With so much bad economic news floating around, WXIA-TV has begun airing regular “good news” features during its evening news. It’s actively soliciting viewers for imput and ideas. This is similar to what NBC’s Brian Williams recently began doing on his nightly news program.
So far, it’s too early to say if it’s had any real impact, said WXIA-TV General Manager Bob Walker.
Plus, he’s a bit weary of the use of “good news” to characterize it.
“Good news is a term that insinuates ’soft,’ ” Walker said. “That is not what we are intending to be. We intend to be a solid news organization but provide a more balanced look at what’s going on in and around our community. And we want to invite our customers to be part of the process.”
For instance, more than 3,000 photos were sent by viewers of winter snow photos a few weeks back. And 1,600 participated in a live chat about the Conflicker virus a few days back, Walker said.
“The point is local news is much more than crime and violence,” he added. “While we have responsibility to cover news of the day, we want to make sure we invest resources to shine a line on things that are important to people.”
You can feed good news to the station at its web site here.
WXIA-TV, which is the NBC affiliate, generally lags behind WSB-TV and WAGA-TV in ratings in most dayparts.
Michael Castengera, a University of Georgia broadcast journalism lecturer and TV station consultant, said efforts in the past by stations to focus on upbeat “good” news “has failed miserably.” But given the current economic environment, there are signs it might work this time around. Williams’ ratings have been solid in recent weeks since he started the “good news” items and the show has been flooded with ideas for his newscast’s positive spotlight stories. (Williams’ show is already No. 1 among the three evening newscasts, averaging about 9.2 million viewers.)
“The turnout factor on bad news has reached a level that this approach might actually start resonating,” Castengera said. “You just can’t sugarcoat things. That can backfire.” If a station is doing it as a ratings ploy, he said, it won’t work either. There has to be a fundamental shift in the newsroom and leadership to work.
A couple of years ago, WGCL-TV introduced “Better Mornings” from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., eliminating all hard news save for weather and traffic. The light frothy show has not gotten any real ratings traction just yet, often pulling in less than 10 percent of the audience WSB-TV gets at that time.
-Reporter Adam Murphy of WGCL-TV received a commendation last week from the Georgia House for his work reporting unreasonably high City of Atlanta water bills and meter reading problems that caused them. He helped get the City of Atlanta to fix the problems much quicker. The House even held a legislative hearing and the station’s coverage helped the state recover more than $808,000 in over-billed charges.
Here’s the press release:
Adam became aware of serious billing errors charged to water customers, along with hundreds of viewers asking for help, and began investigating the source of the problems. After asking the tough questions, he found some customers had their water cut off through no fault of their own. Adam began informing the public and government officials of the situation and aired special reports on CBS Atlanta News.
“I am extremely proud of Adam’s efforts regarding this story,” stated Steve Schwaid, CBS Atlanta Director of News and Digital Content. “This just goes to show how much of a voice, we, the media, have in helping out the community. We will continue to be a voice, and help those in need.”
-”ER” finale ratings was 16.2 million viewers Thursday, far above the season average of about 9 million viewers but a distant cry from the show’s peaks in the 1990s when it averaged 25 to 30 million viewers a week.