Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Newspaper video: TV for smart people

You'd have to start by acknowledging that Kurt Andersen, a hell of a writer, has a distinctly mixed record as a media prognosticator. Nonetheless, he's making some points in a recent New York article you ought to consider.

In essence, the premise is this: don't write off newspapers because you think what they're doing won't last; after all, they might evolve. (We've talked about evolution before on this blog, you may recall: "Evolution, revolution & hand grenades," and "Weather report: damp".

For instance, he takes a look at a cable news show loopping endlessly over Anna Nicole Smith and postulates:

Given the dumb-and-dumber choices, I can easily imagine newspapers’ Web-video portals becoming the TV-journalism destinations of choice for smart people—that is, in the 21st century, the dominant nineteenth-century journalistic institution, newspapers, might beat the dominant twentieth-century institution, TV, at the premium part of its own game.

Later, he talks about a couple of newspaper-to-video experiments that work:

Online video can also exploit the “long tail” in ways TV can’t. There may not be many of us who want to watch a hep Romanian mayor justify prejudice against Gypsies (the Post), or Sarah Vowell’s illustrated ode to the architect Louis Sullivan (the Times), but I adored both. If documentaries are hard to get shown in theaters and on TV, imagine the obstacles faced by serious shorts. But now, in the online archives of U.S. papers are thousands of videos, among them dozens of exceptional short docs, more like miniature Frontlines or public-radio-with-pictures than like network-news segments, available anytime. This is video-journalism-on-demand years ahead of digital television: Because I elect to watch a story, then see it on a computer screen eighteen inches from my face, I focus in a way TV doesn’t require.
And later:

[Washington Post reporter Travis] Fox sees himself as a sort of quiet revolutionary, eager to overthrow the ancien rĂ©gime: “The possibility to replace television is in sight.” Ann Derry, the Times’ video No. 2, enthusiastically but very calmly says, “We are reinventing journalism.”

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