Friday, August 10, 2012

The new "franchise" reporter: truth tester

They used to be called "franchise" reporters: health, consumer, etc. Reporters with a specialized beat who brought viewers information on a specific topic on a regular basis.

A lot of those have sadly gone by the wayside. (Personally, I don't understand how any station can go without a consumer reporter in this economy.)

But after being bombarded with constant negative ads that make serious accusations, it occurs to me that local stations need a new franchise: the truth reporter.

Since libel and slander laws don't seem to apply to political advertising, the public needs help figuring out what's real and what's just politics. Wanna make a name for yourself this fall? Take the wildest accusations in your local races and dig for the facts. The beauty of this is that you don't have to look for a story; the politicians making the accusations do that for you. Take an ad, break it down, let the viewers know if it's true or not.

The residual effect is that you'll become more adept at old fashioned investigative reporting, something sorely lacking in today's newsrooms. This will teach you how to dig, how to seek paper trails, how to "follow the money" (which is always the best place to start.)  Do a bunch of these stories and you'll get a reputation with management as an old school reporter, while viewers will respect you and your station a lot more.

And you just might end up unearthing a scandal, which could be a terrific story for your resume tape. (Ah, now I've got your attention.)

How do you become a franchise reporter? Walk into the News Director's office and pitch the idea. In this case you won't do a story every day, but you'll have plenty of material as we get closer to November.

Political advertising has deteriorated so much the average viewer can't possibly know what's real and doesn't have the time to find out. That's your job.

Do it well, and you might just find a better one.


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