Romney in High Point, for the win

There’s this saying — which I know isn’t entirely true or false — that morning television news has to await for the morning paper to get its news.

This morning at 6 a.m. I went out to pick up the paper. In the house, I had the Good Morning Show on. I stood and listened to the program’s two-minute news update in which the announcer said that Mitt Romney was going to visit North Carolina on his bus tour this weekend. But, she added, the specific cities on his itinerary hadn’t been announced yet.

I unrolled the paper and the lead story on the front page was the announcement that Romney will be in High Point on Sunday.

As a friend noted on Twitter, the TV news folks’ paper must have gotten wet in the morning rain.

Of course, the information about the cities Romney will visit wasn’t part of an announcement from the campaign. It came from old-school reporting so good on the newspaper.

By the way, the information about Romney’s visit was posted on the paper’s website at 5:30 p.m. Monday. It apparently didn’t go up on any of the television websites until this morning. News Channel 14 still says there are no details on where the buses will visit, and I can’t find it at all on WFMY’s website. That should put to rest the fear in some newspaper newsrooms that TV competitors scour the paper’s website for new news “to steal.”

TV news judgment vs. ratings: who wins?

My friend Jeff Gauger takes note that, on their websites, neither WFMY nor WGHP mention the omission of WXII from the channels offered by Time Warner Cable. I don’t know whether the anchors reported it on the newscasts yesterday or this morning, but I suspect not.

In a conversation about an unrelated topic a few years ago, a local anchor told me why they wouldn’t: “We don’t want to give viewers any reason to change the channel.” The thinking is that if an anchor talks about something happening at another station in the market, it’s possible — even likely — the typical viewer will switch over to that station to see what’s happening. Bad for the ratings.

(In this case, what is happening is that Time Warner has given us the NBC affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. After watching a snippet of that station’s news, I switched away. Why Wilkes-Barre, as opposed to Charlotte or Raleigh? A Facebook friend told me that TW sent out a message explaining: Certain rules limit our ability to import TV signals from other cities. We have done so where those rules currently permit it.)

Interestingly, News 14 Carolinas — TW’s station — didn’t have a problem reporting what was happening. I bet WXII didn’t either, although I don’t know because I don’t have a TV with an antenna.

Back to the issue over TV ratings vs. news that viewers might find interesting and helpful. I understand the reluctance of competing TV stations to skip over the information about WXII, if they actually did. TV news is fighting the same battle for viewers that newspapers are for readers. Appointment television is becoming a thing of the past, and the latest Gallup Poll results showing a decline in confidence in TV news are troubling. But — and you knew a “but” was coming, didn’t you? — that thinking reveals a terrible blind spot. If you want to be the news leader, to be the most trusted, to be the place people turn, then you have to give them information that’s valued and useful. Otherwise, you force people to do just what Jeff said: Go elsewhere for the news. Why would you want them to do that? In this case, people would have switched to where WXII used to be, seen a totally irrelevant newscast and switched right back, firm in their belief that WGHP or WFMY was serving their needs better.

In addition, the idea that people don’t channel surf during newscasts harkens back to the pre-remote days. I watch a newscast until it hits a story that I know already or doesn’t interest me and I switch. Or I’ll hunt for the weather forecast and stop at whichever station has it, although I don’t stop at WXII’s spot on the dial now because the weather in Wilkes-Barre isn’t helpful.

All that said, if WGHP or WFMY reported the WXII troubles on the air, then never mind.

I believe this will be resolved soon because those WXII viewers are getting used to turning to WGHP, WFMY and News 14 for their news. I can’t imagine that WXII wants new viewing habits to take hold.



Going to where the people are

A TV station in Lansing has flipped its evening anchor and morning anchor because, they say, morning is where the growth is and, in TV, that’s where the big names belong.

In the mornings, they haven’t yet been deluged by information. “It’s the one time of the day when people haven’t already been plugged in to the news,” said Jam Sardar, the WLNS news director.

While other ratings drop, mornings thrive. “The fastest-growing audience is the morning audience,” said Kevin Ragan, the WILX news director. “Sometimes, it’s referred to as the new prime time.”

Assuming that isn’t just marketing talk for moving a rising morning star to the evening, it’s interesting how the station is going where the people are, a concept that is more important now than ever as markets fracture. That kind of thinking should inspire all media to look at where the people are congregating and go to them, rather than expecting them to come to you.

In the Triad, WGHP and WFMY both expanded their morning broadcasts to begin at 4:30 a.m. this month. WXII is already there. (Didn’t Kimberly Van Scoy move from nights to mornings five or six years ago?) But it’s doubtful that at least one of those stations will follow WILX’s lead any time soon, says Neill McNeill, evening anchor at Fox8:

In this market  I can tell you the evening newscasts on all three stations still produce “sell-able” numbers. In other words, the stations still make money off of them–else we wouldn’t be doing them.

On top of that, WGHP is the only station in this market that produces a primetime newscast at 10pm. It consistently is the #1 Fox Affiliate 10pm news (per capita) in the country. (The Fox affiliate in St. Louis slipped by us in November because the World Series was on FOX and the Cardinals were in it.) So— this newscast is and has been an important part of our primetime.

Also–most of  the evening news anchors in this market are well-established and “known” in the market as are most of the morning anchors. Therefore, I don’t see anyone moving to opposite sides of the clock anytime soon. But you never truly know what might happen in this business.