Thursday, October 20, 2005 | The journalism profession is entering a very interesting circular phase.
I teach beginning news writing at Grossmont College. The first half of the semester we learn how to write stories for newspapers, and the second half how to write stories for television news.
We have just entered the second phase, and I was showing the classes a video, “Writing for Broadcast,” in which famous broadcast names like Sam Donaldson, Andy Rooney, Harry Smith, Kurt Loder and Elizabeth Arnold look at the difference in writing for print and writing for broadcast.
Much of the video’s value, I tell my students, is that all these famous broadcast people started their careers in print. After Gutenberg, the first 500 years of journalism were all print, with some radio thrown in after 1900. Television news is relatively new. Not until the 1970s and after did national and local news evolve into large industries requiring large newsrooms.
Those newsrooms became filled by journalists moving over from print. Every individual in the “Broadcast” video worked in print before moving to broadcast. Broadcast journalism has been in business long enough now to develop a significant cohort of reporters who came out of school straight into broadcast without ever working for print. But the imprint still is of an industry in which its leading reporters moved from print to broadcast.
Now that direction is starting to go in a circle. We are in the first phases of a journalism world where reporters who started in broadcast are going to be moving into print. They have no choice, because print and broadcast are about to merge, in the World Wide Web universe.
It is happening already. When you watch a newscast, at the end of many stories the reporter or anchor will always say, “For more about this story, go to our Web site at
Very soon, probably in the next five years, certainly in the next 10, you won’t have to go from your television to your computer. You will watch the 30-second version on the screen, and on the screen will appear a link to the “print,” or in-depth version of the story. In your hand will be an instrument that is both television remote and computer mouse, and with it you will simply click on the link, and on the screen will appear the 3,000-word story.
When you have read what you want, you will click “Back” and be returned to the newscast exactly where you left it, because the newscast is only a digital file in a computer.
This has staggering implications. This new world is going to have very long days for sports fanatics. If you are watching the World Series and want to know more about a player’s statistics in any given situation, click on the player and on the screen will appear all the statistics ever compiled by that player. You can go to your computer right now, today, and find those compilations; very soon, you can go to them through your TV, during the game. And when you have found what you want to know, click “Back” to the game, which will be exactly where you left it, because it is only a file in a computer. For the very hard-core, it may take all day to watch a World Series game.
What will happen to newspapers, after the merger of visuals and depth? Hard to say. Newspapers are already all online, scooping their own morning editions several times a day, wondering how much longer they can feed the beloved dinosaur. I imagine many of them are actively seeking a future broadcast partner. If I was a reporter for the paper, I’d take a quick course in writing the 30-second broadcast version, because there’s a gold mine waiting out there.
Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at www.michaelgrant.com.