Support One Another During This Pandemic

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Here are the words of Patrick McCreery, president of Meredith Local Media Group, during a recent interview about the steps broadcasters are taking to keep newsrooms and field crews as safe and healthy as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You know, many of us who are in this business, this is why we do it. These are the defining moments that we look for where we run to the information not away from it, and it makes me very proud to be a broadcaster at this very moment in time,” he said.

Viewers—even elusive millennials ages 18 to 34—appear to be recognizing this dedication during the coronavirus crisis as they turn in droves to local TV news for critical pandemic information. My TV Technology colleague Michael Balderston reported in his March 25 story, “Millennials Flocking to Local TV News During Coronavirus,” that a new TVB report reveals local TV news viewing Monday through Friday among this age group during the first week of March climbed 52% compared to the same week in 2019.

While it’s good to know this generation is tuning in during the outbreak and may be developing a new appreciation for local TV news, newsrooms would do well to remember that many in this generation also are working in local news covering the pandemic and, perhaps, feeling for the first time in their careers what it’s like to work during an emergency.

“One of our larger challenges, is the people factor,” said Bob Hannon, director of production at Waterman Broadcasting in Fort Myers, Fla., during another recent interview. “We have a lot of young staffers here in their first jobs, first time away from home.

“It’s very easy to get scared. It’s very easy to get depressed. If you are single, and you get quarantined, you’re stuck in your apartment for two weeks and you’re not able to go out, that can have a devastating effect.”

Hannon, (who is 59) reluctantly likens part of his role now at Waterman to a father sitting around the dinner table talking over a weighty family matter—but in this instance, it’s his younger staff and the virus. Discussing their concerns, talking about actions being taken by the station and asking what’s on the minds of staff can go a long way towards allaying fears and boosting morale, he said.

“That 10 to 15 minutes it takes is the most valuable time of the day,” said Hannon. “You keep your staff informed. You keep your staff enjoined, and it goes much, much smoother.”

Wise counsel during this stressful time for everybody at the station—whether they’re 25 or 65.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.