If you haven’t read Terry Heaton’s blog donatacom.com/blog better bookmark it now and get used to checking it every day. Terry’s a former news director (I competed with his news department in Huntsville about 10 years ago) and has his finger on the pulse of local television news.
A couple months back he predicted that 2005 would be one of the worst years in history for local news and that by the end of this year, hundreds of tv reporters, photographers, producers and managers would be on the street. His reasoning is that local tv news viewers have abandoned newscasts for new ways of getting exactly the news they want.
That’s true. Back in the good old days of tv news I could get nearly every thing that I wanted in one 30 minute newscast. Relevant news stories of the day, one concise but informative weather forecast, all of the sports that I wanted (scores and highlights) and a bright story to end my day.
These days, I get “houseplants that kill”, “road rebels”, “brighten my smile”, along with obvious attempts at creating news stories by chasing people down in the street who don’t want to be interviewed or walking into a public official’s office who we know will object and might even give us a little profanity and violence. Scores and highlights? Sure, if they can fit them in the 2 minutes of sports. Weather…that we get. Over and over and over again, but first the tease.
Well educated, affluent moms and dads aren’t watching local television news. I’ve been off the air for 9 months now and nearly every day someone walks up to me and says “what are you doing off work today?”
Heaton also believes the blogging industry will revolutionize the way people get their news. It’s already happening in some markets and is growing in nearly very other. People get their news from CNN, FOX, internet newspapers and blogs. Local television newscasts used to be part of that equation or at least a bigger part of the equation, but they’re fading fast.
TV stations and ownership groups are beginning to look at cutbacks. They’re looking at what people do on the job, how much time it takes to do that job, and how efficient news departments are being run. So the wheels are apparently in motion.
The bottom line is the only line. You can uncover the biggest scandal your city has ever seen, but if people aren’t watching and the meters don’t reflect it, what difference will it make? If you have live pictures of a tree falling on city hall but no one watches it, did it make a sound?
In Heaton’s blog Tuesday he asks the question “Who’s Killing TV?” He finishes with a great line: “It’s not a homocide folks; it’s suicide”.