iPhone and Androids are the primary tool for working in the multimedia world. “Technology not only allows us to deliver more stories, but also to deliver more incarnations of those stories, from one-sentence summaries on Twitter to long-form video pieces in our newscasts, and everything in between,” says Liz Haltiwanger, ND at KKTV Colorado Springs.
When KMOV St. Louis reporter Maggie Crane arrived last month at a suburban home to cover the end of a dramatic police chase, the first thing she did was snap a few pictures of the scene on her iPhone and email them back to the station’s Web producers to post online.
“We have [an informal] policy where we take pictures first and ask questions later,” Crane says. “Before I even walk in and ask what happened.”
Within the next 15 minutes or so, Crane also made sure KMOV’s mobile application, as well as her Twitter and Facebook followers, had word that something big was brewing — news she updated continually as the story unfolded. This is all in addition to crafting a story for the next newscast and working with her photographer to capture interviews with cops and neighbors.
It’s a lot to juggle. But Crane says she’s got the system down pat. “It’s become second nature.”
And she certainly is not alone. Crane’s duty to capture her stories for TV, the Web, mobile and social media — all in one fell swoop — is typical of what’s expected of many broadcast journalists today.
“Technology not only allows us to deliver more stories, but also to deliver more incarnations of those stories, from one-sentence summaries on Twitter to long-form video pieces in our newscasts, and everything in between,” says Liz Haltiwanger, news director at KKTV, Gray’s CBS affiliate in Colorado Springs, Colo. (DMA 90).
“In the world of Facebook and Twitter, our viewers and users have come to expect information immediately, especially in breaking news situations.
That means the deadline is now,” she says. “We are quickly getting to the point where our reporters can immediately deliver content to any platform, including live television.”
Dave Michela, a former TV newsman now with the Web platform purveyor Internet Broadcasting, says generating content for multiple media is part of working in the digital world, in which Web departments now act more as content curators than as creators.
Reporters have to simultaneously feed the new media and chase the story, he says. “Those are two separate tasks and it’s difficult to do both at the same time.”
TV news operations “in many ways are trying to push the envelope” by requiring TV journalists to take on new media responsibilities, Michela says.
“Some [stations] are more traditional and some are more advanced in their process,” he says. At minimum, stations across the board today require reporters to repurpose their on-air stories for the Web — and reporters should brace for more, he says.
“Unfortunately, I think it has evolved to the point where they realize the lifespan of the TV-only reporter is diminishing,” Michela says. “There is a need for them to disseminate information on any platform. If you can’t do that, your days in the field are probably going to be numbered.”
Smartphones — iPhone and Androids — are the primary tool for working in the multimedia world.
The handy devices let reporters capture photos and video and write text — and send it all back to newsroom Web desks within minutes. They also are inexpensive enough that stations often provide them to their entire news teams.
The quality of video produced on smartphones does not compare with the footage recorded on the professional camcorders. But broadcasters say that doesn’t matter much when it comes to getting consumers the news they want quickly.
“The good news is people will accept information in a much more raw form on certain platforms,” says KKTV’s Haltiwanger.
Getting reporters to produce for multiple platforms is one of the goals of the Scripps’ four-year “Newsroom of the Future” effort, which included training all reporters and photographers to be multimedia journalists or MMJs.
Reporters learned to shoot and edit video. Photographers learned to write, says Chip Mahaney, Scripps TV division director of digital content.
That means meeting deadlines for digital outlets as well as TV. Morning is a peak time for mobile traffic, he says, while primetime for the Web is the middle of the day.
“The workflow has changed significantly to get that reporting in practice,” he says. “The culture has changed and the expectations are clear.”
The new Scripps practice of producing content “throughout the day” is evident at WFTS, the group’s ABC affiliate in Tampa, Fla., where the Web producers work with journalists in the field, who send in a near constant stream of photos, video and text mostly from smartphones for the Web and social media, says Blake Sabatinelli, executive producer of new media.
Brad Davis, a photographer before becoming an MMJ, was assigned to help the news team get live shots from the Tampa Bay Rays opening day game in April.
In between shoots, however, Davis was also charged with finding a separate story to record on his smartphone and getting it back to the station for use on its mobile app. Davis ultimately found and filed a story about kids posting pictures of their heads on players’ bodies.
“We needed something from the biggest event of the day,” Sabatinelli says. “We had it up in five minutes.”
WFTS’s online and mobile outlets are prolific, posting about 100 stories a day. The TV journalists contribute about a dozen of those stories and Web producers write another 25 or so, he says. The rest come from wire services.
Making sure each of those stories gets distributed via the appropriate platform, as well as editing and posting them, requires a lot of juggling. But attempts to regulate the process by establishing hard and fast Web deadlines simply didn’t work , Sabatinelli says.
Instead, the news team has gotten into the groove of filing new media content on a rolling basis with the understanding that the journalists are expected to “get it done, make sure it’s accurate and make sure the broadcast package really sings,” he says.
But “not at the cost of being incorrect,” Sabatinelli hastens to add. “Our accuracy is the only currency we have in the news business.”
It’s a similar story in Atlanta.
Thanks to iPhones, reporters at WSB, Cox’s ABC affiliate, were able to file live shots covering last year’s rare ice storm from places ENG vehicles couldn’t get to. And a WSB reporter in China produced a story by holding the smartphone in front of him and then emailing the file to the station.
Don Bailey, WSB’s director of new technology, said the piece was used on air. “It’s not the preferred method, but it works.”
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