Eyewitness News, Reporting From Your Living Room.
August 31, 2001 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Eyewitness News, Reporting From Your Living Room. KVDA, a Spanish-language television station serving the San Antonio, TX community, hopes to revitalize community-based journalism. Ordinary people report the news live from their homes using high-speed Internet connections and web cams. Trinity University Communications Professor Rob Huesca says, "People are closer to the event than journalists can be, and that the expertise they bring is the expertise of real life, not the expertise of detachment, impartiality, balance, and the rest of journalists' values." (more)
posted by kathryn (11 comments total)
Once again, the Internet helps to blur the line between content producer and content consumer with this brand of unrehearsed, unscripted, and unedited news. KVDA is a relatively new station, but it is the Telemundo affiliate there, and given the very large Spanish-speaking population, it is a major player in the local market. Community journalism may be an antidote to the homogenization of news reporting, but we may be too anxious to have the pendulum swing the other way. Has the prevalence of "reality-based" programming made us unable to see whether the dog is wagging the tail or vice versa? And if the tail is wagging the dog, is worth it, if it means the presence of outside voices in mainstream news reporting?
posted by kathryn at 12:27 PM on August 31, 2001

The other problem, highlighted at the end of the article, is profitability. If the only way this works is by a continuing infusion of grant money, then it's probably been an interesting experiment, thanks a lot, but so long.
posted by claxton6 at 12:52 PM on August 31, 2001

Eyewitness news from the bedroom will be next. Ooops. Been there, done that.
posted by NJguy at 1:10 PM on August 31, 2001

I think this is cool, but why should it be a local thing? I like the idea of DIY correspondents, perhaps with some kind of aggregator/portal site pulling them all together.
posted by rodii at 1:14 PM on August 31, 2001

I like it in concept - as a suppliment to more standard reporting. I'd gladly give up "Dabney's Darlings" or whatever fluff local story of the night piece is normally done by the anchor in favor of some community level commentary. If you had the network expanded enough to be able to make it diverse (or alternately, if you were wide-channelling, so that you could select your community preferences and get the local-local news during that segment of the broadcast), and not just the same three people talking about the PTA every night, it could be even be useful.

Even if it weren't useful, it could still be entertaining. A televised blogger channel - or, at it's best, a cross between CamGirls and The Naked News. Of course, at it's worst it'd be across between Cam and The Naked News...

I wish I hadn't said that.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:34 PM on August 31, 2001

I've thought about something like this for a long time. It would be cool to have correspondents all over the world, they all contribute to an equipment fund - sell advertising split the profits. More than just news even...
posted by owillis at 1:37 PM on August 31, 2001

I guess they could use some free reporters because it looks like they laid off some full-time staff.
posted by timothompson at 3:26 PM on August 31, 2001

timo's point is probably pretty close to the truth - if you look at the fall 2001 network schedule, most of the new shows are "reality" shows, which are infinitely cheaper to produce than the "newsmagazine" shows that were all the rage a few years back ("stay tuned for yet another sixty minutes! and dateline monday tuesday wednesday etc") which in turn are much cheaper to produce than sitcoms or dramas.

what i find interesting, however, is that - rather than handing out cheap videocams - they've actually given these folks web infrastructure, high-speed connections and such. which may be more interesting sociologically, and offer new opportunities to the participants (hey, they could join metafilter!) but may or may not actually lead to more interesting and relevant local news content.
posted by judith at 5:11 PM on August 31, 2001

Well said, rodii... paving the way for the CamGirl News Network, I suppose.

I'm always thrilled to hear of "old media" people using their clunky tools in community-oriented ways. There's a radio show here in Toronto, outfront, that gets regular people to do their own radio segments. When there was that E Coli outbreak in Walkerton, they gave a DAT recorder to a local teen and got her view on the whole thing. Of course, they don't have a network in place, so they can't cover anything quickly.

I wonder if these various movements should converge in more than just philosophy.
posted by D at 5:23 PM on August 31, 2001

Don't forget MeFi's coverage of the Seattle earthquake. I, for one, was much more interested in the news that the members here reported than what the wire services said. Not only were there multiple angles to a single, interesting story, but MeFi scooped nearly every media outlet. Granted, most of the stories that the public correspondents bring to KVDA would have a neighborhood scope, comunity journalism still has the potential to bring several views to bear on any one subject, rather than the black/white oversimplicity endemic of typical local newscasts.
posted by Avogadro at 7:45 PM on August 31, 2001

I'm all for this, in theory and in practice. While "Journalists" with a capital J will always be necessary- both for experienced professionalism, training and access to resources- in reality the level of journalism from mainstream outlets has dropped precipitously in recent years. Giving the people a voice is critical, because the continued decline in news ratings- which always seems to lead to another drop in quality as the networks compete for fewer and fewer eyeballs- is the result of less compelling news to watch. Sensationalism is like chocolate cake- tastes good, but you can't make a steady diet of it. People watch the news not because it's entertaining- there are plenty of avenues to be entertained in this world of ours- but because they feel they can't not watch it. Returning vox populi to the news should not only allow these reporters to feel connected to their community, but allow news viewers to feel they are connected to and thus impacted by the news- thus increasing their belief that they have to watch the news because it matters, not because it's entertaining. A ratings bonanza and a boon to democracy!

Christ, I'm all weepy now... feeling very populist... *sniff*...

By the way, this is a good time for a shout out to "FreeSpeech Television", channel 9415 on your DishNetwork system!
posted by hincandenza at 7:56 PM on August 31, 2001

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