TV News – a phoenix rising or falling?

Just opened an email from a rookie TV videojournalist – his job went up in smoke this past Friday (1/26/07). Santa Rosa television station KFTY has cancelled its two evening news shows and laid off the thirteen staffers who worked on them, according to the Press Demoncrat.

My young friend was grateful for his time on staff (it was his first broadcast news job) and said he’d learned a lot about how fast broadcasting is changing.

The drastic changes echo those taking place in news and media organizations around the country. They are swept by the Internet and related technologies that have revolutionized how people select and exchange news, a process formerly directed largely by staffs at TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines. (Press Demoncrat 1/27/07)

Adaptation is the name of the game…and I’m sure that VJ’s and other journalists will adapt and find new ways to ensure that what goes out as news adheres to journalistic standards of ethics and neutrality. My hope is that this is not just another case of pandering to the public in an attempt to keep viewers. According to station manager, John Burgess,

“In my opinion, we’re all looking at better ways of truly touching our customers and I think for the television industry, if you’re not engaging your viewers and Web site users in two way-interactivity, you’re not going to be growing, especially over the next three to 10 years.” (Press Democrat 1/27/07)

Plans include a public affairs program, viewer-generated video, and use of “citizen journalists.”

My heart goes out to the staff…I went through a similar situation in 1980 when KQED in San Francisco laid off its entire news staff for the “Evening Edition” and replaced it with a yoga show. In our case it was gut-wrenching, but we all moved on to other jobs in broadcasting. Those who lost their jobs Friday may move on…but will have to keep looking over their shoulders, waiting for the ax to fall again.

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