Baylor University

Rocky Bridges

KCEN Chief Photographer Discusses Changes in the TV industry

By Warren Tonack, pre-business student


Rocky Bridges, chief photographer at the local news station KCEN, took time to speak to students at Baylor University on Monday, Sept. 10 about changes the TV news industry has seen over the last 20 years.

"The [TV news] industry is a whole different ballgame," said Bridges, who has more than 20 years of experience in the industry.

He has worked many different jobs including marketer, assignment manager and photojournalist, and has seen firsthand the changes the technology revolution has brought to the industry.

When he first started photography in 1994, Bridges recalls lugging around a $40,000 camera that weighed as much as a toddler. Typewriters and document cameras for writing and projecting scripts, respectively, were a staple at every news station. Everything was big, complicated and expensive.

Today, Bridges is able to carry around an HD camera that weighs only a few pounds and costs around $9,000. Instead of typewriters, there are computers, and instead of document cameras there are digital teleprompters. Everything is digital, smaller and cheaper. Stations are able to do so much more with so much less.

Garrett Battershell, a Baylor junior who is double majoring in both computer and management information systems, heard Bridges speak and said afterward that the technology revolution is "making journalism more mobile. [Bridges] could pull up his iPhone and just take a picture on the spot. They aren't limited, and locations are endless."

Most everyone walking on the street has the equipment in his/her pocket to be a photojournalist.

The Internet has also introduced an element to the industry that did not exist 20 years ago: social media. Twitter and Facebook have become huge outlets for KCEN. Bridges said through Twitter and Facebook, KCEN can follow its competitors 24/7 and can see what stories are being reported as they are still happening.

Social media has become a powerful tool for audience interaction too. Bridges recently posted a picture of a mysterious four-legged spider found inside the news station onto the KCEN Facebook page - breaking news at its finest - with a caption saying, "Name that spider." In a matter of days the picture had received more than 15,000 views and about 200 comments. Bridges was shocked to see how people responded to such a trivial post.

Not only do people interact with KCEN through Facebook, but people are beginning to help the station with its news in the form of user-generated content. As breaking news is taking place, witnesses are posting first-person content to KCEN's Facebook page. This helps the station have high-quality pictures, videos and details that would be impossible to attain otherwise. A news team cannot be omnipresent, but thanks to social media, they do not have to be.

Justin Meyer, a pre-business student at Baylor University who also heard Bridges speak, said, "I'm not surprised. Everything is technology based. It seems to flow." There is a natural movement towards the Internet, and the industry is learning how to see the Internet as an opportunity instead of a threat.

As evidenced by KCEN's Facebook page and the more-advanced technology used in production, the TV news industry has gone through many technological changes over the last 20 years. Technology is playing a bigger part in the industry's success. The industry is finally beginning to fully embrace the technology revolution and it is paying off big.

As Bridges said, "Business is good again. I think a lot of it is [we] are learning to play the Web."