On a Complex Beat, Key Is in Sharing Resources

Sep 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Efficiency has become vital in television news, since resources are stretched thin.

Journalists at cable and broadcast networks and local stations are recognizing the need to give their stories as many legs as possible, particularly with environmental reporting, a subject that news executives from National Geographic, CNN, ABC News and Manship Media-owned ABC station WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge, La., plan to discuss at this week’s Society of Environmental Journalists Conference in New Orleans.

“It’s a difficult media business in general and efficiency is important across the board,” said Adam Glenn, senior producer, business, health, science and technology, at ABCNews.com. “For environmental journalists it’s especially critical because the work is so complicated and they are talking to a lot of experts and going through government documents. To turn that into a second report and maybe into an interactive map and [for users] to see how the data looks is a very critical skill for environmental journalists to have,” he said.

Multiple Outlets

At ABCNews.com, science reporter Amanda Onion writes primarily for the Web site but also shares information and video with other ABC outlets, Mr. Glenn said. At the end of August, she had recently returned from a 10-day Arctic trip to report on global change there and its effects on wildlife. She will produce material about that trip for the Web site and will make herself available for interviews with broadband news channel ABC News Live, Mr. Glenn said.

That type of synergy is good for journalism as a whole because it allows a reporter to extend the information to as broad an audience as possible, he said.

“I think in the case of environmental journalists it’s even more urgent, because environmental journalism is a very complex beat and you are often doing a lot more work for the same basic story. So it’s much more efficient to get it across more platforms,” he said.

The Web is also a powerful medium to localize national policy stories, he said. For instance, a story on the energy policy of the Bush administration could include interactive features that illustrate gas prices from different regions.

“People want to know, `What does this mean in my area?’ The Web, with interactive tools, really enables that,” Mr. Glenn said.

At CNN, producer Marsha Walton produces environmental stories for the television network and writes them for www.cnn.com as well, said Peter Dykstra, executive producer, science, technology, environment and space, for CNN.

National Geographic Television & Film regularly repurposes material for multiple outlets. Its film library amasses content from the nightly news show “National Geographic Today” on cable network National Geographic Channel and offers it daily as a syndicated news feature. The report is delivered to international news organizations through APTN, the Associated Press Television News, said Matthew White, VP, film library, National Geographic Television & Film.

The organization also forged deals with broadband portions of Web portals Yahoo! and AOL earlier this year to provide premium broadband content. On Yahoo’s platinum service, users can check out clips from National Geographic programs and films as well as raw footage and interviews.

Local broadcasters share resources too.

As the new media director at The Advocate newspaper and ABC affiliate WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge, Freda Yarbrough’s mandate is to build convergence between the station and the paper through the Web site www.2theadvocate.com, created in April.

`A Proactive Stance’

Over the next year she’s planning to make coverage of coastal erosion of Louisiana’s wetlands a centerpiece of the Web site with links, polls, photos and an Internet journal. “So much of Louisiana’s economy is based on the wetlands and the coast,” she said. “In 50 years, if a very proactive stance isn’t taken, the coastline will be outside my front door and there will be no shrimping industry,” she said.

As part of the coverage, both the TV station and the newspaper will contribute reports. She will ask the print reporters for more color photos and the TV reporters to work on translating their TV reports into text for the Web. “It’s a whole new way of thinking,” she said.

Also on a local level, in Dallas, ABC station WFAA-TV’s environment reporter Don Wall has claimed some bylines in sister publication The Dallas Morning News.