Which local TV players and programs did the best job of connecting with viewers and users in 2021?
Broadcasting+Cable has selected its annual Local TV Awards winners, celebrating the finest general managers, newsroom leaders and programming, among the many categories, at stations across the nation. It has been an eventful year to say the least in terms of local news. And none did a better job of connecting with their communities than our winners.
Awards are given to station personnel, including general managers, news directors, anchors and meteorologists, and station programming, including breaking news coverage, investigative, late news and weather coverage.
Readers nominated station personnel and programming for the Local TV Awards this fall. Among the many winners, E.W. Scripps was named station group of the year, Chad Matthews, general manager of WABC New York, got best large-market GM, and WWL New Orleans was picked for weather coverage. The winners share what they did to stand out in 2021, and how they got closer to their viewers in this trying year.
Breaking News Coverage, KCRA Sacramento (Hearst Television)
KCRA Sacramento has in the past two years deftly covered the massive Northern California wildfires. KCRA’s coverage has led to news dominance, Hearst TV said. Per the May sweeps, its 6 a.m. newscast delivered almost three times the households of the nearest competitor. Fire coverage requires long travel hours done by experienced teams with assets like live copters. KCRA president/GM Ariel Roblin said broadcasters often are the first to show homeowners what has happened to their very street. “It’s heartbreaking work, but sometimes when your community needs you the most it’s at the hardest of times,” she said, “and we’re honored to be there for them.” — Kent Gibbons
Sports Anchor of the Year, Bruce Beck, WNBC New York (NBCUniversal Local)
With 25 years in New York, Bruce Beck is lead sports anchor at WNBC and host of Sunday-night show Sports Final. This year saw Beck increasingly move beyond the final few minutes of the newscast, finding the human interest in the sports figures he covers. He’s about much more than scores and highlights.
“Bruce is always thinking, and he thinks beyond sports,” said Amy Morris, WNBC VP of news. “He becomes so emotional and is so invested in almost every story he tells.”
Beck has racked up nine New York State Sportscaster of the Year awards, given out by the National Sports Media Association. He has covered seven World Series, six Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Final, U.S. Open tennis, the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, the Kentucky Derby and nine Olympics.
Said Morris, “Heart, passion, professionalism and preparation — that is Bruce Beck.” — Michael Malone
Investigative Report, WUSA Washington (Tegna)
The news staff of WUSA9 made a mission out of comprehensively covering the January 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, a decision the staff made collectively on that day and has devoted intense energy toward ever since, Eric Flack, chief investigative reporter at WUSA, told B+C/MCN. Led by news director Kathy Reynolds, WUSA has published more than 1,000 online stories about the Capitol riot, collectively viewed more than 8 million times. On YouTube, WUSA9’s top 20 Capitol riot videos garnered a combined 10 million views in the first 10 months. The station even launched “Capitol Breach,” a twice-weekly newsletter with the latest developments. More than 5,000 people have subscribed, with an average open rate of more than 30%. — KG
Station Website of the Year, WDIV Detroit (Graham Media Group)
WDIV’s ClickOnDetroit.com might be a model for local TV news. The website delivers breaking news, weather and livestream content while building deeper ties to loyal viewers through WDIV Insider, a free membership program that offers exclusive content, deals and offers. Begun in May 2020, the Insider program had 92,000 members as of December 6 and helped ClickOnDetroit dominate Comscore ratings in Metro Detroit throughout 2021, WDIV said. Team members created a library of local COVID data and created a text-based tipline that helped at least 2,000 people access vaccines. Broadcast and digital teams worked together on a TV special featuring questions and survey responses from WDIV Insiders. The ClickOnDetroit.com team is led by Ro Coppola, Dave Bartkowiak and Ken Haddad with support from news director Kim Voet, retired general manager Marla Drutz and current general manager Bob Ellis. — KG
Morning Newscast, KIRO Seattle (Cox Media)
KIRO’s morning newscast hit No. 1 in the Seattle market from 4:30-7 a.m. in November, which had happened before but “it’s the first we won at 6 o’clock in a while,” general manager Pat Nevin said. With rivals like KOMO (Sinclair Broadcast Group), KING (Tegna) and KCPQ (Fox), it’s a tough horse race in the morning, and news director Tara Finestone thinks the local roots for anchors led by Michelle Millman, Nick Allard and Linzi Sheldon are “one of our strengths.” It’s a “smart newscast,” Finestone said, one that will break investigative stories in the 6 a.m. hour and that draws some of the strongest digital engagement of the day from 7-8 a.m. She said coverage of protests and of the pandemic were highlights of 2021. “It was on our morning show when the vaccine arrived,” she said. — KG
Early Evening Newscast, KMGH Denver (Scripps)
KMGH has shown real hustle in upping its 5 and 6 p.m. news. Key has been the 360 franchise, which sees the E.W. Scripps-owned ABC affiliate, known as Denver7, break down a complicated issue from varied perspectives. The idea was hatched a few years ago when KMGH news professionals visited viewers at home and asked what they wanted to see in the news. Scripps is rolling out 360 to other stations in the group.
KMGH set out to go deeper in its coverage, and added more positive stories to the mix. “We’re not chasing commodity news,” said news director Holly Gauntt. “We’re looking for stories that impact people’s lives.”
KMGH is up 43% in viewers 25-54 at 5 and 6 p.m., November 2020 to November 2021. With Anne Trujillo and Shannon Ogden anchoring, it has moved into the No. 2 early evening slot. — MM
Late Newscast, KSTP Minneapolis (Hubbard Broadcasting)
“It’s a work in progress, still,” Kirk Varner, news director at Hubbard Broadcasting’s KSTP in Minneapolis said of 5 Eyewitness News NightCast, the 10 p.m. newscast that emerged in the early-pandemic spring of 2020, trying to change from the usual “machine-gun style.” NightCast leads with the weather and then airs fewer stories than before, letting them run a bit longer, going deeper into George Floyd or other persistent issues, Varner said. He said the change has not been a huge ratings success but there is a core viewer base that is loyal (lasting longer than a quarter hour) and growing.
“We really like the broadcast, we think it’s different and unique,” he said, praising Hubbard for sticking with it. — KG
Lifestyle Show, ‘On the Red Carpet,’ KABC Los Angeles (ABC)
KABC’s On the Red Carpet featured star-studded programming at the CMA Awards and the American Music Awards, the specials airing throughout the ABC group and on many affiliates. But with glitzy awards shows not happening as frequently due to COVID, the show pivoted, shining a light on diversity in entertainment with multiplatform segment “Oscar Voices.” Stories looked at how the disability community is changing Hollywood, film Judas and the Black Messiah, with an all-Black producing team, and Sound of Metal, which had a trio of Mexican sound engineers.
“As we prepared for the Oscars, we aimed to place a bigger focus on diverse storytellers, figures and individuals working behind the scenes,” said Adrianne Anderson, VP of programming, marketing and content development, KABC. — MM
Weather Coverage, WWL New Orleans (Tegna)
On the morning of Saturday, August 28, WWL New Orleans began round-the-clock coverage of Hurricane Ida. Wall-to-wall coverage would last until the storm’s passage Monday night.
WWL sent reporters and anchors across the affected areas and worked with United Way on relief efforts that, to date, have resulted in $2.5 million in cash and $1 million in in-kind donations, the Tegna-owned station said in November.
WWL said it was the only station to broadcast continuously as the storm approached, as it hit and during the hours and days afterwards. Continuous broadcasts lasted 57 hours, and the station racked up nearly 19 million video views on its website and YouTube channels.
WWL’s investigations into extensive power outages and the utility’s actions before and after the storm have drawn scrutiny from state regulators. WWL also followed up by producing a special newscast measuring the recovery on the one-month mark of Ida’s landfall. — KG ■
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