Written by Lindsey Estes, chief of staff, Local Media Association
Last month I had the privilege of spending time at two local media companies and a corporate broadcast office. I spent four days shadowing “a day in the life” from the anchors all the way up to the corporate officers. As long as I’ve been in the media association business (ten-plus years), I’ve never worked for an actual local media company, and wow, was it eye-opening!
Here are the top takeaways from my week in Detroit:
I heard this word in every single meeting. Local news is about impact. How can you report on a story to drive the greatest impact on the community? Yes, everyone needs to know about a car accident happening now and affecting traffic, but what is the impact of that incident? Should there be a traffic light there to save lives in the future? Who was involved?
When choosing which stories will be covered, the question that kept being asked was, “What is the impact on the community? Who does this impact? Which angle can we take that will have the most impact?” This story and continued investigation by WDIV reporter Karen Drews was brought up by many different people as a good example of how the local media can create an impact on so many families in a community.
Local media executives are full of passion. They find their work to be very mission-driven and are so proud of the work they do individually and as a company.
All the people I met had different examples to share about how they were part of a story that changed someone’s life. Local reporters are so tightly tied to the community. This was evident during the editorial meetings where all the reporters were pitching stories. They know about every local meeting going on and every school function. They have the sources and really care about the impact of these events. So many of the people I met were born and raised in Detroit, so their passion for the city is very strong.
Reporting can be a dangerous job
Far too often, we hear stories of reporters, camera crews and members of the local media being targeted or hurt while doing their job covering the news. During an editorial meeting, the reporters were reminded that if the protest gets out of hand, their safety is the No. 1 priority. They should always get out of a dangerous situation. The fact this is being said on a daily basis in newsrooms across the country (and the world) really hit home how dangerous these jobs can be.
Focus on audience
On what topics do audiences want to know more? How and where are audiences viewing the content? All the people I met told me these are among the top things they think about every day in their jobs. Sales executives review audience numbers to help them sell against the competitors, promotions team members are focused on reaching the audience, and reporters are focused on stories about which the audience cares. In the end, each person is thinking about the same thing: “How can we serve our audience better?”
R&D companies play a key role in supporting local media
I work closely with the media research and development community through my role at LMA. We have always had the philosophy that the R&D community is a wealth of information. These companies work with a variety of clients, so they see what is working and what isn’t working. They can serve as great consultants and thought leaders for the industry.
R&D providers’ tools were being used in the newsroom to track which stories were performing the highest on digital. An R&D company joined the sales team’s weekly meeting to teach team members how to use some new features in the company’s toolset that will save each sales rep hours when prepping for a client needs analysis.
My lesson here is: Lean on your R&D companies. They are here to help you! R&D providers’ tools can save you time and make people more efficient at their jobs.
The focus on what’s next
When asking executives, “What keeps you up at night?” every single person answered the same way: “What does the future of local news look like? What’s next for local news? What happens in a world without local news?” No one, of course, has the magic bullet, but a lot of very, very smart people are working to make sure local news is around for generations to come.