Why TV News Doesn’t Cover Local Business Stories

TV news

The landscape for pitching local news stories has shrunk dramatically in recent years. Not only have newspapers transitioned to mostly online platforms, drastically cutting newsroom staffs, but the platforms and newscasts have changed as well.

There simply isn’t the space, the airtime or the available newsroom staff to cover all of the news they may have covered as recently as three-to-five years ago.

To be sure, even then it was highly unlikely that your ‘good news’ business story was going to get much attention.

According to TV industry statistics and analytics, the vast majority of the audience for local TV news skews older and less educated. Most people younger than age 55 progressively rely less and less on TV news for their information.

Most people 55 and progressively older do watch local TV news. They’re the ones who are usually in their homes for that 6 p.m. newscast, or who structure their evenings to watch a 10:30 or 11 p.m. newscast.

What Do They Want to Watch?

TV news consultants say it’s mostly this: breaking crime stories, breaking fire or emergency stories, scandal, weather, sports, more weather, more crime, health scares, and anything involving conflict like a political issue, a protest, a labor strike or a scandalous lawsuit.

If you’ve watched local TV news over the past two years, you couldn’t escape a steady stream of stories about COVID-19. That story has been a boon for local TV news viewership because it is constantly evolving and always presents an opportunity to tap a sense of fear in the audience.

That’s what news directors and producers serve up, because that’s what gets ratings.

They know that anyone wishing to get business news can get it online through social feeds, online business sites or even directly from the companies or industries they follow.

If you’re a PR professional, you have to know this and be prepared to discuss it with any manager or client who expects local TV news crews to show up at that press conference, a grand opening of a new factory or company headquarters, or to cover the company’s growth and expansion into new markets. In 2022, TV news organizations aren’t structured to cover those stories.

Managing Limited Resources

If, however, there was a workplace shooting, or allegations of sexual harassment, or allegations of some devious online behavior by company manager or employees, or criminal allegations, then those TV crews might show up. Otherwise, those stations will send their resources elsewhere.

As a result of this sort of TV news programming, even if a local TV news crew does show an interest in your business news story, keep in mind they don’t do this often. Don’t assume the reporter has a full understanding of your company, its business, or even how businesses function.

Right before talking to you, the same reporter may have just left the scene of a homicide or a water main break. They’re trained to capture the most immediate and superficial aspects of a story, and then dwell on the most basic physical and emotional impacts.

How Do You Feel?

The one question just about every local TV news reporter is prepared to ask anyone about any story is, “How do you feel about that?”

Just the other day, I saw a local TV news report about a brazen theft at a big box hardware store. It was minor theft, but the perpetrators were at large and they were caught on store security video. These are all the elements of a ‘good’ local TV news story in 2022.

The problem for the TV news reporter is that’s all she had to work with. The store manager wouldn’t go on camera, the TV crew wasn’t permitted to enter the store to capture video, and the actual theft occurred several hours before the TV news crew got to the scene. In other words, there was no good reason for the crew to even be there other than to take some external shots of the store itself.

So, the reporter did what many TV news reporters now do – approach random shoppers or people on the street – people with no knowledge or connection to the story – and ask them how they feel about what happened.

Actually, this reporter only talked to one random shopper, a retiree who had just bought plumbing supplies in the store, to ask him how he felt about the earlier theft. That reporter was able to create a three-minute story around one random retiree talking about a theft he only learned about seconds ago from the reporter interviewing him.

As a public relations professional, when I watch stories like this, I often find myself wondering how much better that three minutes of airtime might be spent if TV news organizations covered more stories that actually impact large numbers of people and provided them with information and news they could use.

But that’s not the state of local TV news today. It may sound cynical, but the news format speaks for itself. The goal of TV news stories is to get you to hang in there until the weather comes on, then the sports, and then the weather again.

They know where their ratings come from, and at the end of the day, local TV news is a business. Do you have a question about the news media? Get in touch.

Posted in Corporate & Strategic Communication, General, Marketing Communications, PR & Media Relations and tagged , , , , .