In a time when unemployment is holding at 9% and the stock market looks more like a rollercoaster ride, it’s a surprise to hear about any facet of the media industry expanding – let alone local newscasts. St. Louis’s NBC affiliate, KSDK is expanding its newscasts with three more time slots at 4:00am, 10:00am and 4:00pm providing the highest amount of local news coverage for the station to date.
This expansion is a good sign for broadcast networks that are seeing a rebound in their advertising sales after being hit during the 2008 recession – local TV ad revenues increased about 25 percent from 2009 to 2010. In addition, agreement with cable and satellite companies to pay retransmission fees has contributed to the uptick in local news.
Aside from monetary increases, local newscasts are on the rise due to their innovation and deep examination of the news. Newscasts have long been in a cookie-cutter formula leading to Groundhog Day-like coverage. The recession caused the news cycle to change and the stations to switch their focus to their customers, which was crucial given surveys show local TV news is consistently identified as the top news sources for much of our nation. For KSDK, anchors and reporters increased their presence on social media by interacting with customers on Facebook and Twitter, which led to stations becoming more in touch with community interests. In addition, the St. Louis station added multimedia journalists, who record, produce, and report their own pieces – leading to more interesting local news coverage.
Reporter Brian Stelter reported on the local newscast rebound in this week’s New York Times article, “Local TV Newscast Expanding.” Also, this trend is hitting the New York region with the recent announcement that Chris Wragge, co-host of CBS’s Early Show will keep his current position and return to CBS 2 New York to co-anchor the weekly 6:00pm newscast.
The 2008 recession seems to be a blessing in disguise for some local TV stations like KSDK as it gave it a chance to evaluate their operations, realize areas of opportunity and work towards improvement.
Are you surprised that local news stations continue to draw an audience given there are so many sources to obtain news aside from local TV? What do you think is the biggest appeal to watch local TV station for news than national networks? Do you think the innovation and expansion taking place at KSDK will cause a ripple effect across the nation’s local TV? Are there other industry facets where the recession has led to a positive change and improvement?
Americans have a voracious appetite for news – in all its forms. Broadcast, print, online – we tune in, log in, check the headlines. So I’m not surprised that local news stations continue to draw an audience. People need to be informed on all levels -- from what’s happening in their local community to what’s happening around the globe.
I love local news. I flip channels from one local TV morning newscast to the next. I pace my morning routine by the line-up. I’d be stranded and soaking without the mass transit, traffic and weather reports. I love my local weekly newspaper, too. I want to know about the zoning variance requested by a developer, the in-fighting on the school board, the rash of car thefts reported in the police blotter and the country fair on the community calendar. I won’t find that on CNN.
Technology has made news gathering more immediate and accessible and in some ways, less expensive. Edit suites have given way to Mac Books. Broadcast quality TV cameras are shrinking in size and cost. And the role of journalists has changed, too. It’s not enough to be a just a print or broadcast reporter. Journalists are cross trained, multi-taskers who can write, shoot, record, edit, post, tweet and Skype. News organizations have become more nimble and resourceful in part because of the recession and also because today’s news professionals are trained to carry out their assignments across multiple platforms. As more tech-savvy multi-taskers make their way into newsrooms, consumers will benefit. It’s great to see KSDK set the example that I hope hundreds of TV stations around the U.S. will follow.