When mapping the transformative effects of technology on media, we often need look no further than the reporting of news.
News delivers a core human need – to be informed. It can bring a nation together during times of woe whilst holding powerful bodies and individuals to account. It is the local gossip. A stage where careers are born and governments fold. We rely on it, too much at times. We trust it, again too much at times. Like all mediums we have an insatiable appetite for it and in today’s world it flows from any number of sources – morning television, radio, the newspaper, the news site, bleep bleep on the mobile, RSS, twitter feeds, local news, national news, international news, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
The news has a hold on us and not necessarily a healthy hold. Just watch the next ITV evening broadcast. I suspect you will hear the words and terms – disaster, tragedy, loss, breakdown, global scale, mark the end, colossus, fail, crash, you, EXPLOSION, mass, murder, fear, schools, children, look out, obesity and beware. These words are mixed to form headlines that Hollywood would be proud of. Quite frightening stuff when you think about it. It is enough to make the strongest recoil in fear for what might happen, expect for the “and finally” where a cat being rescued from a flooded drain makes us all feel better.
Not only is content hyped, the format is looking tired. We have seen it all before – lack-lustre opening shot, punctuated sentences, hand gestures, posing questions, bulleted points, vox pops, man effected by the issue, animated charts and rhy sign off. A point brilliantly made by Charlie Brooker in the following clip (please note: adult language is used. If you are easily offended please do not click play):
Still progress has been made. Although sensitive, the bulletin from Moira Stewart below provides a stark realisation of just how far we have travelled in the last two decades. The piece is slow, Sesame Street like. There is only one phone number to call, and the statements are repeated over and over again. There are limited pictures and limited analysis. There are certainly no whizzy graphics or twitters flashing up at the bottom of the screen.
I often wonder if the past holds clues to the future as it is likely that we will come full circle? For example, some commentators argue that the news is becoming more homogenised, global and repetitive in its reporting. The local story is loosing its place. Large media organisations can no longer afford to support such activity. But, local news was at the beginning of the circle. A glass of wine after work or a natter at the local post office. The beginning was campfire news. Campfire gossip.
The future is difficult to predict, but with the technologies now available it is not too far-fetched to imagine a bright kid picking up a laptop and camera (see top image) and doing something far more informative and less predictable than the format we currently digest. Local news may come back. There are many examples. This is one – http://www.pennine-life.co.uk – and another is a recent initiative announced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to interact and engage regional audiences through photography, film and social media – ABC Open. This could well be a cheaper alternative to the camera crew and studio. It is certainly more exciting and a genuine attempt to generate and distribute real-life community stories from the source.
News may also become lighter. In a constant cloud of doom we all too easily seek reprieve in the scandal over the disaster. Tiger over Haiti. Maybe we just relate more to social stories or perhaps the lens is still a safe barrier between us and faraway places?
Article posted at Free Trade – the free trade of ideas.