The echoes of the historic 2008 election are still being felt at Hearst-Argyle Television, one of the nation’s largest station groups, which is being honored with a Peabody Award for its extensive campaign and issues coverage.
The coverage was under the umbrella of “Commitment 2008,” a companywide initiative requiring Hearst’s 26 stations to run at least 10 minutes nightly of candidate discourse in the 30 days leading up to Election Day.
In recognizing the company and its station group, Peabody judges cited Hearst-Argyle as “exemplars of public-service broadcasting whose stations fulfilled a company mandate with extensive reporting on candidates and issues in their respective communities and supplemented on-air reports with online forums, profiles and debate coverage.”
“The goal of our commitment coverage is to get behind the message. All campaigns, whether for Senate, a governorship or Congress, have become very much a formula,” said Candy Altman, VP of news for Hearst-Argyle. “Candidates consider it important to stay ‘on message.’ Our response is to help voters see beyond the message, and to try to figure out how candidates will think when they get into office, and to see them as a person.”
At stations in Manchester, N.H., and Des Moines, Iowa, political reporting of the presidential election started several years prior, when the major candidates began campaigning for the primary and the caucuses in those states that hold such importance early in the process.
In keeping with the company’s coverage goals, reporters at Hearst stations aim to get candidates away from their handlers.
The stations also are known for doing much of their political reporting outside of newscasts, in primetime and fringe periods throughout the day.
“Every station embraced it in its own way,” said Ms. Altman. “In a broad sense, the stations have really come up with creative ways to tell political stories—and the company, with support from the CEO on down, really believes this was part of our DNA. As we look at the complexity of the world today, it’s even more important to do this kind of reporting.”
Hearst-Argyle Television owns 26 television stations and manages an additional three television and two radio stations. Its TV stations reach approximately 18% of U.S. TV households in 22 states.