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Amazingly, Local News Viewership Is Up

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Local TV News is still very popular in Western New York.

In fact, it was more popular here in February of 2011 than in February of 2010.

This is quite an achievement when you consider that the local stations are hiring younger staffers and asking their veterans to do much more than they’ve done in the past.

Of course, there have been some big stories in late January and early February – the Hassan trial, Terry Pegula (see above) taking over the Buffalo Sabres and the weather.

And big stories drive viewership.

But there are always big stories.

Amazingly, the combined audience for news at noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m. during the February sweeps was higher than it was a year ago.

The one news time period where total audience declined was at 6 a.m. and that was by such a small margin — .1 of one percent – that it is statistically irrelevant.

The biggest news gains were at 5 p.m., where Channel 2 is now in a statistical tie with Channel 4, and at 11 p.m.

Why are viewers watching local news more of anchors Don Postles, Jacquie Walker, Scott Levin and Maryalice Demler and other anchors than they did a year ago?

Maybe the lousy winter weather kept more people – and potential viewers — at home.

It isn’t because local news coverage is better than it has been.

If anything, it is much weaker than it was years ago before economic concerns lowered the staffing and experience levels at first Channel 7 and now Channel 4 and led to more “team coverage” of so-called big stories to fill time.

The news departments do very little beyond covering the big stories, the easy-to-do crime stories, the obvious stories and the weather. Rarely do they do any so-called “enterprise” stories – stories that they break – because they don’t have the staffs to find them and cover them.

 It is commonly assumed that salaries are being cut and cheaper young reporters are being hired out of college because the stations are in financial difficulty.

But actually, TV has made a financial comeback this year at many stations across the country.

Salaries are being cut here because station owners believe reporters and anchors are overpaid in Buffalo relative to the declining market size.

I’m told that some high-profile anchors in town have quietly taken pay cuts — in some cases substantial cuts — in the last few years to keep their jobs.

While former Channel 4 anchor Mylous Hairston wouldn’t say whether he was offered a raise or a pay cut in his last contract offer before he decided to leave, I’d guess he was offered a pay cut.

So the good news for local TV anchors and reporters is that viewers still care very much about the news. The bad news is that management doesn’t care whether they can afford to live as well as they have in the past.

pergament@msn.com

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2 responses to "Amazingly, Local News Viewership Is Up"

  1. Pergy's friend says:

    Where was Melissa Holmes on the WNLO News today? (didn’t watch yesterday). Has she been “Mylous”ed over her Twitter thing?

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