Wednesday, September 22, 2010

RIP Lou Grant

Recently I discovered reruns of “Lou Grant” on a cable network. It was of course based on the “Lou Grant” character spun off from the Mary Tyler Moore show. However while “Mary” was a comedy, “Lou” was more of a drama about a fictional newsroom at a Los Angeles newspaper. The show ran from 1977 to 1982 and was eventually bumped out of the CBS lineup by “Cagney and Lacey.”

It occurred to me while I was watching some of those reruns how much the tools of the trade have evolved over those 30 years since the show was on the air. Typewriters have been replaced by keyboards and computers. Phones by smart phones and there were no newspapers on the Internet then. In fact there was no Internet.

Reporters no longer have to search for a pay phone to call in a story. In fact they can text it, if need be to their editors or plug them directly on a website if they have that authority. Dictating a story is becoming a lost art. Newspaper reporters no longer need a photographer to accompany them when they can snap a photo on their cell phone. Although photographers are still important to get photos that no cell phone can do justice to.

Of course reporting for a radio station is a little different, but I still take notes at meetings and events. Because we also have a website and dabble in the social media world of twitter and Facebook, I occasionally bring along a digital camera. The cassette tape recorders radio reporters used to carry along have been replaced by digital recorders, which take much less time to get sound off of.

One recent episode of “Lou Grant” I viewed dealt with how the characters were able to publish a newspaper during a power outage. They basically took everything they needed to another city and had it published there. These days several or more newspapers are published on the same printing presses as a matter of every day business and economy. But power outages are still a problem for everyone including the radio industry.

Watching that show kind of drove home the struggle newspapers are encountering as more and more people rely on the Internet for their instantaneous news. Newspaper and for that matter radio staffs have been reduced over the years. People still tune in radio for news, weather and sports. It’s a matter of being local. Losing that local reporting is what is at stake as more people go to the Internet and newspapers, radio and television struggle to cope.

A colleague of mine once said the real danger is that some time in the future your local newspaper may become a couple page wrap around for a national newspaper. I think I just heard “Lou Grant” roll over in his grave.