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Summary:

I grew up with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the local Journal News in my driveway every morning. Between recycling pickups, the stack of newsprint would be several feet high. Finding something you read a day or two earlier meant shuffling through […]

I grew up with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the local Journal News in my driveway every morning. Between recycling pickups, the stack of newsprint would be several feet high. Finding something you read a day or two earlier meant shuffling through pounds of paper. Reading the Sunday funnies meant sprawling on the carpet with the colorful pages before you. Doing the crossword meant carefully ripping the puzzle out. The unique tactility, the sectioned physicality, and the auricular malleability made for one of the most satisfying user interfaces possible.

I want a paradigm shift in user interface, and I want it to center on participatory multimedia news. The early applications of multi-touch, through Microsoft’s (MSFT) Surface and Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, do not seem focused on news. Pro-am journalism and citizen journalism, two distinct ideas, are meanwhile growing quickly due to the enfranchisement of richer media technologies. How will the Fourth Estate move from Gutenberg to Google?

Al Gore, enviro-champion and Current TV cofounder, laments this void in his book The Assault On Reason.

“As exciting as the Internet is, it still — for the time being — lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its architecture and design it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full motion-video.”

Only a few months after the book’s publication, the former VP was addressing the world in “real-time mass distribution of full motion-video” in holographic form at his Live Earth Concert.

So how has video on the Internet changed journalism and news consumption? According to a recent report from The Pew Research Center, it appears that “the Internet news audience” is quite skeptical and dissatisfied with the news it’s getting, more so than those who get their news from print or network or cable TV. Looking at, for example, the video presence on NYTimes.com, I would say I am dissatisfied.

The Gray Lady has made some great improvements as it moves online. The Times Reader can be a real pleasure to browse, flit, and scroll through. Some of the video is distinctly nuanced, such as with its dichotomous wedding announcements and autobiographical obituaries. The videos do also provide an outlet for much of the photojournalism that would otherwise never be seen. However, much of The Times’s video feels wooden and dissimilar to the deft wordsmiths found in the paper.

My editor, Liz Gannes, recently described the musically inclined videos of the paper’s technology columnist David Pogue as “charming in a Sesame Street kind of way.” While I love “Sesame Street” and I am amused by Mr. Pogue’s self-deprecation, I do not turn to The New York Times for Muppetesque news reporting.

As Internet video news comes of age with original work like Kevin Sites’s Hot Zone and Ze Frank’s The Show, new possibilities arise. However, we need to be careful that we don’t use a video-enhanced Internet to amuse ourselves to death. Active media participation, not consumption, will yield a better informed citizen producer-consumer. So where is YouTube’s Edward Murrow?

  1. I’m rather fond of Pogue’s videos. I’d rather have too much personality than the drab monotone found in many of their straight news videos. In spite of that, there is some great first-hand footage, of Iraqis for example: A Bombing in Baghdad.
    http://video.on.nytimes.com/?fr_story=29cf262684616efc7bedb0c9f42ed9889d63bf7e

    Watching that Dan Rather clip from his SXSW press interviews, I can’t help but fondly remember my brief ancounter with him.
    http://www.mnstories.com/archives/2007/03/dan_rather_behi.html

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  2. [...] NewTeeVee: Internet Killed the Newspaper Baron. Read more » [...]

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  3. I know your question about the YouTube version of Edward R Murrow’s rhetorical, but think about it…Murrow was cultivated, taught, mentored into being who he became. Murrows don’t grow in vacuums, and the thing is that most producing UGC for YouTube are, like many bloggers, working in vacuums. To ask citizens to blossom into Murrows is asking a bit much (even rhetorically.)

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  4. You are absolutely right that Murrows do no develop in a vacuum. And it is true that many bloggers and YouTubers do operate in relative isolation. However, with the likes of MyBlogLog, Sphere, and social networking and news sites, it is difficult for good ideas to remain isolated.

    For these reasons I hope that media literacy programs become more comprehensive and are taught to younger and younger generations.

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  5. hi i enjoyed the read

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