TV news - big local hole, tiny amount of local news - why?
June 16, 2016 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Why does the local TV news carry so much national and international news (that is then repeated on the national news show) and so little local news?

I live in a fairly large TV market (Seattle). Our four local TV stations each have 60 to 90 minute blocks for local news each evening. But none of them have anywhere near that. On any given night a 60 minute local news show will be 10 - maybe 15% local news, some weather, some sports and the giant bulk will be the reading of national and international news stories. Those stories, of course, come from their network news teams and are exactly the stories that are aired just after (or in between) the local news shows.

Why? Why have local reporters/anchors reading national and international news at all? I get that just taking a story from the networks is cheaper. Is that the reason? Seems like the NPR model - an hour of local/national news that is just repeated in the next hour - might be as cheap or cheaper and make more sense. I get that kids these days don't watch TV and I can sure see why.

In the olden days networks aired national and international news on their network news shows and local news on their local affiliate's news shows. That made sense to me. I don't understand this new model. Is there anyone out there in TV news land who can explain it to me, plz?
posted by susandennis to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They get the stuff you're watching from a network feed. Local news requires real reporters on the ground driving around, and that's increasingly expensive to collect.

As viewership declines (and it has been, for a lot of reasons) ad rates also decline, and the local stations are having to tune their business practices to a new reality of reduced revenue. So they're cutting costs, and local news is an attractive target for reduction.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:16 PM on June 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

An acquaintance of mine is a meteorologist and one day I was surprised to be on a business trip on the other side of the continent in another country and to hear her voice giving the local weather forecast on a local radio station coming through my rental car's stereo system. It's much cheaper and more efficient for her small company in the U.S. North-east to employ professional meteorologists and pay for access to data and do the highest-quality forecasts for places all over North America, than for each local media outlet to duplicate that effort.

So not only is it cheaper as you point out, but it can also be much better quality content that will hold peoples' attention through (also profit-generating) commercials. Honestly, on my local television station, even just when they cover the most popular Youtube videos of the day it's more captivating than their local news reporting.

I've often thought recently that a service which excerpts those 5 to 8 minutes of actual local news content from the half-hour they put on would be really nice.
posted by XMLicious at 7:06 PM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes, it's cheaper.
posted by Miko at 7:47 PM on June 16, 2016

Best answer: I'm a local news producer (about to start at my 4th market!) and the short reason behind why there's so little local news is ... there's a big hole to fill and not enough local news to spread around, but that hole has GOT to appeal to local viewers in order to attract advertisers, and the best way to do it is with local news.

The companies that own your local news stations (like Scripps, Hearst, Media General, Nexstar -- most local stations are not owned & operated by the networks) make their money off ads that run during those local news blocks. Local ads sold and run during local breaks (as opposed to national breaks) make the company more money because they can assure those businesses that the eyeballs they're delivering are the ones who actually live in the community and are interested in their goods and services. Or, in the case of political ads, interested in casting their vote. Which is also why you may see your morning news expand to 2.5 hours (adding a 4:30AM newscast) or see a half hour 7:00PM newscast added during the election cycle. More local ad time = more money.

You should be seeing 10-20 minutes of local news at the "top" of every newscast (5:00PM, 5:30PM, 6:00PM) unless there's major breaking national news of the day. Then there's a meter click at the quarter-hour and the show comes back from break, and then you'll likely get a daily health segment of 3-5 20 second stories batted back and forth between the anchors, or you'll get a consumer package by the station's local consumer reporter (if they have one, if not you'll get a national consumer package fronted by a local anchor), or you'll get more of those rapid-fire 20 second stories rounding up more national news. Then the meter clicks at the top of the hour again, and the newscast goes back to local for 10-15 minutes but ideally it's either different stories than the ones you've seen in previous newscasts, or it's new angles on stories you saw at the 5:00 or 5:30 shows.

But local news requires local reporters, and while stations are merrily adding more local news hours to get that local ad money, they're not adding any reporters, photographers, or producers. So the newshole gets bigger and the people get spread thinner.

Seems like the NPR model - an hour of local/national news that is just repeated in the next hour - might be as cheap or cheaper and make more sense.

People change the channel immediately when they see something they've already seen. That's it. That's why you'll get one local story (e.g., child abused at daycare, worker arrested, mother distraught) spread out over three shows and told from three different angles (at five, the nuts and bolts of the case, coming up at 5:30 we have the mugshot and history of the worker who was arrested, at 6:00 you'll hear from the mother who was shocked to learn what happened). And one reporter will have turned all those stories.
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 7:57 PM on June 16, 2016 [41 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, none of these will bring disaster. I had noticed that one of our local stations does do that 10-15 local news at the top of the hour. The others rarely do - they bury it after weather and twitter/youtube reports. The 'more details in the next hour' thing drives me nuts but I understand why.

Actually, now that you've explained it, I understand a lot more. Thank you.
posted by susandennis at 8:07 PM on June 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Getting local news footage means getting some of the few remaining actual workers out on the street. National and International news just means downloading a feed from APN or Reuters or whoever.
posted by Diag at 8:26 PM on June 16, 2016

It must depend on the market, Atlanta has a few stations that seem to be mostly local news.
posted by bongo_x at 8:48 PM on June 16, 2016

Why morning drive-time banter is listened to is a subject for another post, but I remember reading about how Top-40 radio stations used to have a lot of local news (as I recall, from my youth) but polls showed most Top-40 listeners didn't want to hear it, so it was eliminated (and costs too much in the Clear Channel age, as detailed upthread).
posted by Rash at 7:11 AM on June 17, 2016

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