A Decision Revision
The lead is the most important thing. The lead of this blog is that the lead is the most important thing, and for this blog, that is the most important thing.
Several times each day we have to decide which story will lead our newscast. Sometimes it's pretty obvious. If there's some sort of a crime, especially with a criminal on the loose somewhere, that's a good lead, it can affect a lot of people. If soldiers came home since the last newscast, that's a great lead. It's new, it's something a lot of people want to see, even outside the Fort Carson community. We almost always try to lead with something local. That's because if there's a huge national story, we know there are lots of other places you can go to get updates. Having said that, if it's a huge enough national story, we will lead with it, especially at 10, when lots of folks may not have seen the cable news channels, or any national reports since early evening.
We often lead the newscast with weather. It is, without a doubt, the one thing that affects everyone in our viewing area. It's also the element that most viewers care most about, according to industry research that's been done for decades. We don't want to hype, we do want to inform and let everyone be prepared. If the bad or dangerous or inconvenient weather is already here, it's the lead, no questions asked. If it's coming, but not here yet, then there are some questions asked.
Tonight (Tuesday) we've got more snow coming, potentially heavy in some places, and it could make for some legitimate traffic problems. Tonight at 10 we will lead with weather, just as we did at 4 and 5:30.
We also had weather as the lead in every newscast Monday. Temperatures had dropped by 35 or 40 degrees over the day before, we got a heavy dose of blowing September snow, and everyone was talking about what had happened, and what would happen next.
Sunday was a tougher call. We knew temperatures were going to fall, and some snow was going to fall. We also had a lot of compelling information on a possible terrorism investigation (specific allegations, assembled by investigators in an arrest warrant affidavit, for the first time we knew specifically what the FBI suspected these men of doing.) This was a national story with a close tie just an hour north of Colorado Springs. We opted to lead with the terrorism probe, then go straight into weather.
I had a discussion with Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe the next day (he was off Sunday night) He wasn't sure that we (me, co-Anchor Shannon Brinias and our 10 pm producer) had made the right decision. He may be right.
My thought was this. We knew everyone would be interested in weather, and most likely in the terror investigation too. They expect weather, they might not have known about the new terror information if they watched weather then called it a night. That's why this business is a challenge (in a good way!) There is not always an absolute right or wrong in the dozens or even hundreds of decisions that are made every day in a newsroom.
One way we often compromise is to go to Brian straight off the top for a "Storm Team Alert" This is a very quick summary of the major weather story that's developing, then we go into important news content. In that scenario, we always go back to Brian later in the first segment for his full forecast.
That's one thing viewers tell me they really like about the way we do things. Whether or not we lead with weather, we always have the FULL forecast in the first 11 minutes of non-stop news...you wont ever have to sit through a commercial break to get all the information you need from Brian.
Weather is important, Brian is the best in Southern Colorado at summing it up and bringing it home...".weather" or not we make it the lead.
Let me know what you think, by commenting or at email@example.com
We'll talk again soon.
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