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Scribes Star in Station's News

KYTX Tyler, Texas, had an ace in the hole when two men were arrested in late February following a string of church fires around DMA No. 109. With the CBS affiliate involved in a news and marketing partnership with the Tyler Morning Telegraph daily newspaper, the station gained a big scoop when Telegraph reporter Kenneth Dean landed an interview with suspect Jason Bourque’s mother.

Unlike typical newspaper-station partnerships, which feature occasional on-air appearances from paper personnel, nearly all of the Telegraph reporters go live on KYTX, adding much depth to breaking news. Dean shared that Bourque said her son’s religious faith remained strong, and the family stood by him, before anchor Gillian Sheridan told viewers to read “much more” about the interview in the next day’s Telegraph. (Bourque also asserted that her son was innocent.)

KYTX News Director Dan Delgado says adding 16 seasoned journalists to his on air product gives the station a big advantage. “We could have three different stories on the church fires from three different angles,” he says. “We were able to do far more on it than the other stations could’ve hoped to have done.”

Stations and newspapers are increasingly looking to each other to expand their reach. Scripps’ WPTV West Palm Beach, for example, partners with the company’s Treasure Coast papers and Tribune’s Sun-Sentinel. Some companies, such as Tribune and Media General, have joint newsrooms in select markets where they own TV and print outlets.

But it’s rare to see so many newspaper reporters on air. Telegraph Editor Dave Berry says that after some initial camera-fright, virtually every Telegraph reporter—including those covering business, the arts and religion— goes live from the newsroom, which is connected via fi ber to KYTX’s digs. Berry adds that many have enjoyed a heightened profile in the market since the partnership debuted in late 2009. “Newspaper reporters generally labor in obscurity,” he says. “This gives us a chance to put them out in public.”

Telegraph Publisher Nelson Clyde says the arrangement adds another dimension to both his reporters and the paper. “It makes us a multimedia company,” he notes. “It makes [KYTX] one, too.”

KYTX parent London Broadcasting is pushing the model at its other stations, which include KCEN Waco and KBMT Beaumont. “It’s part of our company philosophy,” says London Executive VP/COO Phil Hurley, who adds that the stations do not cut staff as a result of the newspaper enhancements.

KYTX made headlines in 2007 when Hurley tapped beauty queen Lauren Jones to anchor the KYTX news; Jones and her coworkers were the stars of the short-lived Fox reality program Anchorwoman.

Merging newspaper and station cultures can be tricky, and Berry says the newspaper folks needed assurances that no Anchorwoman- like stunts would occur. The pact is bound by a handshake, he says, and either party is free to walk if they’re not satisfied with the arrangement. “If [KYTX] were to do something like that, we’re out of it,” he says. “We treasure our credibility.”

The folks at the Telegraph, which is family-owned by T.B. Butler Publishing, received what Delgado calls a “TV 101” crash course before going on-air, but they’re still learning the ropes. Dean’s report on his interview with Kimberly Bourque, for instance, lacked the mellifluous delivery one might expect from a veteran TV reporter.

But the KYTX brass says a halting presentation and stubbly appearance can actually enhance the Telegraph reporters’ credibility.

“We went into it not expecting them to be smooth talkers,” says KYTX General Manager John Gaston. “And I believe the public doesn’t expect them to be news anchors.”

Airing news in HD, KYTX is the No. 2 station in Tyler-Longview. The DMA is dominated by Raycom’s KLTV; the station’s news director, Kenny Boles, called the setup a “desperate move” by both KYTX and the paper.

Delgado says the partnership is just starting to click, with the Telegraph folks adding depth to the station’s reportage and breadth to the amount of topics it covers. The newspaper people got another big chance to shine last week, when incumbent Gov. Rick Perry defeated Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas’ Republican gubernatorial primary.

As Tyler is a diary market, KYTX management won’t know how the Telegraph partnership is affecting ratings until the February book arrives later this month. Also unknown is the effect on the Telegraph’s circulation, which is 32,000; Clyde says “more robust” product certainly won’t hurt readership.

KYTX managers suspect that the numbers will be positive. “If you’re a believer that content drives ratings, our content is better,” Gaston says. “In a smaller market, that kind of depth in your reporting can be a big advantage.”