Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The juggernaut of presentations: the SXSW experience in Austin Texas

I’m doing SXSW.
To the couple of media people around me in London, when I heard the news, I might as well have spoken Klingon.
That’s #SXSW people — the super bowl of pressies and social gatherings. I’m still getting flashbacks today watching live on TV Marcus Allen’s 74-yard touch down at Super Bowl XVIII.
Seriously! SXSW’s gravitas is so A-game, they can call on a @Potus to drop in.
My talk, having passed the public vote would coincide with the start of an academic itch. A big itch. A PhD. I’d been a self-camera shooting journalist for some 15 years, a journo for 20 and it was now so patently obvious as a practitioner that news as a construct and journalism as practised by TV Networks was the equivalent of Nipper the dog earwigging an antique gramophone.
You know, His Masters Voice, abbreviated as HMV, in which the Masters were TV suits inured and sated by spin and corporate agendas.
It wasn’t always the case. At the time of SXSW, I was reading Michael Thomas Conway’s, Ph.D. which by coincidence Conway is a prof at The University of Texas at Austin — yep home of SXSW.
His account of the history of CBS is truly fascinating. Those pioneers, in there 20s and 30s, such as 33-year-old Henry Cassirer really tried to do something revolutionary. Conway cites a Cassier report in Journalism Quarterly in 1949 “A Challenge to Imaginative Journalists.” That section reads.
It will not be true television unless it uses most of the facilities available at the television station, adapting each one to the best way of reporting the individual story. (Film, for instance, is best to report a parade, graphic work is more adequate to visualize a tax debate in Congress, and remote cameras are most 420 effective to convey the colorful scene of a convention. Maps can tell battle movements better than words, but late reports from an overseas conference are most suitably and speedily summarized by the commentator himself, speaking to his audience “on camera.) — Henry Cassirer Journalism Quarterly 392
They got McLuhan’s the medium and the message, so much so, that today whilst digiratis beat their chest about discovering data journalism, visual journalism and the likes, the CBS young turks had it covered way back.
Conway then says something that grabs me. One day at an editorial meeting, an executive showed up and the journos sensed something was up. The suit was dictating editorial coverage. American broadcasting business folk had twigged that News was a money maker, a big one. The ethos of a journalism holding the powerful to account within the political economy and framework of journalism was about to be laid to rest in favour of, you guessed, business interests. Raise a glass to Edward Bernays, the father of PR.
Cut to almost seventy years later and the the lack of diverse stories on television, or the networks’ refusal to show a plus size commercial on the spurious grounds of nudity, when executives believe they’ll lose contracts from clients who promote size zero beauty above an alternative, shows the power of the greenback in story telling. Alternatively, what about this, the head of CBS Les Moonves defending Donald Trump’s excessive news coverage.
It may not be good for America, but it is damn good for CBS … The money’s rolling in and this is fun. I’ve never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.

10 O’clock on a Saturday morning, I know where I’d like to be I tell attendant’s — in bed, so I’m grateful for those who’ve showed up. Over 45 minutes I map out a different form of newsgathering construct, which incorporates multimedia and an integrated form of videojournalism.

The talk revolves around the use of embed video and sharing, using SEO to reframe millennial journalism; alternative outlets e.g. micro sites to publicise work (four years earlier I’d won one of the US most coveted prizes for innovation in journalism,the Knight Batten); the Outernet which is not too dissimilar to the Internet of Things; and how videojournalism spawns new forms of reportage. These strategies and more were developed with the videojournalist, lone worker, in mind and those wanting their voice heard above the chemtrails.
By some accounts, the talk goes reasonably well. Here’s a sample of that:
Freelance writer Amanda Hirsch, former editorial director of PBS Interactive wrote she was concerned the style I was promoting left little room for finding the story and that…
when I posed this question to him, he got a tad defensive, assuring me that he always listened first, and that he emphasized to his students how listening is key.
Tony, a delegate blogged: ( I’m clearly gushing now !)
Excellent presentation A+. Great presenter. David shared tips and was humorous. This is what SXSW is about. Great job David!
And I even managed to interview a few people after the talk.

 The rest of SXSW was as an exhilarating experience of social banter, an exploration of ideas and ambition. I made new contacts. The comedy/ agent of wit trouble-making Baratunde Thurston (left) whom I met up with in London on his tour of his New York Times bestseller How To Be Black. He’s now at the Daily Show. Have to say thanks too to CC Chapman who supplied me with the majority of these photos.

So, yes that was seven years ago. SEVEN YEARS… a life time… but SXSW represents a kind of ground zero for sharing and since then, a number of things have happened that give rise to reflection.
  1. Yes I could now put Dr at the front of my name, but I live in trepidation of that moment on board a plane when the pilot asks if there’s a doctor on board. Yes you in seat 21.
  2. Video has experienced a boon.
  3. Television, in spite of the social media onslaught is still the most popular medium through continual reinvention and still retains what UK TV expert Simon Albury calls ‘Groupthink’ — ideas being made by insiders.
  4. We’re largely chasing the same tools and skills, with more or less the same narrative structures, making us less diverse and distinct. This calls for a revolution at a more fundamental point in our quest for media literacy — a philosophical one.
Such seeds for creativity lay in the stories of the CBS and what I found in my research, a similar more contemporary story on Innovation called The Thirty.

Also consider this statement from Marshall McLuhan
If men were able to be convinced that art is precise advanced knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they become artists? Or would they begin a careful translation of new art forms into social navigational charts? I am curious to know what would happen if art were suddenly seen for what it is, namely, exact information of how to arrange one’s psyche in order to anticipate the next blow from our own extended faculties.
 Marshall McLuhan (Understanding Media)
What do you think?
We rarely talk about artists in media, referring instead to the age of the Tech, blogger, social media etc. but Artists and exemplary ones at that are the weather vanes of a vision of the future.
They defy listicles and simplistic framing. They find ways to connect the inner self with the external world and rarely are taken seriously within the present.
The level of experimenting, of looking for individualism, of innovating within innovation is set to repeat a cycle in history — the 1900s. What I spoke about at SXSW in Integrated Multimedia Videojournalism represented the iceberg of a more potent form, which can simply be understood as Cinema, journalism — a myriad of cinema and it’s one I look forward to multiple sharing

Thanks for dropping by