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Choose Your News

The title alone sounds like a morning show feature where a listener, or morning show cohost, picks a story that the on-air team will talk about. Although that’s not what I’m referring to in this case. My reference is about the way various news networks and news/talk stations seem to take liberty with blurring the line between news and commentary. One is supposed to be factual. The other is supposed to be opinion based on facts.

Audience research that I’ve seen, from several different sources, continues to show what’s been the norm for the last few years. Be the audience conservative or liberal, the average American wants those in office to do what’s right for the average middle American, and not be extreme. NBC’s Sunday news program, Meet the Press, recently shared that both political parties are unpopular and divided. The New York Times found in their research that most American’s view the major political parties as two camps bickering endlessly and fruitlessly over unimportant issues.

Why then do we see and hear such polarizing commentary and editorial comments masquerading as news? Because the active audience searches out the news that fits with their opinions and beliefs. Choose Your News is everywhere. It’s not just radio. It’s also on television, podcasts, blogs, online news services, social media, online, mobile and printed newspapers and books. Eaves drop on a conversation and you’ll hear opinion quoted as fact. Open the front page to your internet server and you see stories written and presented with a political slant that is thought to be attractive to the users of that service.

This syndrome of an audience, wanting to live in an echo chamber and hear only the news that supports their beliefs, isn’t new. It’s been central to the lack of universal commercial success for liberal talk radio. Many of us remember Air America as one example. The problem is that NPR satisfies the liberal opinion in a massive fashion with dominant ratings in market after market. Conservative talk radio leads in regard to talk radio on commercial stations. More and more such stations are adding an FM signal be that from a translator or a full signal simulcasting their AM.

The conundrum, as I see it, is do you present the news and commentary that the audience you’re targeting wants to hear or do you present the news as fact-based stories without commentary? My supposition is that news should be news and commentary should be identified as commentary. One should be a story written in a descriptive fashion that is factual. No opinion. No fiction. Facts. That’s the news. Stories important to your community and written in a way that targets to your audience. News.

The other is a commentary. Which may be supported by facts or opinions, which should develop from deep facts, and presented in a way that matters to your audience. The commentator is usually a personality whose character has been developed over a period of time. The audience that listens regularly knows what that personality (commentator) believes in and stands for and they generally live up to the audience’s expectations. Like the news, commentary should be important to your community.

When I say important to your community, I mean stories that connect to your local listening area. They can be national stories, but they have significance in your city, town or area. Local talent who pick-up the talking points of National talent, without understanding the point of differentiation, fail their audience’s need for information. If all your personalities are going to do is echo the national narrative, then why have a local talent on the air?

If you draw on a white board a dot, and a circle around the dot, and then a larger circle around the dot and the first circle, and several more circles around those, you have what looks like a target. The dot is an individual listener, the innermost circle is their family or home, next is the neighborhood, their community, and so on. You get it. The closer you can stay to an individual, and what affects them or their family directly, the more relevant the story will be to them and the more valuable your content will be. The more frequently they will listen to your programming and content. Frequency builds familiarity and that builds loyalty.

The three principles that I would like to put forward for consideration regarding Information categorized programming:

News; Be fact based. Leave the commentary for the Talk talent.

Opinion; Identify it as such. It’s Commentary.

Content; Focus on what impacts the listener, their family and their inner circle. Be that Local or National.

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