Chapter II — The Thirty’s Gene of Creativity
The Thirty wasn’t just a model in creativity, but in pooling the resources of one of the most diverse group of young people to be assembled to launch a station— a sort of Avengers Assembled to take on the world of broadcasting.
Imagine that, one of the most significant launches in broadcasting since ITV and the BBC’s second Channel in the 1960s being planned and the money men would put their faith in what one journalist called the ‘oddest sorts to be brought together’ — non establishments.
New platforms outside of terrestrial broadcasting were opening up: satellite which would yield BskyB and Murdoch whilst on cable, CNN had proved this outlets viability. The Thirty were being given access to cable in what was a expected to be a multi-billion pound drive into people’s homes.
When the ad was placed in the Guardian jobs section, it had the undertone of a secret sect, like something out of joining the Masons. Within three months, 100…500…1000.. 2000… No eventually 3000 people applied.
The Ad said one thing to scare off time wasters, but in practice, management were looking for:
· Bloody minded individuals, quite literally.
· People who had not been conditioned by television news and had opinions.
· If you passed the test at the interview of how to pick up and handle a video camera and they liked you, you had an hour to go out and shoot a story. This was conundrum number one. If you’ve never worked in TV News, how do you know how do you know the methodology of what it looks like or not. Conundrum number two: those who brought anything along the lines of TV News were thanked for their time. Reality TV interviews like you’ve never had before huh?
· A smattering of TV folks were taken on, such as Marcel Theroux, Oni Bhattacharya; Trish Adudu and me, but you still had to have the whiff of anti-traditionalism about you.
Chapter IIB: Now, once you’ve got your team down from 3000 to 30, what next?
Management hired forward thinking executives in broadcasting, a New Yorker, Michael Rosenblum, a pioneer of videojournalism and then let the thirty loose into a training regime.
There were few fixed frameworks of what you should do. A circle of trust was built around the VJs, with room to experiment, make mistakes and group learn in what was a reversion of the Delphi Procedure — a procedure designed by the Rand corporation in the 1960s. It‘s like today’s hackathon in which each person’s work once critiqued publicly by others, is left to improve upon.
Today you’ll read management training manuals or words of wisdom about providing an environment for staff to thrive, for leaders to lead by example rather than be bossed by bosses. This was one of the Thirty’s ethos.
Videojournalists dug up their stories, before they appeared in the newspapers or it had been broadcast elsewhere. By the end of the year, the average count of stories produced was 500. Several videojournalists could produce four two minute packages in one day’s shift.
They rotated off from news to programme making. Some long forms took them overseas. Decision making by management was swift. They results weren’t always pretty, but this approach was producing an epistemology, unlike no other in understanding what social scientists call historical analogy, scenario building and trend extrapolation.
Then just as it was settling in for the long run, the inevitable humdinger crisis that besets several businesses emerged. A decision was made amongst management concerning equipment and the introduction of a tier of executives to protect the VJs work. Many VJs saw this as disastrous for them stripping their autonomy, Management and some VJs saw this as necessary to refine and protect this new emerging brand. Business development is anything but smooth, but the seeds had been put in place to witness how to foster creativity.
Next up: Chapter III, The Thirty: Looking at the rearview window towards the Future.
Go back a page to Chapter I, The Thirty (untold movement): the Soderbergh, Von Triers and Lees of new cinema journalism.