Unconventional Coverage | TALKERS magazine - talk media trade : TALKERS magazine

Unconventional Coverage

| February 29, 2016

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant


cookewriterBLOCK ISLAND, RI — Must-see, if you missed it in theaters, and it’s on Netflix: “The Best of Enemies.”  See how underdog network ABC – outgunned by CBS and NBC — doubled its ratings at the 1968 political conventions, and invented modern political punditry.  They called it “Unconventional Coverage.”

Several stations I work with will travel to cover the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.  Big thanks to networks we’re affiliated with for facilitating coverage.  Parked on radio row, we’ll be lined-up-for the parade of names who hop from interview to interview…saying pretty much the same thing they said at the last table.  Which is fine.  As Woody Allen said, “80% of life is showing-up;” and we’ll be taking pictures for social media and to impress sponsors who fund the trip.

But what will really ROI this expense is what sounds DIFFERENT than other coverage, story telling that brings the listener along.  Convey how it feels to be there, a goal for any event you cover.

  • That means NOT-duplicating national coverage. Send back local accents from delegates from your area.
  • And do travelogue, audio snapshots of the carnival around you. Capture the soundscape in airports and hotel lobbies, and on the street.  4 years ago, you would’ve Tweeted a shot of the souvenir guy selling Romney flip-flops.
  • I’ve planned station-level coverage for every national political convention since Mondale/Ferraro 1984. And I myself execute a high-output, one-man-band act covering the massive, mind-boggling Consumer Electronics Show each January (radio reports that aired on 1000+ stations, daily columns for TALKERS, and a multi-media blog).

Based on that experience, one event coverage tip that may seem counterintuitive…

Avoid live reports.

Unless you air at least one shortform piece per hour – in the hours you’re not remoting a longform show – you’re under-delivering.  Just don’t do ‘em live.

Experience demonstrates these advantages-to-recorded/limitations-to-live:

  1. Lives can drop out.
  2. Lives = phone (vs. mic) quality. iPhone’s microphone (and edit capability) makes you sound like you’re there.
  3. Lives take talent off-task; because they can’t be gathering while they’re posting.
  4. Recorded work can include third voices unavailable at live post time and place, and natural sound and actuality unavailable at post time/place. Local delegates are on the convention floor.  Rich sound environments & quotable sidebars are OFF radio row.
  5. Recorded reports repurpose to podcast better.
  6. Live reports cede control to the interviewer back-at-the-station, making the on-site voice a guest. Let reporters report.
  7. Recorded work can air more than once.

Tip: DEVOUR iphonereporting.com, by WTOP’s Neal Augenstein, whose old iPhone is in The Newseum.


Holland Cooke (www.HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet, and he covers industry conferences for TALKERS.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke and meet HC at Talkers2016

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Category: Advice