January 15th, 2011
In the minds of television news viewers having a Balanced Newscast goes way beyond presenting both sides – or all sides – of the story. That’s important but so are a myriad of other elements.
We all know that TV newscasts have lost credibility. AR&D research shows that balanced news presentations – both on TV and Online – can help new outlets regain believability from news and information seekers.
In their own words, viewers say a balanced newscast “covers all sides of a story,” “gives the pros and cons of the situation,” and “gets all the facts before reporting.” Transparency (telling what you know right now and what you are working on to get more facts) is also a critical element of Balanced News.
At AR&D we believe that providing Continuous News on your website – giving short bursts of information and updates as a story develops throughout the day – is transparency at its finest. It showcases your efforts to “get the facts,” to be “accurate” and “dig deeper” on a story all day as it evolves. These are more Balanced News attributes mentioned by viewers.
But they also mention Balanced News elements you probably haven’t thought of. Mixing in “positive news” is an extremely important way to demonstrate balance. So is showcasing the fact that you are “objective,” “unbiased,” “reliable,” and “thorough” in your reporting.
The public also sees “offering people a chance to offer opinions” as being balanced in your news coverage. They want to see “different viewpoints,” that “allow viewers to make informed choices.” This speaks directly of the need for your news organization to be very active in listening and engaging in conversations with your customers on your website and through social media on Facebook, Twitter and beyond.
Balanced News is also holding officials accountable. They want you to “ask questions I would ask” of those in powerful positions. They hold you accountable to “double check reports for accuracy,” for “researching before reporting,” and for offering “thorough reports.”
Let me boil this down for you into a few words – Balanced News is simply good journalism. Showcase your efforts and expertise and you will gain their trust.
It is as simple – and as complicated – as that.
January 10th, 2011
Here are seven resolutions to make your newscasts prosper in 2011.
1) Be Relevant. Viewers are turning away from local TV newscasts because they are not relevant to their lives. They want real issues and real news that affects them and their families. You continue to give them meaningless crime, car accidents and other stories that fill the space between commercial breaks – but are worthless drivel to viewers. Find and report relevant content every day or the viewer erosion will continue.
2) Hold Officials Accountable. This kind of TV reporting requires a little extra work, more digging, and the courage to ask the tough questions of public officials on behalf of the viewers. The vast majority of viewers AR&D talked with during research projects in the past two years want their local TV station to ask the questions they can’t – because they do not have access to these officials. Viewer anger is real and continuing – and they want a station to step up and hold officials from local school districts and little towns to Washington accountable for their actions.
3) Balanced News. Viewers also desire a balanced newscast as never before. Some TV news managers scoff at that saying – “Isn’t that a given, don’t they all want a balanced newscast?” Damn straight they do! But they say the majority of local TV newscasts are one-sided and don’t give all the facts of the story. This also takes a little extra work. You have to seek out the other side on a story instead of going with one lame soundbite. In reality – this is just good journalism.
4) Be Accurate. Again, you would think this is a cost of admission issue – but that’s not the case. Viewers have a strong desire for an accurate newscast and weathercast – but in some markets 25% of them say no local TV newscast delivers on it. Accuracy is reflected in copy that offers some perspective, has all sides of the story, and is clear and easy to follow. You also can’t be seen as accurate with misspelled graphics. You need to showcase your fact-finding, your extra digging on a story, and your balanced approach – which all adds up to being more accurate.
5) Mix In Positive News. Local TV news viewers – already depressed by a tough job market and economy, have tired of “doom and gloom” newscasts. While TV news producers and reporters might get excited about that old style of newscast – your viewers want to find out ALL the news – they want the good with the bad. What positive things are happening in their community? What good things are teenagers doing? What business is hiring? Don’t mistake this desire for a quick, cute kicker story like the classic water skiing squirrel. Viewers want you to give them a mix of negative and positive news throughout the newscast.
6) Cover Only Real Crime. AR&D has been saying for years and years that viewers are fed up with one-on-one crime that has no affect on their lives. Yet TV stations continue to make this meaningless content a big part of their newscasts. Crime is an important content item for viewers if there is a rapist loose in their community, or a burglar is hitting hard in one part of town. But they have no interest in the latest overnight shooting between two unknown people who had a fight. Put this content on your website – where crime is much more valued than on your TV newscasts.
7) Be Everywhere, Anytime. Your audience is highly mobile and is less and less inclined to make an appointment to watch your scheduled evening newscast. They want the local news NOW – on their laptops, computers at work, mobile devices, computer tablets etc. To be relative in their new world, you must provide Continuous News – as it happens, with updates throughout the work day. Get out of the “finished news” business (posting a package after it has aired on TV) and get into the “unfinished news” business. This is a continuous stream of news – continually updated with a few sentences – as it wends its way through the day.
One more thing: These numbers are really in no particular order. #7 may be the most important resolution on the list. I invite you to go through the list – set your own priorities – set a strategy – and follow it through the new year.