September 30th, 2008
It took them awhile to get engaged, but now local TV newscasts are hot and heavy on the biggest story in a long time – the trials and tribulations, and effects, of the failed Bailout plan. Last week in this space, I railed about local TV newscasts ignoring (except for superficial network packages) this huge story.
Well, beginning with yesterday's drama on Capitol Hill and Wall Street, the local TV newscasts in Dallas, and in other markets (viewed on my Slingbox) did an excellent job of reporting on the local impact of this huge story. I think maybe some local TV newsrooms were a little slow to the story because they did not realize that over half of the workers in this country have their retirement income tied up in 401K accounts. Those accounts, and other stocks lost over one-trillion dollars yesterday.
So, even though they were late to the party, I must commend local TV news today for doing a great job yesterday in explaining the effect of the stock market meltdown, and what viewers, personally, can do about it. I found much of the reporting to be very helpful in empowering viewers.
And my advice for today is this: Keep the coverage pedal to the metal! I can guarantee that viewers are thirsty fo more strong local coverage about the economy in the day's ahead. If you lead with some one-on-one crime – they will quickly zap away in search of that information.
Bill Clinton's handlers said it best during his first presidential campaign – “It's about the economy stupid.” That advice is right on the money for your local TV newscasts in the weeks ahead.
September 26th, 2008
Are you empowering your viewers with the local impact of the Bailout drama playing out in Washington, DC? Or - like the Dallas TV stations – are you still just dishing out the local crime and mayhem de jour each morning and night?
If you're following the lead of the Dallas local newscasts you are not serving your viewers. AR&D research shows that today – more than ever – viewers want to be empowered to handle their own situations – be it financial or otherwise. But as I sit in my town watching the newscasts I keep getting a steady diet of crime and other run-of-the-mill local news. They do throw in an occassional network package with a standard report on the negotiations, but there is no impactful information in these generic reports. So, I find myself turning more and more to the national cable networks to find out what's going on – and most importantly – how it affects me.
What about your newscasts? Are you forcing your viewers to turn to the national cable channels for financial information that affects them? Or – are you doing a strong job of developing and reporting on local affects of this crisis?
September 17th, 2008
I got an interesting lesson this weekend in what it's like to live in a small town on the fringe of a big city TV market. I was at my lakehouse – about an hour east of Dallas in Gun Barrel City (great name!) - as Hurricane Ike headed relentlessly toward North Texas.
For most of the week that area was in the bullseye for the eye of Ike with predictions it would arrive as still a Category 1 hurricane – or at the very least a tropical storm with sustained winds near 75 miles an hour. It was a bit unnerving to say the least.
I tied everything down at the ole lakehouse, made sure my 82-year-old neighbor lady's place was secure and waited for Ike's arrival. Meanwhile the TV stations in Dallas-Fort Worth began wall-to-wall coverage on Friday.
As I flipped from channel to channel I felt like an unwanted orphan. Naturally the stations concentrated on the Metroplex with crews running everywhere – even as Ike continued to move east – away from DFW. Every time a meteorologist put up a special graphic with projected winds and rainfall with Ike – they invariably stood right in front of east Texas, blocking out the information.
When it became apparent that the Metroplex would only have light effects from Ike – they all breathed a sigh of relief – even as the storm continued with high winds toward east Texas. But even as the big city threat faded, they kept going to reporter after reporter standing in the rain in the city.
Only one station – WFAA – sent a reporter to east Texas – and she did a terrrific job hopping from one small town to the next as winds around 50-60 miles an hour howled on through. Ike's main impact eventually moved 60 miles east of my lake – and tore up 60-foot trees and powerlines in Tyler, Texas.
Now – Tyler is its own small TV market – but it is only about a 90 minute drive from Dallas. Yet no station sent a reporter there to report on the damage from the storm that just missed the big city.
As an advisor to TV stations, this was a good lesson for me. I had never really thought before how frustrating it must be to live in a small town on the fringe of a big market – and essentially be ignored by all the TV stations.
It is something I will remind my clients about when we discuss severe weather coverage.
September 17th, 2008
I got goosebumps while waiting for a plane at DFW airport last week. No – I wasn't cold, or concerned about my flight – it was brought on by a wonderful display of American appreciation.
DFW is one of two R&R airports – the main destination for soldiers on their way home from Iraq to spend time with friends and relatives. I was waiting at a gate for my flight, when about 200 men and women in uniform started strolling by on a catwalk one story above us.
Everyone – and I mean everyone – stood up and applauded and cheered the soldiers for the five minutes or so it took them to walk by. There was no thought of whether they were for or against the war in Iraq. It was clear they were just appreciative of the young soldiers for risking their lives to be there for us.
I must say it was a stirring sight. I was proud of my fellow travelers for bringing a warm smile to the soldier's faces – who like the rest of us – really have no say of whether we should be fighting in Iraq.
September 9th, 2008
While many local TV newscasts are dipping their toe into gathering UGC (user-generated content) – the cable networks have launched an armada. It has become part of their DNA. They are constantly asking for viewers to send pictures and video to enhance their 24-hour news content.
CNN has its iReport. They are relentlessly asking users and viewers to share their photos and video and video opinions both on-air and on-line. Take a look at their iReport page on CNN.com. It is chock full of UGC and has become a vibrant idea exchange for the web site. CNN also showcases the viewer opinion video on the cable channel – showcasing the UCG material to react to the big news of the day.
The Weather Channel has its Weather Warriors. For 24 hours a day the channel asks for user-generated video and pictures of storms, hurricanes and sunsets. They showcase this UGC on their Internet home page, and sprinkle it throughout the day on the cable channel.
User submitted weather pictures is probably the area where most local TV newscasts have dipped their toe into the water. And in most cases it is pictures, not video – as they are not set up to easily capture the moving pictures.
Fox11 in Green Bay does a stellar job during continuous storm coverage of assigning one meteorologist to showcase user-generated pictures. It adds immensely to their storm coverage and allows them to show us more than the constant radar graphic we see on most stations.
MSNBC calls their UGC effort First Person. They not only invite pictures and video, but encourage viewers to write their own story about the photos on the MSNBC web site. On Fox News Channel it is called UReport.
The time is now for your local station to go beyond the toe in the water – and to jump in with both feet. UGC increases the size of your news gathering staff exponentially in these times of shrinking news staffs. Don’t be shy about asking for this content during the newscast and during coverage of major stories. The cable channels do it every day. Most local TV station let their marketing departments create spots to ask for the content.
Recently there were a spate of tornadoes as a huge storm front moved through the Dallas area. A half-dozen TV news staffs chased the storms. The only video of the tornadoes – came from viewers. None of the professional photographers managed to get anything.
So, I ask again – Do you UGC? It might be grammatically incorrect – but it is something that must become a key component of your daily newscasts and coverage.
September 1st, 2008
So, how much confidence would you have in a meterologist if you knew he was from Oklahoma not Louisiana as a hurricane was roaring toward your home? I have to rant about my favorite topic today – local TV news making a big deal out of an outsider being on their station and having no local expertise.
I was watching WDSU's live coverage of the approaching hurricane about midnight on a special feed from DirectTV. There was a very good meterologist talking about the approaching hurricane Gustav. But the station felt the need to diminish his local credentials – not once but twice.
They introduced him as a “meteorologist from our sister station KOCO in Oklahoma City.” Why is that information relevant to the viewers? First off, they don't care – all they want is the latest location of Gustav and where it will make landfall, and when it does how powerful will it be? So why marginalize his value to your viewers? I am pretty sure there haven't been any hurricanes in Oklahoma lately.
And then, after he did a very credible job and seemed knowledgable – WDSU again made a big deal out of the fact he was “from their sister station in Oklahoma City.” Stop it!
Pointing out that he is an outsider is dead wrong for two reasons: First off, none of your viewers care where he is from, and secondly, when you do point out he is from somewhere else your first thought is – “What can he know about our area with no history in the market?
AR&D has been making the same recommendation for decades when you bring a new talent to the market – be they a news anchor or a meteorologist. If your market is in the midwest, for instance, why point out the new weather guy is from California? There is no upside as far as viewers are concerned. Their first reaction – “Oh great, here's another new guy who knows nothing about our area.”
So, stop it!