Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The End of Local TV News As We Know It?

Once a local mainstay, former KTTV (and before that, KNBC) anchor John Beard decided earlier this year to leave the No. 2 market and take a job in Buffalo, N.Y. His departure is indicative of the state of local TV news, circa 2009. Long criticized by news purists, local TV news has now been smacked by even bigger problems -- including draconian budget cuts and shrinking personnel.

Here's an excerpt from my story:

As a top anchor in Los Angeles, John Beard worked during the heyday of local TV news -- covering earthquakes, riots and the occasional celebrity on the loose.
Beard was a familiar presence on L.A. TV screens for 30 years, via lead anchor roles on KNBC and then KTTV. But three decades after arriving on the West Coast from Buffalo, Beard is back where he started, anchoring a morning newscast in that small western New York community.

Beard had a great run in the nation's No. 2 market -- but his exit is indicative of how local TV news is changing across the country.

If you think local TV news is irrelevant and has long sacrificed real news coverage for flash and trash, just wait until stations have no money to even pretend they're covering the important stuff.

Despite their obligations as inhabitants of the public airwaves, cash-strapped stations may find it even more difficult to properly inform the public.

Once upon a time, local TV stations were a license to print money -- and were frequently the most profitable link in a media conglom's portfolio.

Those stations' newscasts were a great business (and continue to generate nearly half a station's revenue) -- even if news purists scoffed at the medium's time-consuming "happy talk" and focus on sensational crimes and inane human-interest stories.

But stations don't generate the kind of major profits they once did. And as the biggest expense at most TV outlets, news operations are feeling the pain.

The once-proud operations are slashing costs and, in the process, downsizing news coverage and dumping highly paid and experienced talent.

Read the rest here.

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