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Last night I was glued to live broadcast news coverage of the New Hampshire state primary. I scanned the bottom-third ticker, chatted with friends about the latest returns as they came in, watched live interviews with Democratic party organizers and Ron Paul supporters, and chuckled at the antics of a news anchor — just like any of the millions of Americans glued to CNN or MSNBC.
I wasn’t watching a cable news network (I don’t even have cable), there were no commercials and to my knowledge neither the anchor nor any of the correspondents were wearing any makeup — but they were keeping me updated on just how much they’d had to drink via Twitter and even taking my call-in question live on the air. I was watching independent news on The UpTake, live via Mogulus, complete with infographics and breaks for pre-recorded story segments from dozens of correspondents working independently.
“We are probably, for video coverage, in 2008 vs. 2004, what 2004 was to 2000 for blogs,” Next New Network‘s (NNN) Mark Boxser told me over the phone. Boxser, who manages Veracifier for NNN, further pointed out that the site had the second most-viewed channel on YouTube yesterday, with hundreds of thousands of views spread over multiple updates, beating CBS.
And that’s with limited access to the traditional sit-down interviews and press conferences typical of campaign journalism. Steve Garfield, who scooped CNN on Duncan Hunter’s announcement that he’s still in the race with a live video feed to Qik from his Nokia-sponsored phone over an AT&T-sponsored connection, didn’t bother to get any credentials at all. “Journalism by wandering around,” he called it in a phone chat.
His live video, in turn, got edited into a piece The UpTake and pushed as a Veracifier Ground Hound segment, with the two outlets partnering to provide more coverage. I asked Mary Matthews, who’s producing Debate Porridge, about that cooperative aspect. “It’s not a competition with us,” she said. “[Not] yet, anyway.” When I followed up by asking if by the next election that may change, she suggested that it’s up to the new breed of media makers. “If they go the way of television and the advertisers, and be beholden to the money, then it’s just going to be television on the Internet.”
In the anchor chair last night was The UpTake’s Chuck Olsen (identified in the graphics as “Stacker Manfield,” proving that unlike some anchors he has as sense of humor about himself). He and colleagues Noah Kuhnin and Corrine McDermid had filed reports from on the ground in Iowa, with Kuhnin and McDermid pressing on to New Hampshire while Olsen held court at his St. Paul, Minn., “studio headquarters.” Olsen had lined up prominent local political junkies for live commentary, and the assembled audience even provided a spontaneous laugh track.
I asked Olsen about his foray into live event coverage using Mogulus, which he called “a really exciting, mind-boggling experiment” in an email response to questions. “We’re really pushing it to the limit by switching to live reports in different states, mixed with standalone videos, promos, lower-thirds, etc. — it’s essentially a citizen journalism-based news network online.” NNN’s Boxser similarly praised the live feed, as well as the ability to post many segments throughout the day to their YouTube channel and other sites.
Of course, the mainstream players aren’t completely ignoring the new medium. Manchester’s WMUR had a local college student filing reports on YouTube, MSNBC deployed a new Nightly News site, and CBS signed a partnership deal with Digg.
But in an instructive anecdote, Matthews, who was dedicated to filing a report a day and submitting it to every site imaginable, uploaded a report to CNN’s iReport only to get a call back from a news producer who grilled her about which organization she was with and how she put together such a tight segment so fast. “They’re f—ing worried, and you can print that,” Matthews gloated. “My laptop, my Final Cut Pro and my camera do exactly what they do and it costs nothing.”
Garfield found even his laptop too heavy. “I had the laptop in my backpack and everything, but I put it in the trunk,” he said, which made me think that the network news van is the figurative woolly mammoth of our current global warming cycle. And technologically, this was just a dry run of sorts — come the “super-primary” on Feb. 5th, not to mention the national conventions this summer, everyone will have had time to work the kinks out and further refine their coverage.
“This is where media and news coverage is headed,” Olsen promised, adding, “Of course, the more people donate to the cause, the more coverage we can offer.”