A recent study by Pew Research Center published in the New York Times last weekend lays out how local television news is on the decline.
Wait. Is this news? Local news has been declining for years.
We have all heard about the decline of newsprint but there has been very little coverage of the disarray that is local television and now we are finally seeing the stories popping up online.
When I was laid off from my first real media job in 2008 I was just another casualty of the economic downturn. The newsroom began to shrink once the well ran dry so what you’ve ended up with is too much attention focused on celebrities and product placement.
News is a business after all so who really needs a copy editor or fact checkers when you can save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.
I had gone to school to be a journalist, I wanted to be Woodward or Bernstein tracking down the next big scandal, but what I found was a field in such flux that nobody really knew what to teach.
Do we teach social media? Do we teach AP style? Do we teach blogging? The problem was that the teachers only knew the old way of teaching journalism so that was what we were taught.
The demographics are what will eventually doom the local news business because most viewers are over the age of 50 and companies don’t need to target that audience.
If everybody is getting their news online then where will the advertising dollars eventually go?
The price for online advertising is nowhere near what they pay for television or print but as the audience dies out, the money will eventually end up where the target audience resides.
When there are layoffs in the newsroom it takes resources away from in depth investigations and you end up with a bunch of canned stories from the national press.
It is up to the news stations to figure out the best way to monetize the services they provide because the old model is broken and will never be fixed.
The evolution of local news has been held back by an old school mentality and nothing will change until the mold is completely broken, which is closer than we think.
With the lack of an audience there will be no need for local stations to pay for the news divisions and the nightly news will be replaced by reruns of your favorite sitcom. It is up to the news directors to become innovative and avoid following the same date as print.
– William L Huffman