This article has the potential of pissing off friends from my local news days all over the country. For that reason, I’ll be very careful about where I link to this article. The fact is, there is nothing that I can say that anybody who works in local news doesn’t already know—it’s dying. Nobody watches the news anymore except the blue hairs who will be dead in the not too distant future anyway. I sincerely believe there is nothing that news directors can do to get young Americans to sit down and watch the news every night at six o’clock. It just can’t be done, whether they’ll admit it or not. Ratings are dropping. Revenues are going down. And there’s just no compelling reason to watch a newscast when you can find out the information so much faster on your iPhone. Modern technology allows savvy people to not have to sit through countless boring reports about boring events they don’t care about.
I knew it was time for me to leave broadcasting, when after I’d produce and sit through a newscast, I couldn’t remember and just plain did not care about any stories that I had just aired. The only stories I seem to care about are the ones from the national scene. I especially enjoy reports on national politics. No offense to any of the city beat reporters I’ve worked with over the years, but I just don’t get excited about city council meetings. And for better or worse, I can’t imagine that many people my age or younger actually do. And I sure as heck don’t want to sit through these types of reports on the local news just hoping the anchors move on to something good. Now I will say that when I worked at an Illinois television station during the trial of Rod Blagojevich, I did find that compelling. But other than that, nothing in state politics proved all that interesting to me either.
Now, I probably should point out that I do think there will always be some appetite for local news. But I don’t think the future of news will come in the form of a six and ten o’clock newscast. At some point, I could imagine news being an online-only affair. And that’s fine. As with all television programming, local news must evolve to stay afloat. Even now, many television stations post their entire newscasts online for viewers who want to watch it all. But, you can also just click on to the stories you care about, and watch only those. The networks have done a much better job than local television stations at evolving their news programming. With less money and resources, local stations have struggled to stay modern. Most local newscasts across the country look remarkably similar to the ones you could find on the same station years ago. But, I think we’re almost at the tipping point that probably has general managers and news directors very worried. Local news may not have changed, but audiences have. And the sooner local newscasts reflect these changes, the better served their viewers will be.
Picture courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WDIV_Local_R_News_Remote_Van.JPG