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tv   The Future of News  PBS  September 3, 2010 8:30pm-9:00pm PST

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>> this program is brought to you by a grant from the ford foundation. >> news wants to travel fast, as fast as technology will let it go, in a click, in a blink. tv is still king, but the internet has roared past print as a source of news, 40% to 35% and climbing. is that switch making technology more important than editorial judgment? where is the drive for speed and mobility taking us? >> if online journalism came in a very fast, packaged vehicle, if turning to that next page of the news was as easy as turning the page of a magazine or a newspaper, we'd see people consuming even more news online. >> how is technology changing the way we produce, share, and
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find the news? that's our question today on "the future of news." >> a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts is not an option for the united states of america. >> more voices is always better for our industry, and more ways of distributing and more ways of reaching people and more ways that people can consume our media. >> so you're just gonna get everything, and you as a consumer have to choose. >> from the newseum in washington, d.c., this is "the future of news." welcome to the knight studio and our conversation about media and news in the digital age. i'm frank sesno. joining me today are two groundbreaking and digitally savvy reporters. mara schiavocampo of nbc is the first digital journalist in network news, just might be the new face of journalism in a multi-media world. mara reports, produces, shoots, and edits her own stories, files for nbc television, and the web. walt mossberg, you may know him as an
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experienced "wall street journal" reporter who has become an influential new media expert. his beat is the intersection of technology and media, and he makes it comprehensible to the rest of us in his personal technology column and through the all things d conference and website that cover the digital world. so welcome to you both. mara, when i started in television, it was a $20,000 camera, and if you wanted to get a picture from some remote location, you needed to have a giant truck with a giant mast and somebody at a feed point and someone on a telephone. how do you work today? what's the definition of your version of journalism? >> well, the reality is i can file from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. that's all i need. i mean, you mentioned all of those things that you needed at the time just to transmit that material that you had been collecting in the field, and today the only thing i need to transmit that material is an internet connection, and if we're going somewhere where we don't have an internet connection, we take a satellite modem. if you can see the sky, you can get an internet connection. >> so what's the expectation in terms of the speed of that kind of filing? you expect it to get there and file right away? open your laptop and go? >> absolutely, absolutely. i mean, of course, it depends upon
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the speed of the internet, so things are relative. so it still--it may take you a long time, meaning it may take you a few hours if you have a very slow internet connection or if you have a very big file, but still, if you're going somewhere that's in the middle of nowhere and you have a satellite modem and all you have is access to the sky and there is no technology, you don't even have a place to plug in anything electronic, but you can still transmit news from there. that's pretty phenomenal. >> what are the technologies that are developing or on the ground right now that are having the most significant impact on how we gather the news and how we get the news? >> well, let me start with get the news because i'm really much more focused on the consumer than the news business. i am a journalist, and i have been for decades, and of course like all journalists, i have lots of thoughts about it, but i focus on consumer technology. so the most important thing of course is the internet, but how we access the internet has changed a lot just in the last two years, and it's changed because of this--the apple iphone. now, the apple iphone isn't the only
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device anymore in its class. we have android phones, we have several of them, more coming out almost once a week this fall. >> right. >> we have the palm pre, and we have other competitors, new, modern blackberries like the blackberry storm, but i would call 'em iphone class devices. this is a handheld computer/ camera/video recorder that happens to make phone calls. making phone calls isn't even its principal purpose. >> right, right. >> people are consuming so much news and so much video and so much audio, because you can listen to pretty much any radio station in america on this even though it doesn't have a radio in it. they're consuming so much that the at&t network, which was sort of immature to begin with and is still building out, is practically being brought to its knees every day mostly because people are sucking down tremendous amount of data, 40-50 times normal on th device. >> mara, how does it change your
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world as a journalist knowing that people are not even sitting in front of their computers at home. they've living increasingly in this handheld world where they're looking at you, and they're looking at the ap, and they're looking at the "new york times," and they're popping all over by just touching their iphones. and by the way, if they're not very interested, anothetouch and you're gone. >> but there's reverse to that, too, is that, you know, people are now selecting what it is that they're interested in. it's not like a newscast where you turn it on and someone else has determined what you're going to watch on television. now people select what they want to watch, and so you also have more engaged viewers, and so there's that side of it as well because someone may sit through a 6-minute piece that they have chosen to watch as opposed to watching a minute 30 that they're not interested in the topic and they'll change the channel. >> any fear that technology is now the tail that wags the dog with journalism? >> i think for a temporary period we may have some of that going on just as i imagine other advances in technology have done that, but let me just give you
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one small example. it's not-- >> i'll tell you what, i'm gonna let you give the example, but i want to go over to sonya gavankar because she's got some examples. she'll take us to the big board, and then we'll come back out of that and look at your example. >> all right. >> fair enough? >> ok. >> if you want a hype-free guide to the fast-changing world of consumer technology, where do you go? so sonya's gonna show us all things "d," a few other sites. sonya? >> well, let's take a look at all things digital. here it is right here. it's a site for news and opinion about the digital revolution, and they bring you in very plain english all the information on the latest gadgets and new media. and here's walt mossberg's section. here is his personal technology column, as well as mossberg's mailbox. it's where readers can actually submit questions about technology. you may also want to check out his ethics statement. in the spirit of transparency, he's laid it all out there. as he says, he follows products and services, not the investment picture of a company. he road tests everything he reviews, and yes, all products are returned. now, this is a companion site to
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the all things "d" conference, which happens once a year and brings leaders from the intersection of technology and media, and don't worry if you miss the conference. click on any one of their pictures to get full web coverage. one site that has become an expert at sorting through the blogosphere is technorati. they were founded as the first search engine for blogs and now tracks all user-generated media on the web, or as they like to call it, the global conversation. they can tell you the most popular blogs by fans or by authority. authority means how many websites have linked to these websites. number one is the huffington post. they have a new technology section. or you can go for pure tech talk the next 4. techcrunch crunches all the numbers, the products, the ople. all here in techcrunch. next up is mashable. it's a guide to social media. check out how they categorize the news. by twitter, youtube, and facebook. next stop, don't
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you love these website names? how do they come up with it? well, gizmodo is part of gawker media and is a hip new york weblog. finally we have engadget. they obsessively follow everything related to consumer technology. these are just a few of the tech sites that we have for you right now. >> thanks, sonya. so, walt, your example. >> and by the way, thanks for the plug. uh, every week, i write my column. i've been doing it since 1991. i write it on a computer, i transmit it to new york, editors edit it. very traditional. the last 10 years, 12 years i've been going on television to talk about my column and other tech developments. again, very traditional. now, the last few years, what i do is i file a video the way she does. it's probably not nearly as elegant as hers. i sit down in front of a computer... >> a just look right into the camera on the computer. >> i look right into the camera, and i talk about my column. sometimes i repeat parts of the column, sometimes i
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elaborate on things i couldn't fit into the column. you'd be amazed. the videos, which were experiments when we started, actually have a significant following. >> interesting, mara, because, you know, the networks traditionally have gone to all this trouble to send out multiple crews and have producers and have this very fancy, edited piece, and here's a guy, very telegenic, sitting in front of his computer at home... >> with no production value, and the consumer says... >> horrible, horrible production values, mara. >> that's what we like, but i think that teaches a very valuable lesson, which is one that we've learned as well. when you're talking about television, the same standards apply for the most part. i think if you have extremely compelling material and there's a lower technical quality, i think people will tolerate that because the material's compelling enough. but the web changes everything because if there's anything our viewers--i'm sorry--our audience online has taught us it's that people don't care so much about production value; they care more about content. >> so one of the greatest changes in media, in the media landscape for all of us has been the incredible popularity of
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google. as we know it's turned into a verb of course. we spoke to marissa mayer of google about what's on the horizon, what's in the future. she's vice president of search products & user experience, a title that probably didn't exist a decade ago. she asks this question for our panel. >> i believe fundamentally that people, when they wake up in the morning, need to find out what's happening in the world, and at that moment, traditionally, they've found a newspaper on their doorstep. i think the same thing will happen digitally. where will people's digital doorstep be and how will they consume news once we understand where that is? >> where's our digital doorstep? >> well, i think we already have it, but it's just--it's gonna keep changing. i know that when i wake up, i'll glance at the newspapers, but i actually now spend as much or more time going through a set of sites on the web that i find useful and important for me. sometimes actually i look up and find myself reading the website of the newspaper that's sitting on the table next to me. >> mara, the people i've spoken to who are really on the cutting
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edge of this say where the future digital doorstep is going to be is increasingly in handheld devices, more cloud technology, more sort of using gps within each device to bring you very personalized or localized news. is that where you see it going? >> well, i mean, that's certainly part of it. i think the answer to all of these questions is that there's a spectrum that's developing and it's broadening, but what we're finding is that real niches are developing because people can demand that and because there's the ability to serve real niches. so i think all of that is part of the spectrum. >> mara, are you ever overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information and choices out there? >> absolutely, absolutely, but then i think you get to the point, in terms of me as a consumer, you get to the point where you narrow it down. it's self-selection. >> which takes us to our users' guide role here in "the future of news." we'd like to show you some tools that you might be able to use to organize and filter this incredible flow of information that is available online, some of which we've talked about here. sonya gavankar's back with us now and has a site that just might help. sonya? >> frank, i'm also overwhelmed
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with all the information. i have all these great websites that i have bookmarked, but going to them to see when and if they've updated their information is really something i don't have time for, so i use something called netvibes. it's one of the tools that i've found that helps you become the aggregator. you can choose the information and have it put on this dashboard. that's what netvibes likes to call it. a real-time dashboard for your life. it allows me to become the aggregator. here is the site that i set up. it has all of my favorite things, and netvibes actually helped me do it. they have categories that you can choose from--news, technology. who doesn't like news and technology? it's right here. or you can go to their widget and download a widget. walt can explain widgets later. there's also the rss feed, which stands for real simple syndication. it's a way for me to get all the news that i want sent to the place i want. just look for this symbol on your favorite website and you can subscribe. just paste the address here, and the feed comes right to your dashboard. i use it to get the latest news from my hometown of joliet, illinois.
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it's down here. joliet, illinois. all the news sent right to my dashboard before my mother even calls to tell me about it. frank? >> ha ha! maybe the mother is the best organizer of news and information we've got. walt, the widget. you're the answer man, so sonya set you up. why don't you answer it for us? >> well, aidget is an embeddable little program that you can put on a wide variety of websites. in the context of our discussion here on journalism, lots of news organizations have widgets. we have one for "all things digital." the "wall street journal" has them. the "new york times" has them. i'm sure nbc has them, and think of it as a specific targeted window onto the internet that saves you from having to go and pull down a website, and it just brings you a certain kind of content. >> mara, i wonder if it's a fair question to ask whether we are trading algorithms for humans? algorithmic formulaic little
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widgets and plants for what used to be paid editors and people to determine what had news value, what was truly significant, what was trivial? this is crowd sourcing taken to the nth degree. >> yes and no. i mean, at a certain point, i think anytime you have a technological revolution, a lot of times the result is that is jobs. human beings losing their jobs. >> i'm not talking about losing the jobs. i'm talking about losing the jgment. >> no. i don't think so, and i can only speak for the organization that i work for, but i don't think that if you're talking about editorially, you're talking about story selection, you're talking about content, those things have not changed, and that's something that i say every opportunity that i get. the tools have changed, the distribution method has changed, but the storytelling, the core of what we do is unchanged, and i think that that's the right way, that's the way things should be. >> walt? >> i agree. i think that sonya made a really interesting point about you being able to aggregate stuff. that's great. but what's in that widget are stories that had to go through some kind of a process. sometimes with bloggers, there is no editor. it's their
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judgment, and the market decides. most bloggers don't have much of an audience, and the ones that have a bigger audience have some reason for that, but i employ bggers and supervise bloggers at all things "d." we have story meetings, not in the traditional everyday sense. things move a little faster today, but we hire them because we want them to have good news judgment, good reporting skills. we have rules about multiple sourcing and all these things, and these are blogs, so you can carry over the standards of good journalism. >> so let's bring the audience into this conversation. go ahead with your question for our panel. >> my question is about standards, and what i was wondering is, how do you think our standards for what is good news or what is serious news will change in a world where increasingly anyone can be a reporter? >> i don't think that those things are changing that much, and i know i'm starting to sound like a broken record, but i really that think the fundamentals are staying the same. if you're talking about in
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terms of the people that are producing content because the things that are newsworthy that were newsworthy 10, 15 years ago are still newsworthy today. the things that are compelling are still compelling today, so i think that what's changed is the way that we gather news and the way that we deliver it. >> next question. hi. >> hi. my name is bob. i am from toronto, canada. i am a software developer. my question is, in what year in the future will the last newspaper printing press in north america stop rolling? >> ha ha! all right, walt, it's all yours. >> well, the way you put it, "the last newspaper printing press start rolling--stop rolling," it may be here in the newseum, and it may be for a while. i don't know. but i think the lines have already crossed or in terms of where people say they get their news, and you know what? i think it's--no offense to you, but i think it's an almost irrelevant question. i am all about the journalism and the high standards of journalism and not so much about the form it takes. it has changed before.
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it will change again. i can't prove this, but i believe that in my case, partly 'cause i write about technology, i'm already at the stage whe a high majoritof people that read my columns read it on screens, whether they're computer screens or phone screens vs. paper. >> can you imagine the "wall street journal" not in print? >> no. i can imagine lots of smaller newspapers not in print, and i think clearly we're going to see fewer newspapers, and we're already seeing that, but just like, you know, the computer didn't kill books, i don't think the kindle is going to kill books. i think that we are getting to a point where people will determine their habits, and then it will level off. i don't think that we're going to get to a point in the near future where you won't be able to go to your corner store and pick up a newspaper or to borders and get a book. it'll just be part of the spectrum. i think that we are just seeing a widening of the spectrum. >> we're now hearing about web 3.0. what is web 3.0
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going to look like? >> well, it's an interesting debate. different people have different names for it, and these are all hypey slogans. the tech industry loves hypey slogans. i tend to use-- >> and media don't love hypey slogans, right? in journalism, we've never engaged in that. >> we've never been as good at it, let me put it that way. i think web .0 is the bile web. it's this kind of stuff. other people maybe have other ideas behind it. web 2.0 was supposed to be sort of the more community and application aspect of the web, and we're still working our way through that. i think one of the biggest developments--well, let me say, two of the biggest developments, and they interact, are--one is cloud computing, which you mentioned. i don't know how many people know that, but that's where your programs and the kinds of things you store on your hard disk today are really stored on servers, and you can do almost everything as well as collaboration on the cloud. the cloud is the kind of "in" term for the--all the servers
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on the internet. >> right. >> and the second is mobility. the development of the iphone type--not only the iphone, but the iphone type of tremendously powerful device that overlaps quite a bit with the laptop and lets you do a lot of things directly with the internet through any kind of connection. it could be wi-fi. it could be a cell phone connection. it could be whatever they invent next that can fit in your... >> how would web 3.0 as described change your life as a journalist? >> not much because we're already thinking about, you know, different ways of packaging things for different distribution models. for example, if you're gonna do a video blog, you know that that looks very different than the piece that's gonna go on the broadcast, so i don't think that if you're introducing the element of people consuming the media on a mobile device, it doesn't change the game that much because you're already starting to think about different ways to tell the story depending on how people are viewing it, and i don't think it's gonna introduce any kind of new storytelling mechanism. i think-- >> and how does the consumer find the best information in your view in all this?
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>> um...i think it varies by individual, but i think--i got to tell you something. it has nothing to do with algorithms. i think a lot of it is word of mouth. i think your friend e-mails you a link and says, "this is a terrific website about fishing. we both love fishing. look at this fishing website." >> well, it's interesting you mention that. i actually have a friend who ran a gigantic journalism website. he says he no longer gets a newspaper. in fact, he barely looks at news sites online anymore. it's all e-mail traffic with friends and others whereh're saying, "have you seen this?" and he links off to that story or what's going on. >> but this is really important. i need to add one more thing. it's a much more recent thing than e-mail, and it's hugely important. it's twitter. most people think that twitter is a place that you can go to and see that some guy says, "hey, i had to wait in line at dunkin' donuts extra this morning, and it, you know, it annoyed me." and that's fine. there are a lot of those on twitter, and i'm not even against 'em. if that's what you enjoy, that's fine, but i
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use twitter heavily as a replacement for an rss feed, which we just heard about, or news widget. >> how do you use it? explain it. >> i'll tell you why. i try to follow people i think are smart, and some of them are automated tweets from news organizations like cnn, and some of them are just smart people who have interesting observations or interesting links to points. >> so these are individuals. you are following-- >> some are individuals, some are automated from the organization. >> mm-hmm. do you do that as well? are you using twitter for information? >> yes, absolutely. but i use it in a little bit of a different way because i do follow a couple people that i really respect, you know, people in the industry, but more than anything, i look at the trending topics, and that's just to see what are people talking about. and there have been a number of times where i've gone on trending topics. there's been a topic where i don't know what they're talking about. i click on it, and i learn something, you know, where there was--i remember there was a space story recently about--had something to do with saturn, and it was a fascinating story. it was fascinating enough that it was trending on twitter, and it was a story i never would have
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discovered otherwise. i do the same thing with google trends. i go to google trends and see what topics are trending, what are people searching for because it tells you a lot about--kind of a zeitgeist--about what's going on that day, what people are talking about. >> do you ever step away from your computer? >> never. >> ha ha! >> ha ha! >> do you ever step away from your computer? >> i try to make it a--more recently in the last year or so i've tried to make it a point to close the computer and put away the iphone and just read a book or do something, be analog for at least an hour. >> how quaint. how quaint. >> i'll tell you something kind of pathetic. my husband and i brought our laptop on our honeymoon because we couldn't be without it. ha ha! >> you're right. it is kind of pathetic. you know, we'd like to show you now, courtesy of the newseum, the twitter of its day, back in the archives, a look at another technology that was a game changer. the telegraph. imagine that. it dramatically increased the speed of news. it was called the internet of its day. telegraph operators were like today's texters, and they were way ahead of us in using shortcuts and abbreviations. in its day, this was lightning
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fast. >> ford's theater, april 14, 1865. president abraham lincoln is shot by john wilkes booth. associated press reporter lawrence gobright is in his washington office when a friend bursts in with the news. he telegraphs this first account to the country. here is gobright's bullet, hireal words in real time. news of the president's death and all the stories that followed were sent by telegraph to the rest of the country. they were then edited and printed in local newspapers, which is how most people found out what happened. now with the internet today, it's as if we all have
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our own instant connection to the telegraph but without an editor between us and the rest of the world, and that it seems is a fundamental difference. the intermediaries in this information, what we've got and what we don't have today, mara. >> for the most part, i think that journalists, professional journalists are very committed to keeping those barriers and those safety nets in place. >> we have no licensing of journalists in this country. we have no definition of journalists, thank god, and anybody can be one, and as mara said earlier, we've just seen a big lowering of the barrier to entry in this particular profession, so you have a lot of people doing their own reporting, some that is brilliant. i'm not stupid enough to think that there aren't 10 or 100 other people just as good as me who could have had a job at the "wall street journal" when i did, and now those people have an opportunity to have their voices heard. >> bottom line: is the news better? higher quality, more approachable because of the technologies we have today? what do you tnk? >> i think it's better. i think the more voices that you have,
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there are going to be some tradeoffs. you are going to get some reckless people who don't know what they're doing and aren't committed to the same ideals that we are, but for the most part, i think that more voices is always better for our industry and more ways of distributing and more ways of reaching people and more ways that people can consume our media, so i'm very optimistic about the future. >> all things "d." >> ha! well, i'm also optimistic, but if you're asking about right today during the transition, i think it's more different than it is better or worse. i think we still have high-quality journalism, that recession has put a strain on it. chnology potentially enables it to continue on a different business model. time will tell. >> as they say. thanks to you both. and thanks for this edition of "the future of news" from the knight studios at the newseum in washington, d.c. i'm frank sesno. thanks for joining us. [applause]
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