Thursday, April 21, 2005

The third day here in Vegas was a particularly interesting one because I was able to attend a couple of conferences and also take in some of the more touristy sights around the strip.
I was out earlier than the rest of my team in an attempt to get to some events early. One of these events was the Educator Breakfast and Program about journalistic integrity vs. individual responsibility. But due to my ticket snafu, I was unable to get into the breakfast because it was a ticketed event and I didn’t have a ticket. I told the lady guard that I was only there to hear the speech and didn’t want any of the food - although it was 8:04 a.m. I was zooming on a Starbuck’s Caramel Macchiato - she didn’t budge, so I went off to do some writing [BTW, there are no Dunkin’ Donuts here].
Showing up early for the next seminar, “Are we becoming irrelevant?” or a discussion about citizen journalists and the blogosphere, proves to be a good decision since I am the only one in the room while they are setting up and most of the panelists introduce themselves, noting that I am on a computer. I confirm to them that while I am a radio news director, I am also a blogger and was writing the Day 2 post because I was kept out of the breakfast. The two folks I speak with have a quick laugh about that and go back to setting up their stuff.
The conversation was an interesting one, featuring three panelists and one, broadcasting from NYC via the Internet. There were some technical difficulties with phone levels for Jeff Jarvis, the president and creative director of, who also posts for and MSNBC, and was at the remote location but it was a neat trick.
Another panelist was Russ Hill, of KLS 1160 in Salt Lake City, a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for best radio news site, located here [] . He explained that his news staff does more than just write news stories. They also take video cameras out to tape stuff, which is then transferred to the Web site, and they also allow reporters to blog about certain news stories. He said it accomplished two things: It allows the audience to get more access and familiarity with the news staff, and it allows the staff to write more about the news story than the 35 second stories which will air on the station. The station also allows for guest bloggers, almost like a column, to react to some of the stories. The blog is located here: []. Hill said they started doing this during the Lori Hacking investigation because the staff was getting a lot of details about the story which it couldn’t air. It is a voluntary process for news staffers there but also became a necessity when members of the staff were camped out for days on end at the dump as investigators searched for the missing woman. Hill advised attendees to embrace the new technology and use it as your own - before your competition does.
Most of the other panelists - Dan Gilmour of Grassroots Media, Inc. [also formerly the tech writer for the San Jose Mercury News], Terry Heaton, president of DONATA Communications, and Jarvis - all agreed that bloggers were here to stay and that journalists should use them just as they would any other source, when needed.
Jarvis was particularly populist about his comments concerning citizen journalists noting that the process of blogging was about control and the questioning of the mainstream media. He suggested that news orgs listen and read the blogs, highlight citizen journalists, use them for sources, empower them, and post their stories online.
Heaton said the importance of bloggers is that they were a threat to the status quo but that “the status quo needs challenging.” He said the level that journalists were being put on a pedestal was “abhorrent,” noting that some bloggers are “better journalists.” He also said that stagnation in the radio business wasn’t about revenue but about audience and that programmers were losing focus of the audience [by worrying about revenue, IMHO]. He added that news was becoming irrelevant to the country because departments weren’t listening to the audience and the “bottom up phenom” of citizen journalists, with the top working to control it, wasn’t a good model. The panel also talked about Pod casting - the use of iPods to download radio segments and play them back at a later date.
There were a bunch of questions from the audience, some dealing with legal issues while others dealt with interaction. Most of the panelists - unlike other panelists - weren’t so worried about any legal ramifications.
Gilmour said that every blogger could be a stringer for a radio org. and could be used as a rallying point for bottom up citizen media. One of the panelists, I forget which, noted that news orgs often use citizen video of tornadoes or citizen comment for stories, why not bloggers?
I came back to my point about the tabloidization of the mainstream press and the fact that while motivated by opinion; the bloggers were doing the hard investigations that reporters should be doing. Unlike the stuffed shirts at the big national radio chains, the panelists completely agreed with me that the mainstream was too tabloidy and this was one of the reasons for the citizen journalist and blog movement. Jarvis called my comments exactly right, saying: Bloggers take more seriously news selection of stories ... People will take on issues that are important … You aren’t going to see blogs talk about Michael Jackson … Bloggers look at economic things and take on issues that are too expensive to take on.
After the blogging seminar, I went to a discussion about managing extreme personalities in the newsroom. It was another productive conversation about identifying personality traits in your newsroom and then using techniques to move them to alter those traits.
With the RTNDA seminars over, I went back to the NAB area to check out some more booths, including the bookstore, where I didn’t find anything particularly interesting to me, and the Sennheiser booth - since I need a new pair - where I was able to try out some sound-blocking headphones.
Our group also got a chance to walk around the strip a bit and noticed that it seemed a lot more touristy than the first day we arrived. It is almost like Orlando and Miami combined only surrounded by mountains. The Venetian Hotel’s mall was amazing. It is literally Venice with a roof. Buildings inside the mall are two to three stories high with moats and gondolas drifting through the mall. In the center square, we were able to hear some opera singers and other musicians play as if we were right there in Venice. It was pretty spectacular … for a mall. I also noticed that in almost every hotel lobby and even at a couple of outdoor bars, there was a lot of new wave and 80s music. Hearing a cover band do "Send me an angel," by Reflex one night and the now classic "Blister in the sun," by the Violent Femmes and Blondie's "Heart of Glass" another night, was hilarious. Or hearing the Psychedelic Furs' "Heaven" or New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" blasting through the hotel lobby, was pretty cool as well.
We also noticed that there were almost no police in sight - either during the day or later on in the evening - although there were folks walking around with open containers everywhere and pretty much behaving themselves. There were a lot of mall-type cops and security guards, but not a lot of uniform. We speculated that they might be under cover cops. We also had lunch at the Bellagio which had an beautiful indoor garden with a butterfly net area in the middle of the hotel. We went to see the exotic car collection at the Imperial Palace then “Mystere,” by Cirque du Soleil.
Later today, we head out to check out the mountains before returning home.

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