TV stations need to improve their local news product


As I travel from market to market helping TV stations increase their local sales and website revenue, I have the opportunity to watch local TV news.

I must say I am terribly disappointed at what our TV stations are presenting as local news.  In most cases, it’s really not news at all.  It’s usually car wrecks and drug busts, etc.  Many stations are already into “fluff” stories just minutes after the newscasts begin.  The lack of presenting news that is important in the lives of local viewers is one reason why stations now feel they can all combine efforts with other stations in the market and gather footage of routine news events in their markets.  The important words in that sentence are “routine news.”

Recently, an opportunity has presented itself where local TV stations can really make a difference in their viewer’s lives.  I’m talking about last year’s election.  For example, in Minneapolis, former GOP Senator Norm Coleman won the election, but then the recounts started and continued until Democrat Al Franken received 312 more votes than Coleman out of some 3 million votes cast. The battle has continued for many months now, with the Minnesota Supreme Court recently ruling in favor of Al Franken.

However, when you take a close look at how the votes were counted, it really opens your eyes.  For one thing, Minnesota law allows people to show up at the polls on Election Day, fill out a voter registration card based on a pledge that they are eligible, and cast a ballot.  Officials then have six weeks to verify that the voter lives at a valid address in the district, and to update the voter rolls accordingly.  Research has shown that some addresses provided by same-day registrants on Election Day corresponded with city parks, business developments, freeways and empty lots.  Sadly, those votes have already been counted in Minneapolis!

Since ACORN is being investigated in several states for voter registration fraud and since ACORN claims to have registered over 80,000 voters in Minnesota, this fact alone make it necessary for someone to step up to the plate and take a real close look at the results.

In Minnesota, a group called Minnesota Majority decided to make the effort to compare the Minnesota Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) to the official 2008 State Canvassing Board Report (SCBR) and discovered more ballots than recorded voters.  The Secretary of State has acknowledged a discrepancy of 40,000 votes and claims that he is working with county election officials to reduce this number.

Minnesota Majority also found that as many as 2,800 people who were deceased prior to November 2008 may have “voted” in last November’s election in Minnesota – an indication either of voter fraud, or of record-keeping so flawed that it leaves the state vulnerable to fraudulent ballots being cast.  Other irregularities discovered by Minnesota Majority include non-citizen voters, felon voters and individuals who appeared to have voted more than once in the 2008 general election.

KSTP has also stepped up to the plate and is asking to examine more than 10,000 rejected absentee ballots.  The station requested from election officials around the state access to the disputed ballots and the envelopes that were sent in.  KSTP wants to count the ballots and try to determine how different counties decided to reject absentee ballots.  You can see why KSTP has had an excellent reputation as a leading news station over the years.

The above figures are preliminary and do not indicate that anyone has done anything improper, since the investigations have just started. 

TV station news directors, this is news that viewers need to know.  Not the latest car crash or drug bust that in no way affects your viewers’ lives. Your station can do this if you have the backbone to do it before the station across the street does it.  You can organize various senior groups and local organizations to participate in verifying that voters were actually eligible to vote.

We have found other possible voter discrepancies in the following states: 
OH, MI, PA, FL, NV, NM, CO TX and CA.  

Here are a few things for you and your general manager to think about:
Newspapers aren’t dying because readers stopped reading newspapers.  Readers stopped reading newspapers because newspapers are dying.  Will television news be next?

Never in history have so many people had such economical, easy, instantaneous access to so much detailed information about so many topics.  Yet, or so it seems, never have they been so out of touch with the big picture.

What was once the profession of newspaper journalism is now a joke.  The responsible people running those newspapers and especially in the newsrooms where political agendas blatantly supplant factual reporting failed to remember that people bought and read newspapers for news.  The recent example, of ABC News giving Barack Obama a full day of slanted reporting on the healthcare issue without any opposite plan is a good example.  Viewers are starting to notice the “staged press conferences” and pre-scripted “town hall meetings” for what they are – propaganda.

In one big shot, ABC News eliminated them as a news organization and will never be taken seriously again.  ABC affiliates will be known as state-run television news outlets, and for this, I am sorry, since I still have many friends at ABC.

Those who crafted the Constitution knew that a republic, where people govern themselves, cannot endure without ready access to accurate, timely information upon which to base their decisions.  Presently, we are not getting it from the mainstream media.

(source: Ron Leppig, veteran television executive and currently President / CEO of Executive Communications.  He can be reached at 864-985-1133 or [email protected])