NY1 and truly local news

A year or so ago I subscribed to the New York Times’s “New York Today” and “California Today” weekday email newsletters. I like scanning these each morning and being able to quickly get a sense of what’s happening in New York City, especially. On Tuesday, there was New York/California overlap with this news:

NY1, which is also owned by Charter, is adored by a slice of New Yorkers who are charmed by its homespun feel and its roster of longtime anchors and correspondents … [its] laser focus on New York-only stories, especially in politics, often pays off. NY1 was the only news station that had a camera at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign event to chronicle her Democratic congressional primary upset in June.

Whether the 24-hour Los Angeles network [set to launch] becomes as popular as NY1 remains to be seen. Los Angeles is not exactly hurting for local television coverage, but Spectrum insists it is carving out a different space …

Mr. Bair said that 125 people would be hired for the newsroom and that they were already more than halfway through staffing up the network. The new channel — he would not reveal its name — will be headquartered in El Segundo, near the Los Angeles International Airport and The Los Angeles Times’s new headquarters.

Spectrum has several local news stations around the country, including in Florida (Orlando and Tampa) and Texas (San Antonio and Austin). Mr. Bair said that the local news stations are very popular and “create a higher level of retention” for the cable service. …

“We don’t have to worry about two-minute sound bites,” Mr. Bair said. “If an interview takes three or four minutes, we stick with it. We’re more likely to cover much smaller stories, neighborhood-based stories than you’d see in other markets.”

Mr. Kiernan, the longtime NY1 anchor, said New Yorkers who have moved to Los Angeles constantly ask why there isn’t a version of the station in the city.

“They’ll do stories about the 405 with the same intensity that we do stories about the 6 train,” he said of the new Los Angeles channel. “But a lot of the hallmarks of NY1 reporting will be key parts of their reporting: politics, education, jobs. Those are stories that often get squeezed out of local newscasts by an endless rundown of crime reporting.”

What’s presented for news almost everywhere now is national news. Not even the international news in America tends to really be international; it’s only interested in how America is impacting or being impacted internationally and not actually interested in pure reporting of just what the hell is going on in other places.

As for national news, whether on traditional news channels, the cable networks, or across Facebook, Twitter, etc., we’re all exhausted by it. And that’s largely the fault of the media itself, which has forgotten how to cover news without simultaneously sensationalizing and debasing most of what it presents.

What NY1 and Spectrum are doing make perfect sense. It reminds me of advice I got at Penn State when I was involved with The LION 90.7fm, the campus radio station. A few alums, some of whom worked in news and sports media, warned us not to focus on national issues on the public affairs/politics program, and not to talk exclusively or even primarily about national sports on the sports program, and not to play very much from the Billboard 100 on the music shows, etc.

“Why,” many us of asked somewhat incredulously?

“You’d be derivative and irrelevant,” was basically the response.

“No one wants to hear what a bunch of 19 or 20 year olds who just got out of comp sci class think about the Yankees. But a lot of people—especially a lot of community and alumni listeners who are the likeliest to be tuning inwant to hear what a 20 year old Penn Stater thinks about Penn State football, basketball etc. National reporters and national Top 40 stations are already covering national content better than any amateur student could, but a Penn State student can be a professional covering the local community better than anyone from the outside. To be relevant, don’t go national; go local.” That thinking has stuck.

That’s basically why truly local news used to be great, before all the local papers and stations were scooped up by national chains and become derivative from national syndicated reporting. And it’s why NY1 and things like it should and will win in their niches—because no one cares more than they do about covering the stories of their community well, day in and day out.

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