The stories behind the stories: April 2012
May starts another “important” television news “sweeps” month. Check out the notable headlines from last month and what’s coming next in the media landscape.
Ponzi Petters breaks his silence
Until Berne Madoff was caught, Tom Petters was one of the more ambitious Ponzi schemers in quite a while. Before Petters was convicted of a massive fraud, he was a very visible business leader in Minnesota. He had been silent since April 2010 when he was sentenced to 50 years in prison, and he had turned down all interview requests from reporters – until now. After almost a year of trying to persuade Petters to talk, Dale Kurschner, the editor of Twin Cities Business magazine, traveled to a Kansas penitentiary for a five-hour face-to-face interview with inmate #14170-041. The result is a compelling 14-page story in the May issue of Twin Cities Business.
Police departments use Twitter and YouTube to reach public audience
For decades newsrooms have depended on crime reports to fill pages and newscasts. Dealing with reporters and photographers at crime and accident scenes was part of the job for law enforcement because they needed the media to help get the information to the public. The police had what reporters wanted – easy-to-cover stories that got people talking.
Social media may be changing the relationship between law enforcement and media organizations. Police departments around the country have recently started getting savvier with social media and using the online tools to share public safety alerts with citizens. For instance, last month Oakland police used Twitter to alert and provide details to citizens about the shooting at California’s Oikos University.
In the March update, we shared a story about the Memphis police department starting self-produced newscasts; it didn’t take long for Minnesota agencies to follow suit. Last week, the Minneapolis police department launched its own YouTube channel to share information and build trust and transparency with a widespread audience.
Sweeps month brings sensationalized reporting
During May, get ready for television news stories to be advertised and covered with a heightened sense of importance. From flying carp to exclusive interviews, the four major Twin Cities news stations are going to try to do everything possible to get us to watch their newscasts. That’s because it is a sweeps month – one of the four key months out of the year when Nielsen Company measures and publicizes the number of people who watch each newscast. While many of us can look at our own Facebook or Google analytic data to see who likes us, television newscasts still have to take the month-long ratings periods very seriously, since it has a significant impact on future advertising revenue.
During a sweeps month, news stations usually pull every trick out of their hats in hopes of drawing more viewers, so get ready to see more in-depth, sensationalized investigative stories that are heavily advertised. We will let you know when the results are released and when the level of hype has returned to normal.
“Live-tweeting” historic events
Go on Facebook or Twitter during news, pop culture, or sports events and you can almost experience what’s happening from your own couch. People are constantly updating scores, sharing opinions, or just being snarky about what someone is wearing. It is a way for people to share real-time information as it happens.
Some creative people in Los Angeles are trying to see if a different twist will work with events that have already happened. KNBC, a Los Angeles-based NBC-owned station, recently commemorated the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots by live-tweeting information that already happened from Twitter account @RealTimeLARiots. Their inspiration came from other Twitter accounts set up to pay homage to historic events such as World War II (@RealTimeWWII) and Titanic (@TitanicRealTime). Will live-tweeting past events become the latest trend in the Twittersphere?
We wouldn’t be surprised to see a live-tweeted recap for the 20th anniversary of the Mall of America opening.
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