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My Free Focus Group

It’s easy to write about the subject of TV news, because it affects so many people. Save yourself a few bucks on the research budget this year with my Free Focus Group; you’ll know if any of these apply to your station. Whether you work in news or just watch it, I welcome your feedback regarding:

Lame Traffic Reports: What’s up with the boring, generic highway maps accompanied by a voiceover of info that only helps people who are currently driving in cars? They aren’t watching your newscast at the moment. (If I’m watching, odds are any accident will be cleared before I reach it.) Remember, it’s not 1970 anymore. Mom isn’t staring intently at your traffic report, anxiously awaiting info on any fender-bender that could affect Dad’s arrival time and her concurrent preparation of tonight’s pot roast. If adverse weather conditions will affect my upcoming commute, then have the meteorologist tell me when it’s his turn on camera.

I’m also amused by the “all roads are clear...” traffic report proclamation at 5:05 am. Well duh, it’s five in the morning—of course they’re clear in most towns! Maybe what’s really needed is a road construction report. It’s public information from the state or county highway department that can be reinforced by actual video of the project. That’s timely news I can absorb now and use later.

Transmitter Tower Cameras in the Dark: How enlightening. Wow, thanks for the live shot of occasional headlights meandering down an unidentified road just before you go to the commercial break during the morning news. News and sales departments are always battling over news content time vs. the commercial minute load, yet this is how that valuable news window is being used?

Lack of Graphics Coordination: During newscasts, I am amazed at the number of times I see the text of full-screen Chyron pages being partially obscured by logo/time/temperature graphics. Later, the info on the weather graphics is covered up by the station logo being superimposed at the end of the line by the master control operator. Doesn’t anyone talk to each other about this stuff?

One Thing I Love: Expert Commentary: There are a zillion places other than your station’s sports segment where one can get scores and highlights of the big leagues. Major sports info is an easily obtained commodity nowadays, which is why some stations have even dropped sports altogether.

Knowledgeable, credible commentary is a rarity in local news, and that’s why I’m enjoying my station’s sports reports now more than ever before. Our sports director, Rich Funke, has been covering local and regional sports teams and topics for over 30 years. He now offers his opinion on timely subjects during his segment, all in conjunction with an online viewer poll. Whether it’s using taxpayer dollars to build a new stadium, or if a coach should be fired or rehired, I enjoy his commentaries. I’m confident that Rich knows more about these subjects than I do; hearing his “take” makes me better informed.

News viewers are busier now than ever before. Television news must constantly reinvent itself in order to remain relevant to them. I encourage you to ponder my points and think about how they can affect your share of viewing. Viewers vote with their remote, and the results can be found in your latest ratings book—the ultimate report card.