Jamie Butow

Tuesday, Oct 09 2012 03:00 AM

JAMIE BUTOW: The news doesn't come in by pigeon anymore

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    By Louis Amestoy / The Californian

    Californian staff photographer Felix Adamo moves images from La Paz to the newsroom by connecting his camera to a staff iPad and then transmitting via wifi from Keene on Monday.

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By Jamie Butow

Way back in the dark ages of journalism -- you know, 1998 -- I got my first real job at newspaper that didn't even have a web site. If you wanted local news, you watched news on television when the stations aired it or you waited for your newspaper to hit your driveway in the morning. Yes, this was even pre-TiVo.

I started my career as a copy editor for the Visalia Times-Delta a year before their web site was launched. Over the next 12 years, as this whole news gathering and dissemination business evolved, I migrated into the online side of things.

Just thinking about how things have changed boggles my mind.

In 2000 the Times-Delta had a typical newspaper web site, but like most other news organizations, we were only updating it each morning with the articles in that day's paper. There was no posting breaking news. There were no text alerts sent to our cellphones, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube. And if you wanted live video, you had better be near a TV as there was certainly no streaming live video online.

That was also the year President Bill Clinton made a trip to Tulare County to establish the Giant Sequoia National Monument. I was among the editors who planned our coverage for the paper. We secured extra space, requested credentials for reporters and photographers and wrote about everything we could from road closures to the historial impact of a presidential visit to what the designation of a National Monument means.

The day of his visit our reporters and photographers, along with dignitaries and other invitees, were up in the in the mountains at the designated time. I was in the office preparing early feature pages for the press and waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

It wasn't like Monday in The Californian's newsroom.

There was no waiting around for staff to return as President Barack Obama visited Kern County.

Today we live in a world of nonstop news and information and tomorrow is too late.

I contacted my colleagues from the day of Clinton's visit and asked them if they have any memories of that day.

Former reporter Justin Stoner was stationed at Meadows Field. "I think I had a cell phone the size of a ham sandwich -- at least it felt that big," he said.

Photographer Ron Holman reminded me that we were still shooting photos on film.

Even if we had digital, there was no transmitting those photos from the field, especially in such a remote area of the mountains where that day's ceremony took place.

The re-cap of Clinton's historical visit to Tulare County was given to readers the following morning when their paper hit the driveway or when they checked the web site after the 4 a.m. "rollover."

And that was OK because that's just how it was.

No one expected to get dozens of 140 character updates or see live video online from the site.

Fast-forward to 2012 with our web sites, text alerts, Twitter, Facebook, DVRs, etc ... .

Just like in 2000, The Californian had reporters and photographers stationed at key locations. But we also had two people shooting video, we streamed Obama's speech live on the web, and sent out information on Twitter and Facebook.

Twelve years ago, photographers scrambled to get all their film developed and edited so pages could be designed and sent to the pressroom on time.

On Monday photographer Felix Adamo sat in La Paz with his digital camera connected to an iPad and sent photos back to the newsroom to be posted online.

Some things are still done the old-fashioned way -- by phone, but with a modern twist.

Reporters phoned in updates to editor Christine Peterson, who then posted "color" updates to @TBCBreakingNews on Twitter.

"At General Beale Road the motorcade passed Murray Family Farms roadside fruit stand but did not stop to pick up a giant pumpkin."

Wouldn't it have been great if he had?

Over on Facebook we kept everyone up to date on Obama's movements and linked to the latest videos posted to our YouTube channel (YouTube.com/BakoTube). Yes, videos were posted to YouTube before staff even returned to the newsroom.

Digital Media Manager Louis Amestoy was at the site at early Monday morning. Pictures and video -- taken with his iPhone -- started appearing online by 6:30 a.m. He uploaded a total of eight videos, including Obama's speech that was also streamed live on Bakersfield.com.

We used Facebook and Twitter to ask people affected by the ticket snafu to contact us. Within minutes, we heard from those who had been uninvited and we had a story online within a few hours.

Twelve years ago, that story likely wouldn't have happened.

Senior Vice President Logan Molen, who has been working in and around The Californian newsroom for 24 years, noted that today we are "curators online, piecing together reports from our staff and other sources."

"We reported when Air Force One was about to land, when it landed, when Obama got off the plane, when he got in the motorcade, etc. We shared a quick Twitter photo of Kris Kristofferson; no need for an interview on why he was there -- the photographic proof of a celeb in the midst seems enough in the context. All of these bits aren't critical elements to the larger story but they were easy enough to report and all added up to make the story more interesting."

My former colleague Justin Stoner recalled a specific moment from his post at Meadows Field.

"After President Clinton left, another helicopter landed and men dressed all in black tactical gear got out literally dripping in guns," he recalled. "I asked who they were and Secret Service said those were the agents staked out in the mountains days before the visit that no one ever saw."

That would have been one heck of a TwitPic, if Twitter had been around in those dark ages of journalism.

Jamie Butow is the community engagement coordinator for the Bakersfield.com Network, a social media junkie and the mom of an active 8-year-old boy. Email her at JButow@bakersfield.com. Follow her atFacebook.com/JamieButow2, Twitter @JamieButow, and on Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

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