Panelists declare that broadcast news does have a future


In a world where anyone and everyone can post videos and text stories on the Internet, panelists for the “Future of Broadcast News” session jointly offered by the NAB and RTDNA found “citizen journalists” to be sometimes useful in the evolving landscape – but they insisted that people still need professionals who will do things like verify facts and put stories in perspective.

Bob Horner, president of NBC News Channel, said he is concerned that material is being posted by people who aren’t interested in truth and that real news could drown in a sea of information. He questioned the value of sites which post unfiltered user videos. “It’s not broadcast journalism,” he said.

Sitting on the same panel was Steve Grove, who is the head of news and politics for one such site, YouTube. Asked if his company had a responsibility to filter what is posted, he replied, “It’s just frankly not a business we can be in and benefit anybody.” In his view, it is the online community itself which polices the value and accuracy of what is posted by their comments.

“People find great content,” said Jerry Gumbert, President/CEO of Audience Research & Development LLC in predicting that broadcasters have a real future in delivering news content. But to do so, they are embracing multiple platforms and refocusing how they allocate their resources. He said the value is in producing unique content, while figuring out how to reduce costs for producing commodity news which is going to be available to the public from multiple sources.

While you might think that his company has a lot invested in preserving the status quo, Raycom Media President/CEO Paul McTear didn’t buy into the idea that people who are now young may develop habits of watching newscasts at appointed times as they grow older. What he sees developing more of an on-demand business, so broadcasters need to focus on developing their news content businesses and be agnostic about how that content is delivered to consumers.

“Quality is very important,” McTear noted earlier. So Raycom is working to integrate user-generated content into its operations, including some new hyper-local websites. But he noted that it is important to ride herd on quality.

When moderator Russ Mitchell of CBS News asked about staff cuts during the recession, the executives insisted that quality had not been sacrificed in their news operations. “People are more important than numbers,” said Brian Bracco, Vice President of News for Hearst Television, insisting that he’d rather have good journalists in smaller numbers than large numbers of mediocre journalists.