Sinclair’s News Central seems to be getting a lot of press lately. Some say it will be the death of local news, while others think it is a bad experiment that won’t work.
In case you’ve never heard of News Central (how could you not?) it is the latest offering by Sinclair. The company owns a number of TV stations throughout the U.S., and those stations are having their news staff cut to the bare bones. Most of the news is being fed via satellite from a “central” newsroom outside of Baltimore.
In other words, after the first block, the news in Pittsburgh is the same newscast you would be watching in Rochester (or other Sinclair markets). The news sets at the local station and the one in Baltimore look almost exactly the same. I guess the viewers are not supposed to notice that the anchor changes.
Weather is done on tape (OK, probably disk), again from Baltimore, and is sent to the local stations. The weather anchor will tell viewers what a beautiful night it has turned out to be in Pittsburgh, even if the anchor has never been to the ’Burgh.
So why do local news from a different state? One word: “It is freaking cheap” (OK—four words). By cutting staff at the local stations and doing news from a central location, Sinclair is saving a boatload of money. If the sales people can sell it, then News Central is a cash cow.
Now you see why if News Central is a success it could send ripples—check that, waves—through the broadcast industry. Other ownership groups could start doing the same thing and the TV unemployment line would continue to grow.
Take News Central and put it together with the FCC’s June 2 vote to relax station ownership rules and the line at the unemployment office could have more TV people in it than the RTNDA convention.
Years ago, the goal of a TV station was to put out a good newscast with good people. Now the goal is to get the news on, but do it on the cheap. The dollar wins out, as ownership groups try to keep investors or stockholders happy.
News Central has proven that no job in the newsroom is safe. Anchors, photographers, producers, and news directors have all gotten the boot at Sinclair stations...once News Central came in.
I for one hope the viewers see through this charade of a newscast and turn their sets off in droves. One can only hope that advertisers would not want to be associated with such an operation. If that happens and News Central falls flat, it will be good news for everyone working in TV news.
Well, except for the weather anchor in Baltimore who has never been to Pittsburgh.
In the meantime, keep your résumé up to date and keep working those phones. You might be looking for a job sooner than you think.
Surfing The Web
I have a few sites that you guys might want to check out next time you log onto the Internet:
• newsroom.textamerica.com is a free blog (Web log) site for people working in TV news. You can even post your own pictures by emailing them to newsroom.photo@ tamw.com.
•lostremote.com is a site that focuses on the convergence of TV and the Internet. Always a good read.
•www.ftvlive.com—need I say anything? Simply the best TV insider site on the Internet. I forget the name of the guy that runs the site, but he seems cool.
If you know of any good TV sites on the Web, send them my way. Until next time...keep your ratings up and your blood pressure down.
Scott Jones is a former photographer, reporter, assignment editor, producer, executive producer, and Top 20 news director. He runs www.ftvlive.com and can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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