Local TV News losing jobs, but Press is worse

| April 20, 2009 | 2 Comments

A survey just out by the Radio TV News Directors Association and Hofstra University has found that local TV news is doing more with less. Local TV news jobs decreased by 4.3% — 1,200 jobs were lost last year. But at the same time stations that were doing news “set a record for number of hours of news they were producing.”

Meanwhile, the print newspaper side lost over 5,900 jobs in 2008 and the reductions are continuing in 2009.

The survey shows that TV Reporters were the hardest hit by salary cuts with salaries decreasing by 13.3%. News anchors were next at 11.5%, followed by weathercasters at 9.1% and sports anchors 8.9%.

I spent almost a decade working in commercial TV News at four different ABC affiliated stations. The problem with this survey is that although it may seem stations are doing more news, much of it is nothing but pap — entertainment news, sports, weather hype. How can a serious news operation actually use a portion of their precious local newscast time to discuss the results of American Idol? It’s also indicative of a problem when TV News Reporters (some of the most underpaid, overworked help you can find) are getting cuts in salaries that are greater than anchors.

If we continue to lose serious journalists from the newspaper side and have to rely more on local TV news, I don’t think most local stations are up to the challenge. I did a personal analysis a while back that showed a 30 minute local newscast, after self promotion, sports, weather and commercials, netted an average of about 8 minutes of real news content. I’ll bet it’s worse today.

There is the real possibility that because newspapers are having serious issues with developing a profitable business plan, quality journalism will become as rare as an upswing in the market. And some public media organizations are considering how they can fill that gap with quality work to serve their communities.

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Category: WOSU General

  • http://andrew-miller.com Andrew

    The local news is dismal – thank god for WOSU 820. When will one (or several) local news agencies actually start creating a serious news program. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who would watch such a thing. In fact, where are the programs like those we get at a national level but based on the local or state level? If someone could do a CBS Sunday Morning or 60 Minutes type program that developed stories about central Ohio (or even Ohio at large) I would tune in every week.

    I know that resources are getting slimmer everyday in this industry but is it a chicken/egg thing? For example; WOSU is a PBS affiliate and there are several of these around the State of Ohio. Why not use one of WOSU’s digital signals to broadcast Ohio centric shows. WOSU 34.2 does this to an extent but much of the air time is dedicated to House/Senate/Supreme Court business. Why not take 34.3 and dedicate a good 4-8 hours of daily programming to shows produced by Ohioans? I think there are maybe 8 PBS affiliates around the state plus OGT and E-Tech who create this type of programming that is informative and interesting to Ohioans. Why not partner and deliver this content outside of the specific affiliate range? Similarly why not collaborate to fill in some gaps in programing for statewide stories. I would tune in to this regularly because it is the type of information I can’t easily get elsewhere.

  • http://wosu.org tomrieland

    Thanks for the post, Andrew. WOSU OHIO is one of our digital TV channels and it is committed to providing programs from across Ohio fed by all the public stations. So, for instance, Columbus On The Record is scene in many of the other markets across Ohio. Not all the public stations carry WOSU OHIO 24/7 like WOSU, but the programming is on in every market, sometimes through cable access.

    I hope we can develop the resources to continue to expand our news operations to produce regular, thoughtful programming about the issues faced in central Ohio.