The New News Medium

This is a update of an earlier post …gl

 

It's not news that online journalism is evolving well beyond words and pictures. What's new is how technology is giving photographers and the visually literate communicators and story tellers an edge in creating and delivering multimedia content. This enhanced journalism gives the Internet a major role as a new news medium. It coincides with new hardware technology developing new tools that journalists will be using to deliver their stories and information to their new medium.

 

BLACK TICKLE STORY PREVIEWS THE FUTURE OF NEWS

 

A story about Black Tickle, Labrador on the Globe & Mail's website on November 10th, while not unlike many stories about the death of rural Newfoundland and Labrador we have been reading in the Canadian media of the past 30 years, gives us a peek at the future of news and how the internet is becoming a new news medium in its own right.  Little did the people of Black Tickle know their role in our technological and media future.

 

What makes this story interesting is not the textual reporting by Oliver Moore but the multi media presentation by Globe & Mail staff photographer Peter Power. Power is a Newfoundlander, from Gander, who worked at the Toronto Star for many years before recently joining the Globe & Mail. Power “gets” both the aesthetic of Newfoundland and the potential of the new media.  His “video” is a well executed blending of still photos, audio, video and text animation that goes far beyond the traditionally separate streams of these media and the standard news video we see on TV. This kind of presentation is the logical extension of the fusion of various media and in the legacy of the cutting edge documentary films by Ken Burns (PBS.org) who in recent years has been using traditional motion picture film, animation techniques and analog technology to produce unique looking films. It is web technology that has allowed the evolution of the technique into the digital realm.

 

MELDING OF MEDIUMS

 

The web is a place for multimedia. Text, unlike in the print media, is the weaker sibling. Visual rules the roost in the multimedia world of the Internet. Visual literacy is as important as textual literacy in order to comprehend visual communications. As newspapers, traditionally run by “word people”, start to figure this out, after many years of flailing about in the digital maelstrom, they are getting a grip on how to use the web as a medium onto itself instead of just a static repository for the material from their dead tree daily editions. Newspapers have been getting their photographers to shoot video and do “slide shows” for their websites for a couple of years but they have never “clicked” and never quite reached their full potential. Power, and his Black Tickle presentation, have taken the next step and shown the full potential of the Internet as a grown up news medium with its own unique abilities that newspapers and TV can't or won't touch.

 

NEW TECHNOLOGY FOR A NEW MEDIA

 

The days of Max Headroom are upon us. An animated cyberpunk broadcast journalist from the 1980’s foreshadowed the “camera to desktop” media world we live with today. Witness the wildly popular Yahoo News project of last year where they hired their first and only war correspondent. Indeed, their first ever staff reporter. In The Hot Zone with Kevin Sites saw Sites equipped with a digital video camera, laptop computer and a portable satellite phone, stuffed in a backpack, travel the worlds “hot spots” reporting with text, still photos, video and audio posted from remote location to the Yahoo News website. The reporting has certainly had its critics in the journalism world, as discussed by veteran journalist, Claude Adams in The Tyee, but the delivery method broke new trails with its ease, simplicity and low cost. It did with one person, a backpack and some gear from any electronics store what previously took major broadcasting corporations hundreds of thousands of dollars and dozens of people to produce. It took global news delivery to a new place.

 

What’s next? Higher quality in smaller packages. Reuters PLC, one of the oldest and most forward thinking news agency out there is already in the next generation. They recently announced a deal with Nokia, the cell phone maker, on the Mobile Journalism Project. They equipped a select group of Reuters’ correspondents with the latest generation of cell phones but “cell phone” is certainly an understatement. The Nokia N95 (Nokia.com) is a global communications device capable of high resolution still photos, audio and video. It also allows word processing and delivery via various communications protocols. GSM, CDMA cell phones, computer modem, Wifi and the usual Internet connections. Reuters clients are now getting text, photos and video from single correspondents at the major news events happening around the world. This how we get images and stories of sinking ships in the Antarctic, desert warfare in Afghanistan and fashion shows in Milan within minutes or hours of them being captured. Compare this to the 1970’s when it took a full week to get film footage of the Viet Nam war from Saigon to the news room in New York.

 

As newspapers see their readership decline  and as an increasingly

connected population turns to the online world for their news and information we will see more sophisticated methods of news gathering and presentation on the web that will be a combination of the traditional mediums of text,  photos, video, audio and animated graphics. This convergence has been a few years coming but the major news organizations could not figure out how to make money at it so there was not a big push to move forward. It was the smaller, more adaptable, news organizations and independent journalists that first took advantage of the quickly evolving technology and became the early adopters. The tools that journalists use get more portable with each new product and global communications via cellular and satellite are reaching even the most remote points on the planet mean near instantaneous delivery of news from anywhere on the globe to our computers or cell phones.

 

Of course, North Americans will first need to get consistant cell phone quality, service and rates on par with Europe, Asia and even Africa before they can be a part of this world on a large scale and at a reasonable price.

One Comment

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