A rundown on steroids

TV news producers take pride in crafting their rundowns, putting stories in just the right order so the newscast flows seamlessly.  At ESPN, the rundown sometimes shows up on the air. Both SportsCenter and Pardon the Interruption use an on-screen rundown to show what stories are coming up next. A few local TV stations use a similar graphic look in their newscasts, but now comes “the rundown on steroids.”

WUSA-rundownThat’s what news director Lane Michaelsen calls the new format of the 5-7 a.m. newscast at his station, WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., that debuted last week. Program video is now boxed on the left side of the screen, with infographics on the right and below.

The actual rundown that lists upcoming stories is on the upper right, only four items long. Under that is a weather box with rotating forecasts (today, three day, etc.), and below that, a traffic info box with rotating maps and alerts.  The lower third of the screen is a row of four boxes for DC, Virginia, Maryland and national/international headlines.

It’s busy but not too painful to look at.  The rundown items are only two or three words so they’re short enough to read at a glance. The headlines change every 10 seconds, but they’re “flipper” style, not scrolling.  And the video box is less cluttered than it was in full screen, with a single anchor and no OTS (over-the-shoulder) graphics.

Michaelsen says the goal is to give viewers an immediate look at what’s most important to them in the morning: traffic, weather and news. The brief text descriptions are not intended as teasers. Quite the contrary: they often tell the entire story (Caps win, Wizards lose).”It’s a visible strategy that puts information out for people whenever they want it, not when we want to give it to them,” Michaelsen says.

The headlines repeat every 90 seconds or so, which made me think of that old Group W all-news radio slogan: “You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world.”  But if you can get the world in less than two minutes, will you bother to stay tuned much longer? Says Michaelsen, “I hope it grabs their attention and they stick around and watch the show.”

In another move aimed at building audience, WUSA announced a new feature this morning called “Your Stories.”  The concept isn’t new but WUSA is giving it a new twist.  In addition to asking viewers to suggest stories for the station to cover, the DC version will add a social media component, letting viewers keep track of how stories are developing via Twitter, Facebook and live video on Mogulus. Guess we’ll have to check in again to see how that goes.