ABC News’ Paul Slavin on News Gathering in Iran and the Evolution of Digital News

By on 06/22/2009 10:28 PM @beet_tv

Paul Slavin, who heads digital operations for for ABC News, explains the difficulty of news gathering in Iran.  We spoke last Tuesday (June 16) about news gathering in Iran; this was before the government imposed strict restrictions on foreign journalists.

Slavin also talks about how the demands of a highly diversified audience for news has created new ways to create and distribute content.

Andy Plesser, Executive Producer


Video Transcript

Andy Plesser:  Tell us a little bit about what's going on in Iran. In the news coverage we've heard reports. I don't know if you have any knowledge of the news gathering, the challenges, or what's going on the last couple days or what's happening now and how you guys are managing.

Paul Slavin:
  Well we're managing that in a more traditional way because it's such a difficult and dangerous environment. We brought in a group of reporters and producers, crews, but we're monitoring it via Twitter and via other social networks to try and gather information that we might not have been able to gather two, three, four years ago.

Andy Plesser:
  And how does the news gathering work? Is it traditional satellite uplinks, FTP, smaller cameras.

Paul Slavin:  In Iran, in Iran it's everything. It's people there, there's a lot of FTP, there's sat. phones, there's some traditional up-linking. It depends on the correspondent, what the time frame is, what program or what platform they're servicing.

Andy Plesser:  It's a big story. Hard to cover, I suppose?

Paul Slavin:  It's a big story; it's difficult to cover, yes, no question. I mean the government is not particularly friendly towards western journalists. That's an understatement. But it's one that our guys and women are very familiar with covering.

Andy Plesser:  Great. So tell us a little bit about digital news, both the production consumption. I understand you have some new digital staffers. You know, tell us about some of the emerging forms of digital journalism there at ABC news.

Paul Slavin: 
Um, we've recognized that on the web and in the mobile space the content, while much of the stuff that we do and in normal broadcast is very valuable, very highly desired, we have to supplement that. There seems to be an infinite capacity for consumption in these these emerging media, new media. Um and some of that media needs to be of a different style because we're dealing with a different audience. I tell the people who work with me that every platform has its own audience and we need to think about programming to it.

The iPhone audience is different from the Sprint platform which is different from the MobyTV platform which is different from the people who go to GMA.com, et cetera. So each platform, each distribution medium has its own unique programming needs, and we have to create programming for that in addition to giving them the best of what ABC news is currently creating. We put out, in a month, on average, eighty million video clips to all sorts of different partners. And even that isn't enough, so we're constantly looking for new ways, interesting ways, less expensive ways to talk to the audience of every platform that we serve.

Andy Plesser: 
Is there a digital form of reporting that's different than what would be traditional network reporting or is it similar?

Paul Slavin:  I wouldn't say it's, it's distinctly different, it's more attitudinal. We we still very much want to distribute something which is, conforms to standards and practices of ABC news. But we also understand that the demographic on certain platforms is differentl; it may be more male skewed or female skewed and maybe younger maybe older. So we try to address that by creating content. Content creation, as you know, is very very expensive, so we're looking for different ways, we're looking to use flip phones, we're looking to have correspondence film themselves, we're looking to let people edit on their own Macs or their own PCs. So we're bringing in new techniques, less expensive techniques, different points of view, different attitudes to address each user in a way that is the best for them.

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