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TV Journalists, Welcome to the Future

5/15/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern



Author Information
Heaton is the president of Donata Communications, a Nashville-based consulting company. This essay is excerpted from The Media Center at the American Press Institute.

A recent posting on one of the industry bulletin boards dealt with layoffs at yet another TV station. One participant asked, “Are they really losing that much money?” The answer? Yes, they are. Everybody is, and it is a reality.

My work as a new-media consultant provides me with insight into the economic problems facing the local-TV industry. These problems are very real, and what you think about them doesn't matter. What does matter is your reaction, and I hear two constant refrains that are deeply troubling.

One, TV newspeople are reluctant to get involved in working on the Web site for their stations. While I'm sure a lack of knowledge contributes to this, there is a sense that newsroom employees view the Internet as a bastard stepchild. If true, this is appallingly short-sighted and extremely self-destructive. You are contributing to the demise of your industry by not personally gaining the skills necessary to compete in a multimedia world. Moreover, you are accelerating your own demise. Denying the realities of the shift from broadcasting to the Internet only accelerates your own obsolescence.

Where is the passion to get out in front of where the industry is going? TV newspeople are generally curious and intelligent, so this puzzles me. If you're not moving in that direction, you're moving in the opposite direction, for there is no standing still in this rapidly changing environment.

Two, TV newspeople are reluctant to assist in the economic well-being of their companies. This is a very dangerous time for broadcasting, and yet you are concerned with your résumé tape and growing your broadcasting career while the foundation upon which it is built is crumbling. Again, you are supposedly intelligent people. Why would you do that?

I cringe when I read the threads at various industry discussion boards, for they reveal a group of people oblivious to reality, taken with their own importance and cavalier in their attitudes toward others. Topics like “What's a good second- or third-station market?” drive me up the wall, because they reveal a core belief that the career ladder is unaffected by economic pressures on the industry, that everything is better farther up the ladder. It isn't.

I'm not talking about pay cuts and such. I'm talking about efficiencies and hard work. You are in the same boat as your employer. You can bail water, or you can be dead weight. Which will it be?

Jobs are not jobs anymore; they're just points on a northbound scale, all built on the notion that somehow we're doing these companies a favor by allowing them to benefit from our magnificence. Somehow, somewhere, newspeople have been given the idea that this is the way the business operates. Who is originating such thought?

Given the economic challenges facing the whole industry, it is not surprising that most newsrooms today are functioning in a defensive posture.

There is a whole new world growing right before our eyes. The problems of the industry belong to everyone, and only by working together will we find our potential in this new world.



Author Information
Heaton is the president of Donata Communications, a Nashville-based consulting company. This essay is excerpted from The Media Center at the American Press Institute.

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