Research a few years ago suggested that the bloom was off the rose for news-sharing agreements between TV stations and newspapers. An uptick during the recession may have been fleeting, according to the latest RTDNA survey, and there’s nothing in this year’s data to indicate a turnaround.
For the third year in a row, the percentage of stations not involved in a cooperative venture were less likely to be planning or discussing one. Two years ago, 28.6% of stations not involved in a cooperative venture said they were planning or discussing one. That dropped to 24.8% last year and plunged to 16.0% this year.
Nonetheless, partnerships keep popping up. You can’t help but notice when three new deals make headlines in one week, two of them in the same market.
In New Orleans, Fox affiliate WVUE has signed a wide-ranging agreement to share content with the Times-Picayune and its website, NOLA.com. Among other things, the station’s chief investigative reporter, Lee Zurik, will collaborate on special reports with the newspaper’s investigative staff.
Across town, the CBS affiliate, WWL, is doing much the same thing in a new partnership with the Advocate of Baton Rouge. “This partnership is focused on providing important coverage and in-depth investigations for viewers and readers throughout Southeast Louisiana,” said news director Bill Siegel.
A collaboration of a very different sort is coming to Denver, where an independent station will air a nightly sports-talk show opposite the late local news on the network affiliates in town. Co-hosting the show: a Denver Post sports columnist and a local sports radio personality.
What’s going on here? In the case of New Orleans, it’s not hard to figure out. When the city’s venerable newspaper cut production of its print product to three days a week last year, locals were furious. This spring, the paper announced it was rolling back the change, but not after suffering serious damage to its staff and reputation. The Advocate quickly started up a New Orleans edition to take advantage of the turmoil. The print battle has now moved on-screen.
While these sorts of partnerships may not exactly be booming, there’s a definite uptick in what we used to call “convergence”–collaboration between newsrooms under the same ownership, and sometimes under the same roof. Gannett and Cox have been cross-training journalists at their newspapers and TV stations so reporters and photographers can produce stories for multiple platforms.
We’ll see how successful those arrangements are over the long haul. Media General’s effort to converge its newsrooms in Tampa was not a great success, and ended late last year with the sale of the Tampa Tribune.