Tag Archives: content center

Months in the Making and Now We Know: WNBC’s Vision of the Hyperlocal News of the Future: Swishpans and Look-lives.

WNBC/NYC Prepares to Go Nonstop

WNBC/NYC Prepares to Go "Nonstop"

I don’t know why I’m surprised, but I am. The New York Observer has obtained an internal memo on the “imminent” launch of WNBC/NY’s long-awaited (or should I say long-delayed…) 24-hour hyperlocal channel, which we now know will be dubbed (ready for it?)…

“New York Nonstop.”  (Ooooooh! Shivers.)

Sure, the name’s a showstopper. (..sigh..) But the content oozing “nonstop” out of the “Content Center” at 30 Rock may seem a bit more tired, especially given the buildup and buzz:  “NBC executives first announced their plans to launch the digital, cable channel back in May of 2008. Initially, the plan was to roll out the channel (which, at the time, various news reports described as a potential challenger to Time Warner’s NY1) by the fall of 2008. But the channel’s debut has since been delayed a number of times.  What exactly the channel will look like has been a hot topic of speculation in recent months among local TV newshounds in New York. Now the wait is almost over,” writes the NYO.

observer_man

And what have the hyperlocal visionaries been cooking up all this time?  Well, to me, it sounds a lot like a local news consulting reporting circa 1994:  “Think ‘look live,’  (“I’m standing on line with some people buying lottery tix,” and then walk down the line talking to people all in one take. Simple. Easy.) Think swish pans, dutch angles- but try to make it look different,” according to an internal email written by WNBC’s Michael Horowicz and printed in the Observer.  And yes, “look live” was in quotation marks, as if it was some kind of emerging News 2.0 concept reporters might not be familiar with.  Oh my.  

To add to the stale smell of “been there, done that,” the memo leads off with an 80’s reference.  I kid you not: “The debut of New York Nonstop is imminent. It is, as Magic Johnson called it in the late 1980’s, “Showtime.” [excessively snarky comment redacted]  

Having just watched “Final Edition,” the video produced by multimedia journalists at the late Rocky Mountain News, the in-house description of “New York Nonstop” sounds so jarringly lame.  “Sometimes, your contribution will just be a series of soundbites butted together,” the memo reads.  It urges reporters (or are they content producers over there now?) to make sure their pieces don’t look like traditional newscasts, for fear people will “click away.”  Well, I could be wrong, but I think the objective might be trying to be MORE creative and unexpected than traditional local newscasts–to take ADVANTAGE of new media to do something DIFFERENT, like “Final Edition.”  Instead, it sounds like New York Nonstop will be nonstop filler, walk and talk look-lives and butted sound bites and “oh, crap, did you remember to feed something to “Nonstop?”

What Kind of Nonstop Content from the Content Center?

What Kind of Nonstop Content from the Content Center?

I hope I’m wrong.  I hope it looks fresh and I hope it’s inventive and interesting.  But aside from the musty scent of decades-old newsroom “do walking standups” memos, there’s also a sharp smell of panic in that memo.  The stakes are high, and local tv news isn’t fighting from a strong position these days, especially at WNBC, where most of the strength in their deep bench is now laid off and looking for work.  “If you can’t feed your piece in early, I need to know why. You can feed on your laptop while your shooter is covering the news conference. If everyone were to feed in their contribution at the end of the day, then our mission wil have failed. They’ll turn it into a lifestyle channel and we’ll have one less platform in which to showcase our work, and you know what will happen next. I cannot overemphasize this point,” Horowicz writes.  “If it looks like a newscast, we’re dead. It will also look out of place compared to all the other content on the channel. It is within our power to make this channel the talk of the town… in a good way.”

It certainly is within their power to do it different and to showcase creative talent and become an example of how local tv news will stay relevant by embracing new media, new ways to tell stories, and new audiences.  Or, it could be the talk of the town… in a bad way.

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Time Has Told… The Era of the One Person Crew Is Upon Us

Mitch Roberts/WKRN VJ and Anchor

Mitch Roberts/WKRN VJ and Anchor

It’s always educational to take a step back, turn around, and look at where we’ve been.  It helps to see where we’ve come from, and how we’ve gotten to this place.  In thinking about the spread of–call ’em what you will, one man bands, all-platform journalists, multimedia journalists, backpack journalists–single person crews, I looked back at the debut of the form, if you will.  The early reactions to the off-Broadway version of the show that’s now getting decidedly mixed reviews, but somehow selling lots and lots of tickets to news managers and corporate suits looking to find a way–any way–to cut costs and keep the profit in local news.

The first station group to go “VJ,” as they called it, was Young Broadcasting, which put cameras on reporters’ shoulders at WKRN/Nashville and KRON/San Francisco, copying a news-on-the-cheap model that had seen success elsewhere, notably at outfits like New York’s local cable newser, NY1.  Variety wrote about the “Crew Cut in News Biz” in 2005, quoting a WKRN anchor: “It’s like they took the rules here and hucked them out the window.”

Steve Schwaid/CBS Atlanta

Steve Schwaid/CBS Atlanta

A lot of rules have gone out that window, especially lately.  In addition to the expansion of one man banding to stations like WUSA/DC and WNBC/NYC, WGNX/Atlanta news director Steve Schwaid recently updated his Facebook profile to read:  “Steve is looking for one person bands – send dvds to me at CBS Atlanta.”  The whole stations, he says, won’t be going OPB;  he says “there will always need to be some working in teams and some can work by themselves…back to the future – we worked like this when I worked at whio in the late 70s.”

The mere suggestion of one person field crews drew fire on Facebook, with one person commenting on Schwaid’s profile page, “Nice BS-ing around the reality. One person does 2 times the work for less pay. That is the reality.”  Schwaid responded:  “hey, the reality is the business model as we know it is dramatically changing…so you can be working for the last company that made the buggy whips or looking ahead…I prefer looking ahead.”

Is KPIX Next?

Is KPIX Next?

And he’s clearly not the only one looking ahead and seeing lots more reporters with cameras on their shoulders (or photographers reporting, however you want to look at it).  Word is KPIX/San Francisco is bringing the one person crew into the mix, and some say it will soon show at NBC O&O’s like WRC/DC, and WMAQ/Chicago as they undergo the “Content Center” transformation.  (So, in DC, you’d have a Content Center competing against an Information Center?)

Is there any way to argue now that this isn’t happening and won’t keep spreading?  Did naysayers suggest the three-person crew would never end?  (before my time)  And what, pray tell, is the union strategy in all of this?

As the Nashville anchor said waaaaaaay back in ’05 (remember the good old days, when we didn’t fear for our jobs every minute of every day?), the rules, they’re getting “hucked” out the window.

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WNBC/NY Newsers Party in Midtown: "Severance Fest '09"


Yeah.  It wasn’t your typical going away party.  As detailed in the New York Observer’s The Media Mob column, WNBC/NY newsers gathered at an Irish bar in midtown recently to send off a group of some of Channel 4’s best and brightest;  not headed to bigger and better things, just headed “in a different direction,” as the ludicrous management cliche goes.

“In the days leading up to the party, some staffers jokingly referred to it as a ‘Wake 4 NY and a ‘gathering of the recently departed.’ Others took to calling it ‘Severence-Fest 2009.'”  As the once-mighty WNBC has transformed in recent months from a team of titans to an ever-more-anxious group of survivors in the “Content Center,” the bold-faced names that once populated the place have been picked off, one by one.  

“By the time Friday night rolled around, everyone needed a stiff drink, went the thinking. And in the end, despite the recent gloominess at WNBC-4, Friday night’s party turned into a jovial affair, according to several attendees. The cash bar, located in the basement of Legends 33, was packed by 7:30 p.m., and the party didn’t break up until 3:30 a.m. By Monday morning, photos of the revelry were already making their way onto Facebook,” the Observer reports.

Jay DeDapper

Jay DeDapper

Recently laid off political reporter Jay DeDapper served as an impromptu emcee, and kept it positive, but told the paper the station New York had come to know over the last few decades as solid, serious, and staffed with veteran New Yorkers, has ceased to exist.  “It was more of a reunion and a goodbye. We put the dot at the end of the sentence. News Channel 4 is over.”  (DeDapper, though, is not.  He’s taken his show on the web.)

“Everything that we did, all the Emmys we won, all the great stories and series we did, that’s done,” he added. “There may be great stuff in the future with the new group of people. We’re just not going to be a part of it. We had what we had. Now it’s time to move on.”

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WNBC/NY Newsers Party in Midtown: “Severance Fest ’09”


Yeah.  It wasn’t your typical going away party.  As detailed in the New York Observer’s The Media Mob column, WNBC/NY newsers gathered at an Irish bar in midtown recently to send off a group of some of Channel 4’s best and brightest;  not headed to bigger and better things, just headed “in a different direction,” as the ludicrous management cliche goes.

“In the days leading up to the party, some staffers jokingly referred to it as a ‘Wake 4 NY and a ‘gathering of the recently departed.’ Others took to calling it ‘Severence-Fest 2009.'”  As the once-mighty WNBC has transformed in recent months from a team of titans to an ever-more-anxious group of survivors in the “Content Center,” the bold-faced names that once populated the place have been picked off, one by one.  

“By the time Friday night rolled around, everyone needed a stiff drink, went the thinking. And in the end, despite the recent gloominess at WNBC-4, Friday night’s party turned into a jovial affair, according to several attendees. The cash bar, located in the basement of Legends 33, was packed by 7:30 p.m., and the party didn’t break up until 3:30 a.m. By Monday morning, photos of the revelry were already making their way onto Facebook,” the Observer reports.

Jay DeDapper

Jay DeDapper

Recently laid off political reporter Jay DeDapper served as an impromptu emcee, and kept it positive, but told the paper the station New York had come to know over the last few decades as solid, serious, and staffed with veteran New Yorkers, has ceased to exist.  “It was more of a reunion and a goodbye. We put the dot at the end of the sentence. News Channel 4 is over.”  (DeDapper, though, is not.  He’s taken his show on the web.)

“Everything that we did, all the Emmys we won, all the great stories and series we did, that’s done,” he added. “There may be great stuff in the future with the new group of people. We’re just not going to be a part of it. We had what we had. Now it’s time to move on.”

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WMAQ/Chicago to Get the “Content Center” Treatment

If you like what they’ve been doing with WNBC/NY, you’ll love what’s in store for WMAQ/Chicago. WMAQ GM Frank Whittaker told staff yesterday that news producers, writers and editors would be required to re-apply for their jobs; the new jobs will be “multi-faceted,” with titles like “platform manager” and “content producer,” and the Chicago Tribune200px-wmaqtv reports it’s all based on the “content center” format unveiled in New York.

“A writer now has to write, an editor now has to edit,” Whittaker said. “These new jobs are going to require multiple skills. You’ll have to write, edit, you’ll have to know how to send a story to the Web, order graphics and design graphics for the story you’re working on,” reports the Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal, whose sources tell him there’s plenty of worry the new multiplatform model may mean layoffs or reduced salaries: “Privately, some current WMAQ staff members expressed concern that the most experienced – and most expensive staff members – would be vulnerable in the 21st century makeover. There also are fears that someone who is particularly good with a skill such as writing or editing might not be as adept at something else with which they have less, little or no experience.”

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Fearing the Backpack? Here’s the Skinny on Going “DJ”

Longtime Backpacker Kevin Sites

Longtime Backpacker Kevin Sites


Yeah, sure, you can sit in the newsroom and bitch and moan with co-workers about how sure you are that “it’ll never happen here,” but odds are, the longer you stay in local tv news, the more likely it is that somebody at some point is going to hand you a small camera and laptop and ask you to do it all yourself. We used to call ’em one-man-bands, now you hear “multimedia journalist” or “digital journalist.” And it’s not just for small markets anymore. CNN calls them “all-platform” journalists, WNBC’s “Content Center,” of course, is modeled on the MMJ format, and WUSA in Washington used multimedia journalists on the biggest of big local stories: the Inauguration of Barack Obama.

NBC's Mara Schiavocampo

NBC's Mara Schiavocampo

Deborah Potter, whose NewsLab is mandatory daily reading, has a great piece up on advancingthestory (companion to the book of the same name) about how backpackers like NBC’s Mara Schiavocampo are getting the story–and getting themselves on franchise media titans like the NBC Nightly News. Even if the idea of it gives you sudden rush of thoughts like, “how bad could PR really be?” this post is worth a look.

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Jay DeDapper’s Still Forcing NY Pols to “Get Real”

Ex WNBC/NY political correspondent Jay DeDapper, released this month in yet another offloading of experienced talent at the “content center” has not, it turns out, gone gentle into that good night.  DeDapper, smart and savvy, has turned his personal website, jaydedapper.com,

Jay DeDapper

Jay DeDapper

into “Get Real with Jay DeDapper,” a site devoted to turning the screws on the ever-so-screwturn-deserving pols in Albany, but he’s also got his sights set on politicians everywhere:  “Get Real is based in New York so we’ll split our focus between national and New York news looking at politics, government, business, and other big stories. If you see a story or detect some serious BS give us a shout and we’ll get on it. Change is supposedly in the air. Let’s see how that works out,” he says.

DeDapper doesn’t dwell on his unceremonious departure from WNBC, saying only in a pithy Q&A on the site, “Q:  Why aren’t you on TV anymore?   A: Patience.”

Check out Jay’s site here.

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