Survival tactics for dinosaurs

October 27th, 2007 by Dave Leave a reply »

After calling Phillip Knightley a dinosaur a few weeks back, I’ve been chatting with a few journalists — online and offline — about the attitude older journalists have towards new technology, equipment and methods.

We’ve all agreed that the general principles of reporting should remain. Getting out and talking to people is the first priority. Not that it was ever disputed, of course, but it’s worth reminding ourselves from time to time. What was also (mostly) agreed on was that yes, journalists, young and old, must evolve if we are to survive.


At some point in our lives that word changes meaning. It can be seen to be exciting: The force of change, bettering ourselves, progressing. Or it can be seen as terrifying: Becoming something we’re not used to, changing how we work, having to LEARN.

And that’s where I feel that divide comes in. Feel free, anyone, to jump on me when I make this statement, but I think the word evolve is a much harsher word to hear when you’re an old journalist. Hence: Phillip Knightley. Hence: Newspapers taking ages to start using the web properly. Hence: My Mum not wanting to change phones to a better model.

The issue of evolving is not because older journalists cannot learn. Of course they can. Anyone can learn. It’s more to do with not wanting to learn.

Take Mum, for example. She doesn’t want to change phones for a very good reason — she’s happy with the one she has already. No problem. But when it comes to journalism, it’s either change or get left behind. Don’t want to use the web to publish? Fine, don’t bother. Just don’t expect to have many (or any) readers left in a year’s time.

Today I read this brilliant post from Cyndy Green. She’s a video journalist (and probably lots of other things too). She has, according to her post, been shooting video since 1974. You don’t need me to tell you that an awful lot has changed since then. Cyndy has embraced it all, but it hasn’t been easy:

I just didn’t get it – felt like a dinosaur – one of the old geeks who couldn’t make the film to tape transition. Had nightly headaches…I could shoot, but the damn program (Final Cut Pro 1.0) lurked in the school computer, doing whatever it could to mess with my tiny brain. The terminology….the computer keyboard…the files within files within files…the icons…and the lack of something material I could put in a machine and rewind or fast forward got to me. Finally got so mad I made arrangements with a friend of a friend for a tutoring session…there were four others, some of us dinosaurs and a few new kids who seemed to aborb everything in a wink. In one marathon eight hour session I grasped enough to understand and defeat the evil computer and its demonic software

Wonderful stuff. I urge you to read the entire post. It’s a wonderfully frank account of Cyndy’s worries.

At the end of her post, she mentions:

Final note: this is a discussion that needs to be in the open. I know a lot of folks fear for their jobs and their futures and have a real love of their craft as it is now. Meranda Writes has some good discussions going on this issue on her blog. Get out there and join the conversation – but don’t put up a wall and refuse to consider change. Pick up a video camera and try it out (at home if you have to). It ain’t hard and it won’t kill ya.

I agree. I’ve read Meranda’s blog a lot lately. It’s how I see this blog of mine panning out once I graduate. But anyway, as Cyndy says, let’s get this discussion going.

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  1. cyndy green says:

    Ouch…watch what your read into things. The post wasn’t about MY worries. My concerns are about other photogs making the transition and the realities they face. Frankly I breezed through all of the changes until nonlinear…that took three months rather than overnight. I was used to being (as you seem to be) able to take on anything and pick it up and move on. Unfortunately as we become one with our current technology, it becomes more difficult to move on. One of the lessons learned from the many changes in technology is that the technology may change, but the prcoess remains the same.

  2. Dave says:

    “the technology may change, but the prcoess remains the same.”

    I love that comment right there — it’s very true. When I mentioned your ‘worries’, I meant about grasping the new technology… the headaches etc.

    You know, I wish there were blogs around when telephones were invented. I wonder how many journalists suddenly heralded the use telephones as the tragic end of quality journalism…?

  3. cyndy green says:

    Yeah…age does give you a perspective on life that youth doesn’t always comprehend. Thanks for clarification on your meaning…and I think every technological change has its proponents and opponents. What I am concerned about now is the human aspect…people who will loose what they love and possibly their sole support because of these changes. They are the potential dinosaurs. You, my young friend, are one of the hungry mammals.

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