It pains me to know most students do not watch TV news, let alone USC Annenberg Media-produced shows. There could be many reasons for this, but I believe when it comes down to it, in an era when Twitter and Netflix have taken center stage, appointment television is simply not keeping up with the times.
When TMZ founder, Harvey Levin, spoke to Prof. Mary Murphy’s “Entertainment and Media in Today’s Society” course earlier this semester, he acknowledged this trend among young people. While admitting he did not have a solution to the issue, he said the next generation of TV news needs to be “different,” and that future journalists will need to determine what, specifically, “different” means.
With that said, what can be done to increase the number of young people in their twenties to watch our shows? One idea I have is to include an interactive component to our show; Annenberg Media could provide an opportunity for our viewers to weigh in on a news story via text, email, Twitter, or via any other social media platform. The idea here is to gain viewership by having the viewers feel they are involved somehow in our show. Perhaps it can be a viewer vote of some kind. It can offer a solution to a news story (combatting homelessness, for example), asking viewers to choose the option they think will best solve the problem.
Another viewer participation idea is a contest involving amateur video and/or photo submissions on a news story. Submitting a photo or video clip, then having the public choose their favorite, could help get viewers excited about tuning in at a particular time. Generally, contestants notify their friends and family to tune in to see the contestants’ submission, which would also increase viewership. A prize, such as an opportunity to be interviewed on the news, or to be seen on the news as a reporter in the field, could be offered, and this follow-up interview of the winner could further boost viewership.
Finally, as funny as this may sound, anything to do with puppies or other animals has wide appeal. An event that includes a puppy giveaway and/or adoption of shelter animals could boost ratings. The very fact is that most people in all generations, young and old alike, have a love for animals. From covering the latest birth at the latest zoo to featuring a whale-watching voyage on the coast, the options are plenty.
And finally, news needs more positivity. One of my favorite segments on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt is the "Making a Difference" bit in which — as it sounds — NBC features someone making a difference for his or her community. Additionally, ABC's "Made in America" pieces and CBS' "On the Road with Steve Hartman" segments often gain hundreds of thousands of likes on social media. Thus, it can be concluded they are well-liked and popular among social media users. The issue with all of the aforementioned segments, however, is that they only appear on a weekly basis on most of these networks. In order to truly win over a larger audience, and in particular, young people, newscasts need to do more in-depth, feel-good human-interest stories on a daily basis.
While I realize these are just a handful of ideas, I hope and believe they can make a difference for the future of broadcast news. Even a small change in the way we gather and present the news can make a big difference.