Technology and Organzational Form in the News Industry: The One-Man-Band
Garvin Thomas is a General Assignments Reporter for NBC Bay Area News. He was kind enough to join Dan Zoll (Forum, KQED), and Brandon Bailey, San Jose Mercury News at Santa Clara University's annual media luncheon. Our three presenters painted an interesting view of their work as modern journalists -- modern both in how technology plays a role in how they do their work, and modern in how technology affects the economics of their business. Garvin's situation was a perfect example of the interplay between technology capabilities and organizational roles. He's been a reporter for over 20 years. The traditional workflow, as I understand it, is that a reporter and videographer travel to the story, the reporter does the interview while the videographer shoots and edits the material to prepare it for air. Economic realities and increased technical capabilities have motivated a shift in this process. Garvin arrived at SCU with a videocamera and a laptop. He's now a "one-man-band." He describes traveling to the interview (more on that below), shooting the story, and then editing at the local coffee shop. This is not "YouTube" amateur photography - Garvin works to keep the same production quality we all expect from network news, while dealing with the organizational realities of working on his own. As I've posted before (original overview, more recent examples), the organizational value of technology is realized when both the organizational practices and the technology tools are jointly used to design a new way of working. In this example, the cameras and editing gear have become more portable (this camera is about half the size of the one my brother used to carry), and Garvin is using his experience and willingness to add new skills to support his expanded role. As to traveling to sites -- yes, both Garvin and Dan specifically mentioned that being face-to-face for interviews is still the way to go (both for the social and the technical/quality aspects). However, Garvin did mention that he had used Skype video for a recent segment on what the rest of the US was thinking about the California budget crisis. By making use of Skype he was able to bring in perspectives from Boston, Minneapolis, etc. that he wouldn't otherwise been able to access. When I asked about production quality, he noted that he specifically made sure to show the context (webcam) so people would know this was a special opportunity rather than a change in production values. Again, thanks to Garvin, Dan, and Brandon for taking the time to meet with us.