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A movie about a local TV news team anchored by Ron Burgundy, becomes a hit. Did the writers really have to stretch their imagination in order to come up with bits for this Will Farrell flick? Not likely. For fodder, they just turned on the local newscast of Anytown USA.

Local TV news; Change or wither. Andrew Hayward, former president of CBS News, shared his thoughts about local TV news, and he pulled no punches. You don’t have to be a mind reader to pick up his vibe……. it better change, or it’s doomed. Here’s what I gleaned up from his speech via an article in a Louisville newspaper. Read the entire article by Rick Redding here.

  • Local stations focus too much on crime/murder, since it’s easier to do and video friendly.
  • Viewership is shrinking, blood ‘n’ guts stories aren’t relevant to audience.
  • Breaking News Alerts …..sensationalizes events that aren’t really news.
  • Local, linear newscasts: no longer needed in a world of unlimited, on-demand news choices.
  • Nobody under 40 is watching the local anchor. They don’t even know his name.

Some steps to fix it:

  • Hire journalists with a different look, who have roots in the community.
  • Hire more of those with an expertise in a specific topic or category.
  • Don’t always hire a model with a master’s degree in broadcast journalism. Instead, consider hiring a less-qualified local with less-polished look, and give new hire the freedom to find humor in news stories.
  • Get more VJ’s on the street. (video journalists). Capture more local video with substance.
  • See Online as real-time 24/7 newscast, NOT a dumping ground for stale packages from last night’s 11pm cast.

Will local TV news do well in digital space? I wondered if we asked Mr. Hayward a question like that. Will those local “Action News teams” easily win on the Web? Will that slick, 2 minute blood & guts story translate to a younger online audience? We surmise that he would say “not likely if they don’t make some big changes…..and fast.”

Will Newspaper take the online video crown instead ? Let’s refer to a friend of mine; Howard Owens, about why he thinks Newspapers are well equipped to win the online video battle….over TV. (Howard runs a very successful, hyper-local news site in Batavia, NY.)

  1. More feet on the street: In large markets, newspapers can equip more reporters with video-capable cameras, and you don’t need expensive cameras to produce good online video; in small markets, TV isn’t going to cover many local stories.
  2. TV can’t cover a story without sending out a “crew,” which means they cover only stories that they’ve pre-screened as being video worthy, worthy of the time to send a crew out to a location, which means they miss a lot of good stuff that “print” reporters will naturally stumble across – quantity means more choices for online video watchers, which is a distinct and huge advantage.
  3. For newspaper reporters, there is no pre-conceived idea of perfect TV video, so any experiment goes.
  4. Newspaper reporter shooters can give sources a chance to speak for themselves, making the video more personal and more meaningful than what TV will do with the same material.

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