KCCI: News Powerhouse in the Nation’s Heartland

Aug 18, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Des Moines, Iowa, CBS affiliate KCCI-TV claims an astounding distinction: Its late local newscast at 10 p.m. has been the highest-rated newscast of any local broadcast station in the country several times during the past few years, said Dave Busiek, KCCI news director.
Most recently, KCCI’s late local newscast came in third nationwide in May and second in February.
A Local Champ
The CBS station in the heartland is also brawny throughout the day and has won the noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts locally for at least the past nine years in households and for the past five to six years in the 25 to 54 demo, Mr. Busiek said.
In May, the 25 to 54 demos for KCCI were a 10 rating/41 share at noon, compared with local NBC competitor New York Times Co.-owned WHO-TV’s 5/22; a 12/33 at 5 p.m. compared with WHO’s 7/19; and a 15/33 at 6 p.m. compared with WHO’s 11/25.
With those kinds of numbers, it’s no surprise that Mr. Busiek has staying power. He has helmed the news shop for 13 years.
KCCI also outperforms CBS’s strong prime-time lead-in. In February the station’s prime-time lead-in at 9:30 p.m. scored a 13/23, a number the late local newscast nearly doubled with its 22/42. Growing over the lead-in is increasingly unusual; catapulting over it is downright unheard of.
But Des Moines, home to The Des Moines Register, which has won 15 Pulitzer Prizes, is a strong news town. The NBC station also saw a bump with a 12/21 in February for its lead-in and a 14/26 in late local, Mr. Busiek said.
Appetite for News
“In this market there is a huge appetite for news. Iowa has an extremely high literacy rate, invests a lot in public education. The Iowa Caucus is here. People are plugged into politics,” he said.
KCCI credits some of its success and dominance to its tenured staff. The station has had only three news directors in its 48-year history. The main anchor, Kevin Cooney, grew up in Des Moines and joined KCCI at age 16. He has fronted the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news since 1982. The chief meteorologist, John McLaughlin, has been with the station for 15 years and Mr. Cooney’s co-anchor Jeanette Trompeter has shared the desk for nine years.
Longevity and stability are helpful for many reasons.
“Lots of reporters have been here and put down roots in the community,” Mr. Busiek said. “Viewers get to know you and trust you, and you develop a lot of sources and find out stuff and break a lot of stories.”
Breaking Stories
An aggressive approach to breaking news is key. For instance, earlier this summer the station was first to report that Wells Fargo Mortgage planned to open a new local center next year that would employ 2,000 people.
KCCI won its first national Edward R. Murrow Award for photography this year. Locally, the broadcaster collected awards this year in overall excellence and best newscast from the Associated Press and The Iowa Broadcast News Association.
Mr. Busiek is still looking for ways to improve the top-rated station. He’s currently evaluating the sports coverage and wants to do a better job of covering breaking sports stories, he said.