04.16.2015Personal Tech

#ThrowbackThursday: How We Used to Cover the News

This is part of our #ThrowbackThursday series – with a focus on tech, of course!

This is a guest post from Rick Redding, a journalist, blogger and podcaster. In this #ThrowbackThursday post, Rick reminisces on what it was like before mobile technology and how essential it is to have now. Follow Rick on Twitter @RickyRedding.

These days, it seems like I’m the only one who remembers what a telecopier is.

At the risk of sounding like an old man who walked a mile to school every day (I actually did that), I’m lucky to have worked as a journalist in the pre-Internet era. The days when journalism was accomplished with typewriters, telecopiers and notebooks are long gone, and I’ve been fortunate enough to adapt to new ways of doing things in this business over and over again.

Back in the 1980s, I worked in the press box at the University of Tennessee. To get a document (like the game story I’d just completed on an IBM Selectric typewriter) to another city, you had to get on the landline phone with the recipient, put the document on a cylinder and both parties had to put the phone handset into the telecopier.

Magically, after six minutes the document would come out of the machine. Then it could be set up for layout and eventually printed.

In the late 1990s, I was a reporter at a business newspaper. I distinctly remember suggesting to the publisher that it was imperative to get our hands on new technology. We were far from the cutting edge, and my pleas went unanswered.

When media outlets started creating websites, that same publisher laughed at the idea of putting actual news stories on the website. There was no way we were giving our content away so anybody could read it without paying.

But again, things changed. I went to work in 2001 for an Internet-only publisher. We were first to capture a niche market, and business leaders flocked to the website to read stories that weren’t available anywhere else.

I loved the speed of the new way of doing things. I could write a piece and publish it with no time lapse, no waiting for a printer and no checking the proofs before it went to press. If I wrote something significant, I’d hear about it right away from readers. In the newspaper business, I could go months without getting a reader reaction.

The company figured out how to sell advertising online, my staff and responsibilities grew and we forged into other industries. I hired journalists away from print media.

In 2006, I started a blog in Louisville called The ‘Ville Voice. In those days, it was possible to beat the mainstream media to a story because they were mired in an old media mindset. The daily newspaper wouldn’t report anything that happened until the morning, and TV didn’t go on the air until 6.

The late 2000s in Louisville represented the first time an independent operation, without a printing press or broadcasting license, could compete for news stories. Bloggers like me were reporting things as they happened, and consumers were discovering they could monitor certain websites during the day and know about breaking news before their peers.

I’m still blogging about local events at LouisvilleKY.com, competing with other websites and mainstream media for audience.

I’ve also started a podcast, the Rusty Satellite Show. The idea of producing an audio program available only online was new to me. But the statistics show that podcast listening is trending upward at an amazing clip. I’ve started picking up new podcasts on my phone and spend most of my driving time plugged in to topics that interest me. Each Rusty Satellite Show features interviews with two guests who we think are some of “the most interesting people in the ‘Ville.” I’m ramping up to show #100, I’ve found a sponsor and my audience is growing.

So, the tools of the trade have changed, but in many aspects the way content is created hasn’t changed. A content creator still has to come up with an idea, witness something or talk to a source. The reporter has to take that information, add in some research and produce a story, whether it takes the form of words, audio or video.

Of course, I remember how bloggers like me were once derided by “real” reporters. We broke the rules and didn’t play the game. I didn’t follow the AP Stylebook, double-check facts or get both sides of every story. Sometimes I got things wrong, but I could fix it with a few keystrokes.

Going totally against everything I’d learned in journalism school and at a business newspaper, I invoked my opinion in nearly everything I wrote. And guess what? People wanted to read it.

There’s room for all of us now — newspapers, TV, niche media outlets, bloggers and podcasters on every topic. Consumers find us online via computers, tablets and, increasingly, their phones.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the basic challenge of media — produce something of value that an audience wants to consume. Anybody can do that, right?

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