By Clint Shouppe, State Government Relations Manager, BayCare Health System
Do I #LoveMyNewspaper? Do you? On December 2nd, 2016, those of us in the Twitterverse were asked that question. It was a social media conversation started here in Florida by Tallahassee media consultant Kevin Cate that quickly spread across the country. While most recounted fond memories and strong connections with local, regional, and national papers (including many mentions of @TB_Times and @TBOcom), the hastag driven conversation also hinted at other important questions about newspapers and other traditional media sources:
Even the fact that the conversation was happening on the internet through Twitter, which is but one of many forms of new media challenging traditional mediums, created an interesting paradox with its own questions.
Just as the conversation was taking off on social media, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2016 was beginning Media Day. Throughout the day we would ponder these questions and learn more about how media companies are using a range of mediums to share the news in Tampa Bay.
The day started at ChappellRoberts where Media Day Co-Chair Patrick Owings (LT’14) set the stage for the visits to come and shared the theme for the day: “Integrity in the Media”. It was an idea we would come back to often. Patrick also clued us into the amazing work happening at his firm. They are making media happen with PESOs, and I’m not referring to how you tip a mariachi band. Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media are all methods by which Patrick and the team at ChappellRoberts communicate their clients’ messages out to the public.
Our next stop was at WUSF where Media Day Co-Chair JoAnn Urofsky (LT’00) and her amazing team hosted our class. Not only did we get to see how the sausage gets made… we were the sausage. The team at WUSF allowed us to be both the audience and a participant in a recording of Florida Matters, which is a locally-created public affairs program that covers the important issues facing our state. Carson Cooper, who hosts the show, was joined by Christ Wilkerson from the Tampa Bay Business Journal and Wayne Garcia from the USF Journalism Department as they helped us make sense of the media (that’s a double reference for all you WUSF fans out there). Can the media be saved? Should media be further regulated? Why does the media cover so many negative stories? These were just a few of the questions asked and answered by Carson and his panel. What stuck with me was when Carson mentioned that it was in Detroit in 1920 that the first radio news story was broadcast. 95 years ago, it was the new technology of radio that was crashing at the gate of established media. Now it is radio working to survive and thrive in a world of podcasts and on demand content. Make sure to catch Florida Matters every Tuesday at 6:30 PM.
We then divided up to learn how WUSF makes its magic and went behind the scenes with the news team and the jazz hosts. I can only speak for my group, which learned the art of squeezing a 10 minute interview into a radio slot about a third of that length, but it was fascinating. These short segments are how Mary Shedden and Steve Newborn from WUSF communicate important stories to the listening public. From Mary’s interview with President Obama to Steve’s discussion about climate change, they are tasked with telling as much of the story as possible in an impossibly short window. Plus our group got to hear a special interview with the Queen of Apalachicola.
Our next stop was at the studios of WFLA, Tampa’s local NBC affiliate. Andy Alford, General Manager at WFLA, and his team laid out the red carpet for our class. After a lengthy Q and A where we heard about topics ranging from the Brian Williams saga to the business model of local TV news generation, we then headed down to the floor to see the component parts. Keith Cate, who co-anchors the 5:00PM, 5:30PM, 6:00PM, and 11:00PM News Channel 8 broadcasts, showed us the floor of the studio. Suffice it to say, telling the stories of the day’s news is not as easy as Keith makes it look. Steve Jerve and Bryan Bennett, both of whom are meteorologists for WFLA, helped us understand how they balance reporting on potentially frightening stories such as tornados and hurricanes without unintentionally frightening the TV viewer. Stacie Schaible, who anchors “First at 4” and News Channel 8’s 6:00PM broadcasts, helped us navigate the control room while also clueing us in on how the business works from the anchor’s perspective. It was news to me that our market is actually the 11th largest TV market in the U.S. That is particularly impressive given we are in the late teens when measured by population. Finally, Jerry Penacoli, Cyndi Edwards, and Deanna Moore from WFLA’s Daytime program talked about the unique content offered by their program. As a sponsored program, Daytime is upfront with its audience about its intent and the audience has responded – they love it. Now syndicated across the U.S., Daytime reaches an audience in the tens of millions each day.
After wrapping up our visit to WFLA, the gang headed to the Tampa Bay Times’ Tampa bureau downtown. Not only was the Times the sponsor for Media Day, Dawn Phillips (LT’14) from the advertising department was the Media Day Co-Chair. Amber McDonald, who is the Digital Audience Manager for the Times, helped us understand how the Times is confronting the intersection of old and new media. From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, social media is providing new outlets for sharing stories with readers. These new mediums also present their own opportunities and challenges. CEO Paul Tash was extremely generous with his time and visited with us to share his thoughts on where the media is going in the near future. When Paul started at the Tampa Bay Times, it had a different name and a different footprint. Fast forward a few decades and not only has the name changed, but everything else with it. The community’s relationship with their newspaper has changed. The nature of the community has changed. Needless to say, the economics of the industry has changed. But don’t let anyone tell you that newspapers are dead. As a member of the Pulitzer selection committee, Paul profoundly understands just how important newspapers remain when it comes to shaping the dialogue and uncovering important stories. We as readers value those stories and our newspaper. The question I kept coming back to is “how much?”. Finally, Ernest Hoopr (LT’03) led the class through a fascinating exercise showing just how dynamic and challenging a newsroom can be. He asked us to layout stories for just two pages of the next day’s paper. That seemed pretty easy until you realize you have 20 legitimate stories for just 10 slots. Oh, and new stories and updates are continuously coming throughout the day. Moreover, our exercise was just a fraction of the total pages that are put together every day. Editing ain’t easy.
The day finished, we filtered out of the Times building and talked about what we had learned. So many questions asked. So many questions answered. So many new questions as a result. It’s a dynamic media world that we live in. Where it goes next is anyone’s guess.