Lessons for journalists from the New York Times TV show

byNicole Martinelli
Jun 16, 2011 in Digital Journalism

In May, The New York Times started funneling some of 100 or so videos they create a month for a half-hour program called NYTV. It airs at 8:30 p.m. Monday nights on flagship local station NYC life, run by the city government.

Although we were skeptical about the project, IJNet caught the show online and gleaned these takeaways.

1. Show, don't tell 2.0. The Times provides the videos and the production company pretty much leaves them as is. If you're primarily a "text" journalist, it's a little disheartening to watch the segments -- some without any explanatory graphics or voice-overs -- and see just how well they tell the story anyway.

2. Good local can always go global. The show only uses stories about New York, but it's easy to imagine the global appeal of stories like custom-made taxi bikes from the pilot episode. There are a lot of places -- The Netherlands? China? -- where moms might be interested in conveying kids around with these upscale eco-friendly solutions. News outlets (and journalists) should consider a broader audience for video stories.

3. Get ready for your close-up. Some reporters have that it's-all-about-me attitude, but if you tend to hide behind a byline, get over it. Some of the Times reporters are a little camera shy. Take Ariel Kaminer, who tries out an electric scooter in episode four. She bravely wheels through a difficult piece-to-camera introduction riding the scooter only to stumble slightly over her own name. For the rest of us: now is the time to get comfortable on camera, since even the Times journalists are still a bit green.

4. Stop thinking one medium can do it all. The spartan format of the show really brings home how news organizations think squarely inside the box: "We have videos? Let's make a TV show!"

The show, which probably still reaches more people online than the actual local broadcast, doesn't offer any way back to the Times. (There isn't even any stumping for subscriptions, paper or digital.) Viewers who want to read the stories or comment must go the site and search. Imagine if you could view videos, then read the stories and comment. Oh, wait, there's this great little thing called the iPad.

The other alternative might be to offer the videos, free from the TV show format, as content on a platform like Hulu, where readers can still get back to the Times.

For journalists, this tendency of news organizations to scatter content is a good incentive to update your blog and Twitter account so readers can follow your work.