Stations Should Editorialize, Not Just Inform

Hearst Television’s Jordan Wertlieb: “Now, more than ever, stations should editorialize and put an added focus and spotlight on the issues that touch their local communities. Editorials highlight community leaders and heroes; hold elected officials accountable; seek to underscore important investigations and truths; and call for legislative changes that better the lives of the viewers they serve.


In response to TVNewsCheck’s Jessell At Large piece of Nov. 18 regarding stations needing more news not opinion, your original premise of 16 years ago still holds today. In fact, now, more than ever, stations should editorialize and put an added focus and spotlight on the issues that touch their local communities.

The emergence of “advocacy cable news channels” over the last 20 years has undermined the credibility of many news outlets. This is a self-inflicted wound by these organizations that continue to blur opinion with fact.

However, this is not the case in local news. The Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation find local news is the most widely trusted source, and this is not a result of stations failing to take a position.

The American public’s trust in local television news is a direct result of stations appropriately reflecting their local community, contextualizing the issues of the day for their viewers, fulfilling their obligation as licensees to serve the public interest, convenience and necessity.

There clearly is no correlation between being a market’s news leader and doing editorials. I am proud to say the majority of Hearst Television stations have been providing regular editorials to their local communities since 1948 and most of our stations continue to do so today.

While our stations purposely do not endorse political candidates, an important distinction especially in today’s political climate, this should not preclude any station from providing this important public service.


Editorials highlight community leaders and heroes; hold elected officials accountable; seek to underscore important investigations and truths; and call for legislative changes that better the lives of the viewers they serve.

What great local television stations provide through editorials is never in over supply … leadership.

Jordan Wertlieb is president of Hearst Television.

Comments (20)

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Wanda LaCroix says:

November 28, 2016 at 7:51 am

Right on Jordan!

Gregg Palermo says:

November 28, 2016 at 9:14 am

Only for true for local stories. Beyond that, reporting of most national news stories by local news broadcasters is still held captive by the ideology of the AP, which is hardly centrist. It all flows from the Eastern elite newspapers. You might as well live in Manhattan.

Gabby Fredrick says:

November 28, 2016 at 10:06 am

So let me get this straight. People tuning into local news want the opinion of the anchors/newscasters ?? And they wonder why ratings are declining!!!

    Scott Cote says:

    November 28, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Ohhhh, you are do right!! Remember when stations had to disclaim before an editorial was given? Local station news people generally don’t have specific experience; they read what their stations tells them to read.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    November 29, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Clearly @scv91355 does not know the difference between News and Editorial.

Brad Dann says:

November 28, 2016 at 11:05 am

Jordan said “stations” should provide editorials, not newscasters per se. I grew up in Detroit and Bill Bonds delivered clearly marked commentaries that people wanted to watch. I’ve seen other stations have the GM deliver them. It needs to be clear that it’s opinion and that the station welcomes and airs the opposite side when there’s a credible spokesperson. Stations 1st Amendment rights are hamstrung by the fact that the Federal government has to “license” their existence, but unless Broadcasters exercise their 1st Amendment rights, they will never be granted full rights. Jordan’s also right that endorsing Political Candidates is not necessary and only would lower the station into the same pit that cable news networks find themselves in and with newspapers in decline, issues of importance to the local market need to be addressed and discussed.

Andrea Rader says:

November 28, 2016 at 11:12 am

It matters little to offer editorials if their content is as anodyne as is humanly possible.

Gabby Fredrick says:

November 28, 2016 at 11:32 am

If we want opinions we ask our close friends ,family and an occasional mentor. These so called journalists newscasters/anchors are not close friends etc….They are all agenda driven corporate spokes people who happen to look and speak well on air. Check the ratings in the past few years ..its not working..

    Wagner Pereira says:

    November 28, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Another Non-Broadcaster clueless as to who delivers Editorials and why that is.

alicia farmer says:

November 28, 2016 at 11:51 am

Vast majority of station editorials are pablum, with the GM mouthing platitudes.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    November 28, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Perhaps that is why you are a former gm?

    Andrea Rader says:

    November 28, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    formergm is on the mark. I can’t recall the last Hearst station editorial that took a remotely controversial stand on any issue. Even worse, several Hearst editorials seem to be nothing more than an extension of the station’s promotional effort. One particularly laughable “editorial” was WMTW GM David Abel crowing about the station’s severe weather coverage – and that’s not even an outlier.

    Teri Keene says:

    November 28, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Seen by all of 11 people on YouTube.

Steve Downing says:

November 29, 2016 at 10:44 am

Jordan, Jordan Jordan…there was ONLY ONE FOX incarnation with Roger Ailes, AND NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO DUPLICATE IT’S SUCCESS.

People can get ‘opinion’ ANYWHERE, you are NOT going to be that successful IF YOU CHASE VIEWERS AWAY WITH IT…BUT if you want to INFORM, you have a Viewer for a long time.

Thomas Herwitz says:

November 29, 2016 at 11:03 am

If you are looking for a model to emulate, go no further than Neil Heinen at Morgan Murphy Media’s WISC-TV in Madison WI. While they are sometimes trite (“Give to the United Way”), they are often incredibly hard-hitting, and I’m always thankful that WISC takes the time and makes the effort to do and air them.

Joe Jaime says:

November 29, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Save the “on air” time for real news of the day. Improved investigative reporting will be more effective with viewers than the GM blabbing on for 60 seconds. Put the opinion stuff on the station web site.

Greg Johnson says:

November 29, 2016 at 11:33 pm

Jordan, the traditional “editorial” has evolved to a new opportunity, beyond Conomikes and Price, and I don’t see Television General Managers evolving with integrated marketing communications. The right GM could use a variety of distribution channels to communicate and amplify important messages: meaning blogs, microblogs, V-logs and even podcasts. And it is not your opinion that matters, it is also your ability to curate information to create a holistic message. If community, news, and information are your local positions on brand leadership, then step forward and use the tools of the 21st century to amplify your voice in the community. Earned media is something that broadcasters never understood, including me. Earned media just elected the President-elect with an earned media strategy that off-line media amplified for him. The Washington Post has reinvented its brand. I would hate to see opportunity wasted because there is a little risk involved.

Gabby Fredrick says:

December 3, 2016 at 10:29 am

hey insider..You must be one of these corporate broadcast hacks who has drunk the koolaid so long you cannot see what is happening..Wake up..Local broadcast TV in in a death spiral..What will they air when the networks put their programs on other distribution channels, Direct/Dish/Cable..Editorials all day?…It’s coming..Get ready..short the stocks!!.

James Brierton says:

December 3, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Bil Fine at WCVB in Boston does a great job. However, most stations editorialize in the way they report the news…or contort the news, may be a better way of saying it.

Greg Johnson says:

February 1, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Editorials should have evolved to all platforms. What is the problem with putting curated blogs on owned sites and earned media. I asked a 40 year old, upper middle class woman what late news she watched in New York. She said I get my news on-line and other sources that broadcast TV. The knock on local TV news is one of its issues “TV news is a mile wide and an inch deep”. Different distribution platforms could make your news and editorials reach different audiences with more depth. I pay a subscription for valuable news based on quality and distributional channel. This discussion about a redesigned work-flow should follow a vision for making a premium news product.