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Show me the MoJo! - TvTechnology

Show me the MoJo!

MoJo is one of the affectionate names used to illustrate the changing world we’re involved in—mobile journalists.
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In January, we conducted our annual IT Strategic Planning Session at our Richmond, Va., headquarters. The attendees for this two-day meeting included IT personnel from all of our key operational divisions (broadcasting, publishing and interactive media), as well as a host of executives to help clarify their vision of our goals. We were obligated to invite a few key finance folks as well; after all, we look to them to help us figure out how we’re going to pay for these “visions.”

Our company consists of dozens of remote locations throughout the Southeast (primarily). This annual meeting serves as an opportunity for us to collaborate and understand what we’re all doing; it’s an ongoing struggle that we must conquer. The problem I see is that meetings of this type often exclude some of the most important people—those on the front line that serve our company everyday and ensure that our product goes to air, appears in print or shows up on your cell phone. In some cases, our front line folks are responsible for all three of these objectives.

GROUP EFFORT

It’s simply not possible to have everyone attend meetings such as this, but it’s more essential today than ever that their voices are clearly heard and that they understand the direction our company is taking. We can certainly make decisions, but we have to rely on everyone’s participation to ensure a successful campaign. This year, thanks to the assistance of our internal centralized graphics operation, MGFX (see my last column that ran in the April 2, 2008, issue of TV Technology), we were able to record these presentations and make them available to all remote sites.

The feedback has already been extremely positive. Not only does everyone feel up to date with the latest, but it makes them even more aware that they are an integral part of our team—and our ultimate success or failure. As they learn more about convergence, cooperation and sharing of content, they now have the information about the business we conduct outside of their day to day operations.

What I found particularly interesting this year, is how all of our presentations shared a very common theme. Publishing folks were no longer isolated to their print products; we (broadcast) were not only concerned about our video, and interactive media was looking at both of us as critical partners.

I’ve seen examples of this firsthand. Recently I watched as a Richmond-Times Dispatch reporter arrived for work one morning. As she exited her vehicle, I was impressed to see a mid-range HD video camera slung over her shoulder. She was no longer just a print reporter. Likewise, I see our broadcast personnel in our newspapers each day. Our Web counterparts are involved in our efforts of “Web first” and they are adapting to this changing environment.

So, where’s the MoJo? Well, the easy answer to that is you’ll find MoJos at just about any Media General property. MoJo is one of the affectionate names used to illustrate the changing world we’re involved in—mobile journalists.

I’m almost at my 20-year mark with Media General. My first 10 years was spent in our publishing division, the balance in broadcast. I have a somewhat unique perspective of watching and comprehending the changes we’re going through. Ten years ago, there were significant differences between a broadcast and publishing newsroom—and usually some animosity as well. Now when I visit one of our converged markets, it’s amazing to see both sides working together, sharing talent and providing solutions.

We have journalists—regardless of whether they work for one of our television stations or a newspaper—that are writing stories, recording events, editing video, learning tactics of the Web, and finding appealing answers for our customers.

This change isn’t without its IT challenges. In fact, there are a multitude of issues we’ll face to make this all work. The ability for a MoJo to have flexibility is key. One issue we’ve identified recently is that MoJos utilizing any type of wireless air card to connect back to our network for the transfer of data present a new concern. We aren’t used to obtaining a majority of our data in this manner.

SPEED IT UP

Traditionally, users connecting to devices within our network were fairly easy to track. VPN access worked well and users could gain access to the handful of equipment they needed. Today, we’re looking at opening additional ports on our firewalls to allow some special handling capabilities and access to servers and devices that will help ensure our mission moves forward. With wireless cards, we have less capability of restricting (i.e., protecting) access because of dynamic IP allocations. It’s becoming more difficult to prove that the user connecting via wireless is really who I think it is. We’re still working on this issue, and it’s a concern because it will be a major shift in our security philosophy.

Sharing and distribution of content is an absolute requirement. Speed of acquisition is critical. If that still headshot or that 20-second video clip can’t be back in our shops within minutes of creation, we’ll face very challenging times. In cases of regional importance, our properties must be able to share and distribute content and eliminate duplicated efforts. We’re doing this now—we’re working to make it better and faster.

As we move forward, it’s interesting to find that those same journalists—the ones used to working in a newspaper bureau or a television station—are themselves learning new technologies. They are providing the initial questions, and often the answers, as to what solutions may be best. That kind of teamwork and involvement will help to produce the solution we need for the future. Count on IT!