Big broadcast news summit next week

Edward R. MurrowI’ll be in Chicago (actually, Naperville) next week for a “news leadership summit” produced by the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation and sponsored by the McCormick Foundation. The title of the event is: “Wires and Lights in a Box: Murrow’s Legacy and the Future of Electronic News.” This year is the 50th anniversary of Murrow’s famous “wires and lights in a box” speech, which explains the title of the summit.

Participants are a Who’s Who of broadcast news managers and leaders at both the network and local level. Edward R. Murrow is the patron saint of broadcast news and a powerful figure in broadcasting history, so you can usually expect good attendance when asked to meet in his name.

There’s a session on Murrow’s legacy, one on entertainment versus news, another on ideology/partisanship in the press versus an impartial press, and my panel, “What is the business model of the future?”

Here are the questions we’ll be exploring with my panel:

  • What will financial success look like in the future? What is the business model of the future?
  • How does the industry address the ethical and credibility concerns raised by the intersection of news content and advertising? Even Murrow had sponsors.
  • Will news operations continue to put news and public service over profit? How do news operations serve the public’s right to know and still say in business? Can public service journalism survive?

We’re also going to break into small groups (what would a conference be without small groups?) with the goal, it appears, of coming up with journalistic principles and standards to preserve for the future.

In all, it’s a pretty heady event, and I’m honored to be a participant. This has been my life’s work, and I appreciate the chance to share my thoughts. Besides, I really like to hear myself talk.

I’m always a little nervous, though, when an institution that’s being disrupted gets together to talk about the future. Broadcasting isn’t casting broadly anymore (to borrow a cool phrase from Scott Collins of the LA Times), so there’s a niggling sense that we’re heading for mediasaurus land. It’s natural that we’d turn to each other to try and figure things out, but it might be better to talk with those who are actually doing the disrupting.

I like to use a whale oil industry metaphor. Let’s go back in history to the annual whale oil industry conference, with the industry in the midst of disruption from electricity. Rather than seeing that they’re in the home lighting business, the whale oilers can only see electrical power in ways that will help them either extend the whale oil business or do it more cost‐effectively — for example, by creating an electrically‐powered harpoon (it cuts the manpower costs significantly, you see). So rather than invest in electricity for home lighting, they press forward to protect the bottom line. Nice, huh?

I’ll blog as much as I can from Naperville, and if you’re going to be there, I look forward to saying hello.


  1. http://Drew says

    The appropriate analogy for whale oil is kerosene. The whalers from New Bedford and Salem really couldn’t do much to stop or join the trend because the oil came from Pennsylvania not Massachusetts. Capital is liquid, people (and industries) are (usually) fixed.

  2. http://whoever says


    NO, yOU WILL BE THERE selling!!!



  3. http://Safran says

    “Selling is not Participating.”

    Yes it is.

    If I sell you an apple, I have participated in a transaction with you. We both benefit. You get a nutritious snack, and I get the profits from having grown it.

    If, we operate under the redundant rule “Participating is Participating” instead, we are forced to toss the apple back and forth to assure no such sales occurs. This way, we eventually wind up with a hand full of warm mush.

    There are many, many professionals participating at this event. Some sell their products, some work for companies that sell advertising, some, like Terry, sell advice. We’re all sales people. And we’re all participants.

  4. http://whoever says

    so, why not say you will be there selling?

    why put it under the broad cloak of “participating”?

    this blog is all about “transparency” but that sure isnt the case here…

    I’m not fooled. of course, General Managers in 100+ markets will be…

    razzle dazzle time!!! show time!!!

    I mean, “participation time”

  5. http://whoever says

    I’ll also add that your selling an apple analogy is false — completely.

    You people are in the business of selling the idea of what kind, type or how much of to buy of said apples (and the answer is always yes, buy several) and then you are in the SAME business of actually selling that apple.

    So, you’re not just the seller, you’re the “consultant” who sells the idea and then the product (presumably each independent of the other).

    Meanwhile it doesnt actually seem to happen that way. None of it is indepenent. It is all COMINGLED!

    You position all of your theories to fit the concept that the apple is what people need and then you sell them as much of those apples as you can convince them they NEED to buy.

    It’s really not as clear cut as just offering produce on the side the road. Heck, if you could, you would steer the Dept. of Transportation to build the road (hmmm, LostRemote) to your produce stand and on top of that “consult” with them on how to mark the road signs to get to your “business”.

    It’s really unlike any other thing I’ve ever seen. It makes Halliburton seem completely transparent.

    And God help anyone — anyone — who questions your operations or dealings in this field. They will be hung out to dry and then run out of town on a rail. I’m am likely being investigated as we speak. My life will be turned upside down and if I am not fired or worse, I will be surprised.

    The online journalism world is complicated enough and to top it off unquestionable, perfect, beyond reproach consultants also *sell* products — the same products they “recommend” that are perfect (of course.)

    We are through the looking glass people.

  6. http://Moultrie says

    I am on pins and needles for the answer to: Will news operations continue to put news and public service over profit? WTH does the highly biased disinformation the Moron Media serves up have any value to Public Service. This is going to be as funny as watching these fools try to paint Murrow as some type of Saint just like the death of Saint Russert.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.