Multimedia Approach Puts It All Together

Dec 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Television news today is not your father’s 6 o’clock news. Take WFLA-TV in Tampa, Fla., for example. The TV station shares a facility with the Tampa Tribune, the local newspaper, as well as Tampa Bay Online (TBO.com), the community’s leading Web site.
“This started many years ago. Our facility was constructed with convergence in mind,” said Don North, WFLA’s news director. “We call it multimedia journalism, more than multiplatforming. It means taking advantage of all three of the platforms that we have here to the greatest extent that we have, realizing that there are a lot of opportunities for doing news even better when you have three platforms.”
The Tampa triad for news delivery did not happen accidentally. “This building was constructed for convergence. The Tampa Tribune is on the third floor; the TV station is on the second floor; and TBO.com, the Web site for both the newspaper and the TV station, is located within 10 feet of our assignment desk,” said Mr. North. “It’s as close together as you can get, and that’s probably unique; there are not many places in the country that are like this.”
At this time of the year, when news awards are beginning to accept submissions and news pros are reviewing their work, multiplatform news could be a major player.
Being recognized with an award is important to those in the electronic media business. “The big ones are very valuable—the duPonts, the Peabodys. The Murrows are a little bit lower, although they are very valued,” said Emily Rooney, host and executive editor of “Greater Boston WGBH.”
However, winning awards isn’t “our intent,” Ms. Rooney said. “If something comes out that’s good and it becomes something we’ve never seen before, something nobody’s ever reported on, and if it had some kind of impact, that’s the kind of thing you look at.”
For “Greater Boston,” she said their award submissions emphasize writing. “Writing is a very key component. We’ve won a number of writing awards in the past, so that is something we always go for. Anything with enterprise or some sort of twist to it, those kinds of pieces we look at again. We’ve produced half an hour on the state Supreme Court, which nobody had ever been granted access to behind the scenes. We’re going to submit that for something. That’ll probably be in the public affairs category.”
In Tampa, Mr. North believes the multiplatform approach could be worthy of recognition by the major awards. However, like Ms. Rooney, he eschews campaigning for awards. “Awards are kind of a byproduct of doing a good job. Is it nice to win an award? Sure it is. But that’s not why we do what we do. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s very nice to have an organization like the Peabodys or the duPonts recognize quality work.”
WFLA has a distinct advantage in one way over a show like “Greater Boston” because it deals in breaking news. “We do a lot of set-up pieces, but we’re not breaking news,” said Ms. Rooney. “There are a lot of things, like the Associated Press awards, we can go after, but we’re not like a family newscast. We’re news and public affairs. Those kinds of categories don’t fit for us. Documentary or public service or talk show, they do fit for us.”
Mr. North and his colleagues have yet to make their decisions on what to submit. “I’m at a loss to give you an idea right now. We have so many stories coming through here that I just can’t name one,” he said. “The things that tend to jump out are the breaking news stories. That frequently ends up being weather or some tragedy. Bigger [TV] stations tend to have greater resources from a production stance. They can present quality presentations, but that doesn’t mean terrific reporting is not being done at smaller stations.”
“We’re having an awards meeting next week,” Ms. Rooney said. “We go back and look at stuff and many times it’s obvious. We don’t over-submit; we only submit what we think is really good. We’ve actually dialed back our submissions. We always go after one of the National Press Club awards because we do a media criticism show on Fridays and we’ve won that award. It’s a national award and it’s a really good one for us to get. We submit to that one every April. We’ll start looking now at what we’ve got.”


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