We interrupt this blog…

The big news story in my world is that I started graduate school this month at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. So for the time being this blog will expand beyond issues about women in media and instead I’ll be using it to reflect on the coursework and classroom discussions from my Introduction to Digital Communications class.

Our first topic out the gate is digital convergence. The part of our class discussion that I would like to focus on is the effect it has had on television news media. Digital convergence changed everything from the technology used to report a story to how the actual news is being reported.

Imagine a newsroom with people banging out scripts on typewriters and ripping copy off of newswire machines. Yes kids, that’s what a newsroom looked like thirty years ago when I started my first job at ABC’s Good Morning America. While my career began at the tail end of the IBM Selectric phase, it was not long before the first computers were introduced into the office. These machines mostly functioned as word processors and we had to share them.

As the years went on there were more technological developments with fax machines, email and even early cell phones which were about the size of a brick. All of these devices made our jobs easier and delivered the news more efficiently, but did it make us better reporters?

Part of our class discussion touched on the advent of the 24 hour news cycle and the effect it has had on in-depth news reporting. Some said they no longer trust broadcast news organizations and that the public now needs to do a lot of the digging in order to get the full story.

This made me think about how my job as a producer changed overtime. In the early part of my career as an associate producer, we often took weeks to research special series. I recall spending many hours on the phone talking to experts and sources to research and set up stories. It was not uncommon to be sent to the town or city where the story was taking place to do some of this research in person before shooting any footage.

All of this dramatically changed in the mid 1990s when the internet made its way into the newsroom. Suddenly there was a trove of information at our fingertips. This instant access accelerated the speed at which we turned stories and reported the news. But while the internet made us feel more globally connected, it also seemed to keep us tethered to our desks.

The new century brought with it new competition. Networks and cable stations not only had to vie for viewers with other broadcast outlets, but also on the internet. Consumers were looking elsewhere for their news including online media outlets and social media. The popularity of smart phone technology led to a whole new dynamic in the flow of information and diminished attention spans. The industry turned to talk-oriented shows filled with opinions and commentary and wall-to-wall coverage of big news stories to grab the attention of viewers. Today “breaking news” is the mantra of the broadcast industry, but I think some in my class would say “broken news” is a more accurate description.

I have a question for all you “news” folks over at CNBC – what’s with the sharing?

Yesterday we were treated to CNBC retail correspondent Courtney Reagan’s surprise marriage proposal.  Other than Reagan, her fiancé and their families, why did this need to be shared with viewers?

I know, I know, I’m being a Ms. Grinch about this. I admit public proposals are like nails on a chalkboard to me.

This one really got under my skin for two reasons. The first is I can’t tell you how many times as a producer I’ve had to beg for 30 seconds more airtime for an actual news story. Nightly Business Report devoted two minutes to this spectacle. Anyone in television knows two minutes is a lifetime in broadcast news. It made me wonder what real news stories didn’t make the line up in order to make room for this.

My second reason is I actually felt bad for Reagan after watching this. What woman wants to be caught on camera uncontrollably sobbing in her place of work? I don’t think this is an image her colleagues will soon forget. Or her viewers.

I know I won’t.

Kevin Spacey: What’s happened to broadcast journalism?

New York Times political reporter Mark Leibovich did a Times Talk last night with actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and producer Beau Willimon about the hit Netflix series “House of Cards”.

Kevin Spacey as character Congressman Frank Underwood in Netflix’s “House of Cards” / photo: collider.com

If you haven’t been watching, Spacey plays a democratic congressman from South Carolina who gets involved with a political journalist. The conversation turned to the state of broadcast journalism and Spacey gave his thoughts about what has happened to the news industry.

“What happened when the news had to make money and when ratings became important? And when the conglomerates that looked at the publishing firm that they owned and the movie studio that they owned and looked at the news division and said “Well why shouldn’t that just be as profitable as a profit center as all these other divisions?” And I believe perhaps Edward Murrow might have said better than anybody, the moment you have to make the news compete with entertainment it’s no longer the news. It’s entertainment. And that that aspect of the news disappoints me. That it is now, they have to compete with entertainment. And I think that that as a knock on effect has perhaps changed the style in which journalists are forced to report the news.”

I think there is a lot of truth in what he says.

As a side note, there were sound issues with the interview. If you choose to watch you’ll hear better if you wear headphones.

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