Can Television News Be Saved?

Can television news be saved?

Quick answer:  Yes

There is one extremely important reason why you should care, even if you haven’t ever cared about television news.  I’m going to explain all of the issues with TV news and traditional media from where I sit, but first why you should care.  I care because, right now, tv news puts food in my childrens’ mouth and provides for a roof over our heads. You should care, because as tv news works to stay relevant, TV news will have to embrace the model being established by social networks and bloggers, and involve you in the process of a free and open press, giving you a voice that… wait a minute, you already have that voice.  The real reason you should care is because journalists can help you learn how to hold people accountable, how to get access to records that are supposed to be public, and can help you learn why accuracy, fairness, and balance could make what you do so much more powerful.  We can help you most by joining forces with you to help get information in the hands of people that want to know.

But you can help us.  We need help at being social.  “But wait, you talk to people all day long.”  My point is, we talk and talk and talk.  The least social guy you ever knew was the one that wouldn’t shut up and hear what you had to say, or better yet listen.  Remember that one? 

Mom: “I know you can hear me, but are you really listening?” 

Me: “Yes Mom.”

Mom: “Then what did I say?”

The power of the word has always been important.  Arguably, the most important invention in the last 500 years was the printing press.  The press was so important because it gave people a way to share information and opinion with large numbers of people without one on one communication.  The Internet has set the new standard for what can be considered “large numbers” as anyone with a computer can now access the words written by people.  The Internet allows for more than just words, and it gives anyone a voice, not just newspaper editors or newscasters.

TV started into its downfall almost as soon as it started.  For almost half a century, television has focused on bringing you a better picture.  So many resources and billions of dollars have gone in to developing DTV, and soon, you’ll have to have it if you want to watch TV.  This is a perfect example of how TV has pushed its pushed itself towards irrelevance.  Instead of finding ways to reach larger numbers of people, or give larger numbers of people a voice (the reason TV news was better than the paper), we focused on how to make pictures look prettier.

How do we fix it?  We need to stop thinking of this as a fixible situation… for starters.  Stop fixing, start learning, start becoming involved in the communities that we serve.  That means we stop reporting stories the way we traditionally have.  It means we become members of the community and start/facilitate/participate in discussions.  It means we start sharing information that is relevant and important to the communities we serve.  We must stop being so darned protective of information, and start sharing it, with everyone. 

We have started to use social networking to get involved with people in Columbus.  Social Networking tools are a good start, but you wouldn’t (maybe you would) believe how few people see it as important to journalism.  Some people are amused, some are interested, only a couple (in our building) think the tools could be the future of how we do this whole journalism thing.  I certainly think that it has to be a part of how we gather and disseminate information, I just don’t have a great example of how anyone else is doing it. 

Which leads me to my next point; we have to stop playing follow-the-leader.  Why do we only do something when someone else does it and proves that it works?  We are already so far behind the times with new media and social media, that we risk becoming irrelevant all together.  I bet you couldn’t find 8 people in my workplace that know what Web 2.0 means.

DTV is nice, Social is better.  DTV is great for Buckeye games, the Super Bowl, and The Wiggles (yellow looks great on Greg in 1080i), but our society is social by nature and getting more connected with each passing day.  Meanwhile, news media continues to broadcast (clearer pictures) telling the same stories that we’ve told for years.  We know we need to involve more people in our stories, and we’ve tried; but finding someone who is actually affected by the stories we’re talking about is difficult when we start every morning in a conference room at a television station and not at a coffee shop, park, street corner, or community center.  Let’s actually get involved, not just ask people to help us, but actually get to know them.

Remember when your teachers (Mrs. Buckholtz) would put on your report card that you did too much socializing, and you didn’t really know what that meant, but your mom and dad told you they were disappointed?  If only Mom and Dad could have seen 20 years in the future where the kids that were willing to be social anyway were running everything.  Mom, I have news, not sure it’s “breaking news,” but news… you’re socializing.  My Mom is on Facebook.  She was on MySpace before I was.  She uses it all the time to see updates on my children. She’s socializing.  I’m proud of you Mom.

So it’s social journalism that I propose will save my job and the jobs of the people around me.  Social journalism could even make TV news (done on TV and the Web) cool again.  I shouldn’t pretend to know how to bail all television stations out of what many consider to be impending doom.  But I have seen a glimpse of what we could be and how we could really serve people over the last month as our newsroom has jumped on the twitter wagon.  Follow me, so I can connect with you and maybe you can help me figure out how we can stay relevant in your life…




Filed under Social Journalism, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Can Television News Be Saved?

  1. Ryan very good post and insightful. My personal humble opinion is you are doing a good job. In the last few years, I very RARELY watch TV. Now, because of how you use social media, NBC 4 is the first station I turn to.

    Broadcasting the “Breaking News” really gives me a choice to go to your website or turn on the TV. Example, the Mark Dann resignation.

    As well, during the Tornado’s a few weeks ago, it was NBC 4 I turned too.

    Keep pluging away and keep your chin up. You are exploring a new medium for media!


  2. Ryan, congrats on a GREAT first blog post! I agree with you that social media is the answer. To me, all TV news stations’ websites and broadcasts look somewhat alike. But since I’ve been following you and other NBC4 folks on Twitter, I’ve been an NBC4 fan when it comes to watching the news, too. It’s that personal/social connection that makes all the difference. If only more companies would realize this – great to see those who are on the cutting edge like Zappos and NBC4!

  3. I totally agree. So many other professionals I know view the time spent on social media as wasteful. They don’t see the potential or have the desire to be the leader. They want to wait until everyone figures it out, until it is tried and true.

    But imagine the difference between being one of the first 100 who talk to each other, bond, and become leaders vs. the other 1000 that try to join the conversation after the other 100 have bonded. Think how much harder that 1000 will have to work to catch up and integrate.

    I feel that I am already playing catch up with some things, like Twitter. But at the same time, I don’t think anyone else in my industry is really trying to figure out why or if social media matters to us. I think by virtue of us connecting on Twitter, we can say it does matter. It makes professional relationships easier, helps build trust, provides access to new resources, etc.

  4. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see NBC allowing their employees to be on Twitter. Reading your tweets each morning really fuels my day! Kudos to you, Ryan, for embracing the ability and new technologies as they have been proving to be so very powerful in many ways.

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