A future of news 3.0 in Denver

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.


Occupy and mass media

David Carr's piece in The New York Times asks, "Why Not Occupy Newsrooms?" In it, he laments about corporate downsizing in the newspaper industry. Executives at Gannett, for example, received pay raises and bonuses, even as newsroom budgets were cut and stock prices drained.

Well before the market collapsed in 2008-09, Omaha's Warren Buffett had turned away from newspapers as a solid investment. He told Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that his interest in newspapers remained more sentimental, about friendships and history, than earnings potential. More recently, the Wizard of Wall Street was asked about the Occupy movement. While it hasn't yet raised awareness, he thinks a nonviolent and lawful protest of CEO compensation in the face of too much U.S. poverty and educational inequality could help.

The "wiser" (he's replaced an earlier word, "focused," to describe himself) Mr. Buffett, 81, has said that a CEO who leads his or her company into failure, should not walk away with millions of dollars. Instead, there should be a rule that guarantees the person at the top suffers the fate of employees and investors -- maybe even a worse fate and walk away with nothing.

Mr. Buffett does not go as far as movie maker Michael Moore in asking for investigations and criminal indictments of CEOs. For now, Moore is "one of millions" wanting answers from a New York Stock Exchange that no longer allows him inside or even near for CNBC interviews. Moore puts a populist face on the Occupy movement. Like politicians who "want to take our country back," Moore doesn't articulate exactly when and where utopia was lost. For now, he joins a chorus recognizing something in America is broken. Moore and Buffett at least are pointing in the same direction: at the top of the corporate ladder.

If CEOs had to take most of their wages in stock, then they should be more motivated to protect company value. Consider Berkshire's Nebraska Furniture Mart, which did not resort to layoffs during the downturn. Bob Batt, grandson of founder Rose Blumkin, said Mrs. B taught a flat management structure, keeping costs down, and remembering the customer. NFM keeps a lot of cash on hand, so they do not have to worry about banks and loans. Instead, they weathered the financial storm and come out ready to leap at opportunities for new business. As a small stockholder in Berkshire, I like that approach.

As a journalist, I think American newspapers made a lot of mistakes. They were not thrifty during the good years. They were late to recognize the importance of the Internet. Too often, they were arrogant about near-monopoly position in their media markets. Yet, even with these problems, media companies are in a position to continue to make money -- just not the extraordinary profits of years gone by.

David Carr is right to conclude that newsrooms suffered while management sometimes did not. Executives should have invested in retraining workers and streamlining processes. New business models are slowly emerging, but online, social and mobile media do not guarantee huge new revenue streams. Instead, new media are competing for our eyes, ears, minds and time.

Rose Blumkin's model, "Sell cheap, and tell the truth," may be useful for the new generation of entrepreneurial journalists.