Terms like “flipper” and “hybrid” were discussed. But the scene was not the Georgia Aquarium or a car dealer. Rather, an Atlanta Press Club luncheon was the site as news directors of the four major local network affiliates formed a panel to discuss how their industry is being affected by economic and digital factors.
“Flipper” is TV jargon for a worker who gets user-generated video online, a rapidly growing sector made popular by YouTube and CNN’s iReport. And “hybrid” is a worker who shoots, edits and writes for his/her own videos. Both are gaining popularity as local TV stations have to cope with a slow economy and more viewers and ad dollars going online. (And you thought newspapers were the only ones with these problems.)
The panelists were Ellen Crooke of WXIA-11, Budd McEntee of WAGA-5, Marian Pittman of WSB-2, and Steve Schwaid of CBS Atlanta News.
But Monica Pearson, the iconic news anchor for WSB who was among the crowd, gave a bit of perspective to all this. “What’s old is new again,” she told the panel. She recalled how she used to shoot and edit her own videos in Louisville, Ky. “It’s a return to the old days.”
Several of the panelists agreed that the so-called hybrid TV journalist is gaining influence. Pittman noted that WSB, Atlanta’s dominant station, is becoming more of a hybrid newsroom. “With multiple deadlines and the Web, people have to do different things.” Schwaid said he is “astounded” how well hybrids have worked at his station.
So-called citizen media is having less of an impact. “There’s not that much out there,” said Schwaid. WXIA’s Crooke noted that some of their best video has been user-generated. “Will it replace journalism? Absolutely not,” she added. WXIA has been perhaps the most innovative of the Atlanta stations recently, putting some of its news meetings online. For a video of Crooke discussing some of the station’s efforts, click here.
(And for another take on the APC session, and video of Monica Pierson, check out the popular “Live apartment fire” blog.)
The Internet’s influence is unmistakable. Pittman said WSB has noted a pattern of “use and watch … how can we preserve our core brand?” Said Schwaid, “We embrace the Web. I don’t think it’ll take over. There is still a thirst for local news. (Television) is still relevant.”
With Pearson and longtime co-anchor John Pruitt among those in attendance, it was interesting that some of the talk turned to the future of anchors in the digital era. “We will always have anchors,” said WAGA’s McEntee. “It’s important to the definition of local TV news.” However, WSB’s Pittman noted that “the financial model has changed. We have to decide the value to the community and the brand.”
McEntee sidestepped a question about anchors’ salaries, saying that it was “too important to them and their families.” Quipped Pittman, “Chicken!”