RTNDA conference: state of the (electronic) industry

From learning how to deliver news across a variety of platforms to finding ways to better reach audiences, the final day of the 2010 RTNDA National Conference kicked off with a packed room eager to hear from a panel of six major players in electronic journalism on the state of the broadcast industry.

By Linda Hoang

Moderated by Greg O’Brien (Cartt), the discussion centered around the thoughts of Peter Menzies (CRTC commissioner for Alberta/Northwest Territories), Troy Reeb (senior vice president of news and current affairs with Global TV), Robert Hurst (president of CTV News), Doug Rutherford (vice president of Corus Radio Western Canada), Jennifer McGuire (general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News), and Colette Watson (vice president of Rogers TV and president of CPAC).

How would the industry rebuild for the future?

The panelists all touched on a shifting paradigm in the industry and the same message resonated throughout the discussion – that “digital is the future” in news broadcasting.

Newsrooms must begin to deliver content on multiple platforms and audiences now want more inclusion in the news gathering, journalism, process, said McGuire.

“It isn’t a matter of if we build it, they will come, they (the audience) can build their own news experiences now,” she said.

Menzies presented a slideshow of industry statistics and social media trends, which concluded with specific tips for newsrooms going into the future, who wish to become “leaders in the digital economy.”

Broadband expansion, access and affordability and the convergence of “telecom” media and “broadcasting” media were at the top of the list.
Following suit, Watson reiterated the need for industry to grasp technology.
“We have to fit this (digital) world,” she said.

Reeb re-assured those attending the session that traditional journalism is still alive and healthy and touched on citizen journalists.

“Citizen journalism, it’s not really journalism until we (newsrooms) verify it and put our stamp on it,” he said.

Rutherford spoke on behalf of the radio industry, stating that radio’s biggest challenge is also its biggest opportunity: technology.

“Everything we produce has to fit in the hands of the consumer. We have to figure out how to do that,” Rutherford said.

He adds that delivering local news is not the same as it once was.
“The definition of local has changed. It’s not just local news, it’s about what people are talking about locally.”

Breaking down the barrier between AM and FM was another issue Rutherford listed as something to be tackled in the radio industry going forward.

During the question and answer period, a representative with BCIT asked how to train the journalism students of today and tomorrow to be successful in a digital industry.

Reeb’s answer to that question was to get out of the thinking that there are individual journalism streams of print, television or radio.

“There are no streams,” he said. “Teach multi-platform journalism.”

Hurst also introduced a surprise topic of discussion when he posed the question, “Where are the young men coming into this business?”

Gender balance in newsrooms is becoming a growing issue where Hurst sees that the ratio of qualified women reporters entering the industry compared to qualified men entering is five to one.

Despite the impending digital change the industry will face in the coming years, one message stood out strong by the end of the session – that no matter how many platforms or different ways newsrooms and reporters must begin to master order to deliver news to audiences, one fact remains the same; journalism is still about finding the story and storytelling.