NAB: Localism Still Key to Success for Stations and Women in TV

Complete Coverage: 2012 NAB Show

Top executives at two major TV station groups and a top syndication producer all credited their background in local TV as a key to their success, but admitted they had faced many tough tradeoffs as they worked to navigate complex technology, business and family challenges during their career.

The executives made the observations during "The Power of Broadcasting" panel at the Women, Technically Speaking event held by Broadcasting & Cable at NAB.

"Even with an avalanche of information, local news still matters," noted Rebecca Campbell, president, ABC Owned Television Group, who added that newer technologies, such as social media and Twitter, were, if anything, making local news more relevant and popular.

She noted that when one of their local news anchors, tweeted that Penn State coach Joe Paterno had been fired, the news quickly spread. But breaking the news on Twitter before the airing of the newscast actually attracted audiences.

"It didn't at all take away from the product," she explained. "In fact, it was completely the reverse."

Deborah A. McDermott, president, Young Broadcasting, also stressed the importance of newer technologies in their local news efforts.

"Today it is more than just having them watch the news -- it's how we can engage them with Twitter, Facebook and live broadcasting," she argued.

During the panel, which was moderated by B&C executive editor Melissa Grego, Linda Bell Blue, executive producer, Entertainment Tonight and The Insider stressed the importance of local TV in developing her career.

"First of all, I grew up in local news and now those stations are our clients," she said. "So understanding how local stations work is important in producing a syndicated show."

In capitalizing on new technologies, all three executives noted that they had to strike a balance between having highly experienced staff and bringing in new talent.

"The challenge going forward is that we need that mix of the new young fresh along with those wonderful employees who have had a history in the industry," noted McDermott.

She noted that during the heavy flooding in Nashville, their competition had new talent up in a helicopter that "knew nothing about Nashville and couldn't name the neighborhoods while we had a longtime employees who could point out all the places that were underwater. You need anchors like that but you also need new blood."

In finding new talent, they also noted lack of women in technical and leadership positions and the importance of mentoring and other efforts to draw more women into the field.

While an enormous amount of progress still needs to be made in terms of women in technology and leadership positions in TV, Bell Blue stressed that the young women going into her organization had more clearly thought out their career options.

"I'm finding now that fewer and fewer women who wanted to be on the air because of the glamour and fame," she said. "They are realizing that the real true power is being behind the scenes. I'm seeing more and more interns coming in and being willing to get their hands dirty logging tapes and shooting on weekends."

She also noted that she was spending more time mentoring them to become producers, because it offered "more career longevity than on-air and more room for growth. Producing local TV gives you the kind of experience you need producing the kind of syndicated shows that I produce."