Change is hard – it’s harder in the world of broadcasting.
With radio and television bosses expecting employees to do more with fewer resources, reluctance to experiment with new technologies and methods of storytelling is no longer an option, says Holland Cooke, whose years of being a radio consultant has morphed to “leveraging talk radio and Internet.”
“Tech is evolving so rapidly now, ‘We’ve never done it that way before’ is pretty much a reason to try it,” says Cooke. “We should do it because we’ve never done it that way before.”
Cooke was the operations manager at WTOP for 7 years, before I joined the station in 1997.
He remembers when a line item for budgets included “batteries for cassette recorders,” and when bulky bag phones were cutting edge technology.
In traditional broadcast industries, many veterans prefer to stick with what they know. Cooke says that practically guarantees those dinosaurs will become extinct.
“I love going to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas every year,” says Cooke. “It’s culturally different from the broadcast industry where there’s comfort in the familiar, and best practices that we rely on because they’re time tested old school practices.”
Yet, to be competitive, digital news organizations have to keep changing, even as they’re learning how to incorporate the newest technology.
“At CES, everything that was shiny and new a year earlier is now obsolete – and that’s the point,” says Cooke. “We want to make it smaller, and smarter, and faster, and pleasant surprise, often it’s less expensive.”
No playbook to follow
Cooke says experimenting with consumer-grade phones and tablets and inexpensive applications is far more cost-effective than buying expensive hardware.
“I find some of the tips and hacks on your website real ingenious, and there’s a community about all this, where we enjoy passing advice back and forth,” says Cooke.
Unlike past years where new technologies went in search of customers, “It’s really the other way around – technology scrambling to keep up with the ways that we need devices to enable us,” says Cooke.
Despite the expectation that journalists be comfortable with creating content on mobile devices, few news organizations teach employees the tips, techniques, and strategies.
“There ought to be more training of the kind that you do,” says Cooke. “You did a lot of on the job training yourself, and I think the experience you have to share is real valuable.”
Cooke encourages the next generation of journalists to maximize and market their familiarity with mobile devices.
“If you want to get hired, present yourself to the digital immigrants – the baby boomers who are radio station managers – as a digital native,” says Cooke.
“College age kids today grew up manipulating this stuff and frankly, folks our age need them to help us translate what we do to that new platform. So I think it’s very opportune to hire young, because there’s a skill set that goes along with that generation.”