A broadcast imbroglio

The NashvilleisTalking/WKRN imbroglio has caught my attention again.
Lost Remote points to a Cable & Broadcasting piece that says the upheaval at WKRN may be a symptom of a rift between old and new media that has led to the departures of Interactive Media heavyweights Wes Jackson at Belo, Ric Harris at NBC Universal and Eric Grilly at MediaNews Group.
I don’t have the inside skinny on any of those, but Gordon Borrell, the respected Internet/Media consultant, is quoted:

There seems to be a real rub between those running interactive operations and the big traditional media companies and [the media companies’] inability to move fast enough to satisfy those people.

The swirling rumors (and Michael Silence has a good post on those) about WKRN’s NashvilleisTalking blog site is doubly interesting to me because Gwen Kinsey, new GM at WATE here in Knoxville, got the additional role as GM at the Nashville station after the bloodletting.
The new Web strategy for WKRN:

… some in the market expect management to pull the plug on NashvilleisTalking and ultimately roll back WKRN’s digital innovation. “They’re going back to Media 1.0,” says one veteran of the market’s news wars. “They’ll make their money on broadcast.”

Well, maybe. We’ll see. Management’s sparse public pronouncements would indicate some future for NashvilleisTalking.
And Brittney Gilbert, the face or voice of NashvilleisTalking until her recent departure, works up a passionate defense of the groundbreaking project even if she says she doesn’t care what happens to it next. She was reacting to what Bill Hobbs said.
But amidst the we’re-headed-back-to-the-Stone-Age news is a comment from Gilbert’s old boss at WKRN, Mike Sechrist, who says somewhat circumspectly:

I’ve had some eye opening conversations with two individuals who want to start full fledged news operations in their respective cities (one on the east coast and one on the west) using only VJ’s and the web. They both have the same idea of usurping local broadcast news.

Usurping local broadcast news. Usurping local broadcast news. Now Mike, that’s an idea.
A YouTube video of Sechrist from back in his WKRN day:

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  1. Jack, I think Sechrist misses the mark entirely. I just don’t see the current evolution of media as “usurping” anything. Journalism is a craft, and it always will be. Blogs, YouTube, Flickr, and their ilk are not crafts; they are simply new media (or new means of distributing old media) and nothing more.
    TV will be around for a long time to come, and so will print. The role of journalists will not change as long as we continue to have the First Amendment, but the media they use of course will change over time.
    Print and broadcast media are in the same situation today as radio companies were in the mid-1950s after TV became big, or where print media were in the 1920s, after the advent of radio. TV was not a new craft, it was merely a new medium. Radio was not a new craft, but merely a new medium. Journalism in those days did not “usurp” anything; the practitioners of your craft simply adapted to a new way of telling the story.
    I’m not a journalist, and I’m barely a blogger, but I can certainly recognize the difference between real journalism and an ever-expanding, unstructured soapbox. Blogs et al. are merely new ways of getting the message out, and new ways of engaging the target audience. Whether one uses blogs and YouTube for personal extemporania or reportage of solid news is up to the practitioner, and it’s up to the viewer to discern the difference (as it’s always been).
    In the early 19th century, printing presses were cheap and plentiful. Handbills and printed diatribes abounded, but journalism remained distinct and intact as a craft. Your craft has and always will be a voice above the din whenever people seek definitive, authoritative information. The particular medium is not relevant to that need.
    The fact that 71 million people have created blogs is irrelevant to the fact that news is still largely sourced from a few points of origin. Certain bloggers have successfully married the new medium to the old craft (Juan Cole, Matthew Yglesias, and Randy Neal come to mind), but the two remain horses of a different stripe.
    I’m one of those who gets the news entirely online these days, and certain blogs are now equal in my mind to any old-line news source (Huffington Post, for example). But I’m always careful about distinguishing the voice of a journalist from that of a latter-day, online pamphleteer.

  2. Outstanding comments, Russ.
    I certainly hope people continue to make distinctions between people who are committed to the principles and ethics of good journalism and those who aren’t.
    I certainly like to think trusted voices matter, whether they’re connected to traditional media companies or people that have built their own reputation (or brand) for getting the “straight stuff.”
    And like you, I don’t think that’s just limited to the type of media or kind of organization, although having the benefit of a trusted traditional media brand certainly is an advantage in the cacophony of information sources.
    What I get from what Mike Sechrist says is that we are in a period where a disruption of the traditional forms is possible; namely TV doesn’t have video news cornered on the Internet. That doesn’t mean YouTube does or will.
    If you so desire, however, you could do a “newscast” without an FCC license, millions of dollars worth of equipment, and a sales and support staff to keep it all juiced. It would be possible to do for just a few hundred bucks. Whether it would be a trusted, credible and engaging source of information would be up to you. Whether you could make it a viable ongoing enterprise would be another question. That’s possible, today, I believe.
    The same is certainly true for a Web “print-based” product. That you have millions of dollars worth of printing equipment and an infrastructure around it doesn’t particularly make you more credible than a lone individual whose quality of work has garnered a loyal audience. That not only applies to bloggers, but to other forms of media. At least for today, you are more likely to have “read” a story on a TV Web site than have “watched” it.
    And the opportunities wrought by change are always intriguing. It’ll be fun to watch what happens as more people gravite to the shift you’ve already made — getting the majority of their news online.

  3. “What I get from what Mike Sechrist says is that we are in a period where a disruption of the traditional forms is possible; namely TV doesn’t have video news cornered on the Internet. That doesn’t mean YouTube does or will.”
    That’s it exactly. The price of entry is enormous for broadcast or print. You can replicate that on the web for a fraction of the cost. The individuals I was referring to aren’t talking about doing this with high school and college kids but hiring reporters away from broadcast and print. And you are seeing more and more announcements like Natalie Jacobson, long time Boston anchorwoman, who is leaving broadcast to start her own multi media company. You know that old Chinese saying, “May you live in interesting times,” we are there.

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