Student questions I’m still pondering today

A couple of questions asked by Randy Brown’s class last night still have me thinking today.

Both related to quality and ethics.

What happens to quality, one young man asked, when you’re covering breaking news in this immediate on-line world, and all you have is, say the camera on your cell phone?

I told him about the debates raging in our industry over high-end vs. low-end equipment, best illustrated in hilarious and insightful videos by Andy Dickinson and Cyndy Green.

But I told them that the demand for quality sometimes overlooks the news value.

Arguably, the most notable news video of my generation was shot with an 8mm home movie camera by a dressmaker named Abraham Zapruder. He captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It launched thousands of arguments and decades of controversy.

It’s shaky, not great quality even by the standards of the day.  But Life magazine beat the television networks in getting the rights to it and publishing stills of the movie.   This same Life magazine had a reputation for carrying the best of photojournalism, also raced to buy Zapruder’s home movie.  It had news value.

Today, CNN’s I-Report wants your cell phone video

News value has a way of trumping pixel counts or, back in the day, the quality of film.

It really should be about the news.

Which is closely related to a young woman’s question about what I thought was the single most important lesson for journalists.  That was a tough one.  There are so many.

It took me about three seconds to say that the more the business changes, the more it stays the same.

Journalism ethics, I hope, will survive all the changes.

Without high ethics to seek the truth, minimize harm and act independently, we are no better than some of the silly videos uploaded to You Tube or idol chatter on Twitter, or MySpace or Facebook.

There needs to be somewhere in every community where people know they can get information they trust – no matter how it’s delivered, or how that delivery changes over the years.

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