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.
TV News 2014: Busy Year For Local, Networks
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.
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.
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.