Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NBC11 Chat in the News

I am officially done with my internship at NBC11, but today the station was featured in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. The article does a good job explaining the chat and how NBC11 is trying to make the newscast more interactive.

During one recent 30-minute broadcast, Aguirre made more than half a dozen references to what was transpiring online. She encouraged the audience to "get in there" - the online chat room - and asked "What do you think?" after individual stories. During the same newscast, the station's "Fast Feedback" question of the day was whether the United States should get out of Iraq. Later, she read snippets of some of the e-mailed responses on the air.

The comments on SFGate were interesting. It looks like most of the people there do not watch TV news and do not trust news organizations (so why are they reading SFGate?), and they are cynical that any news organization would listen to them. I can only assure them from my first hand experience that the journalists at NBC11 do care.
The station's experiment is still too young to see if it has increased ratings. But already, some of the Fast Feedback questions have inspired conversations and story ideas among producers about ideas for the next day's broadcast.
They are watching what is said in the chat and in the Fast Feedback. The reporters, producers and anchors all join the chat, not so they can vent their thoughts, but so that they can see what their viewers care about. As the article said, the chat is not always intellectually stimulating:
The online chatter among NBC11 viewers isn't always a colloquium of Rhodes scholars. One poster asked during a newscast, "Is (technology reporter) Scott Budman nice?" Another asked why there was an NBC11 truck outside the Santa Clara County jail. (A reporter was there to pick up a mug shot of an inmate, was the answer.)
But there are many times that I learn something valuable from participating. I think that the NBC11 chat is a huge step in the right direction, and I hope they soon expand it to the 6 p.m. newscast as well as to NBC Nightly News (but keep the chat local still, just show the national video feed).

This is all part of an overall trend to make news more interactive. While I previously did not watch very much TV news, I really enjoy chatting and watching the news online, especially since I can do it anywhere with Internet access. It means that I can still participate even when out of town or stuck late at work. I still do not use the TV as my main source of news, but it is a nice way to get an update on the top stories and breaking news and to see what other people are talking about.

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