Next-gen news: have we missed the starting gun?

The debate on the future of television news at the News Xchange
conference echoed the Broken News catchphrase: “What is it exactly that
we don’t know”.

Everyone knows television news will be
transformed over the next five years by digital technology, but no one
speaking at the conference could say precisely how.

Merrill
Brown, author of the Carnegie report Abandoning News, told news
executives that now is too late to be thinking about investing in new
ways to deliver news: “18- to 34-yearolds do not consume news as we do.

There is no way that any appliances, beyond digital, will be of primary use in years to come.

“They
want their news when they want it, where they want it – a personalised
service that is appliance neutral. It is pretty hard to exactly predict
2010, what it is going to look like.”

He added that some of the
corporate media understood the challenges ahead and were prepared for
it, while others need to take “utterly urgent” action.

Director
of global news and supreme blogger at the BBC, Richard Sambrook, said
that some staff at the corporation were ready for the cultural change
and others were not.

“There are two things going on, technology
is changing rapidly and the social aspects of that mean there is an
enormous change in the agenda that people have to try to grapple with.

Training is important, but people have to be open to change,” he said.

Despite
the growing number of 24-hour news channels, the session delivered a
healthy prognosis for the traditional evening news bulletin.

Head
of multimedia at ITN, Nicholas Wheeler, said that although it was
investing a lot in made-formobile news channels, ITN was sure
appointment-to-view news was far from dead.

“We are making money from the new services rather than making a living.

There
is a long way to go before appointment-to-view news dies – news is in
the rudest of health, partly because of the new ways to deliver content
to the consumer.”

Head of news at the BBC, Helen Boaden, said the
point that the industry had reached in terms of handling footage from
citizen journalists was still in its “honeymoon period”.

She added: “It’s an unstoppable tide.

Material
from the public makes it much easier on stories of magnitude, such as
the Pakistan earthquake, but there need to be more checks and balances
for authenticity.” Boaden cited the photographs of British soldiers
abusing Iraqi prisoners being published on the front of the Daily
Mirror as an example of the need to be sure that material is genuine.

Rebecca
MacKinnon, a former reporter for CNN, explained why she had set up the
website Globalvoices – a platform for the best blogs from across the
globe.

She said: “I quit corporate media because my editors
wanted me to reinforce stereotypes rather than build bridges with the
audience.”

She said the media shouldn’t be fearful: “There’s a tremendous opportunity, the audience is now your community.”

Web links:
www.cyber.law.harvard.edu/globalvoices/

www.carnegie.org/reporter/10/news/

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