Right Side Media Mistakes
Quit The National News Coverage And Start Focusing On Compelling Local Stories
Is local news to focused on negative national issues?
Once upon a time there was a baseball announcer for the local little league teams. He knew all the players, all their parents, the history of the league, the dimensions of all the ﬁelds, and how much those giant ring pops cost at the concession stand. We’ll call him Mr. Stat. Unfortunately, Mr. Stat started to spend a bit too much time talking about the Big Leagues instead of Junior’s batting average. That was a problem, because there were already people talking about the Big Leagues. They were called Nationally Watched Broadcasters who were on nationally watched television stations. Poor Mr. Stat forgot his place.
Such is the predicament in which we ﬁnd our local media. They’re so wrapped up in filling the sausage casing, while working with less, that they often don’t realize the grass is pretty green here in Hampton Roads. How did they get to this diluted state? Easy. 1) they made the traditional 30-minute 6 p.m. newscast start about 2 hours too early, 2) the low hanging, easy pickings for the radio music jocks are the national stories because that’s what’s in the station-bought show prep, and 3) newspapers keep laying off reporters.
Which brings us to this non-startling fact: the national news media covers national stories far better than local media outlets do. They have the resources, the experience, and the talent (barring Nancy Grace). Further, we can almost always get the big, national stories online anytime we want. It doesn’t mean the locals shouldn’t bring you up to speed on the news of the day. But the real reason to watch a local television station, or listen to a local radio station is because, well, they’re LOCAL. You live here, they live here—seems pretty basic to me.
So, here are some demands you should make from the three local t.v. news stations, your poorly dressed radio people, and all the print geeks.
First, remind them that their business model is in the cross hairs. Young people (those who suckled a cell phone instead of a paciﬁer) are not watching the local t.v. newscasts, and they’re not reading newspapers. They’re still listening to local radio stations but not as much, courtesy of car makers who keep putting that insidious mp3 jack right by the tuner button (which is really bafﬂing since dealers depend heavily on the local radio stations to help sell their cars). The survivability of local t.v., radio and print will rely on compelling stories that people can’t ﬁnd elsewhere, and that impact them. That content will need to be delivered in a way that reaches beyond the medium itself (social media, apps), and, get ready, tailors to the graying of America. Forget the kids. Focus on keeping the people who got you here in the ﬁrst place.
Second, tell t.v. stations to stop hiring kids who have no idea how to pronounce Kecoughtan. With few exceptions they don’t know the history of the area, which means they can’t bring local context to the story. I’d rather watch a frumpy newspaper reporter on t.v. who knows the ins and outs, than Skippy or Barbie.
Third, demand they get a grip on reality when it comes to weather coverage. I was a t.v. meteorologist for 18 years (voted Hampton Roads’ Favorite!), and I can tell you that t.v. weather coverage is catnip for bosses. Peter’s crying wolf was peanuts compared to the bombardment of the DEFCON 1 histrionics we get from the Live Team Coverage Crew. Please, some measure of perspective.
Finally, let your voice be heard when you don’t like content. It’s one of the beauties of local media. As a talk radio host, I get it every day. It’s a good thing. If you ﬁnd something to be mindless babble, let them know. Their livelihood and your patience are depending on it.
Dave Parker hosts The Dave Parker Show on AM 790 WNIS weekdays from 10 a.m.–noon. He can also be heard each afternoon on US1061 and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two daughters.