Old school vs. new school - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Old school vs. new school

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) - -

They're two generations of journalists, with very different styles and methods of doing things.

FOX13 News reporter Les Smith has been in the TV business since 1974.  

His son Jason, who's the Commercial Appeal's University of Memphis basketball beat writer, has been with the newspaper for 10 years.

"Old school? Yeah, because that's what I like ... I like it!," Les said.

From business cards to, yes, even phone books, Les is most likely what one would call "old school."

"You'll still get the business number off that book," Les said. "It works in the end, it always does."

Jason is certainly a new-school-style journalist and depends much more on technology than his father. "You've always got your phone. You've always got your laptop."

With their different techniques, both are succeeding in a competitive field and are quick to rib the other about how they get the job done.

Les: "I have my phone, of course, and then, I always carry my trusty set of cards."  
Jason: "Wow! I don't think I've seen these."  
Les:  "Yeah, everybody that's important is on these cards. See, I like to hold on to them because I think if you touch them, they're magic and people will ..."  
Jason: "This is getting ridiculous!"  
Les: "No, I'm telling you, it works."

When Les started in the business in the 1970s, cellphones were not even a blip on the radar.

"One of the things I remember is how you communicated," Les said. "I had a boss who told me to keep in touch every 30 minutes or so, and I asked, 'How am I going to do that?' He told me, 'Here are a bunch of dimes. You find a phone and you use these dimes.'"

Moving from pay phone to pay phone meant those cards, which Les still depends on, were like gold in the days without cellphones. Jason admits could prove priceless again if technology fails.

"Like with Coach Pastner, I don't actually know his exact phone number," Jason said. "I put it in my phone once and of course, with technology, you just call up 'Coach Pastner' and it dials it right up. My dependency on a phone is kind of scary."

But depending on a smart phone is a necessity in the journalistic age of Twitter,  where people want news immediately. Jason is one of the Twitter Kings of Memphis. Tigers basketball fans hang on to his every tweet, but Les isn't necessarily watching his son's Twitter feed.

"He just now, like a week or two ago, followed me after I complained about it," said Jason.

"I didn't mean to," said Les. "I thought I was already a follower and he calls me up and he goes, 'Why aren't you following me on Twitter,  dad?'  I was stunned."

The Twitter war doesn't end there. Jason is quick to point out; he's much more prolific on the social media website.

"Look at the difference in tweets; him - 33, me -19,000," Jason said.

But being a social media titan doesn't exactly impress old schoolers like Les. He has statistics that "trump" the Twitter world.

"I've done 8,000 stories since 1974," Les said..

The way of tracking down and getting a story can be debated. But the experience Les has acquired in his nearly 40 years in the business doesn't come with a computer, cellphone, or Twitter account.  It's why Les' desk in the FOX13 newsroom is like small museum.

"That's one of the reasons I think dad is one of the city's best storytellers -- the context he brings to each and every story," Jason said.  "It can be the simplest story out there and dad will find a way to tell it none of the rest of us can."

They're two generations of journalists who may not do everything the same but have a healthy respect for the other, and are proving there's not just one way of getting the job done, which could be a lesson for all of us.

Les said to Jason: "Looking at what you do, certainly inspires me to work and to stay relevant and know the legacy will continue.  So, I'm proud of you."

Jason responded: "I appreciate that. I'm proud of you, too."

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