Two Trends and a Lie

A favorite party game among the “olds” – as my kids call me – is two truths and a lie. As the title explains, you share three life nuggets, one of which is untrue and the others have to guess which is which.

As we look ahead to 2022 and beyond, here are two important trends in our field and a third that may fall somewhere in between fact and fiction.

1. News as a public resource

Chicago Public Radio announced it has purchased the Chicago Sun-Times and will merge it into its non-profit. While I’m not an expert on the “business model” of the media, I do know the value of news produced independently without concern for profit.  

Local journalism is going through a revolution. In some cases, local papers are bought by billionaires who echo the line from Citizen Kane that if they lose $1 million dollars each year, they will be broke in 60 years. In other cases, they are purchased by hedge funds looking to squeeze a challenged entity for its last remaining dollars.  

The trend of non-profit news has a legacy alive and well in the Bay Area. Berkeleyside pivoted to become a non-profit and has expanded to Oakland. The entity relies on large donations, grants, and recurring revenues from individuals – and of course, loyal readers. The founders have built a steady and growing enterprise, founded on solid revenue, and run a robust and locally-focused newsroom.  

To their credit, a few local reporters have set up a similar enterprise to look at the long-ignored and fiscally challenged city of Vallejo, California. The Vallejo Sun has published 100 stories and helped bring sunshine to a city whose police, city hall, and civic leaders succeeded in operating against the public interest in darkness.

We are steeped in a culture where news and information are used as a tool to divide. There is an active debate whether the loss of local news may even be costing lives during the epidemic or impacting a community’s ability to borrow funds on the open market.

We explored some of these challenges in a sit-down with Bay Area news creators. Perhaps, treating news as a public resource – like clean air and safe streets – can offer residents news they can rely upon without worrying about hidden agendas.

2. You make the news

COVID shrunk the news. Literally. Cost challenges meant cutbacks across the board. COVID-related news meant that stations had fewer and fewer resources to devote to non-COVID stores. Our experience over the past 24 months has taught us a few things. 

First, we are all news creators. We carry around a newsroom in our pocket. FCP collaborated with our clients to record newsmaking events and provide them to local television stations.  We collaborated with the news outlets to provide context and then the stories ran. We offered powerful personal stories and detailed local impacts. 

Second, we can help inform communities that are often ignored. FCP partnered with Global MediaX to conduct ethnic media briefings and funded topic-specific fellowships for reporters on two major issues facing the community on behalf of our clients. Through these efforts, we were able to educate and empower 70 journalists to create news stories directly related to the audiences they uniquely serve.

Meeting the needs of the newsroom can give each of us an opportunity to make the news we want to see.

3. Personalized Celebrity Tiny Drones – Are they a Lie?

I count Rudy Rucker among my favorite authors. He is a prolific science fiction writer, painter, and professor of computer science and mathematics. He is a prized Bay Area thought leader. He’s written 40 books and counts among them the highest awards in his field.  

I read his book Freeware around the same time the Kardashian’s took over television. Though authored at least a decade earlier, he envisioned personality-driven live content streamed worldwide to celebrity-mad fans. He wrote of tiny, persistent, personalized mini-drones that recorded videos of real-time events swirling around the celeb as she moved through her life. 

Imagine your favorite Kardashian walking around with a halo of tiny cameras, the size of a fly, capturing content for live distribution. Or even news organizations using them to capture live coverage in new ways. Today, in sports coverage, we’ve seen TV put tiny cameras in home plate in baseball, in the pylon in football, and in the backboard in basketball.  

I’m not sure where drone-tech is headed. Perhaps it will merge with AI to become self-operating. Regardless, I think self-generated content via personal drone will continue to grow ever-more pervasive. It will be fascinating to see if Rucker’s vision from the 1990s becomes a reality in our news gathering and content creation in the years ahead.

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