Job ad tries to be hip, fails

Think new media is selling real journalism down the river? Then prepare to feel vindicated for — at least the length of time it takes to read this article.

Houston is the tenth-largest TV market in the United States, but KIAH-TV falls in last place for ratings. Its parent company, the Tribune Company, has filed for bankruptcy. To save itself, the station is undergoing a drastic remodeling.

The biggest difference: when the new KIAH launches next year, there won’t be any news anchors. The plan is to create programming that simulates the experience of browsing the web.

The leading news program, NewsFix, will “feature fast-moving montages of video clips, graphics, maps and sound bites, held together with brief and breezy narration by an off-camera announcer.”

In its own words, “The TV revolution is upon us and the new Tribune Company is leading the resistance.”

Unfortunately, KIAH will be facing off against some tough competitors. For one, the first GoogleTV standalone smart TVs and set-top boxes will hit American store shelves later this month. Worldwide release is slated for next year. Amazon, Netflix, Twitter and several music sites like Pandora have created specialty features for the GoogleTV platform. As well, broadcasters like HBO and news outlets, CNN and The New York Times included, have created enhanced websites for subscribers, which will can be viewed using the Google Chrome browser.  GoogleTV will also offer apps and developers will be able to create their own. Even without knowing the full details of KIAH’s master plan, it is unlikely that the station would go so far as to outfit viewers with a set-top box.

To credibly recreate the experience of being on the web on a traditionally non-interactive medium, KIAH will have to offer the full range of features that users expect, namely customizability and the ability to contribute original content.

Not to mention, anchors play a vital role at small stations. Viewers return because of the ties they’ve built with their local news anchors over the years.

Wayne Lorentz, a former KIAH producer told the Poynter Institute that NewsFix is “a bunch of noise and graphics.” This is his description of the pilot:

“In one story, the narrator refers to terrorists as “bozos.” In another, a clip of fictional boxer Ivan Drago from Rocky IV is mixed into a story about the West getting tough with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. There are even clips from cartoon shows like Ren and Stimpy and animations from the JibJab website.”

The job postings alone are generating a buzz in media circles for their cheesy, awkward attempt to lure millennials. Here are some highlights:

We’re recruiting a solid team of anti-establishment producer/editors, “preditors”, to collaborate on a groundbreaking PM news format unlike anything ever attempted on local TV.  Don’t sell us on your solid newsroom experience.  We don’t care.  Or your exclusive, breaking news coverage. We’ll pass.  Or your excellence at writing readable copy for plastic anchor people.  Not interested.

Your greatest communication tool is a keyboard, your writing is “bleeding edge”, and you realize that when it comes to the written word, less is more.  You can survive and prosper in a modern, high brilliance standards “rock ‘n’ roll” culture where your supervisors are fearless and your peers are A-game “imaginators” with the highest of execution standards.  You’re an earbud wearing, app downloading, rss reading, podcast playing, text messaging, flip-flop wearing professional of any age or sex, with a real-world education, interests that are anything but mainstream, and the ability to translate your bent outlook onto the TV screen. You “Get It”.

Sell us on this: Your fiery passion to help re-invent the ’80’s rooted, focus-grouped, yuppie anchors and a news desk, super Doppler ultra weather style.  Your personal relationship with the internet, blogs, video-sharing, iPads, Droids, Blackberries, Blueteeth [Ed note: Must be referring to Bluetooth. Showing your expertise there.], Facebook & Twitter, and all things Modern Culture.

Employees say the station recently purchased a news set, HD cameras and switcher, a video server system, and three new live trucks “for a show that may not have any live reports.” Currently, the station has no news director.

New media isn’t a trend — resistance is futile. But how far do local news stations need to go to embrace it? Will community TV exist in this new context? What do you think?