One of the better reporters in Austin asked me, what are some of the under reported stories in Austin? Under reported in Austin? I'm shaking my head. Staffs have been cut, and the "beat" system may be dying in all media. KXAN TV (NBC), News 8, and KVUE TV (ABC) seem to have a beat system still. It takes a budget commitment. I'm a great believer in the beat system. Yeah, it's "old school", but it still works. It works if the report is on the right beat. Sometimes, management will think it is filling that slot only to find out that the reporter really wanted to do features.
Jim Swift (KXAN) is one of the last feature reporters standing. It's a dying breed nationwide. Make no mistake; however, Jim can cover hard news.
There is only one (1) health reporter in traditional media to my knowledge. She's at the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. What is, perhaps, the most reported issue at the national level right now? Health Care. Further, I'm aware of several health developments in Austin, but it is reporting via news release. That's not even a niche beat. Health used to be far more important. Perhaps it doesn't research well right now, but Austin never conforms to research elsewhere.
There are few, true education reporters. If a medium wants to grow an audience, produce compelling content about schools, not just the obvious ones like the closure of Pearce Middle School. There are few better pictures on TV than those of little kids. People always ask, why don't you show us some good news? There are many of these "good news" stories.
This leads me to say again and again that it IS legal to take pictures of students in the course of telling a story related to education. It's state law. SB 521 took effect more than a decade ago with the 1997-98 school year. It was signed into law by then governor George Bush. According to the bill, school districts are not required to get written parental consent before recording video or pictures, including a student's voice, if the recording is to be used only for media coverage of the school. If there are children in custody battles, etc., they can be identified easily, and removed from the setting.
The law allows wiggle-room for individual districts and campuses. Some, such as Eanes ISD, deny access to students. That means that Eanes does not the coverage that it once did. One thing I do find interesting--Eanes student athletes seem to get on TV a lot. Do we have our priorities right.
Another sadly under reported area is as they used to say “Under the Dome”. There are fewer and fewer members of the Capitol Press Corps. This is another area where, for many, is journalism by news release. Again, KXAN and KVUE have capitol reporters. This deserves more than a paragraph in a future post.
I'm a former crime reporter, and I think there is FAR too much crime coverage. We get enough violence in prime time. At one time KXAN did VO/Bites (voice-over/sound bites) on the crime and PKGs on some more meaty, related issue.
Under reported? Why does TV news leave it to the printed media to cover the music and entertainment industry in Austin. The moniker "Live Music Capital of the World" is wearing a little thin. City Hall reporters have done stories on the noise ordinance enforcement, most recently at the Unplugged at Shady Grove series. There have been other stories about a city Music Office. There are other under reported stories. Right now during the national debate about health care, maybe it's time for another story about health care for musicians? The minimum wage rose this past week as Austin musicians and singer/songwriters try to scratch out an existence. There isn't a reporter on that beat, and management apparently doesn't see it as an ongoing source of stories. It is, but, of course, I'm prejudiced.
Whenever someone moves on in a newsroom, that reporter's knowledge, contacts, and goodwill go too. Ideally, those beat positions should be filled with some overlapping allowing the new reporter a chance for some introductions.
Sure, there may be under reported niches. I think the media is straining to cover the basics right now.
© Jim McNabb, 2009