Monday, February 12, 2007

TV station fires news staff, asks local folks to provide programming















Why? Because network news sucks-that's why.

I have been wondering for a while now how long it would be before the elitist style of news coverage would crash and burn.

As those in control at the major networks started to see a slide in ratings they thought,"Oh, must be that the audience is just too stupid for real news. We'll have to do more celebrity segments."

And then came Fox.

Fox flew into first place not because the entire world had turned into neocons but because it was a niche market that was completely ignored up until then.

I think I practically jumped up and down the first time I heard a segment involving a person shooting at an intruder in his home and it wasn't completely biased against guns.

But then, of course, reality set in.

Fox was just as insane as the other networks- they were in favor of controlling every aspect of my life, for my own good, from the right (as opposed to the left like NBC)

Because Fox had such success, all the networks, in a panic to figure out why no one was watching them, tried to go after the republican market (for the first time, even though they represent just less than half of the U.S.) but that didn't work either, because republicans were still bitter toward the old networks for ignoring them all these years.

One of the last times I watched a network news show was about five years ago. Katie Couric was interviewing a woman who had written a book about living and working as a normal person.

No-kidding.

She spent a year or two working as waitress or maid or whatever other jobs the rest of us, in the unwashed masses, have to endure. And she wrote about her experience.

Who was she writing this for?

Obviously, if you're an elitist writing a book about posing as a normal person, you must be writing for other elitists who are curious about this lifestyle.

We were the Gorillas in the Mist, or more accurately in the midst, and she lived among us like Dian Fossey, for a while.

I could not understand why this person was on television. I wondered if they thought perhaps they were on some special signal only beamed out to those who have never had to hold a job.

Well, the first thing I thought of when I heard this brave and courageous soul speak was her little experiment was flawed from the get go.

She was not living like a poor person-she was living like a well off, recent college graduate, taking a low paying job for a short time.

She was not starting out with a piece of shit car. She had a car that would get her through for a year or two without needing repairs that would roughly equal the price of the car.

She had a closet full of fairly new designer clothes-that would still look nice in a year or so and therefore she would be treated with respect when she moved about among the masses.

She had a case full of Mac or some equally expensive brand of makeup and professionally styled hair.

All things she would keep up fairly cheap by adding to here and there with the grocery store stuff (assuming she didn't cheat and go to a salon with some of the money she was pretending not to have).

Her expensive personal items would last her through the year or two.

She would also have the knowledge that her "real" life was there as a fall back.

If she were to step into a thrift store with her hard earned twenty, she would not have to look to outfit herself entirely-shoes and underwear included.

She would not feel the weight of poverty and depression and wonder why she can't, just once, buy something new.

She would walk in the musty entrance of the thrift store with her $300 pair of Prada mule shoes and her cute $140 leather belt and a ridiculously overpriced spaghetti tank, search through the "boutique" section, the section that actual poor people never even look at, find a bohemian style skirt to piece together with her designer ensemble and walk out of there thinking,"Wow, you really can look good from a thrift store. It's just that these poor people don't know how to present themselves fashionably. They're poor for a reason, you know."

During this interview she mentioned that a woman she'd been working with busted her ankle and stayed at work hobbling around because she couldn't take the day off. And when she went home-she iced it and wrapped it (because she didn't have the $300 to throw away on a doctor) and came back to work the next day.

Both the author and Katie were aghast at this and shook their heads when they cut away to a commercial.

This was the end for me.

Two people doing a show for actual people but talking about us as though we were a zoo exhibit.

Tirade over- here is the article on the beginning of the end for the aspiring Courics of the world;

-Tasha

Steve Spendlove realizes that after last month's layoffs of most of the news-gathering staff at tiny KFTY-TV in Santa Rosa there will be less local coverage. The Clear Channel executive overseeing the station knows there won't be reporters to investigate local scandals, let alone do those fluffy woman-turns-100 features that make TV anchors cock their heads and smile at the end of a newscast.

But Spendlove said that the station's "business model" hadn't been working for years, and that "covering one-eighth of the Bay Area" is neither a moneymaker nor even an operation large enough to be measured by Nielsen ratings.

So the next step in Channel 50's evolution will be a nationally watched experiment in local television coverage. Over the next few months, the station's management plans to ask people in the community -- its independent filmmakers, its college students and professors, its civic leaders and others -- to provide programming for the station.

Will they be paid? That's being worked out. Who will cover the harder-edged stories? Some will be culled from local newspaper and TV online sites, Spendlove said, and "other sources" that are still being discussed.

"There will be a loss in local coverage, I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "But there are a lot of other places to get most of that information."

Spendlove is loath to dub what's coming next to Channel 50 as "citizen journalism," the industry buzz term that is journalism's equivalent of user-generated content online. Broadly defined, citizen journalism means tapping into the wisdom and creativity of the audience and enabling nonprofessionals to become part of the news-gathering process. Media analysts believe there may be 700 citizen journalism outfits reporting on geographic nooks of the country and countless other bloggers doing various versions of the local news.

Many of them are self-funded "fusions of news and schmooze" sites "that don't produce finished stories like you'd see at traditional journalism outlets," said Jan Schaffer, who heads J-Lab, a citizen journalism think tank at the University of Maryland.

In a J-Lab survey released this month, many citizen journalists felt they were "a success" not because they had tons of readers, but because they had called attention to local problems overlooked by larger media outlets.

Some citizen video journalists, particularly outside the United States, have had a larger impact.

When last year's coup in Thailand shut down traditional local media outlets, images downloaded from citizen journalists to CNN's "I-Report'' were the cable giant's only window into the action. And much has been told about how the first images of the July 2005 London terrorist bombings were recorded by cell phone cameras. The genre's runaway success story is OhmyNews in South Korea, which not only has tens of thousands of citizen contributors but is profitable.

"Traditional journalists, even the very best ones, can only tell a story from the outside looking in," said Mitch Gelman, CNN.com's executive producer. "What you get from citizen journalists is a view from the inside looking out. It is a complement to our coverage."

Trust is an issue

As the media landscape shifts, traditional television executives are figuring out how comfortable they are in letting the audience express themselves. The potential army of cheap news gatherers poses a dilemma: While editors love the idea of receiving images from a coup in Thailand hours before their news crew arrives at the scene, many editors don't totally trust the public, especially when it comes to reporting hard news stories.

"People come to CBS News because it's a trusted source of information that they know has been vetted," said Mike Sims, director of news and operations at CBS.com. "That's why we've been slower to move into citizen journalism."

Still, Sims said CBS will in the next few months unveil more ways to involve viewers. TV news operations and their online partners can't ignore the YouTube-driven interest in user-generated content -- or how those efforts can help build a loyal audience.

So with names like "I-Report" (CNN), "You Witness News" (Yahoo-Reuters partnership) and "Moving Pictures" (a feature begun this month at Bay Area NBC affiliate KNTV), TV news is slowly exploring ways to involve the audience in its productions.

"Everybody is trying to catch lightning in a bottle trying to figure out a way to interact with citizens," said Spendlove, a senior vice president for the Western region of Clear Channel Television who works in Fresno. "We're hoping to find a new way to compete in an area where the big boys couldn't afford to do it."

"I have my own silly little term," Spendlove said. "Local content harvesting."

If that sounds a bit too agricultural for Fourth Estate purists, you should hear Spendlove talk about "renewable content" programming -- a steady stream of offerings from a single source. Although he expects some cost savings from Channel 50's changeover, he anticipated that the station may have to employ more editors to thresh all the harvested content.

Memoirs of a journalist

That's the one universal among citizen journalism efforts: Nobody quite knows what type of user-generated content will work best on a traditional news site -- except that it won't be the Mentos-in-a-Diet Coke bottle fodder that made YouTube worth $1.6 billion to Google. That's too random for a news site.

Yet personal essays are what viewers submit most often. Viewers flooded CNN's "I-Report'' with remembrances and images after Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin died.

"This is the beginning of something, so I'd be very suspicious of anyone who said they had figured it out yet," said MSNBC.com Deputy Editor Tom Brew, who will begin training next week on a rebranded citizen journalism site.

The technology is there -- anybody with a camera-equipped cell phone who happens to be in the right place at the right time can become a citizen video journalist. But not everyone is poised for action. For example, there's no shortage of weather photos -- snow shots are especially popular -- but Brew said, "I don't think we're to the point where somebody in Florida just survives a storm and says, 'I'm going to upload some video to MSNBC.com.' "

That will change as viewers in their teens and 20s come of age, said Scott Moore, head of news and information for Yahoo Media Group, which has been beta-testing a citizen-journalism effort with Reuters for two months. "This next generation is much quicker about flipping open their cell phone if they see a bus crash happen in front of them and uploading the video," Moore said.


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