Why 5G, Why Now?

By Sky Chadde | Investigate Midwest

For almost a decade, the media industry has wondered, is this the year of mobile? Headlines have asked that question since at least 2010, according to slides from Marc Lavallee, a former New York Times journalist now with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. 

But, with the increasing popularity of 5G, the industry might actually be in its mobile era, he said. Some of its capability is already on display, while other elements and uses need to be ironed out. “We have stuff that is very actionable today,” Lavallee said. “We have stuff that needs more time to bake.”

One instance of 5G having a major effect on a newsroom’s abilities is photography. Years ago, The NY Times relied on a computer in a backpack that photographers wore to upload photos to the newsroom from the field. Now, photos can be uploaded to the newsroom with someone’s phone, with some downsampling. 

There, editors can pick which ones to publish and get them sent out across social media. This was on display during the 2020 Oscars’ red carpet, Lavallee said. The live broadcast has a 10-minute tape delay, but Times’ photographers could upload photos to the newsroom in 1.5 seconds, he said. 

That time element is crucial in a world where social media demands near instantaneous gratification from audiences, he said.

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