RTNDA conference: Going local in a new direction

A workshop at the annual conference of the Association of Electronic
(RTNDA) featured broadcast experts that agreed keeping
stories local is key to keeping audiences.

By Kathy Le

The structure of television and radio newsrooms isn’t limited to the traditional top-of –the-hour, noon and 6 o’clock model. The more local, all news, all day model is gradually becoming popular and successful as we approach the new era in this industry, as it did for the four panellists during the first seminar of the day; Going local in a New Direction.

Parallel to the way one business operates differently from the next, more local, all news, all day stations need to follow their own unique business plan to work. “It’s a two stage process,” explains Bob Layton from CHED Radio and inews880, “When you’re selling all news you need to educate the audience about what all news is. It’s a utility station you come to for various types of information.” It sort of plays the role of a supplementary station where individuals use it in addition to their main radio station. People don’t need to wait to hear the news at the top of the hour since news delivery is a constant stream throughout the day. The second stage Layton says is, “Introducing the station to the clients.” This means educating them about how the main purpose is just to deliver the message.

More local, all news, all day, requires strong communication and interaction with the community. If the station can’t get out to an interesting community event, then they provide the opportunity for the organizers of the event to send their own i-report, with pictures and a script, for web editors to reformat and post on the website. The driving force behind the radio stations is the website, which needs to be updated with pictures and stories by the minute or as breaking news comes in. Breaking news can no longer be reserved for on air before going on websites anymore. Bloggers, branded citizen journalists, have become a very valuable part to more local, all news, all day stations. “They keep us updated on everything that’s going on in their part of the city,” says Layton, “When the reporters get there they can show them where to go.”

Everyone on the panel agrees that keeping the stories local is key to keeping audiences. Sometimes news on a national level needs to be covered, but the local angle to these stories is still pushed for.

Social media has proven to be a very effective and cheap tool. Rob Germain, News Director from CKEK News tells how they used Facebook to attract audience, using social media to, “Promote stories and gather information, and to make our news more interactive to engage our viewers.”

The novelty of social media as business strategy appears to be working for some, but for it to work the take home message is: Everyone needs to understand what it is. It needs to be hyper local, and there needs to be constant communication with the viewers.