Thursday, 19 August 2010

Broadcasting The News. What We Want.

We used to be focussed on hard news. However, stories have now become much softer, focussed on human interest stories. Much less stuffy and much more informal. More jacket and open neck shirt than business suit and tie. ITV News has taken this much further, especially local and regional news, to the point where quite often, but not always, only human interest tabloid style stories are shown. Business stories for example are hardly ever shown.

Reporting a business story with the BBC.
Both the BBC and ITV regions have gone down this route in an attempt to hold on to their audiences. The BBC have done a little better than ITV in market share, but overall the audiences for news programming is falling. As the number of multi channel homes sky rockets, more and more people are turning off the news because they view it as boring and not in tune with their lives of celebrity based programmes, lifestyle programmes or quick fix youtube style broadcasting.

Speaking to many of the reporters i work with, you have no idea how many people out there have no idea how to pitch a story to their local press. It's astonishing how many times we get offered a man in a suit style interview for the news. The marketing director, head of this that or the other, as if to suggest that we have a large coup in speaking to someone so important.

Not everyone wants a man in a suit....
For a mass audience sitting down to baked beans on toast, or fighting to get the kids ready for school, a man in a suit is not what they want to see. They don't care about managing directors or project managers anymore. And they certainly don't care for local authority cabinet members with an inflated sense of their own importance.

For example, lets say a large road building scheme is underway. The audience will want to see and hear from a man in dirty overalls and a hard hat. The people actually doing the work, the ones who know what is going on and what he is talking about. The last thing they want is a man in a chain store suit with a condescending smile trotting out the official line.

The people at the coal face are sometimes the most knowledgeable and eloquent speakers and the audience will want to believe them and trust them. We know that performing in front of a camera is a peculiar and sometimes nerve wracking challenge, but just because the man who digs the holes hasn't been on a media relations course should not preclude him from taking part. Quite the opposite in my opinion.

So, given the choice between an interview in a corporate office with a suit, or a sit down with the workforce in a greasy spoon cafe, i know which i would choose every time. At least i would get a bacon sandwich.