As readers, viewers and advertisers shuffle the ways they get their news and sell their products as if they have some sort of a universal remote capable of switching media, those of us in the business of conveying information to this news-thirsty crowd are using technology to keep up with the changes. Contrary to some reports that the media as we know it is dying, panelists at the recent Media Day discussion at Las Positas College pointed out how it's getting better.
Look at the Pleasanton Weekly. I talked about how we have evolved in just the nine years we've been publishing our Friday paper into an online leader where readers can surf 24 hours a day for updated news, advertising and a popular free-access blog under the heading Town Square. Several months ago we started Express, an abbreviated report that we send as an email to more than 6,000 subscribers who have signed up for this free service. Now we're publishing Express with an email sent at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday. It's free and you can quickly sign up for the daily online Express at www.pleasantonweekly.com where the registration box is at the top of the online screen.
We're not alone in making changes to accommodate the New Media, as Mark Curtis, former news anchor at KTVU in Oakland told the Media Day group. Suddenly laid off by the station, he used technology to launch his own video news service, traveling the country during the presidential campaigns last year and signing up media users to broadcast his material.
As advertising revenue dries up for TV stations such as KTVU, and news staffs are downsized, enterprising entrepreneurs such as Curtis are filling the information gap. Others are trying, with Curtis pointing out how the lines are increasingly blurred between professional reporters and writers and the postings such as the Huffington, Limbaugh and Drudge Report websites that offer opinion in the name of news. Even though readers and viewers want to know about breaking news now, not wait for the next morning's newspaper or even that night's 5 p.m. news broadcasts, they also need accurate, objective reports which is what the established press can do best.
Other panelists at Media Day, which is part of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce's annual Leadership Pleasanton program, were Kori Hulac, co-editor of the Tri-Valley Herald/Valley Times news bureau on Spring Street in Pleasanton, and Dory Culver, managing editor of KCBS News Radio in San Francisco. Hulac, who started at the Herald 10 years ago, has the toughest job of those who spoke at Media Day. She finds herself surrounded by empty desks and few reporters although the missions of the two daily Bay Area newspapers are still the same. With five reporters to cover three counties, she has to carefully sort out the important meetings and newsmaker luncheons. Her staff has shrunk 40 percent since the merger of the Knight-Ridder and Bay Area News Group, but she's still very upbeat.
As a part of the papers' "New Paper" task force, Hulac is working with the technology side in "reinventing" the publications, as she put it, with increased emphasis on a website that offers videos, live interviews, special reports, even music. She doesn't expect the New Media to ever fully replace printed newspapers, but readers will have more choices and can be interactive in how they receive their news, advertisements and in their ability to influence what's covered.
Culver at KCBS seems less directly affected by the deterioration in advertising revenue, but technology at her station is giving drivers more options, including membership satellite radio. Surveys show that few listeners tune in her all-news station on AM radios in their homes or even their cars, so KCBS has added FM as a duplicate altnerative as well as a website. One of the station's newest promotions is "KCBS Radio, now in HD." That's right. Internet-available radio in a TV format, and this in a state that just banned text messaging as a detraction for safe driving.