Two rants today. Digital madness, and on a related note, the headlong and frequently ill-conceived descent into that madness by newspapers and other text-driven media.
If you’re a journalist and you want to survive in these here modern times, there is one thing that you simply must do: slap the word “digital” on everything you do.
Take your digital laptop and open a digital file. Get on your digital phone to make a digital call to a source. Request some digital records and make a digital info-graphic to support your digital text. Get in your digital car and shoot some digital pictures with your digital camera.
You’re no longer a reporter or a photographer, you’re a digital journalist. Your platform shouldn’t be The Daily Bugle, it needs to be re-branded to The Digital Bugle. Get the idea?
It’s all crap of course. The “old guys” at a certain local TV station I won’t mention who allegedly couldn’t learn digital technology were using it well and artfully long before most of the rest of us were. Everybody shoots digital cameras, outputs digitally, and uploads to digital platforms. But it’s not cool until you label it correctly and learn how to talk the talk – and frankly – look the look. Your corporate masters want to hear digi-speak coming out of your mouth first – and maybe even see your hipster glasses and ironic hat too. NOW you’re talking digital baby!
Frankly, it’s a lot like evangelical Christianity – you need to know the language. You didn’t get an idea. The Spirit moved you. You’re not fortunate or God forbid, lucky. You’re blessed. That kind of thing. Try it. It will extend your career.
Video – it’s still new?
So Facebook and YouTube are doing everything they possibly can to video-ize everything. YouTube started this way of course, Facebook knows where it needs to go and is doing everything it can to “seed” big “brands” toward producing a harvest of what will no doubt be dopey video.
Additionally, every newspaper in the world is now rushing headlong toward video too. They never really valued it before of course, and some are still doing their damnedest to put off the inevitable. But as it turns out people like to watch TV! No surprise there. TV has been doing TV for years after all — even when newspapers were, rightly in many cases, poking fun at it.
Most importantly however, it also turns out you can charge more online if you use video – so that means that all the advantages that came along with producing low-logistical-intensity content for newspapers and radio will soon just go away – and formerly print or radio reporters will now be handcuffed by the major pain-in-the-ass that comes along with producing video content. Even with a cell phone you have to DRIVE to your interview – which right there takes away one of the major advantages of working in other media – because as I’ve said many times before, reporting for television isn’t about reporting, it’s about the logistics of making TV with a little reporting squeezed-in. That’s why TV is often more superficial, less detailed, and less able to tell complex, non-visual, or multi-layered stories in one sitting. It’s not evil, it’s just a different medium.
So for newspapers and other online text-driven outlets now rushing into video – at what necessarily will be the expense of their print/text products – remember this: that while possibly talking about the Nazarene Times transitioning toward becoming a bad online TV station – Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” That means that while trying to be a newspaper-cum-TV station to sate the demands of CPM pricing and do the “new” thing, I think papers risk losing all the benefits that come with doing what they do best. Again, there is no way to avoid this because of the logistical challenges associated with producing credible video. Despite your best efforts, it will suck the quality and depth right out of your print/text products unless you ADD staff – and we all know that’s not going to happen.
And let’s recognize this too please: while you think what you’re doing is awesome, the rest of use are apparently going to have to spend an unknown number of painful years watching our print/text brethren “re-invent” and “discover” visual storytelling. Sorry. but it’s amateur hour in most cases. What we’re really doing is watching a bunch of people do online video that wouldn’t make an audition tape in market 200 in TV land. Basically, people in Seattle or Boston or Tampa are being asked to watch a bunch of formerly-capable print/text journalists do the kind of TV other TV people wouldn’t have gotten away with in Butte, Bismark, or Bozeman.
The Tribune Company is a fine example of how “new” thinking is going to “revolutionize” journalism by leveraging its entire news-papering enterprise to serve the golden calf they’ve named Tronc. What in all hell is Tronc you ask? It’s the new platform that will take content from all the Tribune media properties like the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times (hopefully with a bunch of questionable video), put it in a digital blender, and spit it out using the latest artificial intelligence and algorithms to win Pulitzer prizes. Seriously.
Just watch the buzzword-infused, completely nonsensical sizzle reels. I swear to God, this is not The Onion.
And now some satire: