Future of Television News: The Reality Of Social Media Moving In And Those Who Need To Move Out

This past April the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an independent firm that checks the average circulation of print periodicals, reported the drop of newspaper circulation nationwide was 8.7 percent. They also restated what everybody’s been saying for years, “newspapers are dying.” This has been the prediction by many, but what has actually happened? Some newspapers found ways to adapt to the changing culture of a society obsessed with the Internet. Those that did survive found a new wave of readers by putting their articles online. Now, as it comes time for local television news to “die off”, I believe we are already finding many ways to adapt to a changing culture as well.

To find ways to adapt to this changing culture, we must examine what is currently wrong with local television and why it does not work. There are a few smaller things that are wrong and can be changed, and there are also larger aspects that could be introduced to local television news to make it better. An example of something simple is the way we cover the news. An example of a larger aspect could be how local television stations use social media. Below is a list of problems with local television news and the approaches we can take to fix them.

Problem: From my own personal experience, I have noticed older generations claiming, “social media tools are the wave of the future.” The big problem with that statement: social media tools are already here! I don’t believe local television stations use social media to its full potential.

Solution: Social media is a very powerful tool and by using it correctly television stations can increase interaction with viewers, as well as gain viewers. Twitter is a perfect example. Many stations run its twitter accounts like RSS feeds. By doing this, it really isn’t meaningful to the viewers. They can go to a station’s website to find the story if they wanted (although even then station websites are usually not user-friendly). If reporters were to post bits of information throughout the day, viewers would feel as if they were along for the ride. This not only provides them with useful knowledge, but it encourages them to tune in and see the final product during the newscast. Providing immediate facts to viewers isn’t the only thing social media tools are useful for. They can also be great outlets for interacting with viewers at all times of the day, including during newscasts. This can build a strong, loyal group of viewers, another way to get story ideas and sources, and can be an outlet for viewers to talk about important community issues to each other. Not to mention the Internet has unlimited space, which means stations can provide boundless amounts of information to the public, perhaps even creating micro niche websites for really in-depth stories. Social media tools include blogs, Facebook, event calendars, forums, photo sharing sites such as Flickr and Photobucket, tags and book marking tools such as digg, delicious, and reddit, and video sharing sites like Vimeo and Youtube. Currently local television stations have fallen behind in the social media world and it’s hindering newsrooms.

Problem: I don’t believe people are ever going to completely lose interest in watching their news on a regular television, but the way they do it could change. I think there are a few ways television stations could increase the quality of their newscasts as well as keep up with the times.

Solution: There are simple things that could change the number of viewers that watch the news. If stations were to change these things about their news, perhaps viewership would increase:
  • • Less crime/violence stories
  • • More local news
  • • More in-depth pieces that affect a majority of the viewers
  • • Not beating the same story to death, but adding more follow-ups to the web stories
It’s not only what we cover though, but how we present the news. As technology advances, I think it would be neat to make the news on television interactive. As soon as a story is done, if we are able to get it on television or online, viewers could essentially create their own newscasts by stacking their own show with the stories they want to see. This way a viewer doesn't have to click around online and watch each story separately. People with busy lifestyles could just watch their newscasts whenever they wanted. In the age of TiVo’s and DVR’s, people love to record shows and have what they want when they want it. Interactive newscasts would give them these options. Advertisements would also be linked to the newscasts, so stations would not lose ad revenue.

Problem: I have also heard about many internal problems within newsrooms. News directors and managers who don’t embrace social media can be a huge setback to a newsroom. They are set in their old ways and don’t really grasp where the future of news is headed.

Solution: Reality is harsh, but I believe by keeping those news directors and managers a station suffers. I believe newsrooms need the experience of those long-standing workers, but if they’re not willing to learn ways to advance the news than they’re holding the newsroom back from improving. Perhaps the station could find them a more useful in different positions if they aren’t willing to embrace current trends. It’s not always the ND’s and managers however. Some of the problems start at the top of the ladder with the CEO’s and heads of the companies. If they are not willing to give money to hire an Internet sales person and web editors, then it’s impossible to get the station up to speed. This can only be fixed by persuasion or other ways that don’t involve the newsroom staff.

Problem: Another internal problem within the newsrooms seem to be the quality of our news. I understand management needs to make cutbacks so they have relied more on one-man-bands, but the quality of news is lost when one reporter is frantically trying to do the job of many throughout the day. One of these jobs includes posting their stories online. Is there a way to bring in money to stop the cuts?

Solution: Since the future of news is more geared towards online, companies should look at finding ways to make money online. If this happens companies will see more revenue and perhaps this can help reduce staff cuts. There is money to be made online, but television stations just haven’t figured out how yet. This is mostly because stations haven’t even gotten up to speed with what the Internet can do for them. Some stations don’t even have a web person or sales person dedicated to the web!

If newsrooms aren’t willing to drop the one-man-band mentality (I'm not totally against it, I love to shoot, write, and edit my stories!), then they need to lower the amount of work a reporter does so the story quality can be better. In fact some newsrooms have decided to have their reporter/photographer teams put together packages, while making their one-man-bands cover only vo-sots.

With these solutions in place, I believe local television stations could be well on their way to catching up with the current times. When research shows local television viewership declining, they are referring to the loss of viewers mostly from the younger generation. This is because the younger generation is a need-it-now type and they don’t want to wait until the 5 p.m. newscast. With the help of social media tools, interactive newscasts, and increasing the quality of the news I believe local television can thrive once again.


Post a Comment

Copyright © Tara Grimes
Web Statistics