You can’t clickety clack the news today

With advances in technology and the ease with which more people access the internet in this age, the delivery of news has become like the 100-meter dash at the Olympics.

Those in the news business have a few seconds from “On your marks. Get set. Go” to the finish line where in the past they had more hours than it takes to complete the marathon.

The Olympic metaphor shall go no farther.

A picture was taken, the film taken to the editor, who would spend some time holding the film up to the light, indicate what they’d want to reproduce and have that taken to a dark room and printed. All this as the writer went clickety clack at a typewriter that pinged and at the end of the roll of paper. The editor had a physical spike for copy he didn’t need. There was an army of people to set the type and people whose sole purpose was to proofread.

It seems like a century and a half when you look at the computer-to-plate technology in use today. It seems even further back in time when you experience the likes of Eye-Fi or see how easy it is to shoot some video for a minute and send that back to be posted online. In Kansas City, for example, I have seen people complain that an accident that caused a major snarl-up on the highway was reported an hour after it happened. Of course the reporters here have the benefit of listening in on police communication via the scanners.

At The Star, the most impressive innovations I have observed are Eye-Fi, which is used by photographers to send photos back to the office and the use of smart phones to shoot and send back video on developing events. Eye-Fi only requires the photographer to have a camera with two memory card slots. The Eye-Fi goes into one and the regular card into the other. Eye-Fi is also set up to link to the smart phone, which it uses as a wi-fi hotspot and to then send the photos to the preset server address. It’s a brilliant idea and heralds the way to go in innovation.

With access to fast internet- not really up to Google Fiber standards but still faster than it is now- innovation in media is most likely to shape the way the news is gathered and published.

Some say media will suffer from the effect of bloggers and citizen journalists, and they are correct to an extent, but media will survive when it does what someone sitting at a desk do- cannot go out and bring back the news faster. People are more likely to listen when an established media house is putting out verified information. When those stories are told in an interesting way, there are bound to be more people flocking back to catch up as the story unfolds.

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The sports department at The Star is a dark, cold and empty place during the day. That’s not a bad thing, though, because it is that way for several reasons. Sports events are usually held in the evening so a sports writer would be out of place showing up in the office in the morning. Also, most writers don’t come to the office because they cover events away, send in their stories and don’t really need to work from their cluttered desks at the office. It makes for a good study of newsroom management; when you have reporters that do not need to work from the office, there is no point in forcing them to come and sulk at their desks.

It has thus taken some adjusting for me, who last wrote sports while in training at the Daily Nation in 2007 and 2008.  It is also difficult to understand America’s favourite sports- baseball and football- enough to fluently write about them. That has been a major difficulty. Having the stadiums out of town – Livestrong to the west and the baseball and football stadiums to the east-means that unless a colleague is willing to give me a ride there and back, it’s impossible to go. It’s complicated when you consider that I haven’t met half of these colleagues.

The good thing is soccer is a universal sport and Kansas City, who now top the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer and have just won the U.S. Open Cup, the oldest tournament in the country’s soccer history (yes, soccer has history in the U.S.)

These guys make a good and loud noise.

The other good thing is that the reporters who were covering Sporting KC- Sam McDowell and Tod Palmer- were very nice, allowing me to ride out to the stadium with them and dropping me off at home after matches.

I thus got to cover the friendly where they played against English Premier League team Stoke City- and see how tall and thin Peter Crouch really is- and the thrilling final of the U.S. Open Cup.

It has also given me the opportunity to meet Lawrence Olum, a Kenyan who plays for Sporting KC, and to suggest a story I could end up doing for my home paper.

Lawrence Olum (centre at the back) with Grace Mbuthia, Drew Mwadime and their friend after the U.S. Open Cup final.

Sports is my last real posting at The Star and I would be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to finishing up and getting on the plane back home now.

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