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From Print to Broadcast: How Local News Transitions to Digital

We all know video channels are the next step for news. It’s one thing if you’re The Atlantic or The Huffington Post. But smaller, regional publications are making the move, too. And it has been a slow, evolving process.

Phillyburbs.com, a Calkins Media Group website based in suburban Philadelphia, has been transitioning its print papers online for the past decade and it’s starting to get serious about video content. The Bucks County Courier Times, one of the group’s papers (and for the record, where my mother works), recently launched The Courier Times Update, a ten minute news broadcast that goes live on their website at 2pm every day. Rachel Canelli, the host of the update, has transitioned from a strictly print reporter to the Courier’s go-to video reporter over the past few years. She doesn’t have any broadcast experience, but like most mid-market journalists these days, she’s learned how produce her own video segments.

 Ever since we had a website, we’ve done video. But it was more random. Three years ago we started a weekly segment called Buzz In Bucks and that evolved from man on the street interviews and hard news to more feature content. Two years ago, we started doing daily news video. That’s when they started handing out iPhones and cameras – it was a big investment, and then everyone was expected to do video. And the photographers got in because the had the capability to shoot video. Within the last year or so, we hired the video consultant and bringing in new players – we hired a new CEO and general manager and we started to put an emphasis on moving to video, by investing in equipment and software to add advertisements into the videos.

How many of you are sitting in a newsroom struggling to stay relevant? It’s not easy. For the team at the Courier, it was about hiring Canelli to head the update, and repurposing other reporters and photographers in the newsroom to add more video content. It’s a bit of a scramble. 

My job everyday is to gather stories, write the script. Then Dave [Garrett] shoots and my boss, Bill Johnson, oversees the editing and everything else. All morning, that’s what we’re doing. We have one full time video reporter to go out and do daily news. Then we have a full time video sports reporter, a food reporter,  and we have two ‘half and half’ reporters who write for the paper and do video segments when they can. In the meantime, all reporters are supposed to shoot video, as well as write for the paper.

For larger news organizations, the transition to digital and mobile content has been rocky. It’s even rockier at smaller papers. Handing out iPhones and pocket cameras to seasoned print reporters and asking them to produce video content can be a shock to the eco-system. But the daily Update serves as a tool to bring people to the website and have them click through.

We always refer back to the reporter, to the website, because we want people to click out of us and onto something on Phillyburbs…People are realizing that this is the future. If we want to keep the company, or even news, alive, you have to put content where people want to see it and how they want to see it.

As papers across the country cut their print editions and delivery frequency, it’s a lesson that’s finally sinking in. Does your newspaper have a thriving video channel? Have you become a broadcast journalist in the past decade? Feel free to commiserate in the comments.

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