Michael Rosenblum — a perennial favorite writer of mine — has a series of posts this week about how the Travel Channel (a division of Discovery, the company vacuuming up viewers out of the PBS audience) is training all of their employees how to plan, shoot, edit and finish good video using the small cameras and laptop editing systems that are the hallmark of the Travel Channel Academy.
The best post is A Commitment to Literacy.
Imagine a world in which everyone in your public media company — your radio folks, your TV folks, your web folks, sales people, engineers, everyone — learned the pieces and parts of your craft, your public service. Everyone would have a basic, functional literacy about audio, video, text, photos, social media and so on. Wouldn’t that make your company smarter, faster, more dynamic, more engaged, more productive? Everyone would have a stake, an experience, that directly relates to the core mission and functions of your public service business.
I work in a public radio and public TV company in which several employees don’t even have televisions at home. Those that do have TVs mostly don’t watch them or spend very little time watching our own channel. I almost never watch our station — it doesn’t speak to me much. [To tell the truth, I haven’t turned on the TV to watch anything since Memorial Day. But I have watched a couple TV shows on Hulu.]
So what could make our media outlets more engaging — even for our own teammates? Contextual relevancy — meaning. It needs to be a meaningful thing to them. They need to feel involved. Same for the people formerly known as the audience.
The future of media companies will be focused not on distribution technologies (which will fade into the infrastructure background), but on meaningful media production and the social transactions that go along with it — the conversations, the sharing, the community, the Context. Imagine a company where everyone is immersed in media and community relationships.
I want my receptionist to know how to shoot and edit video. I want the membership people to be able to record and edit audio. I want to have a staff populated with smart people that can write, take a good photo, and sling digital media around without throwing up their hands in frustration.
Sure, there are day-to-day tasks that need to just get done, and they don’t involve video cameras or microphones or web sites and they aren’t always “fun.” (Believe me, I know — I have to go setup a bunch of stuff for a pledge drive starting right after this.) But if every job and every task were infused with the knowledge of why and how we do what we do, wouldn’t that make working in public media all the more meaningful for everyone involved? And wouldn’t that make for a better public service?