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Watching the Future of Television News in London

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iPhones all around

There was a pretty funny announcement yesterday morning from Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo:

"News is definitely a daily habit for our users," said Mayer, "and Katie will work with our talented editorial team to pioneer a new chapter of digital journalism."

Katie, in this case, would be Katie Couric, former anchor of the Today show and no one's idea of someone who is pioneering "a new chapter of digital journalism."

While reading this, I am actually sitting with a group that is, in fact, pioneering a new chapter in digital journalism.

This week we are training 40 print journalists from two great newspapers -- The Independent and The London Evening Standard -- to shoot their own stories using an iPhone.

The Independent and The Evening Standard are part of the launch of a new 24-hour local TV channel for the city of London -- London Live. All of this is being backed by Evgeny Ledbedev, a man who clearly understand both journalism and the future.

London Live is a new platform for Londoners launching in Spring 2014 on television, online, tablets, mobile, taxis and outdoor media. Brought to you by the owner of the London Evening Standard, we are the first 24/7 entertainment channel devoted exclusively to the capital. We will be unashamedly modern, urban, celebratory and knowing, reflecting the vitality and diversity of the world's most exciting city.

A lot of people have launched local TV stations. I was part of the last attempt to do this -- Channel One, done with Associated Newspapers in 1994.

What makes this unique, and of enormous interest to me personally, is that London Live is equipping their stable of great print journalists with iPhones to shoot the video. Yesterday, we sent our reporters out to do video stories and then screened their work. The quality of the work, journalistically, was outstanding. This was not a surprise, as the cameras were in the hands of great and seasoned reporters. What astonished me was the absolute broadcast quality of the iPhone video. The video images from the iPhone 5 literally jumped off the screen.

In the 'olden days' of television news, shooting a story meant booking a crew, getting a camera, finding a producer, getting a reporter and so on. Everyone carries an iPhone with them all the time. It's always there. No on carries a betacam with them all the time -- or a TV crew for that matter.

And of course, as any 9-year-old can tell you, shooting video with an iPhone is not very intimidating. Shooting great video with an iPhone, learning how to cut it and make great stories? Four days with us.

So this is a real revolution.

This morning we unleashed 24 iPhone-armed digital journalists on the streets of London to report and produce a video story. At the same time, the BBC was covering all of London with 8 conventional TV news crews -- and at vastly higher cost.

Put the power of making television in the hands (and the pockets -- heck, it's there already) of highly accomplished reporters and journalists and you have an absolute killer combination. If they execute properly (and I guess they are going to), I think that London Live could set the standard for television journalism for the next decade and beyond.