Some days, I hear my reporter’s notebook weeping from the depths of my back pocket.

For two decades, he was the perfect solider, rounding up details about fires, murders and downtown scrums, gobbling up awesome terms like “fracas,” “brouhaha” and “donnybrook” and then unleashing them upon our readers.

Pile driver in Kennedy Park? Into the notebook it went. Hilarious groin injury at the skateboard park? The notebook had it for posterity.

Those slender notebooks sought to capture every seamy detail about every sordid deed to transpire down there in the trenches, and readers of the morning paper couldn’t wait to see what we had found.

These days, nobody much cares about what the notebooks have to say because these days, news beams right into the eyeballs of the curious, with no need for scribbled lines along the way.

Two news events — one local, one far-flung — bring the changing face of news into view.


Kennedy Park on a Friday night. I’m late to what is described as a “head-stomping” because I was off in Lisbon interviewing a guy about cookies.

By the time I was on the scene, there wasn’t a whole lot for me and my sad, cookie-crumbed notebook to do. By the time I was on the scene, video captured by photography stud Russ Dillingham had already beamed around the world to be enjoyed by — I’m pretty sure I’m not making this number up — 20,000 viewers while the blood was still wet.

What I was seeing there at the hot corner of Pine and Bates, random people across the city and around the globe were seeing, too. Where once I would have had an exclusive on this ugly and confusing scene, now it was out there to be enjoyed by anyone on the planet with a Facebook account.

Facebook Live, baby! Not to mention Periscope, Snapchat, UStream, iStream, we all scream for news streams.

Who cares that I scribbled “boot to head,” or “blubbering woman in Lynard Skynard T-shirt” in my little notebook? You could see it all for yourself, even if you happened to be hanging around in your underwear in Bucksnort, Utah.

One night later, I was up until the wee hours, searching for information about rioting in Milwaukee. CNN? Nope, they were still babbling about the Olympics. FOX, ABC, NBC? Heck, no. Mainstream media is as unreliable as it is untrustworthy.


I found what I was looking for through a group of amateur news chasers who had set up a live stream through YouTube. There were four or five of them, each of them pulling in whatever video footage they could find through Periscope, Facebook Live, Broadcastify and other streaming services that would have sounded like pure Jetsons fantasy just 10 years ago.

It was riveting, not because it was the most professional news presentation I’ve ever seen, but because it was not. It was honest and organic. Much of the video of the carnage in Milwaukee came through average people on the streets with nothing more than cellphone cameras and a willingness to wade into the fray.

There were no scripts to be followed, no agendas to be pushed. The commentary just sizzled with excitement, uncontaminated by corporate bull.

“According to scanner chatter, it sounds like we have more shots fired on the— Holy #$&!@! Did that gas station just go up in flames? Let’s check to see if there are any more @#!@#% Facebook streams from that sector. This is $#&@ crazy! Back to you, Richie in Boston.”

The best coverage of both the Democratic and Republican conventions didn’t come through the alphabet soup news agencies, it came through YouTube, where fact-hungry people were on the streets with store-bought video cameras and all of the pertinent apps. They weren’t out there telling you what you should believe. They were showing you, so you could make up your own mind about things.

It’s crazy, yo.

I lament the old ways of news reporting, true enough, but I also marvel at the alternative media sources springing up like tomato plants on a dung heap.

With traditional network sources serving as little more than corporate mouthpieces, alternative media may be the future of news — hardworking Joes and Janes working without pay and taking full advantage of Jetson-era technology to get the job done.

Just do me a favor, Richie from Boston. Get yourself a reporter’s notebook and let it dangle from your back pocket now and then, if only as a symbol of the old days, which appear to be fading from view.

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