New Media and Citizen Journalism Transformation
In an interview with Christopher Ramsey, Department Chair, Creative Writing for Entertainment BFA at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, describes his experience working in the Television News industry.
Ramsey wrote a letter to the News Director of the ABC affiliate television station when he was only 14 years old. In return, the News Director invited him to tour the television station. He was so impressed with Ramsey’s enthusiasm, that he ended up asking him if he wanted to volunteer to work the camera on the weekends. It was a local ABC affiliates news station in Boston, Mass. Ramsey decided to volunteered to run the camera on the weekends at different sporting and community events. By the time Ramsey graduated high school, he had a part-time job working behind-the-scenes for the ABC affiliate in Boston. This was the beginning of his career working in television news that lasted until he was 40 years old.
During this timespan, Ramsey studied in the evenings at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. He obtained his Bachelor and Masters degree studying English and Writing while working as a Producer. Ramsey was able to naturally transition from television news to being a Director of Writing department. He says, “In the back of my mind I wanted to teach. I didn’t know if I was going to change professions and leave News, but I knew that if anything happened I had a backup plan. And something did happen, this program at Full Sail started. It was Creative Writing for Entertainment. So it was really, sort of a rare opportunity to teach a writing program just starting up that required some of the skill sets that I had already from my background in News and my education in writing.”
Television News Transformation
Ramsey tells the story about how News changed in 1997 when Princess Diana died. It was the catalyst to a shift in the way news was delivered. It was the first time that the tabloids and hard news covered Princess Diana’s death from different angles. The lines of what “news” could be had been blurred. News had become a 24-hour, 7-days a week beast that always had to be fed. It transformed the tabloids into an entertainment style of news delivery. Then other hard news stories hit in 1999 death of JFK Junior, and the Columbine high school shooting. In 2001 the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks that hit the News and played around the clock. It changed the DNA of News delivery, as we know it today.
The importance of social media and how it informs viewers are found mostly in Twitter for breaking news. Television News can’t compete with breaking news at the speed of delivery. Ramsey gives an example about how the assignation of Osama Bin Laden originally broke on as a story on Twitter. He says the problem is with accuracy or if it’s newsworthy but that gets determined afterwards. Ramsey thinks, “There’s a huge service in what social media is doing as it relates to New Media Journalism. The Occupy Movement was a time when the story became so big that the participants of Occupy said ‘we don’t need traditional media to tell our story, we’re going to dictate the narrative, we’re going to do the news, we’re going to supply on our web pages and our social media what’s happening, we’re going to tell the story, we don’t trust the networks to tell our story’.” I think there’s a huge benefit in that and opens the door to Democracy. It empowers the individual to document what’s going on.”
Technology Behind New Media
Behind-the-scenes, the newsroom went through changes from using videotapes to everything going digital. Today, a smartphone can record audio and video, almost everyone has one, cameras are getting smaller with Google glass, and social media are all empowering to the individual to become their own news outlet. Now CNN uses footage from smartphones as a regular part of their news broadcast. Nothing is replacing traditional media as much as it’s supplementing it to add content to the story. Ramsey says, “Its allowing individuals to tell their stories. It’s going on in Documentary Filmmaking so why wouldn’t it be going on in News? It’s all for the better and adds to the content.”
Ramsey discusses how the new delivery system for content through streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix are new and exciting changes for all media. For example, Netflix has original content such as ‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘House of Cards’. However, the general concern and fear is that it’s created a distraction from traditional television and an over saturation in the market. Online media can also be lower quality but Ramsey says he “thinks that the viewer will decide what they want to watch.”