Editorial: Localism an Essential News Component

Aug 18, 2003  •  Post A Comment

With consolidation and technology putting increasing pressure on news operations nationwide, the very survival of local news at times appears to be in question. But it is exactly those pressures that make support for local news more important and its survival more essential than ever before. Technology and increasing consolidation among the corporations that own television stations create the temptation to streamline news departments by combining assets to form a centralized operation. Unfortunately, this practice distances the news operation from the community it is supposed to serve. The result of the trend, if allowed to proceed unchecked, would be the elimination of local news.
Technology makes the centralized news operation feasible, but it does not make it the right thing to do. Similarly, economies of scale make such operations financially enticing but do not make centralization a wise business strategy.
Spotlighted in the Newspro section of this issue of TelevisionWeek are a number of stations whose news operations stand as examples of how local news can be done right. These stations prove that the model works: They have achieved business success by serving their communities.
A common theme at stations that find success in local news is the staying power of the people involved in the news operation. Typically the anchors are recognized figures in the community who have been on the job for years. They know their communities in a way that a centralized operation can’t match, as do the staffers behind the camera. The successful news organizations know the kinds of stories that matter to the community and feature those stories on a regular basis.
It’s no secret how to be a great news station or a successful one; the bottom line is that serving the community is good business.
But in the current economic environment, the survival of local news is not a given. It will require a conscious, ongoing effort by station groups, networks and the individuals involved in their stations’ news operations to provide a level of service that will prove invaluable to the community. Only through that kind of effort can they ensure that the independent voices of local news will continue to be heard in the future.