Has digital killed the TV star? Not so fast…

Has digital killed the TV star? Not so fast…

The year was 1979 and though I wasn’t born yet, I still recognize this song as a classic (love the outfits!):

Well, it’s 33 years later and video still hasn’t killed radio. Personally, on most days I listen to the radio while I’m writing. And here’s a shocking revelation: I don’t own a TV and haven’t in over five years. Before you call me out for being a technology poser (What? I like to read!) I should note that I watch a lot of news and TV online. And I’m not alone; according to a 2010 study more and more people are taking their TV viewing online.

So, what is the current state of TV in the face of digital media’s growing popularity? That’s the topic of this week’s instillation of the digital literacy series. To take’s TV’s pulse, I turned to Andy LeBlanc (@leapleadership), current president of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and TV journalism instructor at New Brunswick Community College, based in Woodstock, NB.

LeBlanc has over 30 years experience in television journalism – with 10 years as an on air reporter and 20 years in management roles. LeBlanc himself is currently experiencing a period of transition, leaving his role as journalism instructor, and stepping down as RTDNA president, to head back into television on July 3, as news director for CTV Atlantic.

There’s nothing wrong with change

Throughout his lengthy career, LeBlanc has experienced firsthand the many evolutions of television media. One of the biggest changes: the transition from film to videotape. This technology completely revolutionized television news. Longer tapes made longer interviews possible and editing was far quicker because you no longer had to wait to have film developed.

Of course today’s media is essentially instantaneous in comparison but even with this dramatic change, LeBlanc doesn’t see TV going away any time soon. He views digital media as just another natural transition of the way people consume information – and thinks it’s too soon to worry about failing economic models.

“There are red flags being raised in terms of the long-term economic viability of traditional media but I think we’re just in a transition period. We need time to learn – it’s not naturally viable but give it time. Radio wasn’t automatically viable when it first came out. And it caught on.”

Storytelling is eternal

One of the main reasons LeBlanc isn’t worried about the death of TV, or any form of traditional media for that matter, is the everlasting human need for talented storytelling. Human beings have more media choices than ever before, but when it comes right down to it, nothing holds our attention better than a good story. Journalists are trained to find such stories – to sort out what’s important and to share it in a way that’s relatable and interesting.

“Digital media has profoundly changed how people expose themselves to information. But people love a good story and there will always be a need for storytellers. That hasn’t changed throughout history.”

Journalists will always have a job

In his role as a TV journalism instructor, LeBlanc has seen a change in the way journalism is taught. Students used to enter separate streams for TV, print and radio. Today, these streams have merged – students still have the option of specializing in one medium, but their assignments merge all three. And in the end, everything they do ends up online.

So does this mean the death of journalism, as we know it? Not so, says LeBlanc. Much like Jason Van Rassel, he points to the unique skills journalists are taught as the key to the profession’s survival.

“Today average people can be involved in all processes of news and that’s great. But there will always be a role for journalists – to lend context to stories and to tell stories in ways that are focused and communicate exactly what’s happening and why it’s important. Journalism is here to stay.”

If you’ll be in Toronto next week, consider attending the RTDNA National Conference. The association is celebrating their 50th anniversary and the conference topic is very applicable to this series: RTDNA@50 – The Future of Electronic Journalism. You can learn more here.

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