Geoffrey Roth may not look the part of a radical television revolutionary, a pioneer in an industry filled with nervous executives, but trust me, he is.
I first met Geoffrey Roth face to face at MoJoCon in Ireland last year.
I ran into him on the floor of the convention, and in all honesty, I did not know who I was talking to at first.
I had heard of this radical who was pushing iPhone video to its limits, but it took me a few minutes to put it together. Once I did, I was delighted to make his acquaintance in person.
I had heard tale of a brave news director who had totally reshaped a small Asian-language TV station in the Bay Area - KTSF 26.
The problem with small stations (the problem with ANY station) is the limited number of cameras and crews you have access to create stories.
Every local news station is hamstrung by this constraint. Even if you have 7 or even 8 crews (and extraordinary number for most), you can only assign them to spend a short amount of time on each story.
This means that the story has to more or less be guaranteed. You can't send the crew out on a hunch. It has to work every time.
Newspapers are different. A newspaper journalist might have an idea that they want to pursue - and why not? There is little risk here - it's only the reporter with his or her pencil and paper. If it works, great. If it does not... not much lost.
Not that way in local TV News. You cannot afford to have it 'not work out' - so the element of risk is eliminated. But good journalism is based on risk. That is why so few local TV stations (none?) ever break a news story. More often than not, they follow the local paper (so long as there is a local paper to follow).
When he got to KTSF26, Roth was really constrained. They hardly had any cameras or crews at all. So Roth did something radical. (and here, I lift this directly from his LinkedIn page):
He created new programming and digital media content for the independent television station serving the San Francisco Bay Area's Asian communities. Trained entire station staff to produce content for broadcast and digital platforms using mobile/iPhone video production tools. Created the only local morning newscast in the U.S. presented in Cantonese. Scaled social media content to make it a viable platform for advertising sales.
Let's grab that one sentence:
"Trained entire station staff to produce content for broadcast and digital platforms using mobile/iPhone video production tools."
You understand the ramifications of this.
Now everyone on the station has a camera with them 24 hours a day and knows how to use it.
That is revolutionary.
Roth did so well that he is now the News Director at KREX TV, the CBS affiliate in Grand Junction, CO, where he is doing the same:
The staff is all what Roth calls MMJ, and what I would call VJ, or video journalist.
While most of the VJs still use small kits and Sony XD cameras, still a major step away from the large, bulky, four-person crew set up, he is transitioning the newsroom to all phones.
I have no doubt that every TV station and network in the country world is going to start working in this way. And why not It makes sense.
But Geoffrey Roth got there first.