Where USF faculty, students and graduates are invited to talk about journalism and its problems and opportunities. This blog is not affiliated with the University of San Francisco, nor is the university responsible for any of the opinions expressed herein -- though it is certainly responsible for the people who entertain those opinions, having educated them. They make us proud.

Monday, February 12, 2007

First Let's Fire All the Reporters

Let's see if we can get a discussion started. As I'm sure many of you have read or heard about, a small North Bay TV station is firing all its reporters, choosing rather to rely on video contributions from locals to fill up all that empty air.

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, (Clear Channel exec Steve) 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."

I think this is a mistake. I think you need trained salaried reporters working doing stories that have been selected for their news value. I don't insist that colleges do the professional training. But someone needs to provide the core reporting staff of a news operation not only with the tools but with the journalist's skeptical questing mindset. I don't think editors "harvesting content" will produce the full range of information a community needs to understand itself.

What do you think?


TJ Jackson said...

I think this is a great idea! We all know that the real breaking news comes straight from the public - we never would have heard of that guy dancing in front of his webcam if not for this kind of "reporting." I just don't see how this can go wrong ...

Anonymous said...

given that this experiment is being conducted by Clear Channel, KFTY's future, I would argue, will not rest on the quality of its new news content but finance. will the cost savings be worth it and if so, could this model be replicated elseswhere? then we've got to worry.
New organizations generally don't introduce system-wide changes to their "product" solely on news content. budget is always the bottom line.
As for the actual news content, who knows? maybe the breaking news will be better. probably not. but relying on citizens to dig into their own community, on their own dime and time, or hoping city bureaucrats might report their own malfeasance -- don't hold your breath.
but if these "citizen reporters" at least read the morning paper, then they're already on par with the TV news crew.
skeptical jorge

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Does TV news matter? Fair question. I am naturally more concerned about print because of my background. As Skeptical J points out, the bottom line rules. If print discovers that it can make have as much revenue -- but with a quarter of the overhead -- by slicing and dicing "citizen" content, then I suppose it will. I'm certain flacks for industry, govt. etc. will fill any resulting holes in the "news." Journalists should be optimists, right? We assume the people will know what to do with "the truth" if it is presented to them. But are we optimistic enough to assume that the people will ask for it?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous makes an interesting point: do many reporters/assignment editors get their best story ideas from local newspapers?

If so, where will their "leads" come from if the papers implode?

Hmmmm. I see an oportunity for local wire servises (i.e. Bay City News Service).

Greg Pabst

Patrick Lagreid said...

Press passes for everyone!

But seriously folks -- I understand the business side of it -- it's expensive to run a news station, let alone in a "small" market, and compounded by the fact that the market is Santa Rosa -- which I'm sure requires a decent salary to live in.

However, I really don't think this setup is going to work. What if 5 people go to the unveiling of the new exhibit at the Schulz Museum...whose footage gets used, and who gets paid? Will they be shoving each other out of the way? And will they have to race their tapes back to the studio? The novelty will wear off quickly, and you'll have the same folks contributing.

If anything, let the TV talking heads read you the newspaper and then the TV station can share ad revenue with the paper. That way you can say you read the paper without having to put the brain cells to work.

Or just go read People magazine and cruise YouTube.

If Clear Channel or any other company doesn't think it's financially viable to operate a news station in Santa Rosa, that's their choice. And if Joe Public don't like living in a city without local TV news coverage, he can move. That's the consumer's choice.

Feels like a big cattle call for interns.

Franklin said...

Beyond the profit motive, which is obviously a huge factor, part of the goal must be to limit the level of community awareness and discourse. That will please a number of individuals and many more corporations.

While I'm sure the station in question had its share of sleepy puppy stories, it probably also had a few stories about issues with the refineries in the North Bay and the like. Who will wander down there with their cellphone camera to take pictures of a toxic fire or insist on being taken to the safety comptroller? Not many, and none who are objective...

I don't think anyone sees this as forum for independent journalists which means it will end up being an outlet for stories which just barely make the grade (on the Fox curve) as news.

I think the real question is this: Given the general ability of the average individual to critically analyze anything (eg: a drive through menu) will anyone outside academia, the media, and the 'coastal elite' notice or care?

I hope so or we ain't seen nuttin' yet...