The transformation of the television news business has been so dramatic that “if someone showed up from the year 2000, they wouldn’t know what to make of it,” says WAFB morning anchor Matt Williams.
Williams’ day is filled with the usual anchor tasks: writing stories, teases and bumps; hosting a two-hour show; and making public appearances. But there’s much more on his plate: developing content for the Web and the station’s mobile app, tweeting and posting to Facebook. As a story in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report puts it, Williams is not merely a journalist any more. “He is a one-man marketing department promoting both the Matt Williams brand and WAFB-TV.”
The anchor’s job isn’t the only one that’s changed:
Teleprompter operators (at WAFB) now post sports scores to Facebook between newscasts. Receptionists put recipes on the station’s Internet homepage in their downtime. Reporters in the field take pictures on their iPhones and tweet updates all day about the stories they’re covering. Everyone is constantly “on.”
Across town at WVLA, news director David D’Aquin says that at his station everybody does everything.
No one in this newsroom says, ‘That’s not my job.’ But the cool thing is, we have a lot of millennials who are very tech savvy, so this is second nature to them.
All that “doing” comes with an opportunity cost, of course. There is less time to think, to dig, to double check. Social media puts journalists in touch with more people in more places than ever before but what exactly are they sharing?
“The challenge is really to find the time to do quality journalism and not just branding,” Williams says. “Before, you could really dig in deep. It doesn’t happen as much anymore as it should, but we try.”