Outlook for television news and its audience

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  • Outlook for television news
  • Although research conducted by Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism: The State of the Media reflected on the economic decline of local news television stations, shrinking staffs, and the sharing of news content among stations, there is still hope for television reporters.

    At the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Bob Papper of Hofstra University reported 45 percent of station revenue came from TV news.

    Papper also noted TV news is covering more mediums by turning to social media sites and posting its content on the web. The average local broadcaster’s salary is even up by 2.5 percent.

    With these positive statistics, it seems that TV news may just be going through a rough patch with the creation of new technology. But once TV broadcasters learn how to use this technology to their advantage, the state of television news will hopefully improve.

  • How people get their news
  • In a survey by the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Americans said they watched the news on TV yesterday. This number has not changed much over the last ten years, which is reassuring to television reporters as viewership has remained stable.

    However, using the Internet to consume news is growing.

    In a Pew Internet report, it states after local and national television news, the Internet is the most used platform to consume news. It also says 92 percent of Americans consume news using multiple platforms.

    The chart below, made by the Pew Research Center, shows the percentage of how people of different ages consume news.

  • Using the Internet to increase viewership
  • It is beneficial for television news stations to use web sites and social media to add to their content and expand audience viewership.

    With station web sites, news stations can delve deeper into the content of a minute-thirty video package.

    Using social media sites, such as having a twitter account or Facebook fan page, enables communication and interaction between the viewer and the reporter because the viewer is able to give feed back to the reporter or comment on a report, and the reporter can respond.

    This communication creates a relationship between the newscasters and viewers, and therefore the potential for more loyal audience members.

    As seen from the chart above, a larger percent of people over the age of 40 turn to the TV for news compared to people under the age of 39. Using twitter could help increase younger viewership because 33 percent of twitter users are between 18 to 29-years-old while 22 percent are between 30 to 49-years-old.

    If a twitter user sees a tweet about the latest story a reporter is covering or a link to a video package they might be more drawn to the station and could become another viewer.

  • Know the demographics of your audience to improve viewership
  • Reporters should familiarize themselves with the cities/state where they work. Know the make-up of your viewers and what interests them.

    If you are a reporter who works at a station in a military town, try to find story ideas or angles that relate to or affect the military or their family. If you live in an eco-friendly community try to find stories about the environment or tie it into your story.

    People like to hear about things that directly impact them or are relatable. Knowing who lives in the city you are covering can help produce more engaging stories if the reporter considers the audiences’ interests.

    When pitching story ideas think about….
    1. Who cares? Who does this affect?
    2. What is the impact?
    3. How can I make this story more interesting for my audience?


    Reporting with Props

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    For live feature stories, props are a must. Props visually enhance the story. Instead of watching an ordinary talking head, viewers are entertained by a visual.

    Bringing props into a feature story adds another element to the story. Viewers see the reporter holding, wearing, or using a prop, making the scene more active.

    It’s more interesting to watch because the reporter is doing something. They are holding that free cup of coffee the local coffee shop is giving out, they are petting the cute puppy that is up for adoption, or playing a carnival game at the county fair. All these situations are more visually appealing than watching a reporter describe these things while the photographer films the scene.

    The reporter becomes more involved with the story when they use props, bringing another dimension to viewers. The story becomes more realistic to viewers when they see they can participate in what the reporter is covering.

    Cory McCloskey‘s feature story on archery demonstrates how to successfully employ props:

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    McCloskey holds the bow for viewers to see. He looks it up and down so the audience focus is on the bow. By focusing on a tangible aspect of the story, McCloskey diverts attention from himself, and directs it to the event he is covering.

    Viewers like visuals. A talking head does not always keep the audiences’ attention.

    He then feels and holds what is called the trigger and later shoots the bow and arrow. By actively using props, McCloskey makes the story more realistic to viewers because they can see what McCloskey is explaining.

    The viewer feels more engaged with the story because McCloskey is making his words come to life through actively using props.

    Using props also makes the storyteller more conversational.

    In Heather Ford’s live-shot The Wonderful World of Paintball, Ford dresses in paintball gear, making her more personable.

    Because Ford is willing to wear paintball gear and even join a game, she is no longer a serious reporter, but an ordinary person, with whom viewers can better relate. She probably got better interviews too, because the paintball participants viewed her as a friendly out-going person who they are more willing to talk to, rather than an intimidating reporter with a camera.

    By wearing the paintball gear and shooting the gun, Ford makes the story more visually entertaining. She is no longer a spectator, but puts herself into the story, making it more interactive.

    The bottom line is, use props when possible. Imagine if these two reporters didn’t use props and simply pointed to their surroundings. Actively using props in live feature stories adds visual entertainment, making it more enjoyable for viewers to watch.