Network-local collaboration

CBS News has broken new ground both behind the scenes and on the air in collaborating with local TV journalists.  For the first time, the network enlisted the help of reporters at local affiliates in reporting an investigative story and featured those reporters on the CBS Evening News.

The story about gas pump rip-offs that aired on Friday included contributions from Mark Greenblatt of KHOU in Houston, Frank Vascellaro from WCCO-TV in Minneapolis and Anna Werner at KPIX in San Francisco.

Werner says CBS came up with the idea of doing the story in cooperation with the stations’ investigative units.

It was a great experience; I worked with senior producer Keith Summa, producer Pia Malbran, and of course Armen Keteyian, to put everything together.  They were extremely thorough in checking facts and figures and coming up with angles that worked in each particular market.

One key to the success of the project was that each station got a local package out of it, Werner says, “so that our time in the field and doing research was well spent at the local level as well.”

A cynic might say that CBS turned to its affiliates only because the network no longer has the staff to do this kind of investigation on its own.  But the networks have always used affiliate material; what’s different this time is that the local journalists actually got credit for their work and national exposure.  And the CBS package didn’t reduce the local reporters to sound bites–they played a major role in telling the story.

How to handle online comments

Whether it’s a blog, reader reaction link or online forum, news organizations have been struggling with the issue of user comments.  To moderate or not to moderate, that is generally the question.

Recently, Editor & Publisher’s Ernest Wiggins surveyed the 10 largest circulation newspapers in the country to find out how they handle online feedback.

All of the papers reviewed — USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Denver Post and Houston Chronicle — have some mechanisms to monitor user-generated content, ranging from comment screening by staffers to encouraging users to report offensive postings themselves.

USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, the Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Denver Post and the Houston Chronicle require registration before users are permitted to post. (The others do not.)

The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, New York Daily News and Denver Post preview comments before they’re posted.

We’ve come a long way from the days when nothing went online at a traditional news site without someone within the organization giving it the OK.  So, what’s the result?  A free-for-all or a free flow of ideas?  Or somewhere in between?