Ping L.A. will take a 180-degree turn away from the conventions of most local newscasts in everything from the set to the way stories are delivered, all with a view to capturing the elusive 18-24-year-old demographic.
The producers of a new Web-only news show for Los Angeles told NATPE attendees on Monday that local news is broken and a fresh infusion of TMZ-style cubicle newscasts may be just the thing to fix it.
Producer Scott Sternberg, president of Scott Sternberg Productions, said that his new Ping L.A. newscast, which will launch online this spring, will take a 180-degree turn away from the conventions of most local newscasts in everything from the set to the way stories are delivered, all with a view to capturing the elusive 18-24-year-old demographic.
“It’s basically a newsroom in a garage,” Sternberg told CNNMoney anchor Poppy Harlow, who moderated the discussion on “Information Reformation: The New Frontier of Local News.” According to Sternberg, that new frontier will also see stories being shot and possibly edited on iPad 2s, along with launching an app that lets users look right into the newsroom garage.
Sternberg described a news webcast that would find fluid cameras constantly jumping between cubicles rather than punctuating each story with a return to the anchor desk. He said that younger viewers’ tolerance for such conventions — from static robocams to the standard sartorial news armor of suit-and-tie and even the way that the stories themselves are read and told would be upended by Ping L.A.
“We want people being themselves and talking about the story,” he said. “Let them have emotion. Let them react.”
And let them dress how they want, too. “Wear what you’re comfortable in,” he said, noting Anderson Cooper’s black t-shirts on CNN as a perfect example of breaking form and resonating successfully with viewers.
Sternberg’s production partner, Scott Weinberger, CEO of Weinberger Media, joined him on the panel and noted that younger viewers are more likely to turn on their television sets last for information more than any other form of media. On television, “I can’t change the story. I can’t speed it up or skip ahead,” he said.
Online news has that advantage, he said, though the Ping L.A. producers acknowledged that they will be looking for a broadcast partner for the show by this fall.
They will also be looking to discover a new kind of talent for the show, Sternberg said, likely those freshly out of journalism school who haven’t yet been imprinted with the “Back to you” mannerisms of today’s assignment reporters. And these new journalists will need to grasp the two-screen interactivity with viewers that the producers said has been highly successful with The Paula Zahn Show that they currently produce for CNN.
But even though the producers said that more of a D.I.Y. vibe was necessary in local news to shake up its calcified traditions, Weinberger cautioned that his show wouldn’t look like news on the cheap, either.
“We also need to acknowledge that production value — especially video production value — is important,” he said. Flipcams might do if that’s all you have on the scene of a breaking story, he said, but viewers want it mixed into a package with high production values.
When asked by an audience member about product integration into the newscast, Ping L.A. had its first test of how many conventions might fall. “I guess that’s the Edward R. Murrow, where you draw the line,” Weinberger said.
“But I would never say never,” Sternberg added.