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PODCAST EPISODE #42: Ellen Crooke, TEGNA; Scott Livingston, Sinclair

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If you work — or wish to work — in local television news, you will want to hear this hour of audio.

Last month John Kirtley and I hosted and directed the NPPA Southeast Storytelling Workshop, at which a sold-out crowd heard from a bevy of the best storytellers nationwide. One of the highlights was a panel discussion featuring two people of tremendous influence at the nation’s largest broadcast media groups: Ellen Crooke, VP of News at TEGNA, and Scott Livingston, VP of News at Sinclair.

I have known Crooke for more than a decade; she has hired me twice, and I fully admit to being a tremendous admirer of her passion for storytelling and desire to change the landscape of TV news. I met Livingston for the first time at this workshop, but I am a huge fan of his photojournalistic mindset and the storytelling culture and teamwork that exists at many of his stations.

During this panel, both offered tremendous insights into:

  • the current TV news landscape and what’s being done to improve it
  • the ways in which both enterprise and in-the-mix journalism can be done better
  • the types of journalists who stand out to them, and the ways in which young journalists can make themselves valuable in a newsroom

Among the highlights:

  • Crooke on the state of local news: “There are times when we look at our local news product and say, 80% of it, I’m not interested. Twenty percent of it is extraordinary, but there is too much that is the assembly line and the factory, and we’re experimenting with ways to break that assembly line.”
  • Livingston on building a storytelling culture: “It is a privilege to tell stories that matter. It is our responsibility to tell a story that’s relevant. So we go back and ask, ‘What’s the ‘why’? What’s the ‘So what’? What are the questions we need to ask?'”
  • Crooke on what journalists can do to position themselves for the future: “Embrace ambiguity. We are going into a new territory in our industry, and it’s the people that forge into the ambiguity that are going to change our industry and move our industry forward. If we only do what we know and what we’re comfortable with, we will never change.”
  • Livingston on building trust and establishing transparency: “We want to be transparent. We want the viewer to be able to watch the piece, go to the web, and here’s the PDF; here’s the court document so you can see for yourself.”
  • Crooke on one thing every newsroom gets wrong: “I see us hiring people from outside our business because we want to be different … and then we suck them into our vacuum of sameness. We don’t let them change us. I just see it happening over and over again.”
  • Livingston on what keeps him up at night: “It’s our future in late news. In morning news, we’re doing great. But with late news, because of all the devices, everything thinks they know everything before. Also, I think we all need to be prepared for the post-network world. That’s why we are trying to touch people on other platforms: so we create such a sense of belonging with our brand that our network lead-in becomes irrelevant.”

I hope you enjoy this segment called “A Look at the Landscape”, and I urge you to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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