Any sign of innovation at local newscasts is usually related to cost-cutting, much like most sectors of the economy, but TVNewsCheck found two local stations that have embraced the use of social networking during their newscasts: WSLS, Media General’s NBC affiliate in Roanoke, Va.; and WRDW, Gray Television’s CBS affiliate in Augusta, Ga.
WSLS launched a new 7 p.m. newscast that incorporates feedback from emails, text messages and comments posted on the station’s Twitter and Facebook pages, and news director Melissa Prease told TVNewsCheck:
We want this to be a two-way conversation. We get tons of phone calls and e-mails from people who have something to say about what’s going on in their local communities. This is just going to give them a platform to say it.
We’re not going to just spout the news at folks. We’re going to give them a chance to say, “Here’s something we want to know, can you help us out?” And we’ll find out the answers for them in a very interactive way. We’ll be live chatting throughout the entire newscast. We’ll take calls. We’ll update Facebook and Twitter, all at the same time. It’s live.
WRDW hasn’t taken quite as deep a plunge into social media, but the station does use it throughout the day, and director of news and production Estelle Parsley told TVNewsCheck:
We use some social-media interaction, Facebook, in our morning news and in our 6 and 11 o’clock newscasts. Surprisingly, some of the most loyal following is what we get at 11 o’clock at night.
Without any fanfare, I asked the anchors to mention during the 6 o’clock newscast that we were up and running on Facebook and to “friend” us. They mentioned it once, and by the end of the week, a couple of hundred people had “friended” our anchors and were talking back and forth, commenting about the newscasts.
I had a general manager at another station say, “Don’t you think this is going to cannibalize your traditional station Web site?” Maybe, but I can’t remember any story getting 165 comments for the time it was up there (on the site), let alone 165 people commenting on something during the newscast at 11 o’clock.