Here’s your local newscast. Ready?
“Live. Local. Late-breaking. Covering the stories that matter to you. This is [NAME OF NEWSCAST].”
Cut to a desk with two people behind it. The man is older but still has amazing hair and a sharp suit. The woman is young and pretty. Her hair appears to be immobile.
“Good evening, the following terrible things happened today.”
Ten minutes of fires, arrests, traffic accidents, and death. Much of this will be delivered by someone standing outside in the dark near a place where something terrible happened six hours ago.
Cut back to the desk. A third person has arrived. Everyone is smiling.
“Is it going to rain? Maybe. We know, but screw you, we’re not going to tell you until you watch these ads.”
Three minutes of commercials for cars and mattresses. There is a lot of yelling.
WEATHER. “It’s going to rain.”
Cut back to the desk. Now there’s four people? The new guy’s suit doesn’t fit and he’s sweating a lot.
“We’ll have sports for some reason when we come back.”
Three more minutes of yelling.
SPORTS. “Here’s a very brief recap of what the professional sports team closest to your town did last night. But really, turn over to SportsCenter. They do it much better than we do.”
Cut back to the desk. “And finally tonight, look at this baby animal. I mean, come on. The cutest, right? So cute. Well that’s going to do it for us. Good night everyone.”
Right? I don’t know where you live but that is absolutely your local newscast. All three (sometimes four) of your networks air it at the same time. Flip among them and they all look the same. Why is this happening? Why doesn’t anybody do anything about it?
One of those networks is in last place in the ratings and has been for decades. You can tell which one it is. It’s the one with Judge Mathis as a lead-in instead of Judge Judy. I propose that these sad sack third-place losers completely throw in the towel and say, “You know what? Here’s what we’re doing now.”
- No more national and world news. People don’t watch their local news to see that. There are a million outlets for that now. What people want is to see their town, their neighborhood, their neighbors.
- Enough with all the fires and traffic accidents. You want that? Watch the other guys. They’re still doing it. We’re going to start talking about things that matter. And we’re going to have an opinion.
- Not the whole “one guy from that side, one guy from the other, you decide” thing. We’re going to learn about your impending water rate hike, figure out if it’s smart, then tell you that’s what we think. And you’ll be that much more informed.
- Weather? You’re fine.
- Sports? Again, all local. The most exciting 15 minutes of the week for a lot of people is watching Friday night high school football coverage to see if their school makes it on. We’re going to make that year-round. High schools only, maybe some local college stuff every now and then. And it’s all the sports, not just football. We’ll do two minutes on girl’s tennis because THAT’S where the stories are. That’s how you hit people where they live. That’s how you get people to tune in.
It’s good, right? I’d totally watch that. Give your reporters the freedom to go in-depth because they’ll be doing two stories a week, not two stories a day. It’s the John Oliver model, but applied locally. What do they have to lose? Viewers? They don’t have any. And if they do, they’re very, very old people. Tell me why that wouldn’t work.
I’m Ron Burgundy. You stay classy, San Diego.