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Blog  /  04.14.2022

The State of the Local TV Newsroom (Plus, Tips for Pitching to Local TV!)

The local TV media landscape has changed significantly in the last five to 10 years. Not nearly as many viewers are tuning in to watch the 5, 6, or 11 pm news as they were a decade ago. The shrinking audience is resulting in even smaller newsroom resources and fewer stories being produced. The good news is, the viewers still tuning in are your neighbors and may be a direct target audience in need of information about your organization or a key issue that you have expertise in. And regardless of whether your intended readers / viewers are consuming the original story via broadcast, there is always value in being featured because it can be amplified online and shared with all of your intended target audiences.

As an established communications consulting firm with full-time, in-house media relations personnel and expertise, we’re tapping into several former TV news journalists turned FOVNDRY PR staff members for valuable insights into the State of the Local TV Newsroom—offering you current tips for garnering local media news coverage.

Q: Where are adults in the U.S. consuming local news today?

A: In local broadcast media, the audience is aging. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, while 54% of adult Americans over 50 indicated they consume broadcast news “often”—68% of which are those age 65+—younger adults are consuming news via a myriad of web-based channels and services. Here’s some of the latest data:

  • 52% of American adults prefer digital platforms for news consumption
  • 69% read news on specialized news apps, websites, a social media platform, or a podcast
  • 65% use search engines like Google to determine where to find news about a topic that interests them
  • 86% of Americans use their smartphones, tablets, and computers to get the news
  • 57% of Millennials say they get news updates from social media
  • 53% of Americans use social media as a news source

Q: Have the priorities of local reporters shifted?

A: Based on personal experience, local newsrooms aim to cover the topics and stories their community members care about. While every community is different, there are tried and true stories that your local reporters want to hear about.

Local PR firms with media relations chops will have the understanding of what reporters want because they have the relationships to land you and your organization an interview; but understanding reporters’ priorities is key. For US-wide data on local news consumption, a Poynter survey shows Americans are most interested in these local news topics, with the Top 10, ranked in this order:

  1. Weather
  2. Crime
  3. Traffic and transportation
  4. Prices
  5. Government and politics
  6. Schools
  7. Jobs and employment
  8. Community activities
  9. Arts and culture
  10. Sports

If your story idea or “pitch” fits into one of these top 10 categories, your story—or you as the expert about the topic—has a greater chance of getting covered/interviewed.

Q: Where are the opportunities for promoting valuable issues or information in local news?

A: There are certain newschannel segments that may be a good fit for your story, unless it is a true news story (in which case we’d want to place a positive/informational story versus a negative story like a crime).

Typically, a newscast will produce a few feature stories each week. There may be a designated features reporter, or a general assignment reporter who takes the lead on producing feature stories for the station. Having a relationship with reporters is an excellent way to know when they may need, or have the time, to produce a feature story with you. It’s important to note that it can also take the reporter a few days to conduct interviews and edit a feature story. Given there isn’t the pressure to report the news as fast as possible (to beat the competition) with a feature story, it may take a bit longer for it to be produced—and to run. Plus, keep in mind that some feature stories get pushed back when more timely news stories occur; they will always take precedence.

Also, know that stations are increasingly using feature story segment time to run paid or sponsored content. A good example of a “community partnership” is a health fair sponsored by a hospital or healthcare system.

Q. What tips do you have for pitching local reporters stories?

A: First, be respectful of a reporter’s daily schedule. They have to hustle from 9 to 5 to shoot, write, and sometimes edit several of their own stories. For reference, most reporters must produce up to three stories a day, and perform live shots to add the latest information. So, instead of targeting them just after the morning editorial planning meeting, pitch your story idea in the afternoon or after the 6pm news—when a reporter has time to read it. That way, the reporter can bring your pitch to the following morning’s editorial meeting, when they need to have back-up story ideas.

If your story doesn’t fit under the ‘news of the day’ categories, be prepared to engage with reporters to secure their feedback on it. It may not be a story they want to cover right now, or it may be a better fit for one of their colleagues.

Additionally, it’s essential to keep in touch with reporters by following them on Twitter and emailing them when you have an update to share. Twitter is made for news. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that building and maintaining real relationships with producers and assignment editors can also deliver a payoff. These gatekeepers wield influence over the story selection process.

All in all, knowing how to package a story idea, who to pitch it to, and when to pitch it are a large part of increasing the likelihood it will get picked up. Strategic PR and local media relations planning and execution will help position you nicely in front of your target local audiences.

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FOVNDRY (formerly Van Eperen) is an award-winning, fully integrated communications agency that has made its mark in the public and private sectors, plus a variety of membership-based associations since 2004. We craft custom solutions for multiple industries, including: Health & Science, Transportation, Real Estate, Education, Consumer Packaged Goods, and more. With offices in Rockville and Baltimore, our Maryland-based PR and marketing firm also fulfills the creative and branding needs of businesses and organizations in the DMV and beyond.

We’re a certified minority business enterprise (MBE)/disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Delaware, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. As well, FOVNDRY is a woman-owned small business (WOSB) that’s on the federal GSA AIMS schedule (GS07F0312T), and on a mission to help DoD and HHS agencies. Get to know us better in person, and connect with us daily via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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