Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

‘5G Has Become a Sort of Magic Pixie Dust’

The Washington Post and New York Times have both now struck deals with cellular providers to hype 5G networking for journalism; neither has explained what, exactly, faster cellular networks will do to make journalism any better — where by “better”, in the case of journalism, I mean “more accurate, situated in context, and comprehensive”.

Here’s what the Times said they’d be using 5G to do in their partnership with Verizon:

The Times has journalists reporting on stories from over 160 countries. Getting their content online often requires high bandwidth and reliable internet connections. At home, too, covering live events means photographers might take thousands of photos without access to a reliable connection to send data back to our media servers. We’re exploring how 5G can help our journalists automatically stream media — HD photos, videos and audio, and even 3D models — back to the Newsroom in real-time, as they are captured.

And here’s the Post announcing their partnership with AT&T:

In addition, as news breaks throughout the country, The Post plans to experiment with reporters using millimeter wave 5G+ technology to transmit their stories, photos and videos faster and more reliably, whether they are covering forest fires on the West Coast or hurricane weather in the southeast.

Most journalism is still text. The Times and Post are absolutely doing wonderful things with video, but most of what they produce is still text, and text doesn’t need speed. I can see how photos and video would get to the newsroom faster, but is the speed of delivery really improving journalism?

I hope that the most time-consuming part of a journalist’s job is and remains in the analysis and research of a story — and having a faster connection does not inherently make someone a better researcher.

Karl Bode, Techdirt:

[…] It’s pretty telling of the era that nobody at either paper thought such a partnership could potentially represent a possible conflict of interest as they cover one of the most heavily hyped tech shifts in telecom history.

I don’t think either publication would jeopardize its integrity to spike stories about its corporate partners. But as antitrust questions increasingly circle tech companies, it is only a matter of time before questions about the lack of competition amongst ISPs and cellular providers cannot be ignored by lawmakers any longer. These are among the most important stories of our time. Should inherently skeptical publications be cozying up to the subjects of their investigations?