Thursday, February 15, 2007

Santa Rosa TV Station Forces Citizens to Become Journalists

In a stunning move of utter insanity (or is it blatant cynial selfishness) by big media broadcast outlet hog Clear Channel, the news staff of KFTY-TV in Santa Rosa have been sacked and the citizens have been told to have at it...

Apparently, it was the advertisers that weren't happy with the nightly news broadcast that made Clear Channel's Steve Spendlove decide to dump the whole shebang in the lap of the community...

Some are calling this a "bold experiment" in citizen journalism.... or is it more just an outsourcing to low-paid labor to make the pockets Clear Channel a bit deeper? Spendlove said the "business model" of the station wasn't working with a professional crew, but when asked about the business model for the citizen journalism effort, Steve said it hasn't determined whether residents who submit programming will be paid, or whether the station will feature hard-edged investigations into corruption or scandals...

Hmm...so Clear Channel's going to ask citizen to do the jobs of professionals and probably/perhaps/more than likely not pay them anything for their efforts. After all, isn't seeing one's name on the tv screen enough??

So, what does Spendlove really think of citizen journalism: "I have my own silly little term," Spendlove said. "Local content harvesting."

Gives me the feeling of a being a piece of journalistic Soylent Green...

I find Clear Channel's move to be wickedly cynical--not a bold experiment. As stated, the citizens were not clamouring to interact with the station--it's the advertisers who were unhappy with the programming. The citizens weren't saying they hated the news broadcast--it was the advertisers. The advertisers really don't speak for the citizens, they speak for themselves. Maybe there was more to the newscast that needed refurbishing--maybe it needed to be more, not less professional...or maybe it's in an area that is so media saturated that it was becoming ineffective for the advertisers to be positioned there. But for a huge mega-controlling company like Clear Channel to let go of the reins and tell citizens to run the thing--without any clear business model or even any plan to perhaps guide folks in the ways of visual news reporting--just leaves me with an awful taste in my mouth...

Further reading: At his Digital Deliverance blog, news vet Vin Crosbie calls the press on their frenzy to incorporate citizen journalism:
Yes, too many newsroom have become remote from, and condescending to, readers. Letting readers comment or converse in newspaper (web)pages is a much needed remedy. Yes, it's great when citizens who posses a particular expertise help report stories about that topic. Likewise, when citizens who witness a news event contribute their first-hand experiences. And, yes, it's heartening to believe that citizens themselves might be capable of reporting a significant portion of the news. Don't get me wrong: The concept behind 'citizen journalism' is noble, much like Karl Marx's vision of pure communism or Jean-Jacque Rousseau's vision of natural goodness or Ayn Rand's vision of objective individualism.

However, I live in the world of real people. It's hard enough to find a professional journalist who can sit through 52 weeks of zoning board hearings and write intelligently about that, nonetheless finding an amateur who doesn't have a vested interest or axe to grind and who can sit through and objectively write about those hearings.

Too much of what's being cloaked or prattled about in our industry as 'citizen journalism' isn't journalism at all and a lot of it is simply b*llsh#t. I'm sorry, but I'm tired of all this groupthink. We need objective reporting about this topic, too.


Yes, I'm sick of it too, Vin. I'm sick of the hype that says citizen journalism is "all the rage" when only a handful of people across the country are doing it, and only a subset of that are doing it as a concerted and journalistic effort. I'm sick of cynical news agencies wanting to "harvest" user generated content, absorb online discussions to try to make them into "news" for some other reason than including people in their conversaion. I'm sick an industry that doesn't want to develop people into top-notch journalists like it did in the old days that it loves to allude to so very much....

Further, the People have just begun to express themselves online, to have conversations out in the open and among more than a few friends at the bar, diner, or kitchen table. We are only now learning how to use media. Some folks are good at it, some aren't. We need time and the freedom to develop our own projects, learn to use media on our own timetable, not be forced into it by news agencies--both print and broadcast--because of some kind of hype and falling revenues.

Perhaps the worst thing to happen to journalism was corporate ownership. First, it dismanted local bureaus and rendered most newspapers irrelevant to local readers. Now, it's dismantling the newsroom, piece by employable piece, and and farming its work out to underpaid or uncompensated sub-contractors, all the while trying to make the subcontractors--citizen journalists--believe they're needed to keep afloat something that doesn't even exisit any more (the local newspaper.)

Think about it.

, , , , ,

2 comments:

Vin Crosbie said...

Tish, I couldn't agree more with your comments about the Santa Rose station.

Anonymous said...

Well, the KFTY advertisers are going to be even more unhappy, since the news was about the only thing I could stand to watch on the station. If there was an important local story, I had some chance of hearing about it in a timely manner on their news broadcast (the local papers sometimes have a two-day delay). The rest of their schedule is hours of infomercials and stuff like Judge Judy, Entertainment Tonight and syndicated sitcoms. Why bother to watch?
This also makes me think Clear Channel is suffering indigestion after gorging itself on TV and radio stations. Time to sell their stock?