Television station websites are an interesting phenomenon. For the most part, they've become interactive versions of newspaper websites. They feature news, sports, weather, business, health, and a myriad of other topics of interest to viewers in a particular market.
Stations have included newscast videos on their sites as well. Some even stream their news live to viewers. These are cool websites. They take advantage of the latest Internet technologies to provide an experience for their viewers. But there's another experience that visitors to a station website might have--and it isn't so cool.
Here's a test: Pretend you are a viewer who wants to talk with someone at your station. Now go to your station's website and see if it is easy to find the main telephone number. If you found an html contact form, that doesn't count. If you found a phone number for the newsroom, that doesn't count. If you found a list of emails of everyone who works at the station, including those that haven't worked there in six months, that still doesn't count. I said phone number.
While I don't want to pick on any particular station, nothing makes a point better than an example...KDUH. Located on the information "stupidhighway" at www.kduhtv.com, this is a site for the textbooks (just keep thinking "duh" as you look through it). If KDUH sounds familiar, it's because their tower collapsed in September, killing two. The lead story on their website, as I write this on October 3, is "Funeral For State Trroper Held Wednesday." Now, as an editor I can understand how easy it is to make a grammar or spelling error when you face a tight deadline. But my proofreader is also my managing editor, chief staff reporter, and bookkeeper. I suspect KDUH has a bit more in its budget than we do devoted to proofreading and copyediting. They can afford to do a better job. At least I would hope so.
If KDUH hasn't seen this column before you have, and they haven't made any corrections to their website, then I defy you to find me a contact phone number. By the way, don't bother trying the "Advertising" button on the site--it doesn't link anywhere.
KDUH isn't alone in lacking easily accessible contact info. Many station websites don't list a main telephone contact number. Some do, but it's hidden. Sad, really. But it probably helps keep at bay those annoying phone calls. Such as the ones informing you that the lead story on your website has a typo.
Want to see how it should be done? Go to www.7online.com, the website of WABC in New York, the ABC network's flagship station. Click on "Contact Us" on the left. The main number, newsroom number, news bureau numbers, story idea number, community events phone number, even the sales and marketing phone numbers, are all easy to find. Nice. I wanted to call KDUH management to comment for this story. If you can find their phone number, let me know.
Jonathan Bellows is a contributing editor. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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