It’s probably clear to most broadcasters by now: Journalists are no longer the gatekeepers.
The exponential explosion of information sources and platforms since the dawn of the internet age gives news consumers the power.
Now-RTDNA Chair Dan Shelley urged newsrooms in the February 2006 Communicator to take advantage of their unique position and strengths coupled with the advantages of new technologies to remain at the forefront of the information race.
And many newsrooms have experimented with new platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
Social media now drives a significant portion of traffic to TV and radio websites, and more stations are strategically streaming and sharing digital and social content, RTDNA’s latest newsroom survey shows.
So newsrooms’ delivery platforms are changing, but what about the fundamental news product?
Digital and social content is still largely supplemental to the traditional newscast.
The RTDNA/Hofstra newsroom survey also shows that the hours of on-air TV news is at an all-time high, and in the last year many more stations added hours of local news than cut.
But, overall, fewer people are watching those traditional newscasts, and viewership is dropping more quickly, particularly among younger audiences, according to Pew.
TV news has largely retained its role as the leading source of news for most Americans, but that position is even more tenuous than when Shelley warned newsrooms not to fall behind.
However, it also retains the advantages he highlighted. While trust in news media has fallen, trust in local news remains strongest. Journalists have the skills to “to report the news in a compelling way,” as Shelley noted, to aggregate and fact check, to add key local context and to hold institutions accountable through investigative reporting.
Many newsrooms are working to shore up those strengths, looking at new business models to support more investigative and enterprise reporting and rebuilding relationships with neglected communities.
Fewer are innovating the basic news product.
That needs to change.
“The need for game-changing innovative ideas in local television news has never been more critical,” says Cronkite School Dean and Arizona PBS CEO Christopher Callahan, whose program recently received a Knight Foundation grant to advance local TV innovation.
Cronkite school researchers are currently compiling examples of broadcast and digital innovation working for local newsrooms.
A Knight Foundation report released in April 2018, from RTDNA/Hofstra researcher Bob Papper and Debora Wenger, assistant dean and associate professor at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media ,“Local TV News and the New Media Landscape,” shows a few newsrooms are starting to consider ways to blow up traditional models. Papper, Wenger, and Ellen Crooke, VP of News, TEGNA Media and RTDNA Director-at-Large, explored the report further at “The Digital Transformation: What’s Next for Local TV News?”
TEGNA is one media group experimenting with non-traditional newscasts, like “Next with Kyle Clark” on its KUSA station in Denver, a Murrow Award winner for Excellence in Innovation.
What about your newsroom? How are you re-inventing your newsroom? Finding new relevance for changing news audiences? Going beyond digital-first?