by Paul Greeley
Source:, July 2020

Local TV news is where viewers are turning now because the COVID-19 pandemic is a neighborhood story. And it’s not going away any time soon, it appears. Creative services directors from markets in Florida, Virginia and Indiana share their most recent marketing messages. The phrase “information you need” is truer now than maybe it’s ever been.

What viewers really want from local TV right now is news coverage that can help them.

That observation from David Cuccio from KSAT San Antonio in Part 2 of this series could pretty much sum up the marching orders for local TV news operations around the country.

Viewers feel helpless, nervous, scared, and uncertain. Out of work, in debt. Frustrated with broken systems, and unresponsive government programs. And worried sick about their health.

Facts and clarity are precious commodities right now. The phrase “information you need” is truer now than maybe it’s ever been. Information is power, control, and that can have a calming effect.

And local TV news is where viewers are turning now because the COVID-19 pandemic is a neighborhood story. And it appears it’s not going away any time soon.

That’s pretty much the picture as Ron DeJoseph, creative services director at WFTV, the Cox ABC affiliate in Orlando, Fla., sees it for his station’s news coverage and marketing.

Ron DeJoseph

DeJoseph said viewers are getting a lot of static from national cable shows and social media.

“So our job in how we are marketing is, we are the local source to help you cut through all of that and make sense of it. That is where local news comes in to say ‘stop, here is all the information, here is how to process it and here is how to get through to what it really means for you’.”




It’s the time for local news to shine, says DeJoseph, “to be that context provider, that source of information that you don’t get nationally because nationally is just a giant blanket and what is national and happening in say Denver is not the same as what is happening in Orlando.”

And your daily topicals may be an important tool to show viewers how you’re covering developments as they happen.

“Things are changing by the second and so that is what you are promoting to bring to viewers.”

Nishan Gilmet

In South Bend, Ind., Nishan Gilmet, the creative services director at WBND, Weigel Broadcasting’s ABC affiliate, wants to position his station as the one viewers should turn in the recovery phase.

“Some people don’t trust the media and we are trying to change that.”

Gilmet’s answer is to remind viewers that WBND’s main anchor is a local guy.

“Somebody who is a trusted neighbor delivering the news. This is his home. We are the station to watch as we’re rebounding and things are starting to open up.”

Joany D’Agastino

Joany D’Agostino, creative services director at Gray’s CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Va., WDBJ, said her marketing is evolving away from the somber tone to more issue-oriented topics that people are most concerned about, like schools.

“I think people are really trying to figure out what to do about school. This touches a lot of people. So we are trying to own that, basically trying to make people understand our talent are parents, too.”

D’Agostino said in terms of the station’s commitment to nonprofit community events, “we are trying to support people as best we can.”

Like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a new partnership for WDBJ.

Rob Anderson

Trust in local TV news is also the subject of the marketing messages in another Indiana market, Fort Wayne.

Rob Anderson is the creative services director at WPTA, Quincy Media’s ABC affiliate there.

“From the president to the network news, it can be hard to find where the truth really lies. Viewers need to know that the information they receive is trustworthy. Local news doesn’t put the same spin on information as other news outlets.”

Anderson said his station has new research that shows people’s interest in information about the pandemic is peaking again just as the coronavirus is resurging.

“You just say the word COVID and they are going to jump up on it.”


NOTE:  I’ve talked to more than a dozen local TV marketing executives from all over the country to get a sense of where their station’s marketing is now and where it’s going in the future. Look for these columns in the coming days all under the umbrella, The New Us. And if you have something you want to add about your station’s marketing during this uncertain time, let me know.

Click here to go to The New Us: Local TV Marketing 2020, Part 1

Click here to go to The New Us: Local TV Marketing 2020, Part 2