Leading National on Local Newscasts

By Doug Drew 

When most people woke up Tuesday morning, one of the first stories they probably heard about was the blast on the oil rig off Louisiana that killed 11 people. A classic lead story. It was a new, significant overnight development, and it was happening now. However some local stations may not have lead with this story.

Many newsrooms do not play up interesting national or international stories because they think of themselves as being the “local” station. Instead of leading with a more interesting national or international story, they’ll lead with a less interesting story that they consider “local.” Does that make any sense? Why would you ever lead with a “less interesting story” if you had an option? Or why run an old “local” story, bypassing a significant new or developing national story if it’s of interest to your viewers?

One-stop shopping
The reality is you can still be “local” and lead with a national story. Viewers don’t sit there and say “Oh, geez, that story didn’t occur here in my community so I am going to flip channels.” Just the opposite happens. If they are interested in a story, they will stay with you, and isn’t that what’s it all about? And consider this: If they are anticipating the story, and you don’t have it, guess where they are going to go? They are going to flip immediately to CNN, MSNBC or Fox or go to the internet. Why force them to go away? Why not just give it to them and move on with the rest of your news? Everyone is happy. The viewer gets what he or she wants, and you keep the viewer watching. Your local viewers want you to have EVERYTHING. They want one stop shopping. Your viewers like the Wal-Mart Super Centers with everything under one roof because they don’t have to drive from store to store. It’s all in one place; it’s very convenient for them. The same principal applies to your news. Viewers like it when you conveniently provide ALL the news. You are still their “local station.”


It’s not “where” the story occurred
It’s not an issue of geography, it’s an issue of interest. If your local viewers are interested in a story, then it is a story of local interest. On most days you will lead with stories that occur within your geographic area, but there are times when stories occur outside the region that are of enough significance to your viewers that the story trumps a “local” story. Don’t automatically dismiss them just because they “happened someplace else.” Remember, viewers are looking for stories of interest, and if you don’t have them, they’ll go someplace else in search of them. Viewers have seen tons of house fires, stabbings, shootings, car accidents, bank robberies, and zoning disputes. They all look incredibly similar. If you feed your viewers doses of same-old, same-old each morning, the ratings will reflect their boredom. Often, it’s the unusual or unexpected national or international story that captures our viewers’ interest. Don’t be afraid to include, and often lead, with those stories in a local newscast.

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at ddrew@602communications.com