Tuesday, December 19, 2006

An Angry Farewell

Way back when, during my career as a TV producer, I did some freelance work over at The Ten O'Clock News on Channel 56, WLVI-TV. At the time the local Fox affiliate had just started its competing newscast, but it had yet to gain a footing. Channel 56 was putting on a very good newscast, even if it had a slower pace and felt a bit dated.

I produced a couple of shows in my stint there but eventually decided not to stick around. I wanted out of TV by that point and while doing a bit of freelance work was just fine, a full-time job just wasn't on my to-do list.

Well, last night I watched as WLVI shut down its newscast. Venerable newsman Jack Hynes delivered an angry farewell, pulling no punches to come right at Sunbeam, the company that purchased and effectively shut down the station. It's interesting to note that I came to 56 from Channel 7, where I'd just wrapped up a couple of years working the overnights.

Hynes pointed out that in his career he'd never witnessed the shutting down of a station. Former 56 anchor Karen Marinella was right when she pointed out that with the closing of 56 Boston loses a voice. However, in today's news world this isn't the last shutdown we'll see. Especially when you consider the massive options for information and entertainment available at nearly any time of day.

So, what does my future of TV look like? How about personalized newscasts. That is, a group like 7 News produces stories, maybe they even produce a full newscast. But each of those stories are saved as pieces, tagged, and then distributed via any possible method, such as the Internet, broadcast, cable, cellular, etc.

A device, be it the computer, TiVo, or your cell phone receives those pieces and then puts together a personal newscast based on information you have provided. Maybe it just reads your preferences and feeds you the newscast you want. Perhaps it's even geographic, giving you only the information you need for your area. That way I don't hear about a fire in Chelsea and the folks in Chelsea don't get the information about the Newton school system. Maybe you tell the DVR what stories you prefer.

All this is possible with today's technology. People just need to learn how to use it.


John Moran said...

Chuck - a reservation I have about customized news delivery - "I don't hear about a fire in Chelsea and the folks in Chelsea don't get the information about the Newton school system" - is that we run the danger of isolating ourselves. People become richer by extending beyond what they think is their sphere of interest. I understand the need to distill the extraordinary volume of available information down to a manageable, relevant size, but there's a danger in people living a narrow life. I think that whenever I see someone at the health club or one of our younger colleagues walking down the hall with the iPod ear buds in - seems to be saying I've got my own thing going, in my own world - I don't need you. Troubling.

Chuck Tanowitz said...

You're right, to a degree. The fact is, I don't hear about house fires in other cities like Providence, RI or Manchester, NH. And issues with the Newton Schools may surround the funding of a new high school. Does anyone care who doesn't live here?

I do, however, care about pretty major things that happen, such as an explosion in Danvers. This comes down to judgement on the part of the "taggers." If the Newton school issue starts to teach lessons that can help other systems, then maybe it's something that should be "distributed" regionally, or even nationally.

In my vision of the future things are opened up on a couple of levels, such as the amount of coverage given to a story (I may want a full 2 minutes on the schools but only 30 seconds on the explosion) but also certain stories would have to transcend the personalization.

All that said, some of this is already happening, especially in politics where people tend to listen primarily to those with like opinions.