Steve Schwaid knows a bit about local news. He ran newsrooms in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Hartford and Tampa, and now serves as vice president of digital strategies for CJ&N, a media research and consulting firm. And Schwaid says a recent visit to one of his client stations left him uneasy about the future of local news:
I was recently visiting a client station, meeting with about 20 producers, managers and reporters who were almost all under 35. We started talking about cord cutters and who uses what. This informal “survey” was eye opening, and honestly it more than surprised me. It sent a few chills down my spine.
These young journalists, he discovered, don’t really spend much time tuned in to the very station for which they work. 85% said they had no cable. Most told Schwaid they used Netflix streaming, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Then he asked the big question: do you watch local news? Answer: no, not really. “These are people who work in news and they don’t feel compelled to watch local news. Why? I’m not entirely sure. Clearly they felt they got the news they needed from other online sources. More important, I got the sense they felt local news wasn’t relevant to them. They admitted that their friends outside the business don’t watch local news at all.”
Schwaid urges newsroom managers to connect with these younger staffers and ask them to help develop the kind of product they might actually watch. Or else. “This should scare us. We need to start discussions, research and planning to understand what will get this consumer to watch local news.”