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Case Study: Rumble in the Village: Michael Rosenblum's DV Dojo
Posted Oct 3, 2003 - May 2005 Issue Print Version     Page 1of 2 next »

Once upon a time, putting together broadcast-quality television took the work of dozens, from scriptwriters to camera operators to makeup artists, and let's not forget the input of a small group of decision-makers, the studio execs, whose financial wherewithal was essential to setting the project in motion. Television was expensive, time-intensive, and generally watered down—so says Michael Rosenblum, founder of the DV Dojo and acclaimed "father of video journalism." As Rosenblum, who's also the founder and former president of NYT TV (a New York Times Company) and author of such jeremiads as "Carpe Medium" and "TV Sucks" puts it, "TV crushes creativity. Until now, it's been a group activity, and even worse, a corporate activity. Imagine what kinds of paintings we would have if only the employees of Sherwin Williams were allowed to paint."

The advent of relatively inexpensive DV cameras, accessible editing tools, and mainstream processor chips powerful enough to create broadcast quality video on a laptop holds the possibility of changing television as a medium much in the same way the Gutenberg printing press altered the world's perception of the written word, Rosenblum believes. "It wasn't about printing more bibles," he says. "The printing press was a piece of technology that allowed anyone with an idea the opportunity to publish. DV cameras are that printing press."

What's more, in addition to providing the technical foundation for all kinds of video work, the DV format's unprecedented economics offer the television industry something it desperately needs: a radical alteration to its business model. As more and more television stations hit the airwaves, Rosenblum says, spitting out more than four million hours of airtime a year, the market fractionalizes, the ad revenue pie gets sliced into smaller and smaller pieces, and television stations must find a way to decrease their overhead.

What he's trying to do begins with bringing a sense of authorship and individuality to television and ends with stations being able to reduce the number of employees down to one person equipped with a DV camera, a laptop, and a head full of ideas. He's already taken this concept to Sweden, where he helped start a series of television stations founded in the "VJ" (video journalist) ideal. He's also co-developed a 24-hour news network in New York called NY1 with Paul Sagan, he's revamped the way the United States government keeps track of news, and is currently in the process of doing the same for the BBC in London. He will travel to Germany in September to begin a similar project there, and all these efforts are based on the VJ concept.

Rosenblum's partner in the BBC initiative, Nigel Kay, believes his work with Rosenblum is the beginning of a sea change in how TV news is done. Kay, the editorial coordinator for BBC Nations and Regions, explains, "I am one of those people who believes that in five years' time, or even less, the market for TV news will have changed quite considerably. As broadband rolls out, there is the potential for a lot more local news, and we at the BBC have to be clear about what our role will be as the leading provider of news in the UK. We have to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities."

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