For the last month I have been working at a local TV news station to make a little extra money. I have a lengthy history working in local news stations, so this job wasn’t anything new or surprising. My time here has really led me to think about the nature of the local news industry and network of affiliates. Local TV news stations, like newspapers, are unquestionably on the demise. Soon your local affiliates will be replaced with something web-based and much more cost-effective.
The thing that breaks my heart about this is the fact that the people within the news machine are so inundated with the idea that their industry is infallible (or, more specifically un-fail-able) that they don’t see this coming. In Panama City alone, we have 2 local news stations and a network affiliate. Those three stations probably employ 200-300 people (just a guess). Panama City is, of course, much smaller than most cities that have local news stations, so those numbers would be higher or lower depending on the marker.
The conversations I hear today in the news station are just like the conversations that I heard in 2003 when I first started in the news industry. People are so busy worrying about whether or not they could get a slightly better paying job in a slightly bigger market that they are totally missing the fact that their job will be completely gone in 10 years. The industry will dissolve.
People don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for advertising that doesn’t focus on a specific market. People won’t settle for mediocre, untimely writing when they can get immediate updates from the best writers in the world on the internet. What is the point of turning on the local meteorologists during severe weather when you can get faster updates from the best of the best online? You can get text updates when a tornado watch is issued for your county. Why wait 15 minutes for the local forecaster to get the weather notice, get a production crew ready, and wait until a commercial break is over (so that the advertisers don’t lose money)?
The only hold that local news has on the news industry is the “local-ness” of the stories. Some people have interests in what happens at school board meetings or city council hearings. They will inevitably lose that hold as internet content producers localize their information more and more.
Making your anchors have twitter accounts will not solve the problem. The entire industry must be uprooted. People must adapt.