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`New' media have an old look

An Emmy category was created for emerging media, but newspaper websites dominate its nominations.

July 04, 2006|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — When the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences created a new Emmy award this year for news and documentary programs produced for websites, mobile phones and iPods, the group aimed to recognize the best of new media. But when the award is presented in September, the winner will likely be old media.

That's because five of the seven nominees for the so-called emerging media Emmy announced Monday were actually reports done by websites of the New York Times or the Washington Post. The traditional television news divisions were shut out of the category.

The fact that two newspapers dominate the nominations for an Emmy award speaks to the sea change currently underway in the media, noted Av Westin, co-chairman of the television academy's news and documentary awards committee. Rapidly changing technology is erasing the long-established boundaries between newspapers and television, creating new opportunities for print journalists, he said.

"The traditional networks, if they send somebody out to do a story, essentially their priority for the moment is to service their primary outlet of television," said Westin, a former ABC News executive. "Newspapers, I think have always wished they could be in television, but they didn't have a television network. Now they essentially have one: it's called the Web."

This is the first year that the television academy is giving out Emmy awards for content produced for new media platforms such as computers, mobile phones and iPods.

According to the academy's rules, the content had to be created specifically for viewing on new media and could not be a reconstituted version of a program that had already run on television.

The first two new media Emmys were handed out earlier this year to America Online for "Live 8 on AOL" (its coverage of the Live 8 concerts) and to ESPN.com for the webcast "Off Mikes."

The news and documentary "emerging media" award will be presented at a Sept. 25 ceremony in New York. Of the 48 entries, about 18 came from major television networks, Westin said. But none of them made the cut.

Instead, the website of the New York Times racked up three nominations, including one for a Web documentary about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan created by columnist Nicholas Kristof. A Web-exclusive video piece on Bolivia and a broadband interview series with a victim of child pornography were also nominated.

Vivian Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of nytimes.com, said one advantage the website may have is that it has sought to produce reports that do not resemble television pieces, noting that Web viewing requires different pacing and editing.

"We're not a television network," Schiller said. "For us, it's not just video -- it's podcasting and slide shows and multimedia and blogs. It's certainly our present, and it's going to be more and more of our future."

The website of the Washington Post was also nominated for a documentary about Azerbaijan and a video podcast about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The other two nominations went to MTV's overdrive.com for a series about last year's South Asian earthquake and to NationalGeographic.com for its webcasts about Hurricane Katrina.

Westin said that he believes one factor that may have given newspapers an edge in the competition was the quality of their writing.

"I think writing for television news and documentaries has declined in its style and in its content because the pictures so dominate what the reporters work with, whereas a print reporter has to do it all with words," said Westin, noting that almost all of the nearly two dozen judges who selected the nominees were from television.

"I imagine that this will have network folks on Wednesday morning calling in their broadband or Web people and saying, 'There is a serious award out there -- we better get in the game.' "

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