In January, an ad on the Poynter Online CareerCenter that gave me a jolt:
The New York Film Academy and NBC News have teamed up for a one-year training program: “Learn Digital Journalism.”
The promotional video is exciting, sexy. And it makes me wonder if I should celebrate, because somebody finally gets it, or if I should cry, because, like all film school advertising, it makes getting the gig look so easy.
Producing broadcast-quality video for a TV network is expensive, but producing it online has become less so, with the advent of prosumer hardware, and high-quality editing software.
Why was this course put together? What would the students learn? What did it mean for camera operators already in the business?
My phone calls to the school went unanswered.
For some outsider perspective, I talked with Jim Long, a veteran NBC cameraman based in Washington and the blogger at Verge New Media.
Though Jim said he knew little about the film school program, he could offer me his thoughts about the lowered barrier to entry and the challenges broadcasters face on the Web.
But first, he wanted to be clear: these were his personal opinions, and he was not in any way speaking for NBC.
Broadcasters, I observed, have been looking for ways to increase their online revenue through their strength, video. But running a television operation, especially a network, is expensive. Not only are there high capital costs, there are pesky personnel costs.
“At some point I think we’re going to have to examine paying gazillions of dollars to the people who are in front of the camera while decimating the ranks of people behind the camera,” Long said. “You’re going to be left with robotic cameras and highly paid talent and nothing in between, and I don’t think that’s a good strategy.”
These new digital journalists could fill the hole, I suggested.
User-submitted video footage has proven to be an effective way to cover breaking news. News operations nationwide are using user-submitted videos as a way to retain viewers and to cut costs, among other goals.
CNN’s I-Reports is one high-profile example, but local stations are trying it too. All that video, however, has to compete with all the other video available on the Web.
“Broadcast is based on the economics of scarcity. They’ve got to learn how to make a play in the economics of abundance,” Long observed.
So how will offering a one-year course in digital journalism change online broadcasting in general? Stay tuned.