New York Public Station Takes A New Look at Local News

By Kevin Eck 

Local newsers can get a little more shelf life and a broader audience for their reports thanks to a local newsmagazine show airing on New York’s PBS affiliate WNET.

MetroFocus is a PBS style local news show put together without a big budget and a lot of resources. The show gives its New York market viewers everything from in-depth interviews with newsmakers and entertainers to a mix of enterprise news reports and those from local affiliates.

Anchored by industry veterans Jack Ford and Rafael Pi Roman along with Jenna Flanagan, MetroFocus is produced with one goal in mind according to executive producer Dave Brown, “You know, people can walk away after they watch the show and say ‘Wow! I’m better’ and ‘Wow! I’m smarter.'”

The show saw a relaunch when Brown came on board last July. In his year at the helm, he’s added some traditionally newsy elements like b-roll and cable news style graphics to help tell the story better.

Brown came to WNET from CNN where he is credited with launching and executive producing @This Hour and Wolf Blitzer’s show. He also worked as an ep for the weekend edition of CNN newsroom and launched and executive produced The O’Reilly Report and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren among other shows while he worked at Fox News Channel.

The numbers are proving Brown is on the right track. The show’s website has seen a 154 percent increase of video starts between September 2015 and September 2016. Page views are up 36.12 percent. Facebook fans grew by 40 percent, impressions grew by over 2,000 percent and Facebook videos were viewed over 455,000 times.

One interesting wrinkle for local tv folks is that MetroFocus gives its viewers a look at hot button issues in the market by airing reports from local affiliates. WNBC investigative reporter Sarah Wallace recently came on to talk about her piece on the guy running for the New York Senate seat who angered Harlem voters by saying he was donating KFC and watermelon on 125th street.

“There’s a lot of great work being done by the affiliates around the area,” said Brown. “When I saw Sarah Wallace’s piece on the guy running for the GOP seat up in Harlem I was blown away and I said ‘I gotta call the I-Team and have them on.'”

Another show featured a News12 Long Island report looking at the investigation of the 1996 crash of TWA flight 800. News 12 producer Brad Trettien sat down with Jack Ford to talk about witness accounts the plane was brought down by missiles and not, as the NTSB says, by a internal fuel tank explosion.

Brown is also open to using stories from non-traditional video outlets like the New York Times.

“There’s a lot of excellent content out there without a platform,” he said. “And if it’s relative to the New York area or the Tri-State area or to the show, then by all means why not give it another hit.”

“My show is very populist,” Brown told TVSpy talking about the wide range of topics his show addresses.

TVSpy asked Brown what he’d say to someone at a local station who wanted to replicate what he’s doing at WNET. His answer? “Be resourceful. You have to be resourceful. You have to have your finger on the pulse of what everybody else is doing. Being nimble, but with your ear to the ground. Stories will come to me from the weirdest places.”

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