Post-Debate: Now What Will We Write About?

Debate Society: Andrew Demillo, Kristin Fisher and John Brummett

Debate Society: Andrew Demillo, Kristin Fisher and John Brummett (Photo: Lance Turner)

The debate that transfixed a state for weeks on end culminated tonight as Arkansas News Bureau columnist John Brummett and KATV “Choose Your News” girl reporter Kristin Fisher hashed out their disagreements over the role of new media in news-gathering and reporting.

It was mostly a friendly and constructive exchange between the two debaters, with Brummett striking a more conciliatory and generous tone than he had in his earlier columns deriding new media practitioners (like this one).

But he stuck to his guns on several points, including his claim that Fisher’s “Choose Your News” bit is a “fleeting pointless gimmick,” and, as he says, “gimmicks never work” in the long run. This is disheartening news to me, as this blog, and pretty much my entire life up to this point, has been little more than an ongoing series of gimmicks.

Fisher made a spirited defense of the new media ways—these young kids with their tweets and streaming web video and all that—and she’s made some headway on that, as Brummett was much less dismissive of these tools than he’s been in his earlier writings (like this one). And she emphasized that the “Choose Your News” experiment was one worth pursuing, to see where it leads in terms of audience engagement and media transparency.

So who wins? Well, both of them, it seems. Fisher’s “Choose Your News” segment has seen an explosion of attention and interest (more than 10,000 votes on one recent evening), and KATV news director Randy Dixon said it’s making money for the station. (He declined to say how much.)

Meanwhile, Brummett confessed that he liked being the subject of buzz in the Arkansas blogosphere: “I’m young again; I’m relevant,” he said, and admitted that the debate’s made him more aware of the threats to the news industry. “Its good to stay mildly in touch with what’s going on,” he cracked. “That’ll help you in the news business.”

The loser? Me, because this means he’s going to write at least one more damn column about this that I’ll have to blog about.

Blogger Jason Tolbert

Blogger Jason Tolbert

Who’s Who: Lots of interest in this debate: There were some 60 or 70 people there, so I’m pissed, because when I spoke at the SPJ meeting a couple of months ago, there were like 12 people there, and three of those were homeless guys who just needed a place to use the bathroom.

Much of the Arkansas blogging mafia was on hand, including me, Blake Rutherford and Lance Turner and Jason Tolbert, both of whom had their dorky little ever-present video cameras. Tolbert, ever the provocateur, boldly wore a t-shirt proclaiming “Print is Dead,” seen here in a photo by Rutherford.

Lots of familiar faces from the Arkansas print and TV media world—Mike Wickline, Gwen and Rob Moritz, Cecillea Pond-Mayo, Kelly Kissel, Frank Fellone, too many to list.

And we should probably pay tribute to the engineer behind the event, AP Capitol Bureau reporter and SPJ prez Andrew Demillo. Demillo moderated the debate while wearing an absurdly ugly maroon tie that he should, at his earliest convenience, lock into a heavy metal box and throw into the Arkansas River. And then he should jump in, swim to the bottom, drag the box back to dry land and throw it back in again, just to be sure it’s gone. But other than that…great event.

Update: Commentary from Blake’s Think Tank, and video from Lance Turner and The Tolbert Report.


  1. Bill from Sheridan says:

    Is his tie so ugly that he could wear it while managing an Auto-Zone?

  2. David Kinkade says:

    You know, that tie would pair beautifully with a short sleeve shirt, so yes. But it gets a little chilly in the Autozone with all those people coming and going, so he may want to borrow Brummett’s ridiculous red sweater to throw over the ensemble, just in case.

  3. Kristin Fisher, not looking to hot in that picture.

    But Brummett, man, he’s fine.

  4. I really wanted to comment on this thread this morning. However, my head hurts, and I just really cant think of anything to say yet today.

  5. David Kinkade says:

    I think the phrase you may be looking for is “point of diminishing returns”….But if you’re lacking in inspiration, head over to Tolbert’s blog, where you can watch his EIGHT PART video series from the debate. Will someone please take that video camera away from him? The man’s a menace!

  6. Brummett is the Bobby Knight of Arkansas journalism.

  7. Ok. I just made it thru part two before I realized that I no longer cared.

    Fisher is hot tho.

    DeMillo stole that damn tie from me. I had wondered where it was. I bought it for a white elephant xmas gift.

  8. nemo, perfect comparison. By the way Br549, you can now watch all eight parts, which will take about 90 minutes. Hey, what else you got going on?

  9. Ok where’s the beef? The stuff that makes sense.

    She’s got a “thing” going that is hopefully more
    than pissy bits about a necktie.

    So when is Ms Twitter going to do something other
    than ride on the success of an Ark print giant?

  10. David Kinkade says:

    “Where’s the beef”? You’ve got us. The Arkansas Project is no match for your devastating rejoinders, couched as they are in invocations of quarter-century-old advertising slogans. Well-played, sir. Well…played…