7
Digital Television and Video News:
A Crisis of Opportunity

The Chinese character for crisis is a combination of two characters, one meaning “danger,” the other meaning “opportunity.” Television news is clearly entering a period of such crisis as it confronts the prospect of full-scale digitization: the transformation of analog audio and video into digital form.1

Traditional audio and video technologies captured light and sound wave patterns directly on film, magnetic tape, or plastic disk (i.e., the phonographic recording). Digital technologies, such as magnetic or optical disk, sample from those continuous wave patterns and represent each observation in a numeric, computer form of binary digits, l's and 0's representing “on” and “off,” or the presence or absence of a sound or lightwave. Once in digital form, all content, whether text, audio, video, or data, can be seamlessly manipulated by computer. And therein lies its revolutionary aspect. As was made evident in the exhibition hall of the 1998 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention in Las Vegas, the digital way heralds profound changes in how we gather and report news and information. Key to this future is the all-digital newsroom, now made entirely possible by the appearance of enabling technologies from such companies as Sony, Oracle, and Avid.

A digital newsroom is one in which every component processes information in digital, computerized form. All text, data, graphics, audio, and video are digital. There is no analog content or technology. From telephone to television, everything is computerized. In a digital newsroom, analog or

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