By Holland Cooke
I don’t chant “local, local, local;” because NO local can be better than BORING local. Telling listeners who-said-what at city council last night (process) isn’t news. Half the people in the room that night might’ve been dozing. How they’re going to plow my street this winter (consequence) is news.
So when I coach radio news writers, our goal is to make what-comes-out-the-speaker… consequential. “Remarkable” is another way to put it. Not “miraculous,” but “remarkable,” meaning likely-to-provoke-a-remark when heard. “Hmmm…” is a remark, because the listener heard useful information which he/she might quote over lunch or dinner. Or at least REMEMBER, which is, after all, what diary ratings measure, and relevance is what brings PPM-ers back again and again.
Tip for radio’s remaining local news writers: Can you say “YOU” or “YOUR” early in copy?
Tip for radio’s news directors who assign outside-the-building reporter man hours. It’s daunting, as budget cuts continue. So think:
- Quality: YOU decide what’s news. Observe what’s happening locally that will impact busy people listening in-car (the people your local advertisers want to meet). How does what’s-happening make a sound? Send your reporter there, don’t just cover “pressers.”
- Currency: When you do cover a media event, “establish there” (meaning file-from the event). Too often, reporters bring tape back to the station, process it, and, eventually the story airs. Instead, sound out-and-about.
- Quantity: What else can you harvest while-at – or en-route-to/from – the presser? Another event? Or gather man-on-the-street comments about an unrelated big story du jour? Even if that other story isn’t intrinsically-local, you’ll be gathering local accents.
Holland Cooke (www.HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. And he admits that “the only way anyone who isn’t an orthodontist can afford to live on Block Island is to leave all summer,” when he rents his house to wealthy funsters, and spends the entire summer visiting radio stations and going to baseball games. And this summer he also got married.