Over the course of planning to cover a story this week, I have been struck by how much has changed in journalism since I started working at GPB nearly seven years ago. As a working journalist, I regularly adopt new technologies, new digital platforms and new strategies to meet new audience behaviors and expectations. But this week's preparation for the CounterPoint Music Festival brought journalism's rapid adaptation to the digital age into sharp focus.
The CounterPoint festival takes place September 27-29 on a 350-acre stretch of stunningly beautiful Georgia earth along the Chattahoochee River south of Atlanta. Tens of thousands of mostly 20-somethings will spill over its bucolic fields for three days of live music, art, food, carnival rides, sporting events and camping. The festival's first iteration was called the Echo Project and it took place on the same plot of land in 2007 before stalling with the recession.
Back then, I was a young reporter working on GPB-TV's "State of the Arts" as well as stories for GPB Radio's "Georgia Gazette." Preparing to cover the Echo Project meant stocking a car full of television cameras, audio equipment, lighting gear and spare tapes. It also meant hauling a backpack laden with a radio recorder, microphones and headphones, a nest of cables and a lifetime supply of batteries. Two of us carried this equipment for about 12 hours across dusty lawns collecting video and audio of the festival.
This time around everything is different. The entirety of my preparation has included installing the free Instagram and Tumblr apps on my company smart phone. Once I had connected the GPB News Instagram and Tumblr accounts to the @gpbnews Twitter handle ... Voila. My Motorola Droid is all the equipment I need to take HD video, audio and photos of the entire festival. Plus, I can publish the content in real time.
Drawing this distinction between then and now is not to suggest I will do exactly the same work with a smart phone as I could do with $100,000 of video and audio gear. I continue to use that equipment and could haul it all down there again this weekend. My point is that today I have many more options for how I tell the same story.
Platform options also distinguish what it means to lead a newsroom in 2012 versus 2007. As a young reporter, I would talk to my editor about what story to tell. Today as an editor, I work with reporters to decide not only what story to tell and but with which hardware and software it should be told.
In journalism -- as in any industry -- as options change so do the costs and benefits of how and why things are done. Some good stuff gets lost and some great stuff is gained. And while journalists debate the exact price of digital progress, you can watch this weekend as GPB News Tumbles and Tweets its way through a music festival by the river.