Thursday, September 21, 2006

More local media bites the dust

The road up Provin Mountain was remarkably steep and narrow and I remember clearly wondering what would happen if we met someone driving down. Luckily for us, that didn't happen.

I was on edge enough as I was on my way, along with my fellow teammates to appear on "As Schools Match Wits." I was nervous being on television and hoping we didn't make fools of ourselves.

I think I was glad that our principal, when making his regular announcements on the Granby High p.a. system, conveniently forgot to remind people to watch the show.

Of course when we were on a second year and he didn't plug the show I was cheesed.

Ah, high school!

I hadn't thought about my three times appearing on the local high school quiz show until last week when the news leaked out that one of the longest-running locally produced shows in the history of American television was being axed.

When I was a kid, the local television stations were filled with locally produced shows. Stations produced shows because they made money.

Locally produced shows stopped being moneymakers for stations years ago. It's more profitable to make a deal for a syndicated show than it is to try to produce something that competes against a syndicated show.

WWLP's management should be commended for upholding the tradition of local programming long after many other stations pulled the plug on their shows. It's a shame now that WWLP looks like any other NBC affiliate just like WGGB looks like any other ABC affiliate.

If you don't watch the local news, nothing is different.

Newspapers are cutting back and giving their readers more wire and syndicated stories to save money and be more profitable. Radio stations don't want to produce local programming beyond 10 a.m. Why should they if they can get programming for damn near free off a satellite dish?

And television stations boast how they cover their communities, but fill their news shows with stories picked up from the networks and fluff. I don't mind fluff, but give me local fluff, please.

We're all too willing to accept less and less information about our own communities. If we don't watch out our avenues to local information will be closed off.

Without local content decisions affecting large groups of people will be made by increasingly smaller groups of people. We will be reduced to a nation of whiners who sob about not knowing about an issue until it's too late.

Here's my suggestion: go to people who advertise in local media and become their customers. Tell them you saw their ad in a local media outlet. Encourage them to buy more advertising. Ask them to tell their advertising representatives that people need more local content.

In this business, cash is king. If people see the profitability in local programming and stories perhaps this trend can be reversed ever so slightly.

I can dream, can't I?

And a tip of my fez to Len Collamore and Phil Sherpardson, the gurus of my edition of "As Schools Match Wits."

This column represents the opinions of its author.
©2006 Gordon Michael Dobbs


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