Thursday, May 20, 2010

Joint Newsrooms and Mid-MO GM Dealerships

Journalism Reflection

In Tyler, Texas, CBS19 (KYTX) has partnered with the Tyler Morning Telegraph newspaper, essentially creating one newsroom in two locations. The joint operation happened over a handshake – and it’s a successful venture. The philosophy is basically, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” The two news outlets aim for team coverage and share story ideas, information and reporters. Here’s a quick summary of how it operate:

- CBS19 gives the Telegraph weather to print in the paper.
- CBS19 reporters turn their stories into another version to be printed in the Telegraph.
Telegraph reporters appear one or two times in live hits during CBS19's 6pm hour-long newscast and once during the 10pm newscast.
Telegraph reporters also come to CBS19 for segments on CBS19 This Morning and the 5pm newscasts.
- The newsrooms run parallel contests, promotions, and polls.

With this exchange of stories and ideas, the two outlets miss “very very little,” according CBS19’s News Director Dan Delgado. They cover more stories because they share information if one outlet can't make it to the story. The managing editor of the Telegraph and the Assignment Desk Manager at CBS19 speak six to eight times per day, making sure everyone has information on the latest happenings in Tyler.

They’re even creating some joint projects. The two sports departments are working on a website ( that focuses solely on high school sports (a big part of life in East Texas).

A second project will start in June. University of North Texas journalism students will be spending three weeks in Tyler researching obesity. Their work on fitness’ relationship to obesity will be featured in a 30 minute special on CBS19 and a magazine published through the Telegraph. This is a unique project because both the City of Tyler and Smith County are supporting it.

A recent example of the news collaboration is the reporting on a capital murder trial of a man accused of killing a 13-month-old baby in 2008 (story). A Telegraph reporter has been present in the courtroom during the trial. He calls in during CBS19’s newscasts and gives a daily update. CBS19 can’t be at the trial daily so this helps cover the trial, which is important to their viewers. At the end of the Telegraph reporter's phoner, the CBS19 anchors tell viewers to check out the reporter's blog on the Telegraph website, which he updates multiple times daily.

We’re told by our professors not to let the newspaper be the source for our stories. But, with this arrangement the ideas are shared before they’re printed in the paper. It allows both news outlets to keep their viewers or readers better informed. For example, let’s say one person reads the Telegraph more frequently than they watch the news. What if the Telegraph misses a major story because a source only tipped off CBS19? This partnership lets CBS19 clue the Telegraph in on the scoop. The reader won’t miss out on a story affecting his community because he’ll receive the information in the paper. Without the partnership, he could have been at least a day behind on the big news.

I see this as an innovative experiment in newsroom story sharing. It’s so unusual because of their free exchange deal. It lets each newsroom cover more stories without overreaching their monetary resources. CBS19 and the Tyler Morning Telegraph are exploring the option before most markets are even considering it. I think that due to the economy and the general public’s desire to know more about their community, more markets will be turning to this solution.

Personal News Gathering Process

One of the big news stories this week was that General Motors Corp. announced it earned a profit in the first quarter of 2010. This is the first time a profit has been reported since the second quarter of 2007. I wanted to localize this story to the mid-Missouri area.

Bob McCosh Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership is located on Business Loop 70 in Columbia, MO.

I started by interviewing the sales manager at the Bob McCosh Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership. He told me how McCosh was doing well and how GM’s bankruptcy affected the dealership. But he did not want me to talk to a customer. Instead I interviewed a sales consultant who was first a customer at McCosh and then decided to apply to become an employee due to her positive experience.

After I completed this reporting, it became apparent that the finished story would sound like an advertisement for the McCosh dealership. I needed to expand my focus. Two hours of Google searching later, I identified a GM dealership, Royal Automotive, that was closed during the bankruptcy process in Fulton, and the name and home address for the owner, but no phone number. I wanted to interview him, so I took a chance and knocked on the door of his home in Fulton.

While I was in Fulton, I took the opportunity to shoot a stand-up showing Royal Automotive’s empty parking lot.

The owner of Royal Automotive now spends his time working on his lawn.

The owner was animated and answered every question I asked. He had strong opinions about how GM handled the shut-down of dealerships. I think he was so open with me because no one had asked him how the wind down process affected him personally. He was also told me how the forced closing of his dealership affected the Fulton community.

During reporting for this whole story, I learned that persistence in finding a source and a little courage to knock on a door can pay off by providing a good central compelling character. Also, I found out that sometimes people want to be asked how the event made them feel, not about the event specifically. It can lead to great quotes and make them trust you because it shows you care.