The Minneapolis Star Tribune, a fine newspaper with a rich history, is getting gussied up for the era of video. Editor Nancy Barnes describes the transformation — complete with hair and makeup tips for the paper’s ink-stained wretches — in Sunday’s edition.
Ready for Their Close-Up?
Upon reading the piece, two very different analogies sprang to mind. The first: the ugly duckling (you know, the one that becomes a swan). The second: poor, delusional Gloria Swanson descending the spiral staircase in Sunset Boulevard, announcing she’s “ready for my close-up.”
Which will it be for the Star Tribune — and for newspapers generally?
Here are a couple of excerpts from Barnes’ piece:
In the last year, we have trained nearly half of our photographers to shoot documentary or breaking-news video. Once you could get this only on TV. Now we’re determined to provide it to you on our website. We’re also training reporters to bring along a very basic video camera on breaking-news assignments. They’ll be asked to shoot video as well as collect information. Later this summer, we’re bringing in experts to coach us in editing video and producing programming…
Rick Sennott started as a photographer when newspapers were mostly black and white and the Web didn’t exist. He was among the first to get trained in videography — and is now leading the way for our staff on breaking-news videography. His goal as a photojournalist is to “produce images that act as a channel for true understanding and give a clear voice to the people being photographed. … Today, they literally talk, cry or sing in the video we are producing on a daily basis.”
Happy Faces All Around
The article goes on to quote other staffers talking about how excited they are about adding video to their repertoires.
What do you expect them to say? They’re being interviewed by the boss!
I’m glad that Barnes is telling her audiences about her newspaper’s plans. But the reality is, these changes are going to bring more work — and more pain — for many people. And this is happening at a time when staffers are seeing their colleagues laid off all around them. So it’s probably best to drop the happy faces and be real.
Hundreds of thousands of our customers still want a print newspaper; we expect that to be the core of our business for many years to come.
Define “many years.” Five? Ten? Maybe 20, at the outside?
Here’s the reality: ultimately, there’s not going to be an ugly duckling story for newspapers — at least not in the sense of introverted print journalists suddenly transforming themselves into look-at-me TV personalities.
What’s going to happen is that, as print outlets become true multimedia outlets, they’re going to hire a mix of on-air talent and behind-the-scenes talent, like they have at most TV stations, where ink-stained producers do the work and teeth-whitened reporters get the glory.
The ultimate impact, for most print outlets, is that the news product will suffer, because more staffers will be focused on how they look, rather than what’s going on in the world — and there will be fewer staffers overall.
Too harsh? Can you tell I used to be a newspaper reporter?
What do you think?