego. I don’t have a blog yet. At this point, all of my material is broadcast first, then posted to the internet. Hopefully, someday soon, I’ll be able to post my stories to the web before they’re broadcast. We’re still trying to work out the process for that (and when the internet should get the story before the newscast). As we transition to more and more VJs, the stations are trying to figure out a successful formula for taking advantage of the internet while still producing several television newscasts every day. As far as I know, no one’s figured it out yet.

    You can find my most recent news stories here:

    http://www.10news.com/joe/index.html

    As for my comment on my pay; I didn’t mean to belittle internet journalists. It was merely a comment on $’s point that I would never make more than “Internet level pay” or “remain unemployed.” I do make an okay living. But I still need more money…just like everybody else.

    Hey Alexander Bentzien, you guys aren’t fully VJ yet? I thought we (US) were following Europe’s lead? Or is it just England?

  14. But Joe,

    The Internet is not the end all with your job.

    It’s an add on to an already existing business that still makes a profit without the Internet.

    Very different from someone who lives and dies only on the Internet.

    You, in fact, prove a long standing point of mine.

    Life and business on the Internet when it comes to covering news does not stand alone.

    You would not be getting a paycheck if you didn’t work for the TV station.

    Just because they put your work on the Internet does not mean you are an Internet VJ.

    You are still a television news photographer whose work happens to also get put on the Internet.

    It’s the TV station that gives you a paycheck.

    Without them, you’d be like other VJs who don’t also work for existing broadcast companies.

    Unemployed.

    Even Rosenblums VJs need the Travel Channel to keep them afloat.

    The unlucky ones are those working for newspapers who have a very dim future to look forward to.

  15. I must add, Joe, you would be in for a reality check if you saw the salaries CNN is paying those VJs.

    Look at your own San Diego check, then think about what those numbers would look like for the VJ job in Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Orlando, FL ; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

    If you think the pay is going to come close to what you are making now then I’ve got some swamp land you’d love to buy too!

    Of course these jobs will be offered to existing employees in those bigger markets but few if any will be able to afford to accept the lower pay so far away from where most news events of national interest happen.

    It’s career suicide for them. An easy way for CNN to shed some higher paid employees and shut down some bureaus.

    It’s just business.

    Not personal.

    Still, the paycheck realities are another indication of the fire straights CNN is in as it tries to keep not only it’s broadcast side afloat but also appease the even larger print side of the corporate ownership.

    Print is suffering much more than broadcast.

    Corporations that own both, like Gannett, will try and squeeze the broadcast side even more in a losing attempt at making the print side viable again.

  16. This I agree with. Anyone who says VJ isn’t a cheaper, more economical way of newsgathering is fulling themselves. I think we’re on the same page, just coming from different angles.

    However, I don’t think it’s “career suicide”. I think it’s more career security. Some of these cats may have do be a VJ or get the hell out of the business. For others, it’s a foot in the door that was previously not open.

    I look at it as job security. Before I was a VJ, I was a traditional reporter/anchor. Luckily, I’ve always had a strong aptitude for video production that translated into my current VJ-ness (new word?). I have the skills to work traditionally or as a VJ.

    Seriously, I cannot wait to see what this godforsaken biz is gonna look like in 5, 10 years.

  17. Just to be clear, Joe, and to make sure you understand I mean no disrespect to you and your job, my reference to “c areer suicide” was intended to explain the feelings of those who have to decide on moving to a place where little or nothing of national/international news interest happens.

    That’s not about being a VJ.

    That’s about a person putting themselves well away from where anything newsworthy to a national audience happens on a regular basis.

    That is career suicide if you want to have a career covering what many consider big, important national stories.

  18. Wait..
    you guys are not talking about people that make visuals in concerts and nightclubs??

    Why would they need to be on TV?

    are you talking about 80s VJs?

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