Online, streaming video gives rise to a new world of 'local' news coverage

Jim O'Neil

Repent. The end is near.

Or, at least we'll find out if it's closer or further away when the hands of the Doomsday Clock are adjusted Thursday at the New York Academy of Sciences Building in New York City.

Representatives of the board of "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists" will move the hands for the first time since January 2007, but whether they move closer to midnight -- Doomsday -- or further away hasn't yet been revealed. (In 2007 the hands were advanced from seven minutes to midnight to five minutes to midnight.)

And they're going to do it streaming live. You can watch it at www.TurnBackThe Clock.org starting at 10 a.m. ET.

Live streaming of events and the YouTube-ification of news has created an interesting twist in the media. In the not-too-distant past, men (yes, men, for the most part, and for a very long time) in white shirts and ties (think word-oriented Dilbert types) decided what news was news and whether to pass it along to the masses. News "budget" meetings were held the afternoon before a morning paper hit the streets to decide what to put where (front page, inside, local section), how long it should be (a few dozen words to a couple of thousand) and if there was a photo or two to go along with it.

Unless the world ended, or Lucille Ball died (yes, I once worked at a paper the actually produced an EXTRA! edition when the "I Love Lucy" star passed away), that was the news that made it into the paper.

Triple homicide at 11 p.m.? Sorry, too late for the morning paper. We'll follow it tomorrow.

Chernobyl meltdown in the (then) Soviet Union? Hmm. Run it on Page One with a HUGE headline. The metro daily I was at based its headline on a United Press International report, and so blasted two-inch tall type: 2,400 DIE IN SOV NUKE BLAST.

Oops.

It was easier, in many ways, to be an editor then than now. At the end of the day, the only person that really questioned your news judgment was the publisher. Today, readers and viewers vote with their clicks.

Self-proclaimed journalism purists like to claim that the Internet is ruining journalism. One well-known reporter will tell anyone with a microphone that "anyone with a computer can post anything they want," criticizing their ethics, their ability and their objectivity.

I disagree. I think the Internet has brought democracy back to the news industry, expanding the reporting base and giving voice to a more diverse array of viewpoints. At one time, nearly every city in America had a newspaper -- or two. Most were independent, some were quirky, some were really bad. But they presented a depth and color (yes, sometimes very opinionated) of news that has been bleached from the pages of today's corporate-owned megalopolies that continue to gobble up and standardize news reporting.

McDonald's and your morning paper? No, thanks. I'll take mine with a little more flavor.

The ability to stream news as it happens, or to post raw video of recent events is in the process of creating a new world of information. Hyperlocal websites are popping up that blog local news and, increasingly, they're including video.

It's an interesting turn of events... as we become more global we seek to maintain our local ties, and local news -- especially video news -- once again is becoming king. But, the ability to stream news -- even staged news like the Doomsday Clock -- continues to redefine what "local" is. I'll have a small window on my monitor open to watch the event Thursday morning. Will you?-Jim

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