OPINION: Local News
Isn't Dying, It's Evolving

OPINION: Local News Isn't Dying, It's Evolving

Written by Soul Witness
🕒 September 09, 2021

“Local news is dying.”

How many times have you heard that one? Probably hundreds. So have I. We hear it so often that sometimes we—yes, “we” as in local news journalists—start to believe it, and maybe have even repeated that phrase ourselves. It’s okay, we’re all guilty of it. But, if you think about it, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that local people still look to local news for updates about their…shocker…local area. They can’t even deny that they don’t need local journalists. They may not admit it, because they’re too busy bashing “the media,”…but they do need us. The data proves that. Just ask anyone who works at your station, who crunches those numbers.

However, it is an extremely valid point to say that the way local news is DELIVERED needs to evolve.

Station managers across the country, big and small, know the importance of a digital presence.

Most stations, if not all by now, have their own website and app; complete with email newsletter blasts, and push alerts. Most stations also know the importance of social media. It may have taken some a little longer to figure that out than others, but they still know a presence on social media is important.

It’s no secret that many journalists in their 20s have had a social media profile from a young age. Some are even taught “branding” strategies in high school and college. It even seems as time goes on, social media users get younger and younger. There are even people who don’t know a world BEFORE social media. (Crazy right?)

So, with all of that in mind, newsrooms should do more than just put together newscasts for air…but, the over-the-air broadcasts aren’t going away completely.

According to the Pew Research Center, “in 2021 56% of Americans (still) watch satellite or cable TV.”

Only 56%? You might ask. Yes, but with the U.S. population being more that 332 million, 56% of that is still a lot of people.

But, back to local news delivery. With streaming services on the rise, newsrooms should by all means be on them. Any and all services they can be on. The movement is already happening.

News programs can be seen in real time on Hulu, YouTube TV, and many others.

SIDENOTE: Hopefully, your newsroom has joined these services already, or is at least starting the process to get on multiple platforms! Check with your managers to see which platforms your newscasts can be seen on. This information can then be promoted on air, on the website, and social media.

Speaking of social media….

There are so many social media sites now a days, it can be overwhelming. Many stations are already on the most popular ones like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

There will always be new platforms popping up, and TikTok seems to be taking over at the moment. While some mangers, or “old school” newsers, may be against getting on this platform, news stations should still have a presence on it. It’s just smart business: If that’s where the people are…go to the people.

BUT! Yes, there’s a “but.” Some rules and regulations should be put into place. While these social media apps are fun, and lighthearted and originally designed for entertainment, we’ve all seen how one social media post can wreck someone’s career and even life.

Whoever manages a station’s social media accounts needs to be on point with digital etiquette and professionalism at all times.

I know, so VERY difficult at times, but still crucial. Any on-air talent who participate should also keep in mind that even though the posts and trends are “fun,” they are still held to a higher standard when it comes to professionalism.

People are still turning to journalists for information, but the level of how critical they are of news—and anyone involved in news—has skyrocketed. There has to be a balance between “relatable-ness” and trustworthiness. These rules of thumb should also be practiced on their work and yes, personal, accounts.

Like it or not, people are looking at us, and to us, at all times. The judgment doesn’t stop when we clock out.

In this opinion piece, I go over some not-so-gentle reminders about social media etiquette. Yes, I do throw some shade (okay, a lot of shade) at TikTok, but let me point out that those statements are in regard to personal posts, not station-owned profiles or news-related posts. There are both professional and unprofessional ways to act on social media.

The bottom line here is, local news is important.

What we do as local reporters is important. We inform our communities about the things that are impacting them the most. But, we’ve got to put those updates out on a variety of platforms so they can reach the most people.

If nothing else, I hope this article encourages you to learn more about where your content can be shared, and how to share it.

Keep working hard my fellow journalists! What we do DOES make a difference! 💪🏼😊

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