Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tom Bettag, Nightline & Cold Calls

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Click here to play Nightline Clip in Quicktime QT

This is the first of several posts on encoding video both on the Mac or PC for playing over the Internet. I encoded this clip for streaming over high bandwidth.In the next posting I will encode for a progressive download so you can view the clips and compare. I will also encode using Flip 4 Mac, the codec that allows a Mac user to encode for Windows Media Player.

I produced this story as a one person team on assignment for Nightline in 2000. I shot the story with a PD150, a wireless and shotgun Sennheiser mike. I wrote the script with the kind mentoring and assistance of former Nightline Executive Producer Tom Bettag. In Nightline's Washington studio I recorded the voiceover and worked with a talented Nightline editor as we crashed on this story.

...A Little Shoptalk. Tom Bettag, Ted Koppel

Ted Koppel and his longtime producer, Tom Bettag, left ABC's "Nightline" in November, not to retire, but to forge on mightily. Not long after Koppel departed, he became managing editor over Discovery Channel's news documentaries, with Bettag remaining at his side as executive producer. In a Broadcasting & Cable interview, Koppel On His Jump to Discovery, Ted Koppel talks about this next Big Leap Forward for the most talented duo in broadcast news.

Excerpted Ted Koppel Interview, Broadcasting and Cable

These folks are serious. While Tom Bettag and I are a couple of grueling greybeards who can probably afford to go off and retire, the rest of our team are not. They are being very generously compensated.

What are you going to get out of Discovery that you wouldn't get elsewhere?

An environment that is conducive to doing the kind of programming that we want to do. And a relationship with people of integrity and talent that is consistent with the kind of relationship Tom and I have had at Nightline over the years. The great joy of Nightline was, we could always do what we thought was important. The great joy of Discovery is that we can expand beyond even what we have done in the past.

The Power of a Cold Call

In fact, if you think " knowing someone" is the only way to get cross media assignments, here's a story to chew on. It was a "cold call" letter to Tom Bettag that set me out on my quest as a cross-media maven. I wrote a letter to Tom at Nightline. In it I expressed my interest to work with his team, as a " reforming" photographer who hoped to break in to TV news. I was then 40 something. Good luck you say.

Tom Leads to VNI...

This was before e-mail. Tom thoughtfully answered my letter on ABC letterhead that was typed. ( Those of you born after 1990 might refer to this archaic form of comunications a " hard copy.") In his reply Tom suggested that I contact Michael Rosenblum, who was then doing a start-up called VNI ( Video News International ). Michael believed that the next new thing was videojournalists equipped with Hi-8 video cameras, working as a one person team.

This is another long story I will delve into later... But to finish up on the Tom Bettag story. I did sign on to VNI and learned to write, shoot, report and track stories as a one person team.

...And then VNI Leads to The Digital Journalist...

Michael and his co-venture partner eventually sold VNI to the The New York Times. By that time I had graduated to shooting and producing stories on my own for CNN, WTN and CBS TeleNoticias. Shortly after, I founded The Digital Journalist along with my VNI colleague Dirck Halstead as partner.

After a story on our partnership appeared in Photo District News, Dirck told me he had trademarked our company name in his own and went off by himself. But that's fine. Come all ye. He's done a great job and built up The Digital Journalist as the go-to site for all involved in creating cross-media. He also conducts " Playtypus" workshops. I also hear he is an adjunct professor at University of Texas at Austin, the perfect venue for him to empower and incite the next generation of cross-media story tellers.

And back to Nightline. The Circle Comes Round

But to get to the end of the story. In 2000 I finally worked with Tom Bettag at Nightline. And it just goes to show you the power of a single cold-call, well-timed, thoughtful and properly executed without perstering. And my hat goes off with deepest gratitude to Michael Rosenblum as well who trained me to shoot video in the first place and write scripts. Two Pros

Proof of Lateral Thinking In Action

Only twenty mintes ago I began to write this post about encoding video and now find myself crafting a post instead that ends with an annecdote about the power of cold calls. What gives?

Check on my earlier post Big Bang Thinking and the earlier post on hyperlinks. No I'm not a Big Banger. Only in my dreams. But I certainly enjoy writing and thinking in a lateral manner although I also perform fine in the linear world.

Which is why I do cross-media.

How about you? Send us your thoughts to Send Comments To "Crossing Media"

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