I am bit of a news junkie, and when something happens (Like when IDF decides its a good idea to shoot peace protesters in the head) Its hard for me not to reach for my browser. Much is made about how we now have so much news instantly at our fingertips with the Internet, but I'm not so sure we really do. Often I find myself reading 10 different articles about the exact same event from 10 different outlets, just to find the one or two sentences of information that I cant find in the other nine. If more information means the same information many times I'm not so sure I see the point. A friend of my presently relayed a news flash with the head line "Premier of Japan resigns", and opening the message it read: The premier of japan resigns, in a news conference on Japanese TV The premier declared -I resign. Was it necessary to say he resigned three times? Surly there must be context that would be more valuable to read then that. In fact without context it has no value what so ever.
People are spending a lot of time talking about how print and TV is dead, how attention spans are shorter and that "old media" need to change in order to compete. Yes, they do need to change, but if you look at successful old media, they are going the opposite directions. Have movies become shorter and less expensive lately to compete with Youtube? Have the Harry potter and Twilight books been shrunk down to pamphlets to compete with blogs? I used to read the daily paper but I have found it to be too short format so now ill rather spend my time reading a 10page article in Vanity Fair then a single page in a daily. Once radio was a medium that the family gathered around. But when TV arrived and it became the medium families gathered around. Did Radio die? No it became about music, it became something you listen to in your car or while you work. I love radio and podcasts because they are always about content and not about surface, unlike the medium that "replaced" it.
I hear about how CNN is in a dire state, loosing viewers and relevance to "New media", and nobody seams to think they can fix it. Nobody even wants the job since they are so sure it doomed to fail. Well Ive always had the secret dream of running a 24H news channels, so Turner if you are reading (I'm sure you are) here is what I would do to CNN (or any other "Old media")
Everything is interesting if you dig deep enough, nothing is interesting on surface.
I would like to see an hour long interview of a head of state talking about a SINGLE issue. Don't move on, once you got the sound bite, let them explain it and find the depth of their knowledge, bu asking follow ups. A good interview has a single question and many followups. When I watch or read something I want to learn something new, don't tell me how many pages the bill is over and over, start on page one and explain it to me. You say "that's too boring, no one will watch that", Well the thing is that once you have gotten it explained to you, you will look at the world differently and then you can see through all the pundits because you know the truth. That's when you come back for more. There are so many things I would like to know, Like right now I would kill to be in the room with the engineers who are trying to fix the oil leak in the Mexican gulf, They say its hard, and while i don't dispute that i would really like to hear what the discussion comes down to. Sure I would probably not understand every third word, but it would also mean that there is a big chance i would learn some new ones. Show me a heart operation and explain it to me, Show me what a pilot does in the cockpit, just show me!
Don't cut away.
Why do we never get to see the entire thing? I see video clips form the clamp down of the Red shirts in Thailand, but only a few seconds at the time. Why not show a 30 minutes of almost real-time footage? Yes it may be shaky, and it may be rough, but if there is one thing that real-time footage can convey its mood. You feel what its like to be there. With documentaries like "the revolution will not be televised" or "9/11" and everything you need to know is in peoples faces. Forget about the pretty graphics, show the grainy footage.
There is no dignity in censorship.
Why is it that media think that is dignified to show Linsey Lohans Poonani, but not dignified to show dead soldiers, or civilians? If you think about the Vietnam war you think about certain images. A suspected spy being executed with a revolver to his head, a girl running naked with napalm on her back. They aren't pretty but they are honest images of war. We don't see thous images from the wars going on right now. Is it because they don't exist? They do, they just aren't published any more, out of respect for the people in the pictures. Well I think a news agency needs to first and foremost respect their readers and viewers. Don't let them die in vain, let their pictures be their final message. The rule should be show, don't tell. Follow the man who got wounded in a can bomb in Baghdad, from arriving on the scene, to the rescue to the ambulance all the way to the hospital. Convey what its like to be there. Don't make people know what happens, make them understand.
Forget first. Take your time.
Why do your reporters have to file every day? let them take the time to make a mini documentary, filing that 3 people was killed in Gaza doesn't mean anything. Instead make a longer segment telling their stories, find out what happened who they where and then, instead of broadcasting a 45 second segment four times an hour for six hours, play a 30 minute segment 2 times a day for a week. TV should be in the documentary Biz not in the news Biz. With low cost cameras and laptop editing, it doesn't cost much to have some one work a week on a segment. You will never be first, and even if you are, it wont last, so be the definitive. It is the long format that can really put us somewhere we haven't been before.
Don't argue, just analyze.
Again and again we see people make statements on TV and then people argue about if its good or bad. Why not just let the facts speak for themselves? If some one says something was an "act of war" bring up the carter and read the definition of what an act of war really is instead of arguing about it, or let it slide. Show me the numbers, don't let anyone say that the budget deficit is caused by pork, without pulling up the budget and checking how much of it really is pork, and while you are at it define pork. Why is Jon Stewart the only one who has figured out that if a politician says something that contribute what they have said in the past, you don't need to argue with them, all you need to to show the tape. It beats any pundit.
I'm amazed by how journalists claim to be impartial at the same time as they are always looking for an angle? Once a person or event has gotten a narrative they become caricatures of themselves, Bush is stupid, Kim Jong Ill is evil and Linsey Lohan is drunk. Then what? It may be true, but they aren't only that, so once you have told us, why not deepening our understanding rather then reinforce a shallow understanding? It feels like every story has a boilerplate that journalists think they have to slavishly follow.(Ever read an article about me that didn't have the angle "Crazy loner makes weird game"?) I don't think you need to have a point of view to be a good journalist, and i think its your job to challenge and expand our world view not reinforce it.
Set your journalists free.
Most of all, news organizations has to set their journalists free. In my view a good boss is a protector. A TV station, a paper or a magazine needs viewers, and they need subscribers or adds, but thous aren't the journalists problem, and a good news director should protect her journalist staff from all that. There is an amazing amount of fantastic people out there who want to tell stories, and with the Internet they have never been easier to find. Today they don't have the support and platform they need, so instead of making them chase the competition let them do their thing.
In what ever you do, you have go to go your own way. What ever is in now, is going to be so crowded by the time you get in to it that its pointless. To make some thing good happen you have o have your own ideas and go against the stream, and perhaps that is harder when its our job to report on the stream. But remember that often the world is often shaped by events, but how how the events are reported, so isn't it time journalists took charge of their own place in history.