Sometimes what separates the good newsrooms from the average ones is how a story strikes you and what you do about it. When the combined effects of fog and heavy smoke covered I 75 in Central Florida, it triggered several chain reaction accidents that killed at least 11 people. Most were incinerated as cars, trucks and buses piggy-backed and exploded. The State Police had originally closed the interstate after a Dept. of Forestry warning then reopened it. Television News, as ABC News did in this dramatization, can play a significant role in raising questions how to handle highways when weather conditions change. What led the State Police to reopen I 75, who had oversight, who checked with the Weather Service, and who was monitoring conditions on the ground?
Just watching the "one piece" stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair suggested a lot was wrong with its construction. But so many other symptoms for disaster were present, the accident demanded a thorough investigation.
The debt ceiling and the Obama budget battle are not the only places viewers and users want accountability right now. They seem to be supporting newscasts and programs which check on systems that are supposed to protect them. 15 million people watched the broadcast version and many more online for days after. The ABC News Special that examined the whole Jaycee Dugard kidnapping case was so much more than the victim's first person account of the 18 year ordeal. Diane Sawyer put Jaycee's story together. But it was Chris Cuomo's Investigation into accountability of the CA systems on not pursuing leads to solve her crime that had real impact. Chris documented years of federal and state agencies not being aggressive. There may not be a more sensational kidnapping case where the perp fathered two daughters by the victim.
Anchors like ABC's David Muir use their version of the Magic Wall and other tools to break down today's complex subjects in an understandable way. Quick graphic treatments done in this explanatory style have lots of viewer value as Muir and their Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser, show ways to avoid spreading the Super Bug in hospitals.
Coverage in the DC market for the Metro Train Accident centered around casualty count and references to the next NTSB briefing. Anchors supplied little history or background so the viewer would know there was a litany of NTSB recommendations from past incidents. Maybe there are less Reporters with experience covering these past events, but TV stations can define themselves in today's web news environment by building out stories with more investigative/accountability approach right away.
Differentiate your newscast with an Investigative strategy. Today's busy viewer/user is topically driven. Win daily coverage on the air and online by digging into the top stories of the day. Learn how in Tom's article published in The Rundown newsletter.
Whether your goal is reinforcing a strong, credible brand or to get more sampling and frequency of viewing to make a move in the market, it all starts with the morning meeting. That's where the debate and discussion begin on what to air, and also, what to promote. The news director can really set a tone in terms of getting the staff focused on the importance of the marketing/promotion relationship during these meetings. If the morning editorial meeting is the place to manage ideas all day long, why not shape the promotion as well as the news stories right there? Here are some tips for keeping your meetings-and your promotion-viewer-focused and more effective.
As you continue to deal with what the future of local news will look like, your new hires are more important than ever. The people you recruit today will be the ones producing "the news of the future" tomorrow. It isn't easy attracting the best people at a time when our industry is changing rapidly.
In television news, the format is key. Your format should reflect your target audience for the daypart. Producers should remember that station formats are designed for competition in your market, and your newscast has to deliver on long-term station strategy, including during breaking news. Producers should always have a good sense of the key elements needed for a newscast in their market and in general. Most have their own checklist to ensure a clean newscast. Consider these items for your own “Producer’s Checklist,” to make sure you are delivering on the mission and feeding that daily viewer appetite.
Read Tom Dolan's tips on building systems that produce consistent newscasts, originally published in TVRundown newsletter.