Survey: Local Radio News Has Positive Future

September 23, 2010

Atlanta - Sep 16, 2010 - News Generation has released the findings of its survey of 100 news, news-talk and talk stations in the top-50 markets to get the scoop on what's happening inside radio newsrooms during this recession, both operationally and editorially. Looking at staff size, commitment to news coverage, who and what drives news content, the latest practice of sharing news stories and pooling resources, and the future of radio news, the outlook is encouraging.

Despite the economy and initial pressure to thin the ranks, radio news and news-talk newsrooms appear to be well staffed. The survey shows that the average newsroom is made up of a 10-person team. News directors and decision-makers inside the newsroom believe this healthy staffing size shows a rebirth in commitment to local news. News stations tend to be people-intensive and therefore expensive, yet, more than half of the newsroom personnel surveyed (68 percent) believe those at the top, either corporate bosses or station managers, are still willing to invest in news staffs that can effectively cover the markets they serve.

Staff size combined with news value plays an essential role in determining the stories that get on the air. The majority of news and news-talk stations (65 percent) use one or both of these factors to plan their news day. However, talk show oriented stations don't put as much emphasis on newscasts. Their hosts address topical issues and are more editorially driven and rely on their sister stations for two-to-three minute, top-of-the-hour, headline news. Thirty percent of the talk stations surveyed do not have a newsroom staff at all, and 45 percent employ fewer than five reporters.

Overall, general assignment reporters are the work-horses of the news staff, gathering and writing most of what we hear on the air. But, a new trend is rising, with interns contributing to the news of the day. So far, their reports average out to about 3 percent of the on-air product. Highly structured internship programs are offered by 95 percent of the stations surveyed, whereby interns get real-life, hands-on experience. Another trend, citizen journalism at the local level, is also expanding. While it is not playing a significant role at most stations yet, there are citizen journalists regularly disseminating information on some major market stations.

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