As a major October snow storm headed into the Denver area on Oct. 25, reporter Kevin Torres and his live truck operator headed outside the newsroom on assignment to cover impact, which included accidents. For decades, live local television news produced predictable content. What is new and exciting at 9 News is the blending of backpack journalism, mobile media technologies and social media strategies.
As snow fell in advance of a 9 p.m. news live report, Livestream viewers of Torres' channel went along with him behind-the-scenes. Much as Erving Goffman might have described it, the video stream and chat room offered a "backstage" glimpse into the workings of TV news. Torres became noticeably tense, as his truck operator was unable to bounce a signal into the station. With all of the drama of reality TV, our viewpoint was carried back inside the truck for a quick drive to the Golden, Colorado exit.
Although I met Torres last year at Omaha 10-10-10, it still felt like parasocial interaction when I typed into the chat room that the video stream had an Apollo 13 feel and sound. My duct tape joke didn't go over that well, although Torres did let us know that this was an older live truck. Once on air from Golden, tension subsided. The 10 p.m. live shot went off on time and with professional ease. We could monitor the backstage streaming video, as well as the on-air broadcast at 9News. After Torres finished, he was back with his online audience for a quick wrap-up and goodbye for the night.
Torres is willing to share with online fans most of his side of cellphone calls to the station, which ended once by unfortunately dropping what he said was a new phone. This live and unrehearsed aspect to the online stream helped magnify authenticity and strengthen engagement because viewers see Torres' engaging off-air personality. He also let us know that he was checking facebook, Twitter and email at different points in and out of the broadcasts.
Few reporters and stations are sharing this much about what happens away from the bright lights of TV cameras. I applaud Torres and his station for experimenting with this innovative social media approach. It offers the opportunity to drive audience traffic online, on the air and back online. While this may not be the future of local news, it is an attractive real-time model that follows the rules of computer-mediated communication: identity (branding), interaction (two-way) and community-building (online). If Web 2.0 demonstrated the tools of social media, Web 3.0 will be about refining communication.