News Share Debate Continues

Our old pal PJ Bednarski has a detailed story on how Fox and NBC’s video-sharing Local News Service (LNS) is working out a year-plus after launching in Philly. The company lines were pretty similar as these shares took off in most of the larger markets around the country: You don’t need five separate station crews at static events like mayor press conferences, and the resources you don’t send to the press conference can chase down enterprise stories.

The critics called it cost-cutting, which was certainly a major factor in the pooling craze, and wondered whether local news would suffer as a result.

PJ says the Fox-NBC LNS setup in Philly is working well. LNS cranks out around 30 video pieces a day, and more than three-quarters of them get on air, either at WCAU or WTXF. He writes:

Camille Cwienkala, the director of the LNS in Philadelphia and a WCAU veteran, says the LNS runs like any other TV newsroom. “We have our own planners, assignment editors and photographers, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.”

Last week, Cwienkala had LNS covering a mixed bag of big stories.

In Philadelphia, youths have begun texting each other, hoping to create what’s called “flash mobs” in the Center City, when hundreds of youths run wild down streets, hitting passersby and vandalizing businesses. Last week, when the police thought another mob was going to form, LNS was on the scene - a false alarm as it turned out.

That same day, LNS covered a hearing by a state agency probing Pennsylvania’s child labor laws after allegations that Kate and Jon Gosselin’s children were overworked during the making of the TLC cable hit, Jon & Kate Plus 8. The Gosselin family home is in the Philadelphia market.

LNS on that day also covered press conferences held by the police and the district attorney, several shootings and some “beauty shots” from Center City’s Rittenhouse Square to be used during newscasts’ weather segments.

LNS also covered the pre- and post-game coverage of a Philadelphia Flyers’ NHL playoff game.

And that’s only a light dusting of the entire list.

Content pooling certainly seems to be here to stay, but some remain cool on the concept. Frank Magid’s Steve Ridge says such arrangements serve to make all newscasts in a given market look alike–which is already an issue stations have to overcome to win over skeptical viewers. “The credibility of local news is in dangerous territory now,” he says.

Others weigh in in the Comments section.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.