It’s a question that no one wants to ask or answer, it seems. As journalism organizations scale back their operations, they’re looking more and more to “contributed” material to fill space and time. What’s the result? Well, aside from all sorts of ethical problems, the technical quality tends to be pretty bad, too.
One local insider says stations are pushing low-quality video to get a “techy look” and lure younger viewers weaned on YouTube.
Do news executives really think younger viewers are out there saying, “Dude, I’d watch TV news if only it looked like junk.”
A “techy look?” Out of focus, underexposed and low-resolution is “techy?” The New York Times has an article up today on how we are now acclimating to lower quality sound and includes this comment:
In fact, among younger listeners, the lower-quality sound might actually be preferred. Jonathan Berger, a professor of music at Stanford, said he had conducted an informal study among his students and found that, over the roughly seven years of the study, an increasing number of them preferred the sound of files with less data over the high-fidelity recordings.
“I think our human ears are fickle. What’s considered good or bad sound changes over time,” Mr. Berger said. “Abnormality can become a feature.”
Now I like my iPod as much as the next guy, but when I want to listen to music, I pull out the CD and crank up my Polk speakers to a suitable volume. But I know I’m in the minority when I do that. (And, to be honest, while my speakers rock my receiver is pretty lousy. I miss my ancient Proton D540 – that thing was sweet.)
So what does this mean? Tomorrow, I start teaching a three week Maymester course on video journalism. I have nine high definition video camera kits which I’ve used in the past. Should I give up and let them shoot on a bunch of Flip-style cameras? Or use the video function on their point and shoot cameras? Cell phones, for those enabled?
No, I don’t think that’s the right route to go. I think the idea of low-quality being “techy” is just absurd. We are professionals. We are professional storytellers. We use professional tools because it allows us to tell stories clearly and in a controlled manner. We need to separate quality journalism from amateur work because it reinforces the idea that that we are professionals, that we have set standards because we believe this is important and that we will do this well today, that we will do it well tomorrow and that we will continue to do it well because we are professionals.