Local TV News: Multiple Deadlines. Six Hours of News. Content Needed.

October 16, 2018

This is the second part of a series on local television news. Part one focused on who’s who in a newsroom and some television newsroom lingo.

The average local television newsroom in the U.S. has between five and six hours of news programming each and every weekday. To fill that time, newsrooms need a lot of timely, fresh and interesting content to entice viewers to watch not only in the morning or at 5 p.m., but at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. as well.

Because of this, there are a lot of opportunities to pitch television stations your faculty’s research, new initiatives, student stories and visual content. However, knowing more about a typical day in a television newsroom can better inform when, or how, you go about pitching to them.

While this does not reflect all newsrooms, this is what a typical day in the life of a local television station in a top 20 market looks like. For reference, Minneapolis-Saint Paul is the 15th largest television market in the nation, with an audience comprising more than 1.7 million TV homes.

9 a.m.:
Evening newscast producers (e.g., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.) arrive at the station. They’ve already checked their email and overnight news events and caught up on what to expect for the day.

9:30 a.m.:
Executive producers, newscast producers, reporters and assignment editors meet for a morning editorial meeting, during which they will determine the news plan for the day.

10:15 a.m.:
Reporters are calling to schedule interviews, and producers have begun to “stack” newscasts—meaning they’ve started to determine story placements in a newscast.

11 a.m.:
Producers and writers begin researching, writing content and creating/ordering graphics for their newscasts.

1 p.m.:
By now, reporters should have either conducted their interviews or scheduled them.

1:15 p.m.:
Evening producers and reporters arrive.

1:30 p.m.:
Nightside—meaning those who are involved in the late night newscasts—producers, reporters and assignment editors gather for their nightside editorial meeting for the 9 p.m. and/or 10 p.m. newscasts.

4:30 p.m.:
The producer for the 5 p.m. newscast prints scripts for the directors and the anchors. Once printed, it is less likely a non-breaking news story will be included in the newscast. This cycle repeats itself through the 6 p.m. newscast.

7 p.m.:
Nightside producers have “stacked” their shows, and reporters have mostly wrapped up interviews and other necessities for a story.

9:30 p.m.:
Producer prints the 10 p.m. newscast for anchors and directors.

The cycle, or some form of it, repeats itself every weekday.

Of course, this doesn’t look at breaking news situations, major events (e.g., elections) or State Fair coverage. And again, this does not reflect all newsrooms.

When pitching day of, it’s best to touch base with producers, reporters or assignment editors before the morning or afternoon editorial meeting. It reminds them about your pitch and gives them another story idea to talk about in the meeting. Of course, it’s always better to pitch multiple days in advance.

You probably realized we didn’t mention the morning news! We have a full blog post on that coming up.

If you are interested in learning more about television newsrooms and the roles of media members who staff them, reach out to the Public Relations team in University Relations at unews@umn.edu.