TV News 2014: Busy Year For Local, Networks

With acquisitions, programming moves and strategies that boosted collaborations between broadcasters, while also bringing viewers increasingly into the mix, TV news crews were well poised to cover some of 2014’s biggest local stories. And national news broadcasters officially moved into the digital age in 2014, launching newscasts designed specifically for cyberspace. This is the first part of TVNewsCheck’s annual look back at the year. Tomorrow in Part 2 we'll reprise the major developments in business, regulation, programming and new media. Part 3, the year’s big stories in technology, will be featured on Thursday at noon, while Part 4 on Friday will highlight the media luminaries who died during the year.

As we bring down the curtain on 2014, TVNewsCheck offers our annual multi-part look back at the year’s big stories.

Those included the demise of broadcaster foe Aereo; CBS launching both CBSN, its streaming news service, and CBS All Access, its TV Everywhere offering; the FCC cracking down on JSAs and SSAs; two big station deals (Media General-LIN and Scripps-Journal Communications); and retrans skirmishes; increased pressure on affiliates for reverse comp; and eye-popping estimates from the FCC on the value of stations prior to its spectrum auction.

In first-run syndication, 2014 featured an underdog court show outshining and outlasting its heavily hyped competitors, while on network TV, NBC aired its second Live! production, Peter Pan, which didn’t soar as high as 2013’s Sound of Music.

The tech side saw advances in work on ATSC 3.0 — TV’s next-generation transmission standard, searchable digital media, growing use of virtual news sets, enhanced IP newsgathering efforts, and increasing interest in the possible uses for drones

To begin, today we recap developments in local and national journalism.

Local News


Broadcasters didn’t come up with the silver bullet that will save TV news in 2014, but they tried to make the most of what they had by expanding the breadth — and quantity — of it on-air and online.

A TVNewsCheck analysis found viewership of evening and late news dropped 7% this past May compared to May 2013 in the top 10 TV markets.

Yet with acquisitions, programming moves and strategies that boosted collaborations between broadcasters, while also bringing viewers increasingly into the mix, TV news crews were well poised to cover some of 2014’s biggest local stories.

The riots in Ferguson, Mo., put broadcast journalists to the test — twice. In August, St. Louis stations grappled with the logistics of covering the emotionally charged aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown amid journalists’ complaints about restricted access. Local, network and cable news were back at it in November following the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who shot Brown

That same week, snowbound crews in Buffalo, N.Y., found social media to be invaluable in covering the storm that kept some reporters shut in for a week.

In November, stations upped the role of digital and social media in election coverage.

KOMO Seattle had to cover a tragedy of its own in May when its chopper crashed.

Sinclair Broadcasting started making its mark on several markets where the group bought stations. Sources reported an exodus of staffers at WJLA Washington after Sinclair took ownership in October. On the flip side, folks at Seattle’s KOMO said an infusion of resources from Sinclair sparked a big drive to dethrone Gannett’s KING from the No. 1 news spot.

Broadcasters broadened the scope of their collaborations. Raycom’s digital newsroom provides content to other broadcast groups. The NBC-owned and Telemundo stations are evolving into “a culture of one.”

They relied more heavily on viewers, too.  WBIR Knoxville, Tenn., asked viewers to help resolve ethical issues. And the Graham Media-owned stations launched an app that crowd sources weather.

Local news became a bit of a celebrity during the last year. TruTV’s Breaking Greenville, which stars small-town news people, sparked questions about mixing reality TV and TV news. The movie Nightcrawlers made Los Angeles news look like a blood sport.

The business got some personality, too, when Fox Stations’ National Correspondent Charlie LeDuff signed on.

Network News

Competition among the networks ramped up in 2014, as ABC and CBS sought to end NBC’s five-year winning streak. ABC did that in August, just a month after David Muir took over as the network’s anchor. CBS won election night ratings,

National broadcasters officially moved into the digital age in 2014, launching newscasts designed specifically for cyberspace. CBS News launched CBSN, the first-of-its-kind streaming news network.

ABC’s David Muir is hosting a one-minute daily newscast on Facebook. Muir took over the network’s World News in September after Diane Sawyer signed off. ABC’s Ann Compton retired after four decades as well.

Covering the Ebola epidemic made for a hard homecoming for some. CBS’s Lara Logan was in self-imposed quarantine for 21 days, while NBC’s Nancy Snyderman got in hot water for violating hers. A cameraman working with Snyderman contracted the disease but recovered.

NBC hired Chuck Todd to replace David Gregory on Meet the Press, but apparently only after they couldn’t get Jon Stewart to take the job.

The networks flocked to Ferguson to cover the civil unrest there. In November, Brian Williams anchored NBC’s nightly newscast from the Missouri city.

Network journalists had a few run-ins with the White House this year. In November, the administration was not happy when the networks decided not to air the president’s speech on immigration. A number of affiliates carried it anyway.

In July, journalists lodged a complaint against the White House after being shut out of a meeting with Apollo 11 astronauts.

Moving into an area long owned by local TV, the networks in 2014 expanded their weather coverage. President Obama enlisted broadcasters’ help in delivering his message on climate change.

This is Part 1 of our four-part 2014 Year In Review special report. Read the other parts here.

Comments (7)

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Brian Bussey says:

December 16, 2014 at 12:10 pm

2014 will be remembered for the downfall of local news. consolidation is about to put the final nail in the coffin. one graphics package for the entire USA is not local. IF your master control is 500 miles from your station, you are not local. if your logs are finalized 500 miles from your station, you are not local. Local means local employment generating local news. Flying in reporters to replace the talent you laid off during your last consolidation is not boosting news. You lowered the standard and are now trying to raise it when all eyes are on you. Local news would have been reporting on non-representative politics and police abuse in Ferguson years before Michael Brown. The same goes for pollution, healthcare, crime and economics. Local stations are failing their communities while they fight to keep their spectrum from utility companies who only want every American paying a monthly fee for what used to be free.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    December 16, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Then the simple question remains, why are you still selling at a TV Station in Houston instead of moving on to “greener pastures” where you maintain the future is, unless no one will give you a job at the “greener pastures”? Again, with your attitude, it is simply amazing you still have a job in Broadcasting, but that shows what Companies have to put up with to keep Al Sharpton off their back.

    John Bagwell says:

    December 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    HopeUMakeit – you could also make the argument that if your master control and log editor are 500 miles from your stations, then that can free up money to invest in investigative reporting, which many stations have done. Things like master control and logs make no difference to the viewer watching local news. Those jobs do not need to be local at each station. How do you sell this product that you hate so much?

    Wagner Pereira says:

    December 16, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    How does he sell the product he hates so much? Poorly.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    December 16, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    And btw, if there is so much Police Abuse in Ferguson, why can the African American Attorney General not find any? How do you expect TV to find what the AG cannot? Perhaps because it is not there? And if TV News was so much better “back in the day” how did Bill Cosby get away with Sexual Attacks on females for Decades? Why was that not reported? And I can go on and on. Perhaps TV Reporting in the past was not as good as you think it was.

    Keith ONeal says:

    December 16, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    HopeUMakeIt ~ Move to Orlando. Master Control for WESH/2.1 (NBC) and duopoly WKCF/18.1 (CW) is at their studios in nearby Maitland. Master Control for WKMG/6.1 (CBS) is at their studios in Orlando. Master Control for WFTV/9.1 (ABC) and duopoly WRDQ/27.1 (Independent) is at their studios in Orlando. Master Control for WOFL/35.1 (FOX) and duopoly WRBW/65.1 is at their studios in nearby Lake Mary. In all these cases the Master Controls for all these stations (and their subchannels) are at the studios of the stations, not hundred on miles away!

    Wagner Pereira says:

    December 17, 2014 at 1:03 am

    He cannot move. With his attitude, no will hire him. Even though he counts as a minority on the EEOC report, which appears to be the reason, based on his statements, why he can count on a job in an Industry he despises, without fear of being laid off.

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