The new news…

A story about Black Tickle, Labrador on the Globe and Mail’s website Saturday, while the stereotypical “death of rural Newfoundland & Labrador” story we have been reading for more than 30 years in the mainland media, is actually a stellar glimpse into the future of the news media. Little did the people of Black Tickle know their role in our technological and media future.

What makes this story interesting is not the cliche shallow reporting but the multimedia presentation by Globe an Mail staff photographer Peter Power. Power is a Newfoundlander (Gander, I think) who worked at the Toronto Star for many years before recently joining the Globe and Mail. Power “gets” the aesthetic and his “video” is a well executed blending of still photos, audio, video and text animation that goes far beyond the traditional separation of these media and standard news video we see on TV. This kind of presentation is the logical extension of the fusion of various media and in the legacy of the cutting edge “documentary” films by Ken Burns in recent years using traditional motion picture film and animation techniques. It is web technology that has moved this evolution along.

The web is a place for multimedia. Text, unlike in a print media, is the weaker sibling. Visual rules the roost in this world. As newspapers (traditionally run by “word people”) start to figure this out, after many years of flailing about in the digital maelstrom, they are getting a grip on how to use the web as a medium onto itself instead of just a repository for the material from their dead tree daily editions. Newspapers have been getting their photographers to shoot video and do “slide shows” for their websites for a couple of years now but they have never “clicked” and never quite reached their full potential. Power, and his Black Tickle presentation, has taken the next step and shown the full potential of the Internet as a grown up news medium with its own unique abilities that newspapers and TV can’t or won’t touch.

The days of Max Headroom are upon us. Witness the wildly popular Yahoo News project of last year where they hired their first and only war correspondent. In The Hot Zone with Kevin Sikes saw Sikes equipped with a digital video camera, laptop computer and a portable satellite phone, stuffed in a backpack, travel the worlds “hot spots” reporting with text, still photos, video and audio posted from remote location to the Yahoo News website. The reporting has certainly had its critics in the journalism world but the delivery method broke new trails with its ease, simplicity and low cost. It did what previously took major broadcasters hundreds of thousands of dollars and dozens of people to produce. It took global news delivery to the next step.

Reuters, probably the more forward thinking and technologically advanced news agency out there (yes, I am a Reuters contributor) recently announced a deal with Nokia, the cell phone maker, on the Mobile Journalism Project. They equipped a select group of Reuters correspondents with latest generation of cell phone. A “cell phone” is certainly an understatement. This global communications device is capable of high resolution still photos, audio and video. It also allows word processing and delivery various communications protocols. GSM, CDMA cell phones, computer modem, Wifi and the usual Internet connections.

While traveling across Canada this past year, I purchased a Sony-Ericcson w810 GSM cell phone. ($75 with a 3 year contract from Rogers). Not nearly as elaborate as the Nokia N95 (which is not available in Canada yet) and far cheaper than a Blackberry or Palm Treo, it is still capable of recording digital audio, video, still photos and text input of sufficient quality for web presentation. “Yeah, so” you say? This phone is web enabled and works anywhere in the world allowing me to upload that content via email or text messaging to any server, blog or individual I choose. Get it?