Tuesday, May 11, 2010

701 Here's Your Future, ABC

701 Here's Your Future, ABC

(TAIPEI) -- The cement heads from ABC should come over here. Here's where they can learn to do what they really want to do: television news without spending anything close to actual money. Taiwan television is a pioneer. These guys know cheap. They know that you don't need to spend money covering "news" any more than you need to spend money on first-run programs. Well, it's not REALLY news, but in today's world, it'll do.

ABC thinks its pioneering a new way of delivering the events of the day. Nuts. It's going on here already. News = anything you can record on a security cam or a cell phone cam. It's not even as technically sophisticated as the guy on Saturday Night Live who made fun of TV reporting by outfitting himself in a helmet camera/transmitter and who announced his "standup" while trying to focus the picture on something that had anything to do with the story.

Here, the news is mostly about guys in SUVs crushing guys on motor scooters. The cameras are everywhere. What isn't covered by a security cam is covered by a reporter or witness with a smart phone, outfitted for video. Watch the cops administer a breathalyzer moments after a driver mows down a biker who probably has 16 kids and is trying to send them all to college. Watch a sumo sized guy stick up a convenience store. Watch an abandoned hotel imploded intentionally in Las Vegas. Or someone winning a lottery.

The Shaky Cam lives! News on the cheap lives.

Walking up the steps of the National Palace Museum, we're accosted by a TV "reporter" who is "interviewing foreigners who visit..." This is a huge hall and boasts 8,000 years of cultural and precultural treasures. It is the best place in Taipei to examine the excesses of the great dynasties. And the progress of art, calligraphy, pottery, clothing, textiles, architecture and painting from before the Bronze Age. And without too many words it demonstrates by the extremes of the dynastic emperors why Sun Yat-sen's civil war succeeded in bringing something akin to democracy to China.

The "reporter" is a giggly girl, awestruck, apparently, by the response to her question "where are you from?" and the answer, "New York." She can spot a non Asian American easily enough. Everyone can. But she doesn't really understand the answers she videotapes. That's okay. If it makes air, no one watching will get it either.

So you guys at ABC -- and your counterparts at CBS and NBC, take heed: this is where you are headed. ABC, at least, admits it. The other traditional biggies are going to be watching carefully as the professionals move out of the way for the guys wearing the solo-cam helmets.

And the public? The audience? The "consumer?" Well, who needs professionals to tell us the truth when we have those cellphone videos?

Earth to Roone Arledge: get back here. We need you.


--Joe Galloway's picture should be in the dictionary next to the word "writer." And his retirement as the military affairs columnist for the McClatchy Newspapers leaves a canyon of an opening in our understanding of matters of war and defense and common sense. Another guy who percolated in the greatness that once was United Press International.

--It's really hard for a former AP guy to keep praising UPI, which in its legit years -- long gone -- was a great competitor. Often, they beat us in speed and clarity, but rarely in accuracy or gravitas. And they had guys like Galloway and Helen Thomas who understood the use of color and simplicity in language.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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