NAB/RTNDA

Why do we still do this?

I’m caught in a time warp here in Las Vegas that is both nostalgic and perplexing. In total, one would suspect that everything is just fine with the television news industry. The place smells of prosperity, and the sessions deliver old themes, like tease writing and managing difficult people. Wannabes hover in all the right places, and the awards dinners flow with the same self-congratulatory pomp as ever. As a guy who has been in or around the business for 35 years, I was struck with the thought that this could’ve been ANY convention from my past.

And yet, the industry is in deep trouble. Everything in me knows that to be true. There are exceptions, of course, but by and large, local TV is dying on the vine.

And so I find myself asking, why do we still do this, this RTNDA thing? Why do we get together as if nothing is wrong?

Think about it for a moment. Sam Donaldson declared earlier this week that network news is dead, and the story got a lot of press. If the pinnacle is indeed dead, then to what does one aspire in terms of career? As death to a tree is visible first in the leaves, so the broadcast networks offer a sign. But the problem is in the roots and their inability to provide sustenance.

Yet we’re here partying and celebrating our glory.

Consider also the panel in which I participated yesterday. The title, “Are We Becoming Irrelevant,” promised an indepth look at citizens media. While it delivered on that, there was also talk about stations using blogging to further their mass media goals.

What gives? Are the scales over the eyes really THAT thick?

Folks, I’m thinking about starting my own convention, one that would dare tell the truth. I’d eliminate all of the usual stuff and concentrate on surviving in a multimedia world. Panels would be created to discuss the real issues we face as convergence looms larger with each passing day. We’d talk about reinventing ourselves and new skills required, and we’d talk a lot about the future. I’d invite the equipment manufacturers in, but only those who had a place along the road of tomorrow.

We’d talk about VJs, technology, and how to do this all without anchors.

It would be fun (and helpful), but I wonder who’d come.

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