Bill Lamb, GM of WDRB Louisville, Ky.: “Some general managers don’t like to do editorials because they feel it could cost them viewers or advertisers. My experience has been that both objections are myths. Editorials have given viewers a unique reason to get their news from us rather than another station, so it is a value-add.”
I believe we are fortunate to have been entrusted with an FCC license. With that license comes a responsibility to do more than just inform and entertain our viewers. We also must reflect — and sometimes help shape — the values of our communities. We need to alert viewers about the problems ahead and give them an opportunity to discuss them rather than just accept all the decisions others make for them.
Not just any editorial will do. If they are to be relevant, they must tackle important issues and hit hard. Viewers like controversial positions with which they can agree or disagree, but they won’t tolerate many soft and fuzzy topics. That’s just wasting their time and they know it.
It doesn’t matter if people agree or disagree with my point of view as long as I can get a conversation started. I want them talking to me, to their family, to neighbors, or to co-workers about issues. They have a chance to give feedback via voicemail, of which we air a sampling the next day. It gives people a voice.
Some general managers don’t like to do editorials because they feel it could cost them viewers or advertisers. My experience has been that both objections are myths. Editorials have given viewers a unique reason to get their news from us rather than another station, so it is a value-add.
Yes, I’ve ticked off a few advertisers over the years, but I am not aware of any advertiser who has taken their business to another station because they were outraged or thought we were unfair. By communicating quickly and directly with them, we have always been able to smooth over any ruffled feathers.
Viewers are smarter than some broadcasters give them credit for and they indicate to me that they know my editorials are my opinion. I end each one with “…and that’s my point of view.” Our research gives no indication that editorials taint the objectivity of our news.
There are many benefits to the station for taking editorial positions.
We have an Editorial Advisory Board made up of 18 prominent business, political and community leaders including a U.S. congressman, the chief of police, the director of the Chamber of Commerce and the superintendent of schools, who help educate me on sensitive issues in our community. They know that their participation on our board does not give them immunity to a negative editorial.
Doing these editorials is a lot of work, but in the end, they give the station a bigger voice in the community and a clearer identity for WDRB versus our competition.
Last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told me: “WDRB has become the most influential and powerful television station in Kentucky,” That proclamation doesn’t come for our coverage of car crashes and house fires.
I respect Mr. Jessell very much, but I feel he doesn’t fully understand the value to a community of a television station offering properly executed editorials. When we began airing editorials in Louisville, the newspaper held a monopoly on them and we sometimes served as a counter-voice. Today, due to cutbacks and downsizing, the newspaper doesn’t offer their own editorials anymore, so what we do is probably more important to our community than ever before. I encourage other general managers to explore the benefits and responsibility of offering hard-nosed editorials.
Bill Lamb is the president and general manager of WDRB Louisville, Ky., and vice president of the nine-station Block Communications Television Group.
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