Sunday, March 28, 2010

#media ::: Broadcasting in the Vernacular

There are two criteria for what leads a newscast - immediacy or relevance. But to make that newscast UNDERSTOOD there needs to be  common "language ground"...

NPR has come under fire from some prominent bloggers when changes in language applying to news writing and reporting were implemented. What these bloggers are overlooking is the way that the news business has changed and continues to evolve. Because of the internet, the skeleton supporting the structure of the news industry has cracked. Many newspapers have already fallen, an exodus that began two decades or more ago when evening papers all across the USA began folding.

It started with what people have come to believe to be their RIGHT to obtain FREE information over the web. We hear it all the time: municipalities striving toward "free broadband or wi-fi for all." Much ado about rights (and semantics). Like it or not, times have changed forever, not for better, as noted on Michelle Malkin's blog by guest poster LaShawn Barber:
"Our rights have expanded to include the right to health care and housing we can’t afford, the right of privacy to kill unborn babies, and the right to not be offended. In 2010, these rights are on the same level as the right to free speech, free exercise of religion, and free association."
By the way, a few years back, Michelle Malkin would supply her blog readers with passwords to read articles on certain newspaper websites that required registration. That's like holding the newspaper box on the corner open so the neighbors could all grab copies of th epaper. I am writing a book about the decline of the newspaper industry. after contacting a few publishers who assured me no one would be interested in reading it, I decided to offer it FREE as a FREE PDF DOWNLOAD. It’s not finished yet, but my intention is to make this book as FREE as a book could ever possibly be. “If you paid for this document, you paid too much” is going to be prominently displayed on page one! I’ll announce when it’s ready on my blog.

In the 1860's newspapers were ahead of the curve. What a thrill it must have been for someone in, for instance, Carson City NV to receive three local papers from three traveling friends: one from California, one from New York and one from Chicago! Even month-old newspapers made for fascinating reading.

Fast forward to the 1960's, when days-old newspapers from distant cities or even month-old papers from other countries made for fascinating reading. The 21st Century internet has brought that type of fascination into a real-time experience... it's gotten to the point where, if it happened yesterday, nobody cares! We want the news of right now!

Newspapers are presently doing what General Motors did for years: try to design a new body for an old model: the old business model just isn't going to fly with the public, no matter how glitzy the exterior shell. Not the answer!

As for the reporters covering the news, they were lucky to have one story published a day, if at all. Now they can blog and tweet as many times a day as they like. News coverage has evolved and reporters embrace the technology: but TV and newspaper newsrooms and managers are lost. They don't know how to deal with it.

Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet recently broke.(1)

Now, let's get back to the NPR story: the network has introduced new initiatives designed to provide a greater sense of immediacy and texture to the news product. You might call it "getting on the same page" with other media outlets, because if Network A is calling something "this" but Network B calls it "that" - the public ends up confused. People are sometimes referred to by media types as "sheeple" - so language (semantics) is a big factor in dishing out news and information in doses measured such that it can be easily understood or "absorbed" by the average individual, whose attention span is about 55 seconds on the net (that's the average amount of time a visitor spends on any given website or blog). We've become insatiable gluttons for information to the point we eat it up and puke it out faster than our fingers can find it on our keyboards. Moral: DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!

(1) "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable" by Clay Shirky

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