Saturday, March 08, 2008

Impressions from South by Southwest

So, I've just filed my article about the premiere of the "Harold & Kumar" sequel at the South by Southwest Film Festival. It will appear in Sunday's paper.

Thought you might like to know some of the basic details about reporting from a festival. I've been singularly focused on seeing this one film, so all my comments relate to it.

* Both South by Southwest's film and interactive festivals are running concurrently, and I've never seen so many laptops, video cameras and iPhones in one building (outside of any building in San Francisco). Virtually ever reporter has all three and uses them effortlessly. The hot topic of discussion is social networking tools (like and and and and how journalists and companies are leveraging these tools in their coverage. A lot of the conversation is interesting, but there is still one aspect of this style of reporting I'm not entirely comfortable with: inserting oneself into the story. Of course, that's what a blog is about, and I think it's the perfect medium for it. I hear a lot of journalists talking about their vlogs and blogs, but my main question is this: would I be comfortable if social networking tools were my only tools for reporting? What if, for instance, I only reported news on my blog and not for the paper? Would you find me less credible? More credible? Why has "putting a face" to coverage become so important to newspaper reporting? How does this influence perceptions of objectivity? In pop media reporting, does the question of objectivity really matter as much as it did 10 years ago? Is it the reporter's duty to be an entertainer first, reporter second? I don't have any clearcut answers for that yet.

* Though this festival is incredibly efficient -- how they get this many people to show up in the right place is an organizational wonder -- covering these things does entail quite a bit of waiting. All morning, for instance, I was trying to blog about what I was hearing at the panels, especially on one about the writers' strike. The tool I use for blogging (, however, had crashed. I couldn't satisfy the need for immediacy, and that was frustrating. How fast do you want your news in a festival environment? If it's three hours old, it feels completely dated at this festival.

* Austin has some wonderful venues for seeing movies, including the Alamo Drafthouse cinemas. I've been to these "brew and view" type venues before where you can eat and drink during the feature. The Robinson Film Center will have a modified version of this, and I wonder how long it will take Shreveport patrons to get comfortable with the idea that they can drink beer and wine and upgraded snacks inside the movie theater.

* That's it for now. Off to the Paramount Theatre to get in line for the "HK2" premiere. I saw the flick last night and am eager to see if it's brand of humor hits home with a 1,200-seat house. My guess? I'm in Austin. I'm gonna go for "yup."


caseyko74 said...

Austin s one of the great cities to watch films in. The Alamo Drafthouse chain there you can see everything form first run movies to little known exploitation flicks. They are always bringing people to talk about their movies and hosting premieres.

The Paramount there has a summer series of classic films with everything from staples such as Gone With the Wind to James Bond films. Also, the Austin Film Society hosts screenings at the Paramount with directors in attendance to talk about their films.

Shreveport and New Orleans could both learn a lot from Austin as far as how to show films. But, it is easier to find production jobs in Louisiana.

Alexandyr Kent said...

Thanks, caseyko74. I agree that Shreveport could learn from Austin in many ways. Hopefully, the Robinson Film Center will become a nexus for local cinephiles. There are quite a few people in town doing interesting things with film programming -- from Centenary Film Society to minicine to Moviesaucers -- and I think a dedicated arthouse like RFC should help bring like minds together in larger numbers.

Uncomfortably Numb said...

"What if, for instance, I only reported news on my blog and not for the paper? Would you find me less credible? More credible? Why has "putting a face" to coverage become so important to newspaper reporting?"

Maybe it is less about putting a face to coverage and more about a multi-layered news experience for the news consumer. I often catch myself reaching for the palm treo to google anything I can find about something or someone brought to my attention by a television program, a movie, a radio program, or a website. I certainly place more confidence in those sites connected with recognized and respected news sources, but I am also curious to read more editorial-type material typically found in blogs, etc.

Good thought-provoking questions.

Alexandyr Kent said...

I agree with the multilayered approach, especially given the current media environment.

What concerns me most, and I think a lot of fellow journalists, is that medium might be supplanting the message in some instances.

I think in whatever format, it's the journalist's responsible to report efficiently yet provide depth and background where necessary. When you're restricted to one medium or focusing on it primarily, it can become difficult to decide when you've reached an information threshold, of sorts.

Take this blog, for instance. It's my assumption that readers come here to keep pace with what's NOW in the industry, what's amusing, what's tangentially interesting, and, most importantly, a dialogue. But the blog restricts me from doing some things: it's not a place for long critical essays. It's not traditionally a place for hard news reporting. I reserve that type of stuff for print.

Unfortunately, I fear a lot of organizations are misusing mediums like blogs because they know it reaches a different audience. I'm always curious as to whether or not a blog I'm reading is balanced out by another medium, such as print pieces or video stories or audio stories.

The explosion of technology in recent years has given us powerful new tools to report. I just want to have confidence that we're using all tools for the best, most productive purposes.