News viewers in Salisbury, Md., Gainesville, Fla.; Alexandria, La.; and a handful of other small markets, are watching local TV news on stations that provide local news content from journalists on the ground in the market. Nothing new there, except that these news programs are all being anchored by the same person who is in […]
News viewers in Salisbury, Md., Gainesville, Fla.; Alexandria, La.; and a handful of other small markets, are watching local TV news on stations that provide local news content from journalists on the ground in the market.
Nothing new there, except that these news programs are all being anchored by the same person who is in Little Rock, Ark.
Anne Imanuel is the news anchor for all these markets, anchoring for a different city every 30 to 60 minutes from a studio in Little Rock.
Proponents say that without this arrangement, local TV news in these markets would be cost-prohibitive.
Robert Backman, the general manager of WRDE, the NBC affiliate in Salisbury owned by SagamoreHill Broadcasting, said he had to make a choice in order to get local news on the air in his market.
“If you had a startup television station in a smaller market and you had a choice to spend your money on one thing or another, would you spend your money on a set and a couple of anchors and try to scrounge up the local news or would you rather be able to put your money where your mouth is and get your reporters and your experts out on the street talking to people providing the content?”
Do the viewers in these markets know or care that the news anchor, sports anchor and weather forecaster are elsewhere?
“We don’t really hide the fact necessarily,” said Jeff Lyle, managing partner at Media Gateway, the company that’s pioneering this remote news operation.
The benefit to news viewers in these markets is they get another choice for local TV news in markets where they may have had only one.
“We have walked into an operation where there was no news department before,” said Lyle.
“So we created a newsroom and created jobs in every market that we’re airing in right now. We became the alternative where they had a legacy station and there was no alternative before. We think that’s good for the viewers.”
In Hattiesburg, Miss., WHPM, the Fox affiliate owned by Waypoint Media, airs a half-hour newscast Monday through Friday night at 9 p.m. The station has three full-time reporters and a news director.
“It actually gave us an opportunity to add employees to our companies whereas before we wouldn’t have had that chance,” said Jon Pollard, WHPM’s general manager.
Pollard admits that there was some trepidation going into the arrangement about how the community would respond to the fact that the news anchors are not local.
Pollard said they talked to advertisers and viewers and every answer they got back said it didn’t matter as long as they had local reporters on the ground gathering news.
“We hit that head on. Yes, we have local boots in our communities gathering news.”
Backman said WRDE has been airing a newscast at 6 and 11 p.m. since it went on the air with news in June of 2014, and added a 5 p.m. newscast about a year ago. WRDE’s Live at 5 airs on Facebook Live.
Backman said the station has six reporters and three producers.
“Besides the reporters, I have a local cultural reporter, I have a legal expert, I have a person that reports on classical music and the arts, and I have a reporter that reports on the local restaurants.”
People he would not be able to afford were it not for the arrangement with Media Gateway.
Backman said that “90% of the news segment is our local reporters, either as a voice over or a package. The most important thing about a television station is the local news content.”
Backman said WRDE’s news doesn’t have a lot of stories about carjacking’s and murders.
“Let’s say your church group is doing something fantastic and you’re feeding a thousand homeless people. I’m the guy that gets you on the air. We are also looking for things that are going on to help people live their lives on an everyday basis.”
Backman said although some viewers know the news anchors aren’t in a studio in his market, “I don’t think anyone cares. I mean do you care that Lester Holt’s in DC or in Los Angeles or in New York? We have an anchor chief and a weather person and a sports person and they are a consistent team Monday through Sunday and they are good. They are better than I can afford.”