Schurz's Burdick: Exceptional Local News Is the Rule

Marci Burdick, senior VP of Schurz Communications, talked Wednesday night about the work being done at her station group and others to serve the community through local news, suggesting Washington too often focuses on the exceptions, rather than the exceptional news that is the norm.

Burdick was addressing an audience of journalists at the Radio-Television Digital News Foundation First Amendment awards dinner.

That exceptional news included the alarming suicide rate in Alaska -- Schurz owns KTUU Anchorage -- told through the story of a Kenyan distance runner who tried to kill himself by freezing to death, instead lost both legs, and is now counseling people about depression. Then there was the reports of shoddy pediatric dental practices and
fraudulent billing in Kansas -- KWCH TV Wichita -- that resulted in the shut-down of some clinics.

The service award over the past few years has been an opportunity for broadcasters to make their case for the value of a broadcasting service that has been under the gun from a spectrum-seeking missile called the FCC. Burdick was no exception.

She said she had received letters from viewers of Shurz' KY3 TV Springfield, Mo., about the tornadoes in Joplin and Branson, saying they had first gotten the text alert from the station in the middle of the night, and turned to the station's website for live radar, and turned on the TV "and you were the only ones on the air. You saved my life."

She said that in a world of multiple streams and instant communications, radio and television was serving "in more ways and more people than ever before."

Burdick pointed out that during last year's RTDNF dinner, she was not at the dinner but on vacation in Hawaii, the same night the massive earthquake hit Japan and created the tsunami. During the overnight hours, when she did not know how high the deadly waters would rise of how far they would travel, as RTDNA was honoring executives from Hearst and Raycom, she was in an evacuation shelter in Hawaii watching ten hours of wall-to-wall stations on Hearst and Raycom stations in Hawaii. "I saw coverage that was inspiring, responsible, measured, thorough and complete."

She said that often in Washington, "stories of the worst of the worst in broadcast journalism become legend and what occurs after is regulating the exception, and not the rule. It is the coverage like those stations provided a year ago, and our stations provide every day, that should not be overlooked." she said.

Burdick got a shout out from National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith Wednesday night. She was the recipient of the Radio-Television Digital News Association's First Amendment Service Award. "Across the industry, her example is stellar," Smith Said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.