There's a strange trend going on in local TV: After the last few years of tremendous budget cuts and massive layoffs, stations are expanding their news footprint, adding new newscasts, particularly in the early evening.
Two reasons: With a dearth of primetime comedy hits in recent years, there are fewer half-hour sitcoms hitting the off-network syndication market these days. But even more likely, stations are eagerly looking at the 2012 political campaigns and the record amounts of cash that candidates are expected to spend on local ads.
But while they add more newscasts, they're doing so with their same reduced, stretched-to-the-limit staffs. How can they add more newscasts when their bare-bones teams are barely able to pull off the ones they already have?
That's a good question, and one that I thought about as I read L.A. Times columnist James Rainey's take on KTTV/Fox 11's new 5 p.m. newscast, "Studio 11 LA." Rainey says the show "vibrates with nervous energy, social-media feeds, pop culture stories, stilted newsroom vérité and heaps and heaps of opinion-making by the anchor-reporter hosts." More:
The conceit of "Studio 11 LA" seems to be that the news itself might not grab you but that people making a news show and gabbing about the news might. In its first two weeks, the hourlong "Studio" has offered up "War Room" shots of news planning meetings, lots of loosey-goosey on-set chatter, news "personalities" talking with off-camera producers and admonitions that we, the audience, should join the party via Twitter and Facebook.
Rainey doesn't have a problem with adding some flash to the news, but he is a big concerned about all of the off-the-cuff editorializing that comes with it. For example:
Did I really hear histrionic field reporter Ed Laskos compare the incident involving Fullerton cops and a homeless man to a "gang beating," one that was extra "arrogant" because they did it while wearing microphones that recorded the action?I'm all for more local programming, and I gotta give credit to KTTV for doing something different with its 5 p.m. newscast (and, not actually calling it a "newscast"). But I also think the news department needs the manpower and resources to pull off such a grand idea.
And can someone please switch Ed Laskos to decaf?