California TV station turns to local content harvesting

Clear Channel's KFTY-TV, Channel 50, in Santa Rosa, CA, has taken the radical step of firing most of its news department and replacing its local coverage with reporting by ordinary citizens.

Steve Spendlove, the Clear Channel vice president who oversees the station, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he doesn't like the term "citizen journalism," the current industry buzzword for using ordinary people to report news stories. He said he prefers "local content harvesting."

Spendlove said the station's business model hadn't been working for years and that "covering one-eighth of the Bay Area" is not a moneymaker or an operation large enough to be measured by Nielsen ratings.

Over the next few months, the station's management plans to ask people in the community to provide programming for the station.

It's not certain yet if contributors will be paid, or, if so, how much. Hard news stories may be culled from local newspapers or online sites, Spendlove said.

Although Spendlove said he expected some cost savings from the experiment, he anticipated that the station might have to employ more editors to prepare the content.