Watch cable's CNN2 (Ch. 8) national newscast during the day and you'll see some familiar news anchors from KUTV Channel 2 twice every hour. Listen to KCNR radio (AM 860) and you'll not only hear the audio of CNN2's headline service but also the local television news from KTVX. Dial KALL radio (AM 910) and you'll hear KUTV's Bob Evans and Michelle King twice a day, and most of the news daylong will be coming by way of the Ch. 2 staff.
While "synergism," or working together, has become a buzzword in the media industries, the cooperation between some of Salt Lake's broadcasting concerns the past six months has to be considered remarkable.TV and radio news were wedded in part to take advantage of radio's immediacy in bringing news of the gulf war, though over-the-air TV stations have been making it easier for viewers to get the news between the usual hours by airing it in spots around the clock.
Mostly, however, the new "going together" came about because media competition is wicked lately, as much in radio as anywhere - you can get 40 stations on the Wasatch Front.
- AT THE SAME TIME advertising is harder to come by than any time in 20 years.
Consequently all media are looking hard for ways to cut costs while also tightening their hold on readers and viewers and reaching new audiences, a fearsome task. (Even the nation's newspaper publishers built their convention last month around "reconsidering how newspapers go to market.")
Radio news has pretty much gone to pot nationwide. The Washington Journalism Review complained last month that even on the networks, "it's nothing but wire copy and sound bits. The `reporter' whose voice you hear wrapping around the sound was never on the scene."
Mountain Cable Advertising, a KUTV subsidiary, which places the spots produced at Ch. 2 for CNN's local broadcasts, trumpets not only that "the face of local news is changing" but also that "now people get local news at their convenience."
Not quite, but the Ch. 2 news is on CNN a lot.
- THE SIX-MINUTE newscasts Ch. 2 has been providing are aired on Ch. 8 at 24 and 54 minutes after the hour from 7 a.m. to midnight weekdays. They cover local news, weather and sports plus, inevitably, 90 seconds of local ads.
KUTV earns a percentage of the ad revenues to compensate for the production costs, and the new service is beginning to be a moneymaker. KUTV president Jeff Hatch says the promotional opportunities offered by the additional news outlet also mean a lot to him. The KUTV 6 and 10 o'clock newscasts are teased on the CNN news inserts.
And news director Dianne Orr says the news staff isn't unhappy even though its workload has increased. "We'd rather take on extra responsibilities than cut staff." She says the viewer gains because "if we had to cut back staff we would become an invitational news station - that just runs out to cover news by invitation like press conferences."
- AND MOST CABLE subscribers are delighted with the option, the stations find. One letter in the Deseret News Forum did complain about the "intrusion" of KUTV's news on the cable show and urged that KUTV "preempt its own network shows, not CNN." CNN2 carries features and human interest stories in the last six minutes of each half-hour newscast. It may be that those stories are what the letter writer looks forward to and feels deprived of.
KUTV has taken on the added responsibility of putting together the newscasts for its sister station KALL. The result has been to provide what the stations call significant cost savings. But the downside is that Ch. 2 reporters have to prepare stories for both radio and TV against deadline pressure.
In December KALL pink-slipped its three full-time and one part-time reporters. Now Ch. 2's Michelle King does the 5 p.m. and Bob Evans the 4:10 and 4:30 drive-time news on KALL. Radio news director Fred Scott reads the other afternoon broadcasts and Bob Hendricks handles the morning newscasts produced at KUTV. For the radio "actualities," "we'll strip the audio from the TV stories we've been shooting all day long," says Ch. 2's Larry Warren, who coordinates the joint news effort.
- FOR THIS REASON and because eight newsgatherers are involved on any one day rather than the three KALL had, Warren says the KALL listener also is better served.
KCNR since February has been carrying the entire 5:30 p.m. television newscast of KTVX Ch. 4, plus two 15-minute segments from 4's morning news between 6 and 7 a.m. KTVX also provides the radio station with four news updates during the afternoon and weather updates all day long from either Belinda Jensen or Dave Nemeth, Ch. 4 meteorologists. The radio station sells its own commercials in the TV ad spots. That means that KTVX gains only by the opportunity to get its newscasts to different viewers and widen its audience. Each station also plugs the other.
- THE MOST LOGICAL synergistic relationship in Salt Lake City would seem to be between KSL radio and KSL-TV, both big, powerhouse, premier news outlets in the region and in the same ownership.
They do cooperate somewhat. KSL pulls sound bites from the TV newscasts and even dubs off taped interviews to extend the coverage range, though it still has 10 reporters of its own, a size rare indeed in local radio news anywhere. (It also uses some CNN material, but for major national stories usually relies on CBS). Some thought has been given there to airing the 10 o'clock TV news on radio. But that hour is now preempted by Larry King's popular Mutual talk show, which runs from 9 p.m. to midnight (and again from 2 to 5 a.m.)
Imaginative ways to save radio news are certainly needed in the current economic climate. If crossovers with TV help revitalize the medium, "synergism" might be just the word.