Will the increased demand for correspondents’ multi-tasking hurt the quality of their reporting?
That’s the big question as prodigious job cuts at ABC and elsewhere force more correspondents to shoot their own video, gather their own sound and edit their own pieces in addition to reporting them.
Certainly, the consolidation saves money, but at what cost to journalism?
To many, the question is moot. Digital one-man bands are the inevitable result of a receding economy and an advancing technology. Expand your skill sets or it’s game over.
Others argue that reportage suffers when a correspondent – particularly a veteran used to having a crew – botches a breaking interview because he’s worried about getting the shot.
“There’s always the potential for missing something if you’re trying to do three things at once,” says Charles Bierbauer, Dean of the College of Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina and a former correspondent at CNN and ABC.
“There’s a lot of value in having a two or three-person team because it gives you more eyes and ears covering the story. I’m not a very good shooter. I don’t have the eye for it. But then I wasn’t trained to be shooter.”
PBS’s Gwen Ifill wasn’t either, but she will be, whether she wants to or not. “What choice do I have? Do it or don’t be employed.”
At J-schools around the country, students are learning every survival skill for the New Order. These “backpack journalists,” in Bierbauer’s words, have been tested and found to work. Having control over every aspect of their stories gives them independence, he adds.
As for the older folks, Bierbauer says he’s seen “some seasoned journalists become very adroit at new media.” At 67, he Tweets. “Why not?”