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Technology is so advanced these days that some in TV news believe there soon will no longer be a need for the traditional news team of reporter and photographer. Large, shoulder-mounted cameras can be replaced by hand-held devices that shoot digital images that are just as vivid (or close enough). And laptop audio- and video- editing programs make it possible for anyone with tech knowledge to put together a report and transmit it to the station.
What this means, proponents of the VJ concept say, is faster, nimbler reports.
"You may have a local TV station with five cameras and live trucks go out on a story on any one day," says Michael Rosenblum, a New York-based former CBS news producer who has trained reporters at the BBC and San Francisco's KRON in the art of being a VJ.
"That doesn't make sense. It's like having 70 (newspaper) reporters, but only five pencils to go out and report a story. If you equip people to shoot their own stories, you've got everyone out in the field reporting."
There is an economic benefit, too. A standard TV camera costs $35,000 to $50,000; a hand-held one $5,000. Those fancy "live" trucks that camp out at breaking-news scenes would be history, replaced by compact cars. And, of course, there's the cost savings of employing fewer photographers or reporters (depending on which chooses to learn the other's skills). Analog-videotape editing booths at the station would be gone as well, a savings of about $50,000 apiece, experts say.
"(VJs) cut a station's cost by 70 to 80 percent," Rosenblum says. "But local TV news (outlets don't) like it. Why? It's a very conservative business."
Indeed, the VJ "movement" is still only in its formative stage. Just two local-news stations in the country -- San Francisco's KRON and WKRN in Nashville, both owned by Young Broadcasting -- have gone all-VJ.
A handful of other reporters in medium-to-large markets, such as News10's Adams and reporters in Reno and Phoenix, have persuaded their news directors to let them go solo as well.
Mark Antonitis, KRON's station manager, declined to be interviewed for this story because of negative press he's received in industry publications. As Antonitis told Media Week magazine in April, "I've been vilified in this business."
As many as a dozen veteran reporters at KRON and WKRN left for other markets rather than undergo mandatory VJ training.
The biggest complaint about VJing is the supposed loss of quality video journalism. Critics see it as journalism on the cheap, a slap in the face to photographers who for years have honed their craft, developing an "eye" and knowing precise angles, proper lighting and ways to edit hours of raw tape into coherent 90-second reports.