The Cumulus radio station cluster in Lexington KY is said to be going from three to one news staffer, with only the news director surviving a round of economically-inspired belt tightening. Reporters are seemingly becoming an endangered species. The local Herald-Leader believes that Clear Channel’s cross-town cluster is employing only one full-time reporter. The biggest news staffing is at local noncommercial NPR affiliates.
RBR/TVBR observation: This is a dangerous area. Regulators in Washington are looking to impose new localism obligations (or re-impose old ones) on broadcasters, who will need to demonstrate they are not needed in order to head them off. This will be a difficult feat to pull off while shedding local staff.
There is no perfect solution to this problem, but here’s an idea that may be worth exploring. One of the things the FCC was looking at was establishment of a citizen’s advisory board for each station. That idea has always sounded crazy to us – we can just see meetings turning into arguments over playlists, news items covered or not, and other such stuff.
But why not use this as a starting point and cultivate a citizen’s posse – a reliable collection of your P1s who can attend city council meetings, high school football games, PTA meetings – whatever – and share a report with your on-air staff? (Yes, you’ll still have to have some kind of air staff.) Not only will you be getting information of local interest out over your airwaves, you’ll be making the FCC happy and truly involving the public in your station. Perhaps you’ll even discover some diamonds in the rough who may eventually end up working for you when the economy turns around. It’s food for thought.