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Video killed the TV star

Journalism isn't a profession, but an activity.  And it's an activity that technology is putting within the reach of many more Americans.

November 19, 2004 |

In my item on Web video, I suggested that it was the up-and-coming thing.  I was righter than I knew.  The Ventura County Star in California just for its use of new technologies, including photo-moblogging (where readers can send in photos from cellphones, etc.) and in particular Web video:

While has a nice collection of interactive treats, such as a beach Webcam and even a community photo moblog, its hidden strength is in local video.  As Owens told me, there is no local TV affiliate in Ventura, leaving his site wide open to provide video of events such as high school football games.In fact, video will only get more plentiful on, according to Owens.  He said plans were in the works to get basic videocameras into the hands of reporters so they can include video snippets of key interviews as they meet with sources.

I think that's a great idea.  (And it's no surprise that the guy behind it, Howard Owens, is himself a blogger.)  But here's the secret:  You don't have to be a newspaper to do this sort of thing.  A single person, or a small group of people, armed with nothing more than an inexpensive video camera that also shoots still pictures, or a digital still camera that also shoots video, could provide a good deal of local coverage.  The fact is that local newspapers and television stations don't have a lot of resources -- my local paper has fewer reporters covering the area than it had 20 years ago, when the area was smaller and when there were two local papers -- and a single individual who tracks an issue or two doggedly can actually provide deeper coverage than local media are likely to.  And with the growth in broadband Internet access, that person could get enough readers and viewers to have an impact, and make money.

I've written some related stuff on this and .  If this motivates you, get out and give it a try.

November 17, 2004 |

Video killed the TV star

I mentioned a while that Web video was playing a big role in the elections.  It looks like it's going to play an even bigger post-election role.

Here at, of course, we've been showing online video for a while.  But it's spreading.  The is beginning to deliver video online now -- so far, it's CNBC content, but I suspect that they'll start producing independent material before long.

Meanwhile, is showing short films on its Web site (here's , a colorful film called "Agent Orange").  When they first started with this, I thought it was just a stunt to draw traffic to their page.  I'm sure it's that, but now I think it's more, because Amazon is advertising for filmmakers to get involved.  I wonder if they see the Web as a way to deliver films-- at least short ones -- and want a leg-up.  (My wife is a filmmaker, and has had good luck via the Internet -- tens of thousands of people have watched the for her film, and lots have ordered it.  She's not delivering the full-length film online, though.)

But what these big guys are doing -- though interesting -- isn't the most important part.  It's what the rest of us can do that excites me.

There are specializing in video, and it's gotten much, much easier to take your own video footage and put it on the Web.  (Here's a sort of post that I wrote a while ago.  There's really not much to learn, for anyone who's even halfway computer-literate.  Here's some from someone who tried videoblogging for the first time and found it pretty easy.)

thinks that the Internet is well on the way to becoming the most important source of news for most Americans.  I think he's right -- but I also think that many, many more Americans are going to be involved in the reporting of news.  Journalism isn't a profession, but an activity.  And it's an activity that technology is putting within the reach of many more Americans.  That's bad news if you're Dan Rather, but it's good news for the rest of us.

UPDATE: Reader Sid Stafford sends this link to a -- natch -- Web music video entitled .

Heh. Indeed.

November 15, 2004 |

Old wine in new bottles

Colin Powell has resigned, and will likely be .

This isn't an unusual move, as Rice won't be the first National Security Advisor to move to State.  And there are a lot of advantages:  President Bush is obviously very comfortable with her and with her judgment, and she's undoubtedly up to speed on events.  And they're used to working together in secrecy.  I'm reminded of from Bush's surprise trip to Baghdad last Thanksgiving:

Bush slipped away from his home without notice Wednesday evening with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, both of them disguised with baseball caps.  Bush told reporters that they looked like a "normal couple."  Bush then flew to Washington to pick up aides and a handful of reporters sworn to secrecy.

The white President and his black female National Security Advisor, looking like a "normal couple."  And, of course, they did.  There was a time, not so long ago, when not many people would have imagined those words coming unconsciously from the lips of a Republican President from the South.  (The Democratic Party still thinks we live in that time, which is one reason why it lost the election.)  As I said, Bush is comfortable with Rice, and that's an advantage.

There are also a couple of disadvantages.  First, Condi Rice -- like everyone in the Administration -- has got to be tired.  Heck, I'm tired from all we've been through the last few years, and I promise you that I haven't been putting in the hours, or suffering the stress, that Condi Rice or Donald Rumsfeld, have endured.  Not even close.  But -- as with the move of Alberto Gonzales to the Department of Justice -- the President is taking someone who's already been in the White House pressure cooker and just moving them to a different burner.  I guess they've shown they can stand the heat, but some fresh blood would be nice.

The second disadvantage -- and another reason why some fresh blood would be nice -- is that some new people would not only be better-rested, but might bring a new perspective.  Henry Kissinger once said that when you're in government, you use the intellectual capital you brought with you, because you don't have time or energy to accumulate more while you're there.  I hope that the White House will keep this in mind where other positions, and the important but under-the-radar second- and third-tier appointments are concerned.

Of course, one place where Bush has sent in fresh blood is the CIA where new head Porter Goss and his deputies are taking charge.  It's past time for that:  the CIA dropped the ball before 9/11, and its director, George Tenet, should have been sacked much sooner.  The CIA seemed to go out of its way to leak damaging material to the press during the Presidential campaign, and this meddling in domestic politics will -- and should -- cost it dearly.  That seems to be what's going on.  (Tom Maguire has a on his blog, Just One Minute).

Actually, we should probably be looking at a wholesale restructuring, and perhaps even abolition, of the CIA, a Cold War institution that never worked especially well even during the Cold War.  The CIA has many dedicated men and women, but as an institution it has been excessively political and bureaucratic, and the quality of its intelligence hasn't been outstanding.  Add to that some unsuccessful efforts to oust a sitting President, and  I expect we'll see a lot of fresh blood there.