IRE 2014

Time To Finally Embrace News Collaboration

Speakers at last week’s Investigative Reporters & Editors conference say that 76% of local broadcasters partner with other  news outlets, and it behooves TV reporters to maximize the potential — and benefits — of those collaborations, whether they like it or not. And the same goes for collaborating with their own digital teams. There should no longer be a division between on-air and digital departments.

To do their best work and have the greatest impact, TV reporters must be open to collaborating with other news organizations as well as with their own stations’ digital teams, according to speakers at the Investigative Reporters & Editors conference in San Francisco this past weekend.

“A lot of my colleagues don’t like collaborating, but it is the reality,” said Stephen Stock, an investigative reporter at the San Francisco NBC-owned KNTV. “This is what we’ve got to embrace and, if we don’t, we’re going to be left behind.”

Stock cited a RTDNA/Hofstra University study that says 76% of local broadcasters partner with other  news outlets, and it behooves TV reporters to maximize the potential — and benefits — of those collaborations “whether we like it or not.”

Collaborative investigations, he said, facilitate local broadcasters’ core goals: expanding reach and spurring change.

Despite inherent challenges that come with working with people who “used to be competitors,” taking the time to understand the differences in cultures between, say,  TV and newspapers as well as the differences of the media themselves is key to building trust — and success, he said.

Stock also encouraged broadcasters to “get others who are smarter than you” and who complement rather than duplicate your abilities. “Combined staff is combined resources,” said Stock. “More hands on deck get more things done.”


Stock said that during a recent joint investigation into real estate fraud, he and the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Matt Drange learned early that making expectations clear from the start was a crucial step in meeting them.

The challenges and concerns of collaborations between news organizations are apparently similar to those experienced by reporters when they work with their own digital teams.

Joel Grover, an investigative reporter at KNBC Los Angeles, had some of the same trepidations when he first had to collaborate with the station’s digital team on creating content for different platforms.

Grover, a 32-year industry vet, said he had long limited information about his investigations to very few, usually just the producer, photographer and news director involved in its production. Today, however, Grover said he also take time to keep Sara Catania, KNBC’s VP of digital media, in the loop.

Adding digital has dramatically expanded the reach and prolonged the life of stories, Grover said.

A recent story on thieves stealing wallets out of purses left in supermarket shopping carts, for instance, included an online gallery of suspects’ mug shots, a video on protecting your wallet and a short animated loop to grab attention on social media.

“If you can get these stories to get some traction on digital, it’s going to solidify your brand in your market,” he said.

Russ Walker, investigative executive producer at KING Seattle, the Gannett-owned NBC affiliate, said he “finds the word collaboration to be sort of offensive” when used to describe working with the team.

“Collaboration by definition is traitors cooperating with the enemy. When you use it, it sounds like you’re on two different sides, not one team,” he said.

After 20 or so years, there should no longer be a division between on-air and digital departments — and reporters should be fully trained in creating Web and mobile content, and held accountable if they don’t, Walker added.

“It’s 2014. Your job is to own your story and get it out,” he said. “Your digital brainstorming should begin as soon as you get the green light on your project.”

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