In my column the last two weeks, I have talked a lot about the place national news has in a local newscast, particularly in a morning newscast. Since then, we have had two major national stories break overnight. The first was this past Saturday, with the attempted car bombing in Times Square. That story developed late and was fresh and “still happening” by the time everyone’s local news came on the air Sunday morning. I would assume that most every local news operation that has a Sunday morning newscast would have led with the story. In addition, on Tuesday morning this week, the news that an arrest had been made in the car bomb was still developing. In both instances, viewer interest was so high, and the developments were so new, that leading a local newscast with the stories was certainly the right choice.
In addition, television news researcher, Scott Tallal of Insite Media Research, chimes in with some valuable perspective from a viewers standpoint:
“Doug, your original premise is completely correct: the overwhelming majority of viewers absolutely want significant national and world news in their local newscasts, especially if it’s breaking news.
While national newscasts will never be able to cover local news, local newscasts can in fact cover a lot more than just local – and that gives them a huge competitive advantage. This gives them the opportunity to be a “one-stop shop” for everything viewers are looking for: a complete summary of news, weather, sports, and other information worth talking about – regardless of where it originates. Failure to give your local news viewers everything they’re looking for will only drive them to search for it elsewhere.
That said, it’s important to remember the following:
Local newscasts do not exist in an informational vacuum. Producers should always remember that there are multiple sources delivering a constant stream of news and information, so you have to remember that your audience is probably already aware of those big national stories. So if you are going to include them in your newscast, what are you going to be able to tell or show your viewers that they haven’t already seen and heard countless times before your show goes on the air?
With regard to promotion, don’t tease them with a question they already know the answer to. Instead, promise to bring them that new information or angle if it’s a story they’re already aware of.
When choosing your lead and stacking your show, the three most important things to consider for any story are 1) how recently did it happen, 2) how close did it occur to where your viewers live, and 3) how likely are they to care about that story. That’s why there will always be cases when you should lead with breaking national/world news: if it just happened and it’s a really big story that your viewers are going to care about, that can often trump whether the story is truly local.” Scott Tallal, Insite Media Research, email@example.com.
Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org