WHEC Takes Its Watchdog Role Seriously

The Hubbard-owned NBC affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., focuses its news coverage on stories that expose the warts of New York State. WHEC “wanted a direction and focus that supersedes slogans,” says Marketing Director Steven Patrick. “We wanted to be known for something; maybe we can make New York a little better place.”

The Chamber of Commerce, the Visitor’s Bureau, and any other state agencies that promote living and working in the state of New York can’t be happy with what they’re seeing on WHEC these days. According to this Hubbard-owned NBC affiliate in Rochester (DMA 78), New Yorkers are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. Looks like the iconic “I Love New York” campaign has been replaced with broken hearts these days.

“New York is the home of Weiner and Spitzer after all,” says Steven Patrick, WHEC’s marketing director.

WHEC: New York State Exposed

So every Monday and Thursday, beginning in October and continuing through November, in the morning newscasts and all through the day and night, WHEC focuses its news coverage on stories that expose the warts of New York wherever those stories take it.

WHEC: New York State Exposed, Upstate Tax Problems

“The ability to talk to leaders is what local news is all about, to hold government in check,” Patrick says. “We’re the watch dog,” agrees WHEC’s general manager, Derek Dalton, “not the attack dog or the lap dog, but the watchdog.”


Apparently, the subject’s hit a chord with some viewers. Here’s a sampling of comments from Facebook:

Karen: “It seems the harder you work, the more you are penalized.”

Johnny: “I moved out of NY, they rape you in taxes and no work there.”

Kate Ann: “I have two in college now. NO, they won’t be here and that’s the smart thing for them to do. I will probably follow.”

Following research that showed how fed up New Yorkers were, WHEC “wanted a direction and focus that supersedes slogans,” Patrick says.

WHEC: New York State Exposed, Retiree Healthcare

“We wanted to be known for something,” Patrick says, “maybe we can make New York a little better place.”

That philosophy is consistent with owner Hubbard’s, says Dalton, which is “to do good by the community and the community will do good by you.”

WHEC: New York State Exposed, Child Poverty

The project, pitched without the benefit of a news director, galvanized the newsroom, according to Patrick. “The assignment editor and executive producer needed to find the time for reporters to make it happen while also covering the news of the day,” he says. Marketing helped by creating all the graphics and offering up their photographer if needed.

“One news photographer thought the idea was brilliant and took on the task of doing all the editing,” Patrick adds. “These kind of stories are really embraced by the reporters. It gives them a sense of accomplishment.”

Here’s one of the completed expose stories that’s already aired on WHEC.

WHEC: New York State Exposed, Income Tax Break

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Rob Thomas, promotion director at Little Rock’s ABC affiliate, KATV, sent me this spot and explanation that we wanted to share.

KATV Little Rock: Truth

Thomas: “We’ve noticed that in the environment we’re now in, with social media and instant coverage technology, there’s a great need for someone to step up and say ‘above all, we believe in taking the steps to get it right.’

“News organizations — worldwide and even in this market — have been lax in verifying stories. They’ve been too quick to publish without checking for facts. And less interested in hiring people who know how to find the truth. We believe viewers and consumers want to know what’s happening in their backyards. And they make choices based on who consistently gets it right. It’s really a matter of trust.

“We also want viewers to know we we’re not here to tell them just good news, or just bad news. We can celebrate the good times and also report the discouraging stuff. Because that’s the truth about this community.”

Market Share by Paul Greeley is all about marketing and promotion at TV stations and appears every Monday. Greeley has more than 20 years of experience in local TV marketing. He’s been a writer, producer, editor, creative services director and VP of marketing for a top-20 broadcast company and has experience in markets large and small. Read other Market Share columns here. If you have some ideas or stories you want to share, please let him know. You can reach Greeley at [email protected] or at 817-578-6324.

Comments (1)

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Ashley Messina says:

October 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Bravo! Pity Hubbard’s WTOP all-news radio in D.C. is a lapdog for not just the D.C. government and the resident Feds, but also for the increasingly corrupt suburbs…

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