Should viewers pay for local TV news?

Speaking this week at a National Press Club forum on the future of journalism, a news editor for Waterman Broadcasting raised the idea as a way to pay for newsgathering expenses in place of traditional commercial advertising.

Speaking at a National Press Club forum on the future of journalism Dec. 8, Darrell Adams, news editor for Waterman Broadcasting, said TV broadcasters are feeling the same economic pressures confronting newspapers and must engage viewers in a conversation about what they are willing to pay for news.

Currently, advertising revenue supports over-the-air television and Internet sites, giving viewers content for free. But that traditional economic underpinning is in decline, which raises a fundamental question for broadcasters, he said.

"If you want to continue looking at what we deliver, you are going to have to start to ask yourselves, are you willing to start paying for it?" Adams said. "We need to be able to pay the staff to go out to report. Investigative reporters, producers, people we expect to go out there and get the facts and get them right — we have to find ways to pay for it.”

For Adams, who spoke during the National Press Club Centennial Forum co-sponsored by the Naples Press Club at the Sugden Theater in Naples, FL, this issue reaches beyond the television. "If I charge you a subscription fee, would you come to my Internet site?" Adams asked. "Or would you trust a non-professional journalist blogger?”

Phil Jones, a former CBS News correspondent, said people are turning away from TV news because it has lost its punch. In the past, he said, people felt they had to sit down and watch Walter Cronkite on CBS or Huntley-Brinkley on NBC.

"The reason there is no longer an appointment with nightly television news, the reason people are not sitting down or hanging around for the morning show, is they feel they have been stung," Jones said. "They have seen the news shows go soft after the first story. They are looking at themselves and saying, ‘I don't need to know that.’"

But Matt Bernaldo, managing editor for Waterman Broadcasting's online service, said the change in viewing habits has more to do with changes in lifestyle and changes in technology. People don't come to watch a TV newscast, he said, because they can get news elsewhere, even on cell phones.

To watch online video clips of the forum, visit