TV News Universe Shrinking or Expanding?

The TV news world is like a snowglobe. Things look different after each shaking.You might think with declining advertising revenues and fewer reporting resources in the newsroom, the local TV news universe is shrinking. Actually, the number of minutes dedicated to news may be expanding. But, we’re talking quantity, not necessarily a growth in quality. Still, there are opportunities for PR professionals to consider when pitching stories.

There’s a lot to pay attention to in the TV world. Here are three trends: 

  • Through social media there are new ways of reaching the TV audience;
  • There are more local news shows now then before the recent bottoming out of the TV news business; and
  • Newsroom skill sets and personalities are changing.

Reaching the big and small screen

When pitching a story idea, think about the way TV News shows are using new digital platforms. Facebook and other social media tools have become as important to TV news shows as videotape and live remotes to the studio.

During the recent East Coast earthquake, Andrea McCarren, a reporter with WUSA-TV (CBS) in Washington, D.C., used Facebook to ask viewers for their feedback while anchoring live coverage, says Julie Holley, a blogger for Vocus public relations. In addition, some TV stations, such as WGCL-TV (CBS) in Atlanta, keep viewers informed between broadcasts by sending mini-newscasts to smartphones via social media,” says the Vocus blog. “Stories are about 15 seconds long and include the day’s weather and top stories.”

There may be limited opportunities to pitch stories for these situations, Vocus notes. But, for example, a PR agency with a client involved in emergency management may want to offer content for a hurricane preparedness app some TV stations are offering, says Vocus.

Expansion in non-traditional time slots

Whether it is 4 a.m. or 4 p.m., TV stations are adding local news shows. It is a trend happening across the country. For example, KGW-TV (NBC) in Portland just added a news show at 4 p.m. broadcast from its satellite studio at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Sure, it costs bucks to add new news shows, but it is far less expensive for local network affiliates and independent channels to go this route, industry observers say.

“As more stations continued to add newscasts in new time slots, the overall audience for local TV news actually held steady and new delivery platforms, including mobile, raised hope for the future," the Pew Research Center says in its State of the Media report for 2011.

Changing faces in the newsroom

Skill sets and personalities are changing in the newsroom as local stations add staff. Today’s news pitch may be to a less experienced if not a more distracted reporter.

“The makeup of the typical TV newsroom also continued to change," the Pew report adds. “Local stations were able to hire again in 2010 after the average number of news staffers hit a seven-year low the year before. But stations are shedding high-priced anchor talent and moving to make more use of multitasking solo journalists.”

All this means is PR people have to do more of what we’ve always advocated — prepackage a story proposal as much as possible, making the work easy for busy journalists.

The TV news environment will continue to resemble the snowman in a snow globe. The scene looks different each time it is shaken.