New Order to Network Television Journalism

The Radio-Television Digital News Foundation’s First Amendment Leadership award was given to the President of ABC News days after he announced a reorganization of the network news operation. David Westin sent an email to ABC employees telling them 25-percent of the news division’s 1400 members would lose their jobs. Voluntary buy out packages had already been offered to many according to the Los Angeles Times. ABC is closing all United States bureaus except Washington and laying off half of the networks domestic correspondents. They’ll be replaced with a dozen “digital journalists” or “backpack journalists.”

Westin told the digital news organization, that changed its name to Radio Television Digital News Association/Foundation late last year to agree with the times, “I can see no greater challenge to the First Amendment than the threats that are being faced by so many of our news organizations…threats to their ability to have the wherewithal to employ reporters and support them with the resources that they need."

So the future in ABC’s crystal ball is new media technology. The economy has certainly made world class organizations like ABC consider other and new ways to produce their product. The network has already deployed “digital journalists” of sort on news assignments. One man or two men bands with laptop computers, digital video camcorders, and accessories will cover most stories for ABC in the future. The concept of backpack journalism is very old. Editor and Publisher magazine detailed the practice years ago.

Given Westin’s statement to the news director’s fraternity the sad state of the economy is driving his embrace of digital media technology and reduction in human resources. It is best summed by ABC anchor Bill Weir, who shot and edited some of his own work in Afghanistan recently. Weir told the LA Times “…it can be done. Hopefully, we can come out on the other side of this and keep doing our work in a more efficient, nimble way. Because if we don’t change now, maybe the entire place goes."

Next, Broadcast Newsroom Computing examines the Poytner Institutes’ webinar on using smart phones to cover the news.

James Rowe

Rowe and Company, LLC


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