In Depth

Listening to Locals

WJAR Responds to Community Issues, Concerns

WJAR-TV NBC Channel 10, owned by Media General, serves the Providence, R.I.-New Bedford, Mass. area, the nation’s 51st-largest market. With General Manager Lisa Churchville and News Director Betty Jo Cugini at the helm, the station focuses on news and public affairs coverage in a way that maximizes its impact on the community.

A recent example took place as the Wall Street meltdown began. “We threw out all the scripts,” said assistant news director Christopher Lanni. “Instead, we did a live 10 Town Meeting with a panel of experts with different kinds of financial expertise, from mortgages to retirement, investments and so on.” With an open phone bank and live Web chat, viewers from across southern New England were able to ask their questions.

That immediate responsiveness to events affecting the community is business as usual at WJAR-TV.

Last year, the community suffered several tragedies related to underage drinking. “Again, we threw out all the scripts and did a 10 Town Meeting with community and school leaders, parents and teenagers themselves in the studio to examine the topic,” said Mr. Lanni. “Community feedback was astonishing. It really opened up a dialogue, especially in the one town that had put this issue on the forefront.”

The station also boasts the market’s only dedicated political reporter, Bill Rappleye. “Bill obviously does our day-to-day coverage on political stories,” said Mr. Lanni. “He also mans the market’s only bureau at the state house, so he has significant exclusive insight into the workings of state politics.”

The station produces two public affairs programs, the 10 News Conference, co-hosted by Mr. Rappleye and iTeam reporter Jim Taricani, and, in election season, the Political Roundtable, with experts from both sides.

WJAR takes pride in its “fair, accurate and balanced newscasts.” It has a station ombudsman, Paul Giacobbe, a lawyer and former reporter, who acts as “the viewer’s voice.” Viewers concerned about any story can contact Mr. Giacobbe, who will watch the story and do his own research. “He makes an independent conclusion as to whether we were fair, accurate and balanced,” said Mr. Lanni. “On occasion, his conclusions will force us to take another look at the story and make adjustments or retell it.”