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.
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.