Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best and worst of the decade: Top 10 positive things in broadcasting

While there wasn't much good to say about the business in the last ten years, a few things have managed to creep through the dark clouds and provide a ray of hope. Now, if the empty suits and beancounters can stay out of the way, maybe some real journalists can save the business.

Here goes:

1. Skype

A favorite with beancounters, this system of doing live shots will probably be the death knell of microwave and satellite trucks. And in the process, hopefully save a bunch of jobs. Let's say a ND needs a new truck. He can spend six figures, or buy a bunch of laptops. With the savings he can hopefully hire (or not fire) a bunch of newspeople. As the technology gets better, more and more stations will go in this direction.

2. The DVR

Never has taping a local newscast been so easy. The DVR is becoming more commonplace in households, and makes time shifting a breeze. It's easier to watch stuff via the DVR than on the Internet. The downside is that you can also breeze through the commercials incredibly fast. Look for more "product placement" and ads that actually appear during newscasts (sponsored crawls, weather maps, etc.)

3. More opportunities for young people in big markets

Experience is wonderful, but let's face it, it doesn't take ten years to learn how to knock out a terrific package. Some young people are naturals and whip smart. Nice to see those who are truly special make it up the ladder a lot quicker than my generation.

4. Downsizing of newscasts

By this I mean cutting newscasts that really had no business taking up air time. When a small market has a newscast at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, it just dilutes the product. Fortunately some stations have realized this and stopped thinning out their stories.

5. Consultants are fading away

The easiest way for a News Director to cut the budget is by eliminating the consulting services. While some consultants are very good, and a few even taught me a lot, by and large they simply tell you what you already know and cost a lot of money that can be better spent on newsroom personnel. They're melting like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz.

6. Young people are becoming more sarcastic at an early age

It used to take years for people new to the business to get jaded and disillusioned. Now, bada bing, six months and you realize you're a hamster on a corporate wheel. Kids can see the puppet strings in a short time. Welcome to the party, pal.

7. A few stations ditch the one man band

It absolutely makes my day when I hear about a station smart enough to realize this is a bad idea.

8. Networks are more careful when calling elections

After that fiasco in 2000, the battle to be first rather than right got reversed on election nights.

9. Some stations starting ditching contracts for everyone

A Southerner once told me, "You ride a horse longer with loose reins" and this little bit of wisdom filtered down to a few newsrooms that realized putting 22 year old people under three year contracts is a ridiculous idea. Putting them under any contract is just plain silly, as kids spend too much time worrying about contracts ending and timing a new job. Managers finally realized contracts can work both ways... you can get stuck with a bad person for several years. Until you know someone's track record, contracts are a bad idea. And they often chase away talented people.

10. Finally, people began to appreciate the fact that photogs are the most important people in any news operation

And a lot of people didn't know that until they were gone.

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